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General View of Election—The Correct Thought—No Injury to the Non-elect—Distinction Between "Elect" and "Very Elect"—"There is a Sin unto Death"—"A Fearful Thing to Fall into the Hands of the Living God"—The Great Company—Their Robes Washed White in the Blood of the Lamb—The Elect Vine and its Branches—Various Elections in the Past—None of These were Eternal—Jacob and Esau Types—"Jacob have I Loved"—"Esau have I Hated"—Pharaoh—"Even for this very Purpose have I Raised Thee up"—God Never Coerces the Will—Pharaoh no Exception to this Rule—"God Hardened Pharaoh's Heart"—The Nation of Israel Elected—"What Advantage, then, hath the Jew? Much Every Way"—The Elect "New Creation"—Significance of "Grace"—Illustration of "The King's Own"—Predestinated "to be Conformed to the Image of His Son"—"Called Ones According to His Purpose"—Qualifications and Characteristics of "Called Ones"—"If God be for Us"—Paraphrase of the Apostle's Argument—Making our Calling and Election Sure—The Racecourse—"I Press Down upon the Mark"—"Knowing Your Election of God."
THE doctrine of election, as generally understood, is a very repulsive one, full of partiality and inequity; but this is the result of misunderstanding the divine Word on this subject. The election taught in the Scriptures, which we shall endeavor to set forth, must be conceded by all to be one of the grandest doctrines of the Bible—not only founded upon grace but also upon justice, equity—and thoroughly impartial. The erroneous view of election, briefly stated, is that God, having condemned the whole race of mankind to eternal torture, elected to save of our race a "little flock" only—permitting the vast remainder to go down into unspeakable horrors to which divine foreknowledge had predestinated them before their creation. The Westminster Confession, which is the ablest statement of this false view extant, specifically [F164] declares that this "elect little flock" is not to be considered as saved because of any merit or worthiness on their part, but simply and solely of God's sovereign will.
The correct thought respecting election, the view which we shall show the Bible everywhere supports, is to the contrary of this: viz., that death (and not everlasting life in torment) was the penalty upon our race, and involved every member of it through one man's disobedience; that God's grace manifested in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus redeemed the whole world through his sacrifice, which was the "propitiation [satisfaction] for our [the Church's] sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2) God elected that his only begotten Son should have the privilege of redeeming the race at the cost of his own life; and that as a reward he should be highly exalted to the divine nature,* and should ultimately "bless all the families of the earth" by awakening them from the sleep of death, bringing them to a knowledge of the truth, and assisting the willing and obedient up to the full perfection of human life, and to more than Edenic blessings and conditions.
God also elected to have a number of "saints" under his Only Begotten as joint-heirs with him in the glory, honor and immortality of the New Creation, and in the work of blessing mankind with human restitution. This Gospel age has not been for the purpose of thus blessing and restoring the world, but merely for the purpose of calling out from the world a little flock to constitute God's "very elect"—to stand trials and testings as to faith, love and obedience, and thus to "make their calling and election sure." (2 Pet. 1:10) But the calling and electing of this "little flock" in this manner works no hardship, no injury to the non-elect, who are in no sense further condemned because not called—because passed by. Even so, the mass of the people of this country are not injured or condemned when an election has [F165] taken place for officers of the Government and they have not been amongst the elect. As the object of earthly elections is to secure suitable persons for office for the blessing of the people in general with wise laws and administration, so the blessing which God has arranged for works no damage to the non-elect, but is intended to work a blessing to all of them—in that the elect are to constitute the royal judges, the kings and priests of the Millennial age, under whose administration all the families of the earth will be blessed.
The Scriptures abound with references to the "elect" and the "very elect": the latter expression implying that the word "elect" may be understood as applying to all those who come into a certain condition of relationship with God, in which they have the hope, or prospect, of immortality, being members of the glorified Church; though they have also the possibility of falling away, and thus of ceasing to be of the elect class. In other words, all of the consecrated class accepting the high calling of God to the New Creation are counted as of the elect when their names are registered in the Lamb's book of life and when a crown is apportioned to them; but as unfaithfulness may lead to the blotting out of these names and the giving of their crowns to others (Rev. 3:5,11), so they would then cease to be of the elect Church. The "very elect," on the contrary, would mean those who would ultimately attain to the blessings to which God has called the faithful in this Gospel age—those who "make their calling and election sure" by faithfulness to the terms and conditions thereof, even unto death.
Two classes are brought to our attention in the Scriptures as failing to make their calling and election sure. One of these classes—not a numerous one, however, we have reason to believe—will not only lose the rewards of the elect, but, additionally, will lose life itself—in the Second Death. These are described by the Apostle John, who, discussing the Church class, says, "There is a sin which is not unto death, [and] there is a sin unto death; I do not say you should pray for it." (1 John 5:16) It will be useless to pray or [F166] to hope for those who commit the sin unto death. That sin is described in the Scriptures as being a sin against the holy Spirit of God—not undesignedly nor ignorantly, but the result of persistence in that which in the beginning, at least, was clearly recognized as wrong; but which, through self-will persisted in, subsequently became a gross deception—the Lord giving over the wilful ones to the error which they preferred to the truth. 2 Thess. 2:10-12
The Apostles Peter and Jude mention this class in almost the same language. (See Jude 11-16; 2 Pet. 2:10-22.) These all at one time had places amongst the elect in the Church. (None of them are of the world, which is not at present under trial or judgment, but whose trial will come by and by under the Millennial Kingdom.) These, instead of walking after the Spirit in the footsteps of the Lord, in the way of sacrifice, are "walking after their own lusts [desires]; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage"—they are men-pleasers because of their self-seeking, they are far from their covenant of consecration even unto death. (Jude 16) Peter's description of this class is still more explicit. He declares that they were such as had "escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and had become entangled again therein and overcome," like "the dog returning to his own vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." He likens these to Balaam forsaking the ways of righteousness for earthly gain. His words imply that this class will be found principally amongst the teachers of the Church, and chiefly in the end of this age, and that part of their evil course will be to "speak evil of dignities"—of those whom God has honored and "set" in the body. 2 Pet. 2:1,10
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we have two descriptions of this class who fall away—cease to be of the elect. In the first (6:4-9) the Apostle seems to point out some who, after tasting of the heavenly gift and the powers of the coming age, after being made partakers of the holy Spirit and being [F167] accepted as members of the elect class, fall away into sin—not through unavoidable weakness of the flesh and allurements of the Adversary, but by willingly, knowingly abandoning righteousness. These, the Apostle assures us, it will be impossible to renew unto repentance. Having had their share of the benefits accruing from the great ransom-sacrifice, and having chosen to despise God's favor, these have used up and misused their share in the atonement, and, hence, there remaineth nothing further for them; and having taken their position wilfully, the appeals of righteousness will thenceforth be of no effect on them.
