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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
 www.frcsr.com/fellowship/melville/
 
Title:The blessed comfort in the unchangeable purpose of God concerning our election
Text:CD 1 art 7-8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2020-06-21
Added:2021-12-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Bible Translation: ESV

Book of Praise: 2014

 

Psalm 122:1,2,3

Hymn 1

Psalm 89:1

Hymn 35:4

Hymn 9

Read:  Ephesians 1

Text:  Canons of Dort chapter 1, art. 7-8; RE1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us before the foundation of the world . . ." 

We bless God the Father because he has blessed us in Christ!  Ephesians 1 teaches us that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing on account of the fact that he has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world.  It was in love that he predestined us, according to the purpose of his will.    And this so amazing, so wonderful, that, in the original Greek language, the apostle Paul pours out his praise to God in one long sentence beginning in verse 3 and ending all the way down in verse 14. 

  And that's how we should be approaching the doctrine of the biblical teaching of election this afternoon.  For many of us, as Reformed believers, election is a doctrine that we know something about but not something that we regularly think about.  And, when we do think about it, we don't tend to get overly excited about it.  At least not in the way of being in awe about it and blessing "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" about it.  But that's what the apostle Paul does in Ephesians chapter 1.  And the reason why Paul gets so excited about our election in Jesus Christ is because it displays God's great love and the riches of his grace towards us.  It teaches us that our salvation is all of God, and it gives us the guarantee that he who began a good work in us will complete it to his glory.  And so I preach to you God's word concerning our election under this theme:

The blessed comfort in the unchangeable purpose of God concerning our election.

1. The cause of our election.

2. The comfort provided in our election.

1. The cause of our election.

In the times that I've spoken about the gospel to others, one thing that I've heard more than once is that "being a Christian and going to church and all that is not for me."  And the reason why some people say that is because they don't think that they are good enough.  They have fallen over, messed up too often to the point that they concluded, "I'm not good enough to be a Christian."  But it is not just "other people" who might think that way.  We too might be tempted to think this - or at least to act like this.  We too might be tempted to think or to act as though we somehow can't make the grade, we can't reach the level required to be the "good" Christian we think we should be.  And then we too might be tempted to wonder, "Am I really good enough for God to accept me?  Can I even hope to be saved?"

  Please don't misunderstand me:  if you understand the doctrine of election correctly, if the glorious truth of being chosen by God in Christ penetrates your heart, you could never be content to live in sin or continue in it.  The Canons of Dort will deal with that in chapter 5. 

Furthermore, if you are living in sin and are either content in that state or have even given up in your longing to be freed of your sin, then you really need to be confronted about that sin, called to repent from it and to flee to Jesus Christ.  But when you are broken by that sin, when you come to the realisation that there is nothing good in you, nothing about you that makes you worthy to be chosen by God, it is then that the truth of God's election will give you hope.  Because the biblical doctrine of election teaches us that we have absolutely no right to tell God that we have fallen outside of the possibility of beings saved.  We have no right to tell God that we have failed to meet the conditions for him to choose us.  Because the point is that there are no conditions for us to meet prior to being elected by God.  When the Bible speaks about our election it is referring to our election in Jesus Christ that is unconditional.  The cause for our election in Jesus Christ has nothing to do with us.  There is nothing about you or me that gives us reason to say that God must - or must not - elect us.  The cause of election is all of God.  Of his grace and of his love.  It is when this fact begins to sink in that we stand increasingly amazed at the wonderful truth of our election and we bless and thank God for it.

When the Canons of Dort were written at the Great Synod of 1618-1619, what was at stake was the blessed assurance that the doctrine of election gives us.  The Arminians, who had an opposing view, did not reject speaking about election altogether, but what they did is that they changed the definition of election so that the cause of God's election no longer lay exclusively with him.  We read two of the "Rejection of Errors", which describe how the Arminians explain the doctrine of election.  In Rejection of Errors number 1, the Arminians taught that election is no more than God's decision "to save those who would believe and persevere in faith and obedience."  In other words, God will only choose you if you first choose him!  And he will only save you if you keep on choosing him and never let go of him.  For the Arminians, therefore, election was conditional: you would only be chosen by God if you first chose him, and you would only remain chosen by God if you continued to choose him.  And then in Rejection of Errors number 2, the Arminians talked about different kinds of election.  One of the things that they said was that God does not elect specific individuals for salvation but he has simply decided that some people would believe and therefore be saved.  And then, once again, it is ultimately you, and not God, that determines your election.  This, then, was at the heart of the debate between the Reformed and the Arminians at the time of the Synod of Dort.

But what does the Bible teach about the cause of our election?  As opposed to the Arminians of old and the Christians who follow the same line today, the Bible teaches us that it is God who elects or chooses us, and not us who choose or elect him.  God, then, is the cause of our election, and the only reason why we turn and seek him is because of his gracious work within us.  Let's turn to our Bibles and have a look at that more closely.  We'll read together from some verses in the gospel according to John, Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, the book of Deuteronomy, and then have a closer look at Ephesians chapter 1. 

First of all, John 6:37-39.

