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Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Grace of God's Election V. 2- or "Grace by Election"

No doubt,you've heard people talk about "Election by Grace"; well, I'd like to talk about the grace that God shows us through His "Unconditional Election".
First of all, I think it would behoove us to look at the Websters New World Dictionary for the meaning of the word "grace".
4. Disposition to grant something freely; favor; goodwill. 5. Mercy; clemency. 1. in theology; a.the unmerited favor and love of God toward man, b.divine influence acting in man, c.the condition of a person thus influenced.
I think we should also do well to look at the Hebrew and Greek words for "grace" in the Old and New Testaments.
Of the two Hebrew words used for "grace", the first, "chen", used in every application but one, means basically, kindness; favor, and comes from another word, "chanan" ,which means to bend,or stoop, in kindness to an inferior; to favour, bestow...........
The second Hebrew word, "techinnah", used only once (Ezra 9:8) means graciousness (because of) entreaty, supplication.
The Greek New Testament also employs two different nouns for the word "grace". The first, and most widely used, is "charis" ,meaning "the divine influence upon the heart, and it's reflection in the life. The second word, used only once (James 1:11) "euprepia", means good suitableness.

Beginning in Romans, where we find Paul giving an explanation of "the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) in chapter 11, he explains that, while Old Covenant Israel as the land and it's inhabitants (national) is about to pass away (Hebrews 8:13), God has not forsaken His special People, those Children of the Promise, the elect from before the foundation of the world. (Romans 9:8-9, Genesis 18:10, Hebrews 4:3)
This is not even to say that God gave up on His original Purpose, and chos another people (Romans 11:1), but has merely broadened our horizons (Isaiah 49:5,6, Matthew 12:18-21, Acts 9:15, 13:46-48), by instituting a better covenant (Hebrews 7:17-22), which put no distinction between Jew and Gentile (Galatians 3:28).
II Thessalonians 1:3-5, I think, points out that it is by the righteous judgement of God (His Grace) that "our faith grows exceedingly,and our love abounds toward each other", which fact is attested to by numerous others (II Chronicles 1:11,12, Job 10:8-12, Psalm 85:7, 119:27-29, Acts 11:18 (Acts 10), 14:3, Romans 15:5,6, Ephesians 3:14-19, II Timothy 1:16-18 ,Revelation 3:21)
As these testify,and these are only a few of those who so testiify; it is clear that the writers of Scripture realized that it is only by God's Grace that we are even able to keep His commandments!


In Matthew 24:22, the time of tribulation is shortened "through grace" for the sake of God's elect.
In Luke 24:35, Christ "opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures".
In Acts 8:31, even the Ethiopian eunuch understood this, to some extent, when he replied to Phillip, "How can I (understand) unless someone guide me?".
In Acts 15:7, Peter told the council at Jerusalem,that God "chose.........that by my mouth, the Gentiles should hear the Gospel and (should) believe!"

Now, by shewing forth "election", I'm not saying that because we are "elect", we can go out and live any old way we want to (Romans 6:12); Paul indeed admonishes Timothy, along with ALL his readers to, "Be diligent to show yourselves approved before God.............."(II Timothy 2:15).
Peter admonishes us to "be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure......."(II Peter 1:10)
The apostle John urges his readers to "not love in word or tongue only, but also in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the Truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him". (I John 3:19)
Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, says "Examine yourselves,as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves............Do you not know yourselves,that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed, you are disqualified".(II Corinthians 13:5)
The Webster's New World Dictionary definition of the word "disqualify", is "to make unfit or unqualifed; disable". "To make or declare ineligible. "The KJV uses the Greek word "Adokimos", which means,"unapproved,i.e., rejected, by implication worthless (literally or morally).
He tells the Church at Thessalonica to, "Test all things, hold fast what is good."(I Thessalonians 5:21)
I think James wraps it up best, when he says, "Thus also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."(James 2:17)
Unconditional Election,or, Election by Grace (through faith), is not to say that we have no responsibility to work, or be diligent, in our Christian life; On the contrary, it says, along with the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians "But God,because of His great love with which He loved us,even when we were dead in trespasses made us alive together with Christ (by grace are you saved)".(Ephesians 2:4,5)
Isaiah 1:18-20 says, "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool."(see also Psalm 51:7)If you are willling and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."(see also Genesis 2:16,17, Deuteronomy 30:15-18, I Samuel 12:20-25 ,Isaiah 66:4)


Why did God love us,even when we were in total enmity and rebellion against Him?