In another chapter (10:26,27,31) the Apostle describes apparently another class, which instead of falling away into a sinful, disreputable course of life, fall away from the faith which justified them and which is essential to their maintenance of a justified relationship with God. In both cases it will be noticed that it is the wilfulness that constitutes the seriousness of the wrong: "If we sin wilfully after we have received a knowledge of the truth [after that we have been favored of God in Christ to the extent of wisdom, justification and sanctification] there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." The sacrifice which Christ gave on behalf of all was for original sin, Adamic sin and its hereditary weaknesses in us, Adam's children. Our Lord gave no ransom price for any wilful sin on our part, and hence, if we sin wilfully there is no remaining portion of the original merit to apply on account of our wilful transgressions. We should be obliged to pay the penalty of our wilful sins. And if the sins were of full intention or wilfulness, no measure of weakness or temptation offsetting, and if they were committed after we had clear knowledge of our position and our relationship to the Lord, it would be a sin unto death—Second Death—and there would be nothing to look forward to with hope—merely a fearful looking for of judgment, sentence, and fiery indignation which will devour all of God's adversaries—all intelligently opposed to him and his righteousness, and his plan for securing that righteousness [F168] through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In verse 29, the Apostle seems to imply that he here refers to those who, after having understood respecting Christ's atoning work as our Redeemer, set that work at naught, counting common (or ordinary) his precious blood which secures the New Covenant, and thus do despite to the Spirit of grace—to the grace of God which provided this atonement and fellowship with our Redeemer in his sacrifice and reward. Those who despised Moses and the Law which he mediated died without mercy, though the death sentence upon them was not intended to be an everlasting one; but those who despise the antitypical Moses, and who thus despise the privilege of communion in Christ's blood thus despise God who made this arrangement in their favor, shall be counted worthy of a severer penalty than the one which came upon the violators of the Law Covenant. It will be severer in that it will be a death penalty—from which there will be no redemption, no resurrection, no recovery—the Second Death. No wonder the Apostle warns us, along this line, that we should be careful how we reject the provisions of divine grace: he assures us that to fall out of the protecting care of our Advocate whom God hath appointed—Jesus—would be to fall nowhere else than into the hands of the Father—the great Judge who can make no allowance for sin, accept no excuses—whose abundant, but only provision for mercy toward sinners is through the redemption—through Christ Jesus our Lord.
As intimated, aside from those who, falling from the position of the elect, go into the Second Death, there is yet another class brought to our attention as failing to make their calling and election sure, but who will not go into the Second Death, because they have not sinned wilfully in gross immorality, nor in denying the merit of the precious blood. This class we have already referred to as the "Great Company," who will come up out of great tribulation and wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb; [F169] but while gaining a spiritual nature and a great blessing and a participation in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb as guests, they will, nevertheless, lose the great prize which is to go to the very elect only—the faithful overcomers, those who will follow the footsteps of Jesus rejoicingly and heartily. (Rev. 7) This Great Company fails to maintain its place in the elect—fails to be of the "very elect"—because of insufficient zeal for the Lord, the Truth and the brethren—because they are partly "overcharged with the cares of this life." Nevertheless, since their hearts are loyal to the Redeemer, and since they maintain their faith in the precious blood and hold fast and do not deny the same, therefore the Lord Jesus, our Advocate, the Captain of our Salvation, who leads the very elect to glory through the steps of willing sacrifice, will lead these to a spiritual blessing—to perfection on a lower plane of spirit-being—because they have trusted in him and have not denied his name or his work.
Our Lord refers to the elect Church, the New Creation, in his parable of The Vine, telling us that he is the Vine and that his faithful consecrated followers who walk in his footsteps are the branches. He assures us that being branches will not mean immunity from trials and difficulties; but that, on the contrary, the Father, the great Husbandman, will see that we do have trials of faith and patience and devotion, that these may prune us so that our affections shall take less hold upon earthly things and hopes and ambitions—to the intent that they may bring forth a richer fruitage of the Spirit—meekness, patience, gentleness, longsuffering, brotherly kindness, love—and that these things may be in us and abound more and more—and that so an abundant entrance may be administered to us into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as members of the New Creation. 2 Pet. 1:11
However, he forewarns us that the attainment of a place amongst the true branches in the true Vine is not sufficient: that the Spirit of the Vine must be in us—the disposition to bear the fruit of the Vine must be in our hearts—that the Husbandman will permit us to abide as branches for a reasonable [F170] time, in order that he may know whether or not we give evidence of bringing forth the proper fruitage before condemning us as unfit—that he will not look for the ripe clusters on the new branch, nor even look for the green grapes. He will look rather first for the small indications of the fruit-bud, and subsequently for the blossoming of these in the flower of the grape; later on for the green fruit, and still later for its luscious ripeness. The Husbandman hath long patience in the development of this fruit of the Vine of "my Father's right hand planting" (Psa. 80:15); but if after a reasonable time he find no fruit, he taketh away that branch as a "sucker" which would merely absorb the strength and nutrition of the Vine to its own enlargement and not to the propagation of the desired fruit. Thus does our Lord clearly indicate that we must make our calling and election sure by bringing forth fruit unto holiness, whose end, or reward, is everlasting life.
