Tomorrow at Fellowship we continue in our series on the book of James by looking at 2:1-13. Our investigation of the text necessitates that I take a few moments to discuss the doctrine of election. The reason for this is because James, in his argument that Christ-followers are never to show partiality, argues that God did not play favorites based on worldly categories of status when he saved us. In fact, James would go onto say, “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (emphasis mine).
The word chosen in verse 5 points us to the beautiful doctrine of election. The doctrine of election simply means God’s sovereign initiating choice to save certain individuals, adopting them into His family, independent of prior merit. The doctrine of election postures God as the Divine Initiator, and not me. In essence, the doctrine of election says that God chose me, and I did not choose him, i merely responded to his incomprehensible act of initiating grace.
Election has unfortunately been the focal point of much controversy throughout church history, and I am not here to pick a fight with anyone. In fact, I write this post primarily to the members and attenders of Fellowship Memphis. I will say it in my message tomorrow that belief in the doctrine of election is not necessary in order to be saved, and therefore it is not necessary to join our church. There have been many wonderful saints of God throughout the years who have thought and taught very differently from me on this subject, and I am sure they will be seated much closer to King Jesus than I when we get to heaven.
Time in my message does not permit me to give all of the reasons why I believe in the doctrine of election, so let me lay out eight reasons why I have come to embrace this doctrine:
1. The Bible Teaches It. I am amazed at how the doctrine of election keeps coming up in every section of the Scriptures. God chose Israel- Psalm 33:12; Deuteronomy 6:7; Isaiah 41:8-10. Jesus chose the disciples- John 6:70. God chose us the church- Romans 9.
2. Jesus Taught Election. This is similar to my first point, but it’s so significant that it warrants it’s own point. Calvin did not coin the term election. Election is a thoroughly biblical word that Jesus used a lot, centuries before Calvin was even born. Matthew 24:15 and following, Mark 13:27 and Luke 18:7 are but a few examples of Jesus teaching on election.
3. Total Depravity. I believe in the doctrine of total depravity which says that every aspect of my life has been marked by sin because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the garden. The doctrine of total depravity does not say that I am as sinful as I could be (degree), but there is nothing in my life that has not been touched by iniquity (extent). If this be the case, then I could not possibly choose God on my own initiative without God initiating with me. Dead people (Ephesians 2 description of us) do not make choices.
4. Intensifies My Worship. For God to choose a wandering sheep, wayward sinner, totally depraved man like me who was mired in self-righteousness and in rebellion against God defies awe and comprehension. Quite frankly, if I believe that I chose God, like one would choose what they would have for dinner, where’s the amazement in that? The doctrine of election keeps me on my face before God, bringing a depth and intensity to my worship over the one who would choose me in spite of me.
5. God, Not Me. The doctrine of election sets the trajectory of my salvation on the sovereignty of God and not on the free will of man. This then promotes a faith that is God made, and not man made. God, His Son Jesus Christ and the Sweet Holy Spirit are at the center of my affections, not me.
6. Intensifies Evangelism. Because God pursues me, he also calls me to be a vessel that he uses to pursue others. Let me remind us that the same guy who wrote Romans 9 (that great passage on election/predestination) is the same one who logged thousands of miles on land and sea preaching Christ, sharing his faith, and seeing many come to the Lord. Paul, the greatest writer on the doctrine of election, was at the same time one of the greatest evangelist’s. Evangelism and election are not foes, they are joined at the hip.
7. Freedom in Evangelism. Also, the doctrine of election frees me in evangelism. Isn’t it liberating to know that because it is God, not our choices who saves? Because of this I need not depend on clever arguments (though I want to be prepared) or trendy presentations in witnessing, I just need to, well, witness, testify what God has done in my life and share the good news with others, leaving the results to God. The pressure really is off!
8. I’m in Good Company. There are a host of godly men and women throughout church history who have believed passionately in the doctrine of election. This is both comforting and affirming. The only two names I will call is Jesus and Paul.