Deuteronomy 7:7,8a says "The Lord did not set His Love on you or choose you because you were more in nummber than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you,and because He would keeep the oath which He swore to your fathers................."(see also Deuteronomy 12:1-11).
David says,in Psalm 23, "He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake". (Psalm 23:3)
Isaiah 43:25 says, "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake". (read also verses 26-28)
Isaiah writes, "In His love and in His pity He redeemed them, and He bore them and carried them all the days of old".(Isaiah 63:9b)
Ezekiel wrote, in speaking of God's case against Israel, "But I had concern for My Holy Name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. Therefore say to the house of Israel,'Thus says the Lord God", I do not do this for your sakes, O house of Israel; but for My Holy Name's sake..........."(Ezekiel 36:21-22a)
Ephesian 1:3-6 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love, having been predestined to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His Will, to the praise of the glory of His Grace, by which He made us accepted in the brethren". (see also Romans 3:21-24)
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul writes, "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit, And belief in the Truth, to which He called you".(II Thessalonians 2:13,14)
Paul tells Titus, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done,but according to His Mercy He saved us, through the washing (I Peter 3:21) of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit".(Titus 3:5)
In John's first letter,he says "I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you, for His Name's sake". (I John 1:12)


So it seems, by these few examples, that God acts in Grace and Mercy when we are in rebellion against Him (which is "as the sin of witchcraft", which we are in until He gives us a new heart; Ezekiel 36:25-27) for,
"the sake of His oath....."(Deuteronomy 7:7,8a)
"for His Name's sake.............."(Psalm 23:3)
"My Own sake....."(Isaiah 43:25)
"in His love and pity............"(Isaiah 63:9b)
"to the praise of...........His Grace."(Ephesians 1:6)
"for the obtaining of the glory.....of Christ."(II Thessalonians 2:13,14)
"according to His Mercy............."(Titus 3:5)
"for His Name's sake".(I John 1:12)


In the book of Exodus, when, because of the golden calf, God threatened to destroy the chidren of Israel, Moses prayed God that He would "relent from doing this evil", he said, "Why should the Egyptians speak and say, "He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth', and 'Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore, saying.......................'(Exodus 32:7-14 )
Little later, in the book of Numbers, when He threatened to disinherit them, and make of Moses a nation greater and mightier than they, Moses pleaded with God, "Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your Might You brought this people up from among them, and they will tell it to the people of this land(Canaan), they ( Canaan) have heard that You are among these people;..................Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations............will speak, saying, 'Because the Lord was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness'." ( Numbers 14:11-20 )


I think we can safely say, from the manifold witness that we have in Scripture, that it is not from (because of) any goodness in ourselves (Isaiah 64:6, Philippians 3:8,9 ), but for His Own sake, whether so that His name would not be trampled on (Exodus 32:7-14, Deuteronomy 7:7,8a, Isaiah 43:25 ),because of His love and mercy ( Isaiah 63:9b, Titus 3:5 ), so that He might receive the glory (Ephesians 1:6 ), or for His Own Name's sake (Psalm 23:3, II Thessalonians 2:13,14, I John 2:12b ); this actually follows along with the first reason I gave, but I figured I'd put it down anyway.


We have a choice to make, as Moses records in Deuteronomy 30, "I call heaven and earth today as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life.........................that you may love the Lord your God............" ( Deuteronomy 30:19,20 )
As Joshua said, in Joshua 24, "Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and truth, ...........................and if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day, whom you will serve................" ( Joshua 24:14,15 )


I will try to show further now, that it is truly not we who work, but that God works in us, and through us.
( Philippians 2:13, 4:13, I Thessalonians 2:13 )