Let us note some other elections brought to our attention in the Scriptures, that thus our minds may be broadened and enlarged on this subject before considering the particular phase of it in which our interest chiefly centers—that of the New Creation. We are to distinguish clearly between the elections which preceded our Lord's first advent and the election of the New Creation under him as its Head, Captain, Guide, etc. Of the latter class it is said, "Ye are all called in one hope of your calling," but the elections of the preceding time were for various purposes and for the accomplishment of various designs of God. Abraham was elected to be a type of Jehovah, and his wife Sarah to be a type of the Abrahamic Covenant, through which the Messiah would come. The servant Hagar was elected to be a type of the Law Covenant, and her son Ishmael a type of the natural Israelites, who, though brought forth first, should not be a joint-heir with Isaac, the son of promise. Isaac was elected to be a type of Christ, and his wife Rebecca, [F171] a type of the Church, the Bride, the Lamb's wife; while Abraham's servant, Eliezer, was elected to be a type of the holy Spirit, whose mission it should be to invite the Church, and to assist her, and ultimately to bring her and the virgins, her companions, to Isaac.
These elections did not involve nor in any sense apply to the everlasting future of any of these individuals; but in so far as these elect types were used of the Lord, they probably received some compensating blessings in the present life; and in proportion as they entered into the spirit of the divine plan they were permitted to have comfort and joy, fully compensating them for any sacrifices and trials occasioned by their election and service as types. The Apostle reasoning on this very subject of election, and attempting to show that no injustice had been done to Israel after the flesh by God's turning to the Gentiles to complete from them the elect New Creation, points to the fact that the Almighty has favors to dispense, and it is a matter purely of his own business to whom he shall give them. He shows that God gave to fleshly, or natural, Israel certain favors and privileges as a nation, and to some of their progenitors privileges and favors as individuals, making use of them as types; and that they had had correspondingly a blessing; but that the Lord would in no sense of the word be obligated to continue his preferential blessings to them, and to ignore others no less worthy. On the contrary, it would be entirely proper for the Lord to discontinue his favors to those who would not use them, and to turn them to others. Romans, Chapters 9; 10; 11
Moreover, the Apostle would have us see that the Lord foreknew how his favors to natural Israel would result; that after enjoying his blessings they would not (except a small "remnant"—Rom. 9:27-32) be in proper condition to receive the greatest of all blessings which he had to give—"the prize of the high calling" to constitute the New Creation. As illustrating this, he calls attention to the two sons of Isaac, and shows us that in order to make an illustration of what [F172] God foreknew would be the condition hundreds of years later, God made an arbitrary selection as between Rebecca's two sons, Jacob and Esau. The Lord made types of those twins, the one to represent his faithful ones, the New Creation, and the other to represent natural Israel, who would prefer the things of this present life and would sell their heavenly privileges for a mess of pottage—earthly good things. In the case of Jacob and Esau, the election of Jacob to be a type of the overcomers was certainly a blessing to him, even though it cost him considerable; but the election of Esau to be a type of the natural-minded class, who would prefer earthly things to heavenly things, was nothing to his disadvantage. It neither meant that he should go to eternal torment nor that he should suffer anything as a result in the present life. On the contrary, he was blessed—even as worldly, natural men have blessings today of a kind which the Lord graciously withholds from the elect New Creatures, as being less favorable to their spiritual interests—even as he withheld certain of the earthly blessings from Jacob, that in his disappointments, etc., he might be a type of this class: Jacob, nevertheless, experiencing joys and blessings which Esau did not enjoy and would not have appreciated—even as the New Creation now, amidst the trials and disappointments of this present time, experience a peace and joy and blessing that the natural man knoweth not of.
The declaration, "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:13), is to many a "hard saying," because the word hated seems to carry with it an antagonism which would be unjustified—so far as the human mind can discern—by anything that Esau did worse than other men, and because it attached to him from birth, "before he had done either good or bad." The word "hated" evidently signified to love less, as also in Deut. 21:15-17. The thought is that Jacob was favored of the Lord and Esau was favored less; and these two, as the Apostle shows, were types of Israel natural and spiritual. God's favor to natural Israel, represented by Esau, was less than is his favor to spiritual Israel, [F173] later born, represented by Jacob. With this thought all is harmony and consistency.
In proof of his contention that the Lord has all along exercised authority, suzerainty, in the affairs of mankind, and with full acknowledgment of his right to do so, the Apostle cites the case of Pharaoh, who was king of Egypt at the time of the deliverance of Israel. He quotes the Lord's language through Moses (Ex. 9:16): "Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth." "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." Rom. 9:17,18
The French Government some time ago set apart several prisoners who had been judicially condemned to death, giving them into the hands of scientific men to be experimented with to test how much influence fear exercised over mankind. One was placed in a cell, respecting which he was told that a prisoner had died there the night previous of black smallpox, and that probably he would take the same disease and die before morning. The prediction came true, although no smallpox patient had ever occupied the cell. Another was blindfolded and his arm thrust through a thin partition. He was told that he was to be bled to death in the interest of science to ascertain just how long it would require to produce death by bleeding from a small wound in an artery of the arm. He was merely scratched and lost but a few drops of blood, but arrangements were made by which he would feel blood-warm water running down his arm and hear it splash as it dropped from his fingers into a vessel. He died in a few hours. Such treatment of law-abiding citizens would not be countenanced by anyone; but no one could reasonably find fault with this procedure in connection with men whose lives were already forfeited under the law. And just so it is with the Lord's dealings with the human family; had man continued obedient to God, he [F174] would have remained free from condemnation of death; and so remaining would have had certain rights under the divine law which he does not now have. As a race we were all convicted of sin and all sentenced to death (Rom. 5:12); and the Lord has been pleased to show forth his power and wisdom in connection with some of these convicts in one manner, and in others in another manner—as he elected. We have noted this already in connection with the Amalekites and Hittites and Canaanites, whom Israel was commanded to destroy—Israel typifying the Lord's faithful of the future, and their enemies typifying the wilful sinners and enemies of righteousness of the future age. We have noticed the same principle illustrated in the destruction of Sodom and of Jericho, and in the sweeping off by pestilences thousands of Israelites, and in the smiting down of Uzzah, who merely stretched forth his hand to steady the ark, in violation of its sanctity and of the Lord's command.
