WHICH CREATURES did God, in His primeval purpose, consider first, and which, before all others, were given a glorious destiny? Should we attempt to answer this question without any information from God's Word through His spirit, we would probably think of the highest of the celestial host. But behold! Not those who, from the earliest times, inhabited the heavens, but rather earthbound creatures may glory in this high honor! Such a boon belongs to those humans who form the body of Christ.
Should we ask further in what this consisted, we will find a clear explanation in the name God has given it. It was a selection, an election, or choice. In this deed every member of Christ's body may find for itself personally, transcendent riches of God's paternal goodness and condescension. In this way He presents His ecclesia with His own glory in most lavish fullness. We stand here before the door of a paradise which, sad to say, is shut to the eyes of many of the members of the ecclesia by numerous obstructing hindrances. Even if hardly any other truth is the subject of suchfull explanations as election, yet it is still veiled in obscurity in the apprehension of the church. Just this gift of God's purest, deepest love, which should call forth the warmest gratitude to Him, the Giver, is largely ignored. This must be a source of much sorrow to our great God.
Sects of the last days of this administration, claim, with offensive arrogance, falsely, the title of elect, by counting themselves among the hundred and forty-four thousand, notwithstanding the fact that these are distinctly said to come out of the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev.7:4-6). They have nothing but condemnation, not only for unbelievers, but also for believers, if such do not join them and accept this false teaching. What violence and distortion is done to divine election by such practices!
While it is falsely appropriated and flagrantly misused in this case, it often receives the very opposite treatment. The saints are timid about applying it to themselves, are afraid of it, and avoid it. In many circles of believers the same is true of "predestination," which means to designate beforehand.
This timorous attitude of the saints toward their own election is due, in large measure, to ignorance as to the portion of the nonelect. Naturally, if we assume that these were eternally damned, no logical believer can rejoice over his own election, for there are few, if any, who can say that all their relatives, near and far, have come to a living, saving faith in Christ. Now anyone who loves his unbelieving relatives as he should, and does not know or see that they are saved, cannot well call himself one of the elect, without giving the impression that he holds the old, dark and dismal dogma that God, before creation, has predestinated one to eternal blessedness and the other to everlasting damnation. Oh, how many believers are innerly distressed and plagued by ignorance concerning the teaching on election! Yes, in deed, in this sphere of knowledge, the loveless doctrine of eternal torment has caused untold devastation.
One wonders that there is not more understanding of biblical election, and that it could be so misjudged. Its essence is mirrored by the elections which take place among the peoples. Again and again local and national heads are chosen, and no one gets the idea that those who are not candidates are therefore rejected and cast out. On the contrary, when the thing is done understandingly and properly, it may result in a variety of earthly blessings. And this very thought, blessing through the elected for the rest, is the divine principle, and forms an extensive subject in the sacred Scriptures. It is too bad that the church cannot see that God, besides the blessing for the elect, also has one for the others. This ignorance is the principal cause why election has become a shunned subject. Now, in order to provide for it an unhindered entrance into many hearts, and to restore it to a doctrine which will bring unalloyed joy and deepest thanks, our first subject will be;
That God does not empty Himself when He chooses some and graces them with special gifts, but also has a wonderful salvation in reserve for others, is one of the most precious, as well as unquestionable traits of His heart, which evidences the transcendent fullness of His love. Even if these others go through a painful period of judgment, nevertheless God has something else for His suffering creatures than destruction. It must, therefore, be altogether in accord with His will for the elect to concern themselves with the future destiny of the others, and to thank Him for the promises of salvation which are for those who must pass their lives without hope or expectation.
In regard to these "others," the unbelievers, we must not always keep to the fore the repulsive idea of their sinfulness and enmity to God. They have something else in them which deserves our greatest sympathy. Consider the vast number who were born in the most sinful environments, grew up in them, and often, even before their birth, were burdened with the most dreadful, inherited slavery to sin. Besides, many never hear of salvation in Christ in all their lives. Others, who may have a good leaning Godward, hear only an adulterated evangel, which often is sharply antagonistic to the truth that is essential for a thorough conversion and a sound life of faith. We hardly need to refer to a religion in which money and power are most prominent, and which is repulsive to just and noble men. Who would dare to hold all the innumerable mortals who are misled and deceived responsible? And these poor, lamentable creatures are all to be lost forever "because they have not accepted Christ," when He was not offered to them, or, when He was, not according to the Scriptures!
Now, shall we trace back the misfortune of these creatures to the fact that God did not select them? Can anyone marvel that, where believers are inculcated with the dogma of endless punishment, they mistrust the doctrine of election? Yea, how can a logical saint square his selection with the eternal damnation of others? Yet a mental state which boasts in one's own selection and leaves eternal hell for all the rest, is altogether unworthy of a believer, a child of our heavenly Father. The heart of our apostle Paul was differently disposed. In view of the condition of Christ-rejecting Israel, his brethren and relatives according to the flesh, he had great sorrow and unintermittent pain in his heart, and wished himself to be anathema from Christ (Rom.9:1-3). God, however, turned his sorrow into joy by revealing to him the salvation of all Israel (Rom.11:1-36), and the reconciliation of the entire universe (Col.1:20).