I'll start off with John's record of Jesus' reply to His followers when they asked, "What shall we do that we may work the works of God?" (John 6:28 ) Our Lord's reply was, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He sent". I believe that Jesus said it this way (not directly answering their question) for a Purpose, and I will attempt to show that He was not just saying that, to do the works of God, they must believe in Jesus as the Messiah, but in fact, it was the work of God that they were able to believe in Him Whom He sent!
Paul told the Church at Philippi, "He Who has begun a good work in you will complete (continue) it till the Day of Jesus Christ"
( Philippians 1:6 ), so what Paul is saying here, I believe, is that God is the one who starts the work in our hearts in the first place!!!
(see also Isaiah 26:12, Romans 5:8, Philipppians 2:13, Hebrews 4:6 )
Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth, "But by the Grace of God,I am what I am.........." ( I Corinthians 15:9, 10 ).
Let me ask a question here.........what was Paul, according to the previous verse?
According to verse nine, Paul was "the least of all apostles...............because he persecuted the Church of God". Is Paul saying here that it was God's Plan, or Purpose, for him to persecute His Church "till the fulness of time had come" and God stopped him in his tracks ( Acts 9 ), or is he merely saying that , although he did what he did, by God's Grace, he no longer persecuted, in fact, was enjoined with that very Church?
I think I would prefer the former explanation, and I believe that the Scriptures support such an explanation. He continues in his next letter, by saying, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God", and, in the next chapter, "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart."(II Corinthians 3:5, 4:1)
I believe that Paul was reaffirming to the Corinthian Church that, even though (or because ) he had this ministry, God was his sufficiency (strength) and showed him mercy ( daily ) by not allowing him to lose heart ( which we all would if not for being indwelt by the Holy Spirit).
As he said, in his letter to the Romans, "So then, it is not of him who runs, but of God Who shows mercy." (Romans 9:16 )
And now, for the flipside of all this, in John 8:43, Christ says, in response to the Pharisees, "Why do you not understand My speech; because you are not able to listen to My Word."
The KJV renders the latter part of this verse, "even because you cannot hear my Word." (see also John 10:26-28 )
The verb "hear", in the Greek, "akouo", means "to hear, (in various senses ); give ( in the ) audience ( of ), come ( to the ears ), ( shall ) hearken, be noised, be reported, understand."
God told the prophet Isaiah to "Go, tell this people, 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive'".
He further told him to " make the heart of this people ( national Israel ) dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return, and be healed." ( Isaiah 6:9,10, also 44:18 )
I think these verse, among others, show that God's Election works both ways; for example: Paul repeats a passage from he Old Testament Scriptures, ( the only Scriptures, by the way, that he had to work with ), "For this Purpose I have raised you( Pharoah) up, that I might show My power in you, and that My Name might be declared in all the earth".( Exodus 9:16, Romans 9:17 )
Again, this shows that He acted so that, "My Name might be declared........",or "for His Own sake". ( Isaiah 43:25 )


Paul reasons with the Roman believers, in chapter 9, verses 13-24, that, as our Creator, God has every right to do things the way He does (read also Isaiah 45:9, 10, Jeremiah 18:1-6), and also, because He is our Sovereign, He does this for His Own glory (verse 17 ), and because He loved us from the foundation of the world ( Ephesians 1:4, II Timothy 1:9, Hebrews 4:3 ).
Romans 9:11-13 at first may seem a bit harsh, even unfair (Ezekiel 18:20-25 ), but if you read further on, to verses 15-18, and then especially verses 21-23, (which idea comes from Paul's reading of the Scriptures ( Jeremiah 18:4-6 ), I believe that you will see that as THE omnipotent (ALL-powerful ) God, He has the prerogative to do as He wills with His Own creation, just as the potter has the prerogative to do what he wants with his own pots, or vessels.


John tell us, in THE Revelation, "All who dwell on the earth will worship Him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." ( Revelation 13:8 )
I think that John here observed that, not only would those who were not chosen before the foundation of the world worship Him when they saw Him in His Glory, but that Jesus had been slain (as the Lamb ), in the Everlasting Covenant, before He ever created the worlds.

To quote a famous blues singer, "Now that really blows your mind !"

Now, as I've said before, being elect does not mean that we can live as we lust to, for, as Paul tells the Roman believers, " For we know that the law is spiritual, but I (in my flesh ) am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I (in my spirit ) hate, that I do. If, then, I (in my spirit ) do what I will not to do, I agree with the law, that it is good. But now, it is no longer I (in my spirit, the new man ) who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me, (that is, in my flesh ), nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me (my spirit ), but hot to perform what is good, I (my flesh ) do not find, For the good that I (in my spirit ) will to do, I (in my flesh ) do not do; but the evil that I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law ( principle ), that evil is present with me (my flesh ), the one (in spirit ) who wills to do good. For I (in my spirit ) delight in the Law of God, according to the inward man
( Spirit ). But I see another law in my members ( flesh ), warring against the law of my mind (spirit ), and bringing me into captivity to the law which is in my members ( flesh ). O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body (the old man) of death?
I thank God (HE has )-through Jesus Christ, our Lord! So then, with the mind ( Spirit ), I serve the Law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin." ( Romans 7:14-25, parenthetical statements mine )
This IS a fairly lengthy, and hard to understand passage, but I think it is well worthy of our perusal, again and again!


Now,what may seem a bit confusing, is what Paul says in the previous chapter; "What shall we say then ? Shall we continue in sin, that grace might abound ? Certainly not ! How (why ) shall we, who died to sin, live any longer in it ?"( Romans 6:1, 2 )



Why does Paul tell them that they should not "live in 'it'" anymore, and then in the next chapter, tell them that he himself is a sinner, and that basically, "he" can't help himself? I must admit that I have struggled with this passage myself, but what I think Paul here, is admitting about himself, and telling his readers, is that he (they ) can't do it on their own, that we need God's Holy Spirit to be able to do the "good that we will to do".
by the Grace of God,
Charles Shank

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