The Lord's use of Pharaoh and the various plagues upon the Egyptians, including the slaying of the firstborn of man and beast, and the final overthrow of the Egyptian hosts in the Red Sea, are in line with these illustrations; for the Egyptians, as a part of mankind, were convicts under death sentence, and, without the slightest injustice, might be dealt with accordingly—to spread abroad the dignity of God, and to show forth his power in connection with the deliverance of his typical people Israel. Similarly, on the other hand, God showed abundant favor to some of these convicts—Abraham, Moses, and others—making through them types of the good things he purposes to fully and actually accomplish in the near future—and this without, in any sense of the word, releasing Abraham, Moses, Pharaoh or others from their share in the death sentence, but leaving that work to be accomplished by the redemption which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
After seeing clearly the fact that God has exercised suzerain authority amongst his convicted creatures, and that he has elected that some should have one experience and others another experience, and that all these things were [F175] but illustrative lessons on the subject, preparatory, as the Apostle shows, to the great election of the New Creation during this Gospel age, we need to see that in no instance has God coerced or violated the human will in any of these elections. This will satisfy us that it would be contrary to the divine program ever to coerce human will. In choosing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, et al., as types and illustrations, God chose men whose minds were in general accord with his plans and revelations, yet there was no force exercised to restrain them had they willed otherwise. So, likewise, in choosing men to illustrate the opposite side and opposite principles, such as Ishmael, Esau, the Canaanites, Sodomites, Egyptians, the Lord again used men in accord with their natural tendencies. What we wish to impress is, that as God did not coerce the will of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, etc., neither did he coerce the wills of those who did evil and illustrated certain evil principles. The Lord merely dealt with particular classes according to their own inclinations.
In declaring of Pharaoh that he had raised him up for this very purpose, we are not, therefore, to understand God to mean that he had effected in Pharaoh a bad character—that he had "raised him up" in the sense of compelling him to be a bad character. We are to understand that amongst the various heirs to the throne of Egypt, according to the customs of that people, God so ordered, through the death of some of the intervening members of the royal family, that this particular Pharaoh should come to the throne because he possessed such an obstinate character that his fight against God and Israel would justly call for the plagues—which God had foreordained not only as a mark of his favor toward Israel and of his faithfulness to the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but, additionally, because these plagues upon Egypt were intended in some measure to foreshadow, to illustrate, the plagues with which this Gospel age will end—the first three and "the seven last plagues." Rev. 15:1
But the particular feature of this Pharaoh illustration, [F176] which is confusing to many, is found in the statement that "God hardened Pharaoh's heart that he would not let the people go." At first this would appear to be contradictory to what we have just said; namely, that God does not interfere with the human will. We believe, however, that the discrepancy can be reconciled when we remember how the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart—what procedure on the Lord's part had the effect of making Pharaoh more obdurate. It was God's goodness that hardened Pharaoh—God's willingness to hear his prayer for relief and to accept his promise in respect to letting Israel go—God's mercy. Had God proceeded in the first plague or chastisement until Israel had been let go, the one plague would have been sufficient to accomplish the deliverance; but when the Lord relieved the people and the land from one plague Pharaoh concluded that it was past, and that perhaps no more would come; and so step by step God's mercy led him onward further and further in his hostility. With this view of the matter, the freedom of Pharaoh's will is thoroughly evidenced, and the Lord is cleared of any cooperation with evil. "All his work is perfect"; even though the goodness of God, which should lead men to repentance, may sometimes, because of present imperfect conditions, exercise an opposite influence upon them.
That God made an election of Israel from amongst all the nations of the world, to be his people and to typify spiritual Israel, will be conceded readily by all Christians familiar with their Bibles. The statement through the Prophet Amos (3:2) is quite to the point, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth." By the mouth of Isaiah (45:4) the Lord says to Cyrus, the Medianite king who was to permit Israel's return from captivity: "For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name." The fact that we may see in this statement a certain typical application to Christ, and the deliverance of nominal [F177] spiritual Israel from mystic Babylon, does not interfere with the fact that typical Israel is here spoken of as "elect." The Apostle in his clear and cogent arguments respecting the passing of divine favor from natural Israel to spiritual Israel (Rom. 9-11) distinctly shows that divine favor was granted to natural Israel for a time as God's typically elect people—notwithstanding the Lord foreknew and foretold their rejection from the place of special favor and the bringing in of another, spiritual Israel to that place represented by Jacob.