It almost seems as if we cannot enjoy an inner jubilation over the eventual salvation of all, unless we have suffered, as Paul did, for dear people whom we once, in our ignorance, deemed to be doomed to eternal torment. But God be thanked that there is blessedness for all, even if severe judgment must precede it. For when all have the justification of life (Rom.5:18,19), that will bring them gratitude and delight. And when God becomes All in everyone, that will cause every heart to overflow with the profound joy (1 Cor.15:28). Moreover, the future heading up of all in Christ (Eph.1:10) will bring to all salvation and blessing. And the bowing of the knees, and the acclamation of every tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord, is not this the expression of deep thankfulness to the Giver for the gift of happiness (Phil.2:10,11)? Yes, that is the grand lesson that we, the elect, should learn, that God's compassion and grace will also be extended to the nonelect.
There is a difference between our blessedness and theirs in this, that the others will attain to the enjoyment of it much later in time. The Scriptures are continually reminding us, that the process of salvation takes place according to a definite order, and the elect have the priority, followed later by the others. When we read that the premonition of the creation is awaiting the unveiling of the sons of God (Rom.8:19), we understand that, along with the persistent, hopeful waiting that lives in the subconsciousness of the creation, there is a dim apprehension that the sons of God must first be unveiled. That is, the ecclesia must be finished before other salvations can be undertaken. Thereafter the creation will be freed from the slavery of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom.8:21).
Another passage makes these divisions of the divine plan still clearer (1 Cor.15:22). This revelation says explicitly that all will be made alive, or vivified, in Christ, and when incorruptible life is distributed, not a single one of Adam's race will be overlooked. Yet each one belongs to a definite order, and this will determine the proper time for his turn. The vivification of Christ has made the beginning. Next come the members of His body. From this time onward, during the last two lengthy eons, He will exercise His kingly power so that, at the end, God wilt be All in all (1 Cor.15:28). Another passage also sets forth this divine order. "God is the Saviour of all mankind" is the testimony of Paul (1 Tim.4:10). But he immediately separates the salvation of believers from that of unbelievers by adding "especially of those who believe." Hence these are not the only ones who are saved, but only the first, after which the salvation of the others will follow.
It is hard to understand why these clear, unequivocal, unmistakable truths, which irrevocably reveal God's loving intention, should be so misunderstood and rejected in the ecclesia (1 Tim.4:10). The statements concerning their own salvation are taken as they are written, but the promises of the eventual salvation of unbelievers are doubted, yes, distorted and dislodged by the dogma of endless torment. Of course, if this were the outcome of God's plan of salvation, every straight thinking believer must find his God-given election impossible to understand. But if we are able to accept the promises of the reconciliation of unbelievers, by faith, then we are open to the truth that God has a special place for a part of mankind. And if we go further and realize that the divine preference is for the purpose of providing tools to reach the rest and bring them into the circle of blessing, then the dreadful background of the doom of the unbeliever vanishes altogether.
Every election in the Scriptures involves a blessing for the non-elect. Abram was chosen in order that, through him and his seed, all the families of the earth may be blessed (Gen.12:3). And Israel, the chosen people, was and is still appointed to be a channel for God's revelation to all the other peoples of the earth. The ecclesia, to be sure, is destined to be a blessing among the celestials, yet how much good has already come to the world through it! Throughout its history, believers have always been the salt which has preserved sinful mankind from utter corruption, and the dam that held back the overflowing tide of sin.
God has included His Son in this principle of salvation through the elect, for He said, "This is My Son, the Chosen" (Luke.9:35). As in all other spheres, so here also the Son is the foremost of the elect, and in Him the object of election is revealed most plainly and gloriously, for He, the greatest of the elect, is the Reconciler of all.
Election is a divine device which does not bar others from blessing, but, on the contrary, guarantees their salvation. This is the scriptural explanation of the relation between the elect and the non-elect. Indeed, this proposition is a worthy prologue to the following meditation. It constitutes the portal through which we may enter in order to view the sphere of our salvation in the best light.
First of all it is worth while to point out that God. in His plan, uses several selections. It will not do to appropriate to ourselves everyone found in His Word. Israel's choice has a prominent place in the Scriptures. When we read that the apostle Peter writes to the chosen expatriates of the dispersion, this does not refer to us, but to Israelites, members of the kingdom ecclesia (1 Peter 1:1). If we take the "chosen race," the "royal priesthood," and the "holy nation," to be the ecclesia which is Christ's body, we have not grasped much of our true calling and place (1 Peter.2:9). Such mixing has brought many believers much confusion, because they imagined that those chosen ones, on whose account the greatest affliction which ever occurs on the earth is shortened, is also the present ecclesia, and that they are doomed to have a part in it (Matt.24:22). Let us look for our election only in the letters of the apostle Paul, and apply the others to those to whom they belong.
Furthermore, we once read of the "chosen messengers" (1 Tim.5:21), which, according to the context, seem to be celestial beings. Perhaps this refers to such as Gabriel, who have a special office. There is nothing further in the Scriptures concerning this divine selection, so it cannot be nearly as important as ours.
We are now ready to take up a course of lessons in our own election.