Monday, June 26, 2006

3. The Biblical Doctrine of Election emphasises Union with Christ

While Karl Barth draws entirely false conclusions from Scripture's teaching that election is in Christ, we must not allow this error to detract from this glorious aspect of the doctrine and it is worth dwelling upon the positive side of this truth. Election in Scripture is not an impersonal,
fatalistic form of predestination such as Muslims profess, it is uniquely Christ-centred. As William Perkins put it, "to dreame of any election out of him, is against all sense". Election is in Christ and through Christ.

This is clearly expressed in the Canons of Dordt: "From eternity He has also appointed Christ to be the Mediator and Head of all the elect and the foundation of their salvation." (I.7). The Father first chose Christ to the office of Mediator, and so He is called God's elect, Isa. 42:1. Since the elect were chosen in Christ, it necessarily follows that He was first chosen. Therefore they were predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son as the "first-born among many brethren" Rom. 8:29. Thomas Goodwin expresses this quaintly: "In the womb of election He, the Head, came out first, and then we, the members".

The Lord Jesus Christ was not, as it were, an after thought in relation to election, or simply the means to make the decree of election effectual. AW Pink asserts that Christ was predestinated for higher ends than simply the saving of His people. As the God-Man he was chosen for God Himself to delight in, so that God might behold all His perfections in union with a creature. Being united to the second person of the Godhead, the man Christ Jesus was exalted to a closer union and communion with God than any other so that the Lord speaks of Him as "the man that is my fellow" (Zech. 13:7), and "mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth" (Isa. 42:1).

Calvin referred to Christ as the mirror of our election in two important senses. First, from God's point of view "he must have first looked on our Lord Jesus Christ before he could choose and call us" (Sermons on Ephesians 33). This reflects that Christ was chosen first in order of nature but does not mean that Christ or his merits are the ground or conditions of election. The merits of Christ are the effects and not the causes of election. It was God's free love that sent Christ and therefore he could not be the cause of electing love. It has been well said that election does not find men in Christ, but puts them there.

Second, Calvin says that from our point of view Christ "is the mirror on which we must cast our eyes and look, when we desire to come to the knowledge of our election (Sermons on Ephesians 48)". We are to come to Christ "To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house" (1 Pet. 2:4-5). We must go to Christ before we seek to be sure of our personal election. It is a grievous error to instruct seekers to be sure of their election before they close in with Christ or instead of closing in with Christ. We must be sure to be in Christ before we can hope to be sure of our election.