The Apostle shows how Israel, as God's favored or elect nation for a time, on this account had "much advantage every way" over all the surrounding nations of the world; that to them pertained the promises; that they were the branches of the olive tree; and that God broke off from his favor only such of the natural branches as were out of harmony with the root of promise, and with the stock, represented typically by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He points out that "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election [the worthy—John 1:12,13] hath obtained it and the rest were blinded." While the entire nation was originally elected to receive God's choicest favors, nevertheless only the faithful would be in the proper condition of heart to become spiritual Israelites when the time should come for this favor. Such were the very elect of that nation, who with the close of that age were permitted to enter the higher dispensation—passing out of the house of servants into the house of sons. (Heb. 3:5; John 1:12) The Apostle points out that we, who were by nature Gentiles, "strangers, aliens and foreigners" to the covenants and promises made to typical Israel, have now under God's grace developed faith and obedience similar to Abraham's, and are to be counted as the bride of Christ, the real seed of Abraham, taking the places of the broken-off branches in the original plan of God and in the promises relating thereto; but although these broken-off branches have been treated as enemies during this Gospel age, nevertheless, "as touching [F178] the election they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." Rom. 11:28,29
We are thus informed that some features of the original election remain with natural Israel, notwithstanding their rejection as a people from the chief favor in the divine plan—their rejection from being of the elect spiritual Israel. As the promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets are to be fulfilled to them, and they shall become the "princes," or representatives, of the spiritual Kingdom throughout all the earth during the Millennial age, undoubtedly this will work greatly to the advantage of many of the natural Israelites who are at present in a condition of alienation and darkness. They can and will come more readily into accord with their own leaders of the past than will the remainder of the world; and thus Israel as a people will again take the most prominent place amongst the nations in the beginning of the Millennium. "God hath concluded them all in unbelief that he might have mercy upon all." Rom. 11:32
We now come to the most important feature of our subject, equipped, however, with certain knowledge respecting the elections of the past, and with the understanding that many of them typified or foreshadowed this great work of God—the election of the New Creation. We have already seen that this election does not imply that the non-elect shall receive injury; but, on the contrary, that it implies the blessing of the non-elect in due time. We might add in this connection that neither Justice nor Love could make any objection to the granting of a special favor to some that was not granted to others, even if the favored ones were not intended to be channels of blessing to the less favored or unfavored. This is the meaning of the word grace or favor: it implies the doing of something not specially called for or demanded by Justice, and these words, "grace," and "favor," are repeatedly used throughout the Scriptures in respect [F179] to this elect class of this Gospel age. "By grace are ye saved," and similar Scriptures, impress upon us that there was no obligation on the part of the Almighty to recover any of Adam's race from the death sentence, nor to give to any the opportunity of life eternal through a redemption; much more there was no obligation on God's part to any of his creatures in respect to the high calling—to membership in the New Creation. It is all of divine favor—"grace on grace," or favor added to favor—and whoever does not get this thought clearly in mind will never properly appreciate what is now taking place.
The Apostle Peter assures us that we, as a class, were "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." He does not stop with this declaration, however, but proceeds to say, "through sanctification of the spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. 1:2) This signifies that God foreknew the New Creation as a class—that he foreknew his intention to justify them by faith, through the blood of Christ—that he foreknew that enough such to complete this class would be obedient, and attain to sanctification through the truth. Nothing in any Scripture implies a divine foreknowledge of the individuals composing the elect class, except in respect to the Head of the Church. We are told that God foreknew Jesus as his elect one. We are not to be understood as limiting the Lord's ability to identify the individuals who would compose the elect class, but merely that, whatever his power in this direction, he has not declared himself as intending to exercise such power. He ordained that Christ should be the world's Redeemer, and that his reward should be exaltation as the first member—Head, Lord, Chief of the New Creation. He ordained also that a certain specific number should be chosen from amongst men to be his joint-heirs in the Kingdom—participants with him of the New Creation. We have every reason to believe that the definite, fixed number of the elect is that several times stated in Revelation (7:4; 14:1); namely, 144,000 "redeemed from amongst men."
The election or foreordination from before the foundation [F180] of the world, that there should be such a company selected, we apprehend to be after the same manner as the foreordination of a certain troop of soldiers in the British army known as "The King's Own," and composed of men of large stature and special development, the various particulars of height, weight, etc., being determined in advance, and the number constituting the troop definitely fixed, before the present members of it were born. As the royal decree ordained these physical requirements and the number which should constitute that troop, so the royal decree of the Creator fixed and limited the number who should constitute the New Creation of God, and defined not their physical measurements, but their moral qualities and heart measurements. As it was not necessary to foreordain the names of those who should constitute "The King's Own," neither is it necessary that our Creator should foreordain the names or the individuals acceptable to him as New Creatures in Christ, under the measurements and limitations which he sets forth.
This is particularly drawn to our attention in a passage of Scripture which is generally remembered and quoted only in part—"Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate." The Lord's people should not be content to thus take a portion of the divine Word and separate it from its close context. When we read the remainder of the passage as it is written the whole matter is clear before our minds: "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son [that is, to be copies of his Son], that he might be the first-born among many brethren." Rom. 8:29
Such a predestination is different indeed from the one generally understood by those who have championed the doctrine of election in the past. According to their conception and teaching the passage should read—Whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate to escape eternal torment and experience eternal blessings in glory. How different such a view from the reasonable and proper one presented in the language of Scripture! God predestinated [F181] that his Only Begotten One should be the Head of this New Creation, and he determined long before he called any of us that none should be members of the New Creation except as they should become copies of his Son. How beautiful, how reasonable is the Scriptural doctrine of election! Who could question the Wisdom, the Justice, or the Love of such an election with such limitations as to character-likeness to Jesus, and for such a great work as God hath designed?—to be joint-heirs with Christ in the blessing of all the families of the earth.
"Called Ones According to His Purpose"
In considering this topic we cannot do better than follow carefully the Apostle's words and logical reasonings. In the preceding verses (22,23) what is God's purpose in calling the New Creation—that they are called to receive a great blessing, and also to minister a blessing to others; namely, the groaning creation, who are travailing in pain together, waiting for the manifestation of these elect sons of God of the New Creation (Vss. 21,22) The Apostle then proceeds to show that everything is working favorably to this class which God is calling to the New Creation; that this is the meaning of present disappointments, trials, vexations, oppositions of the world, the flesh and the Adversary—that these experiences are designed to work in us the peaceable fruits of righteousness, and thus work out for us the "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" to which we have been called, and to which we properly aspire. The Apostle traces with us the Lord's providences in connection with these called ones for whom all things are working favorably. We are not to think of our call except as in connection with, and under, our Elder Brother. None could precede him, for only by noting and following in his footsteps can we hope to become sharers of his glory. God's predestination that these brethren of Christ must all be copies of their Elder Brother, if they would be sharers in the New Creation, would leave us hopeless as respects any member [F182] of the human family attaining to that glory, did not our Lord elsewhere show us most distinctly his provision for us through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; that the weaknesses of the flesh, which we inherit and cannot fully control, are all covered by the merit of the Redeemer's sacrifice; so that the Lord can excuse us from being absolute copies of his Son in the flesh, and can accept us according to his predestination, if he finds us to be such copies in heart, in intention, in will—attesting our wills by such control of the flesh as may be possible to us, our Lord Jesus, by his "grace sufficient," covering our unintentional blemishes.
Continuing a description of this class of called ones thus predestinated, the Apostle says, "Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." This passage is usually misunderstood, because readers generally get the impression that the Apostle is here tracing Christian experiences as is usual—as we have just traced them in the preceding chapter—where we considered how Christ is made unto us wisdom, justification, sanctification, and deliverance; but the Apostle is here taking an opposite view, and begins at the other end. He here views the Church as finally completed as God's elect under Christ its Head—the Church, the "very elect," in glory. He traces backward the development of the Church, the New Creation. He shows that none will reach the grand position of the glorious elect of God except those called [accepted] to it by God's grace; and these must previously have been justified; because God calls, or invites none but believers to run in the race for this great prize. And these justified ones must previously, before their justification, have been honored [not "glorified" as in the common version]—honored by God in having sent to them a knowledge of himself and of his dear Son—the Way, the Truth and the Life.
It is more of an honor than many have supposed, even to hear of the grace of God in the present time. As salvation is a gift of God to be thrown open to the world during the [F183] Millennial Age, it is a special honor to have a knowledge of the Lord's grace, and an opportunity of reconciliation with him in the present time, in advance of the world; for having been thus honored, and having thus the knowledge necessary to our justification through faith, that becomes the second step, as we have seen, leading on to sanctification in harmony with the call, and this again leading on through faithfulness to "the glory to be revealed in us," constituting us members of the "very elect" New Creation.
Continuing to follow the Apostle further in his consideration of this election, paraphrasing his language thus: Do we not see, brethren, that God has a great and wonderful plan which he is carrying forward? Do we not see that, having determined on the selection of a certain class for cooperation in this plan, he is favoring us in that he has revealed to us the terms and conditions—justifying and calling us with this heavenly calling? This means that God is for us —that he wishes us to be of this elect class; that he has made every arrangement necessary whereby we may attain a position in it. Do we sometimes feel that, although the Lord is for us, Satan and sin and our own weaknesses through heredity are all against us, seeking to ensnare and stumble us? Let us reflect that, the Almighty God being on our side, none of these oppositions need cause us fear or trepidation for he is abundantly able to carry us through them all. Let us look back and note his favor toward us while we were yet sinners, in providing the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Let us reflect that if he would do all this for us as sinners he would do much more for us now we have become his children—now that we have heard his voice, that we have accepted his Son, that we are trusting in him and have been justified through his merit—now that we have heard the call to the divine nature and have made consecration, laying our little all upon the altar—surely, much more would God favor us and do for us now, although we cannot think how he could do more than was represented in [F184] the gift of his Son. We may be sure that he who changes not still loves us, is still for us, and will use his power to cause all things to operate for our highest spiritual welfare and for our ultimate attainment of a place in the New Creation, if we abide in him in faith, in love, and in heart-obedience—however weak and imperfect may be our best efforts at controlling the flesh. Let us be assured that in giving us his Son and in thus opening the way for us to attain to his call to the New Creation, the Lord has made provision in Christ for every necessity of ours which could possibly arise. In him he has freely given us all things.
Does any one suggest that perhaps the Law would condemn us in spite of God? Let us reflect that it is God who condemned us under his Law; and that it is the same God himself, who as the great Judge condemned us, who now has pronounced our justification—who has pronounced us "Justified freely from all things from which the Law could not justify us"—through his grace, through Christ Jesus our Lord. In the face of this fact "who could lay anything to the charge of God's elect"—whom he has thus favored? Who could condemn us on account of unintentional weaknesses or frailties? We would answer such: It is Christ who died; yea, who has risen again and is ascended on high as our representative, and who has imputed on our behalf the sufficiency of his merit, covering all of our blemishes. Rom. 8:34
Is it still urged that something may intervene to separate us from God's love or from Christ and his love and mercy; and that thus we may be left to ourselves and make shipwreck of our faith and future as respects the New Creation? We reply: On the contrary, Christ had great love for us, else he would not have redeemed us. His every dealing has been loving and we should not allow anything to separate us from that love. If tribulations come, we should permit them only to drive us nearer the Lord as the one who alone can succor us. If distress or persecution or famine or destitution or any peril should come upon us—should we on account of fear of these cease our love for the Lord, renounce his name [F185] and his cause and follow no longer in his footsteps, choosing rather some easier course in life? Nay, it is by these very experiences that we are to be developed as conquerors. How could we be marked as victors if there were nothing to overcome—if the whole way were smooth and without an unfavorable grade? We have been made recipients of God's mercies and blessings; and now he tests us, to see to what extent we are worthy to abide in his love and in his favors. He is willing that we should abide in them, and has made every necessary provision, and yet he will not coerce our wills. I am persuaded, I have confidence, that we are determined to permit nothing to separate us from the love of God manifested in Christ—neither fear of death nor love of life; and that none of God's other creatures will intercept or turn aside God's favor from us—neither angels nor principalities nor powers at present created or ever to be created. In all these things we are more than victors merely—we are adopted as sons of God on the divine plane, through him who loved us.
"Making Our Calling and Election Sure"
—2 Pet. 1:10,11—
"Brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall; [the things previously specified, namely, giving diligence, adding to your faith virtue and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, love, which things being in us and abounding, we shall be neither barren—idle—not unfruitful;] for so an entrance shall be administered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
In this election we see that the important steps belong to God; namely, (1) The predetermination to have such a New Creation; (2) The invitation to some to develop the necessary character; (3) The arrangement of matters so that the invited ones might be able to attain an acceptable condition in conformity to the call.
On the other hand, important steps must be taken by those who become the elect: (1) It is for the called ones, for whom all these preparations and arrangements have been made, to accept the call—making a full consecration. (2) [F186] They must become so imbued with the spirit of their calling and so appreciative of their blessings that they will with zeal conform to the conditions and limitations attaching thereto.
We have already seen that these conditions and limitations are, briefly, heart-likeness to God's dear Son; but, analyzing this likeness more particularly, we find it to mean, as the Apostle Peter here points out, that we should have the fruits of the spirit of holiness. God is holy, and the elect are to have his spirit, his disposition of love for righteousness and opposition to iniquity. The Apostle in the above scripture shows up the various elements of this holy Spirit of God, and points out the fact that we do not attain to his perfect likeness (the perfection of love) at the beginning of our course; but, rather, that it is the mark or standard which indicates the end of the course. Love as a general expression covers all these elements of character which are really parts of love. Meekness, gentleness, brotherly kindness, godliness, are all elements of love.
When we started in the racecourse, resolved to do so because God had justified us by his grace and had invited us to run in this race for the prize of the high calling of the New Creation, we said, first of all: We will lay aside the weights and hindrances of earthly ambitions by consecrating our wills to the Lord and resolving that this one thing we will do; namely, we will seek for, and by the Lord's grace attain, the blessings to which he has called us. At the same time we concluded that we would put away, so far as [F187] we might be able, our easily besetting sins—whatever they might be—whether ours were the same as others in the racecourse or not; and that we would run faithfully in this race for the great prize.
The entering of the racecourse corresponds to our consecration. That was the start. We consecrated ourselves to the Lord—to be controlled by his spirit of love; yet we realized that by reason of the fall we sadly lacked in those elements of character which the Father would approve. We run, however, and persevere in the attainment of this character-likeness of his Son—which is his will respecting us, and the condition of our fellowship with him. In this respect we differ from our Lord, for he being perfect could not attain one step or degree after another in the development of love. He was filled with the spirit from the beginning—he was at the mark from the beginning; his testing was to determine whether or not he would stand faithful at that mark of perfect love to God, and to his people, and to his enemies. We, however, need to run, to strive, to attain unto that mark.
We might divide the racecourse into four quarters, and say that in the first quarter we recognize love as a divine requirement and seek to have it, though able to apprehend it only from the standpoint of duty. We feel a duty-love toward God because, as our Creator, he has a right to demand our obedience, our love, our devotion; a duty-love toward our Lord Jesus, also, because he loved us and we ought, in justice, to love him in return; and a duty love toward our fellows, because we realize that this is the will of God.
The second quarter of the racecourse brings us a little further along, a little nearer to the "mark," so that those things which we at first sought to do from a duty-love, we gradually considered in an appreciative manner and not merely as a duty. We thenceforth saw that the things which God commands us as right and duty, are good things; that the noblest principles of which we have any conception are identified with the Justice, Love and Wisdom which the Lord commands and sets before us, and which from that time we began to appreciate. We began to love God not [F188] merely because it was our duty toward our Creator, but additionally and especially because we saw him possessed of those grand elements of character enjoined upon us—the personification of every grace and goodness. Those who attain to this two-quarter mark love the Lord not merely because he first loved us, and because it is our duty to love him in return, but because now the eyes of our understanding have been opened wide enough to permit us to see something of the glorious majesty of his character, something of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power of our Creator.
The third-quarter mark on this racecourse we will call—love for the brethren. From the first we recognize a duty-love toward the brethren even as toward the Father, only in a less degree, because the brethren had done less for us; and we recognized them chiefly because such was the Father's will. But as we got to see the principles of righteousness, and to appreciate the Father, and to see that the Father himself loveth us, notwithstanding our unintentional blemishes, our hearts began to broaden and deepen toward the brethren; and more and more we became able to overlook their unwilling imperfections and blemishes and mistakes, when we could see in them evidences of heart-desire to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and in accord with the principles of the divine character. Love for the brethren became distinctly marked in our experiences. Alas! evidently a good many of the Lord's dear people have not yet reached this third-quarter mark on the race course toward the prize of our high calling. There is much need of developing the brotherly kindness, the long-suffering, the patience, which the Scriptures inculcate—and which are necessarily tried and tested more in our connection with the brethren than in our connection with the Father and our Lord. We can see the perfection of the Father and the Son, and that they have no imperfections; we can realize their magnanimity toward us and our own shortcomings toward them: but when we look toward the brethren we see in one this weakness, and in another [F189] that weakness; and the temptation is, alas, too common to say to a brother: "Let me pick out the mote from thine eye"—instead of realizing that such a picking and nagging and fault-finding disposition toward the brethren is an evidence that we still have a large beam of impatience and lovelessness of our own to contend with. As we near this third-quarter mark, we gradually get the beam out of our own eyes—we get to see our own blemishes, and to appreciate more and more the riches of our Lord's grace toward us; and the influence of this upon our hearts is to produce in us a greater degree of the spirit of meekness, patience, and gentleness toward all—and this again enables us to overlook or cover a multitude of sins, a multitude of imperfections in the brethren, so long as we realize that they are surely brethren—so long as they are trusting in the precious blood, and seeking to run this same racecourse for this same prize.
The fourth or final quarter-mark of our race is Perfect Love—toward God, toward our brethren, toward all men—and is the one we are all to seek earnestly to attain to, and that as quickly as possible. We are not to dally at the quarter marks, but to run on patiently, perseveringly, energetically. There is a sense in which we are to "love not the world, neither the things of the world"; but there is a sense in which we are to love and to "do good unto all men as we have opportunity, especially unto them who are of the household of faith"; (Gal. 6:10)—a love which includes even our enemies. This love does not annul or diminish our love for the Father and the principles of his character, and our love for the brethren, but it intensifies these; and in that intensification it enables us to include in the love of benevolence and sympathy all of the poor groaning creation, travailing in pain and waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. "Love your enemies, do good to them that persecute you and hate you," is the Master's command; and not until we have attained to this degree of love—love even for enemies—are we to think for a moment that we have reached the mark which the Lord has set for us as his followers. [F190] Not until we have reached this position are we copies of God's dear Son.
We must reach this climax of love before we can be counted worthy of a place in the New Creation, and we are not to expect that each one of the Lord's followers will reach this mark just at the moment of expiring in death. Quite the contrary. We are to expect to reach it as early as possible in our Christian experience, and then to remember the words of the Apostle, "Having done all—Stand!" (Eph. 6:13) We require testings in love after we have reached the mark; and our exercises while at the mark—striving to maintain in our lives that mark, or standard—will be very strengthening to our characters. In this, especially, our experiences will correspond to those of our Lord; for while he did not need to run to attain the mark, he did need to fight a good fight of faith at the mark—not to be turned from it, not to be overcome by the various besetments of the world and the Adversary. "I press down upon the mark," says the Apostle; and so must each of us hold fast that mark after we do attain it, and see to it that in all the testings which the Lord permits to come upon us we shall be accounted of him as overcomers—not in our own strength, but in the strength of our Redeemer's assistance.
Besetments will come against us to turn us from the perfect love toward the Father, to induce us to consent to render less than the full homage and obedience due to him. Temptations will come to us in respect to the brethren also, to suggest that we do not permit love for the brethren to cover a multitude of faults—suggestions that we become provoked with those whom we have learned to love and appreciate, and with whose weaknesses we have learned to sympathize. Besetments will come against us in respect to our enemies, after we have learned to love them—suggesting to us that there are exceptional cases and that our magnanimity toward them should have its limitations. Blessed are we if in these temptations we hold fast, bearing down upon the mark, striving to retain that position which we have already attained—fighting the good fight of faith— [F191] holding firmly to the eternal life which is counted ours through Jesus.
"Knowing brethren beloved, your election of God. For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the holy Spirit and in much assurance." 1 Thess. 1:4,5
Elsewhere we have pointed out what constitutes the signs, the evidences that we are the children of God; namely, our begetting of the holy Spirit, our sealing, our quickening.* We will not repeat here, but merely in a general way call attention to the fact that whoever participates in this election has various evidences by which it may be discerned not by himself only, but ere long be discernible by "the brethren" with whom he comes in contact. There is a power, as well as a message, in this election. This election message, or call, or "word," is not only Gospel or good tidings to the elect class, but it is more than this to them: it is the power of God working in them to will and to do his good pleasure. It brings to the elect the holy Spirit and much assurance, and they, in turn, are ready at any cost to sound out the Word of the Lord.
To the Colossians the Apostle writes (3:12-14) respecting this elect class of the New Creation, saying, that such should put off the old estimate of things and put on a new one which would recognize the members of the elect, not according to nationality nor according to denomination, but recognize all in Christ, and them only, as being the elect New Creation. He says, "Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forgiving one another if any man hath a matter against any: as Christ has forgiven you, so also do ye, and above all this [attainment] place love which is the bond of perfectness."
Our Lord, speaking of the elect Church as a whole, intimates that various trials and testings must come to them, [F192] and seems to imply that these will be intensified toward the close of this Gospel Age, and that they will be permitted to such an extent that they will deceive all except the "very elect." Matt. 24:24 *
There is an encouragement in this: it implies not that the "very elect" will have superior mental ability by which they will be able to discern the various subtleties of the Adversary in this evil day; nor does it imply that they will have attained perfection in their control of their earthen vessels so that they cannot err; but, rather, it means that to those who abide in Christ, grace sufficient, wisdom sufficient, aid sufficient will be granted for their time of need. What consolation is in this for all who have fled for refuge to the hope set before us in the Gospel! What a confidence it gives us to feel that our anchorage is within the veil—in Christ! Such predestination is strengthening, consoling, as the Apostle declared, "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be [ultimately] holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will...that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; that we [the New Creation] should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ." Eph. 1:4-11
The necessity for efforts and overcoming in the character-building which God has attached to the call of the "very elect" New Creation is not without its parallels in nature. In illustration of this note the following:
"It is told of a man who wished to add an emperor moth to his collection [F193] of insects, that by good fortune he obtained a cocoon, and hung it up in his library all winter. In the spring he found the moth trying to emerge. The hole was so small, and the moth struggled so hopelessly, as it seemed, against the tough fiber, that he snipped the hole larger with his scissors. Well, the fine large moth emerged, but it never flew. Some one told him afterwards that the struggles were necessary to force the juices of the body into the insect's great wings. Saving it from the struggle was a mistaken kindness. The effort was meant to be the moth's salvation. The moral is obvious. The struggles that men have to make for temporal good develop character as it could not be developed without them. It is well, too, that spiritual enrichment has to be striven for."
We have already pointed out* that the Scriptures most explicitly teach the doctrine of "free grace" which will be ushered in grandly as soon as the elect shall have been completed—glorified. During the Millennium it (the "Seed of Abraham") shall bless all the families of the earth with fullest opportunities for attaining perfect characters, complete restitution and eternal life.