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Notice who it is who will come to Christ.  It is those "whom the Father gives me."  Notice also that the will of the Father is that everyone whom the Father gave to his son would indeed be saved.  And now John 6:44.

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6 could not be clearer:  No one can come to faith in Christ unless the Father draws them too him.  The word "draw" is an important one.  It literally means, "to pull or drag, requiring force because of the inertia of the object being dragged."  This is the word that used for dragging in a net of fish.  And that's what the Father does to us.  He takes us, who were by nature dead and unresponsive, and he draws us in to Jesus Christ. 

  Another verse from John's gospel.  John 10:24-27.

24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Notice in John 6:25 that Jesus says to the Jews that they "do not believe" and then in verse 26 he explains that they do not believe "because you are not among my sheep."  But what makes you one of Jesus' sheep?  Are you one of Jesus sheep because you believe, or do you believe because you are one of his sheep?  If you read these verses carefully you will see that Jesus is teaching that that it is those who are his sheep who will believe, and not the other way around.  In other words, God will see to it that his sheep will hear his voice, his elect will come to faith.

  And now John 17:6.

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

Who did Jesus manifest or make known God's name to?  To those whom God gave him out of the world.  It was those who were God's that God then gave to Christ and who then kept God's Word. 

  The gospel according to John teaches us again and again that that it is those whom the Father draws to himself, those whom the Father chooses, who believe and are saved.  It is God, and not us, who is the cause of our election.

Moving on then, to 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.  In these verses see who it is that God chose and how we could never boast in our election.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Whom did God choose?  The foolish, the weak, the low, the despised.  Yes, "even things that are not", things that are counted as nothing at all.  And that should not surprise us, as that's exactly the thing that God did already in the Old Testament.  When God chose Israel to be his people in the Old Testament he did not do so because they were so good or so great, but simply because it was his pleasure to do so.  Deuteronomy 7:6-8a.

6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you . . ."

And that's what chapter 1, article 8 of the Canons of Dort teaches us this when it says:

"There are not various decrees of this election, but there is one and the same decree concerning all those that are saved under both the Old and the New Testament.  For Scripture declares that the good pleasure, purpose, and counsel of the will of God is one.

And now to Ephesians chapter 1.  Ephesians 1:3-6 -

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Verse 4 couldn't be clearer when it says that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.  In other words, God elected us to eternal life before we even existed!  And, verse 5, he predestined us "in love" and "according to the purpose of his will."  The cause of your election, therefore, has nothing to do with you but it has everything to do with God.  Arminians will argue your election ultimately comes from you, from your decision to believe, but the Bible teaches us that the cause of your election is from God.  And that before we had done anything at all.  In fact, it was from "before the foundation of the world."  It was, Ephesians 1 says again and again, according to "the purpose of his will" (verse 5), according to "the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ" (verse 9).  And verse 11,

"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory."

Our election, therefore, is on account of the unchangeable purpose of God.  And that's what chapter 1, article 7 of the Canons of Dort explains so well.  Let's read that article once again.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God whereby, before the foundation of the world, out of the whole human race, which had fallen by its own fault out of its original integrity into sin and perdition, he has, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his will, out of mere grace, chosen in Christ to salvation a definite number of specific persons, neither better nor more worthy than others, but involved together with them in a common misery. He has also from eternity appointed Christ to be the Mediator and Head of all the elect and the foundation of salvation and thus he decreed to give to Christ those who were to be saved, and effectually to call and draw them into his communion through his Word and Spirit. He decreed to give them true faith in him, to justify them, to sanctify them, and, after having powerfully kept them in the fellowship of his Son, finally to glorify them, for the demonstration of his mercy and the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.  As it is written: God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Eph 1:4-6). And elsewhere, those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Rom 8:30).

That's the meaning of God's decree of election.  And that's what gives us such blessed comfort.

  That brings us to our second point.

 

2. The comfort provided in our election.

The doctrine of the unchangeable purpose of God concerning our election is a doctrine that gives us immense comfort and encouragement to the point that, with the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1, we bless God for it, and we sing to the praise of his glory.  This doctrine is such a relief and it gives us such assurance about such a great salvation that God has prepared for us.  The fact that God elects his children unconditionally from eternity, that is before the foundation of the world and before we were even created means that our election does not depend on us!  And so when we are confronted with our sin, when we do despair of the sins of youth or we begin to wonder how we could ever be good enough, then the doctrine of God's election reminds us that your sin has nothing to do with whether or not you can be among the elect.  Unconditional election means just that:  there are no conditions.  In choosing whom he will choose, God does not look to us, but chooses according to his own will.  So it is not for me or you to pry into the question of "am I elect or not?"  And for as long as we are in this life we should never despair and think that we've blown every chance and that salvation is not attainable.  Rather, as it says in Ephesians 1:7, it is in Christ that we have redemption, through his blood.  It is in him that we have the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us! 

  And that also gives us hope with respect to our loved ones, also those who right now are resisting the arms of Jesus.  It is not for us to know God's secret counsel and will, but we do know that he can do miracles, and we do know that he wants us to pray for miracles.  Our God is able to take a heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh; he can take that which is dead and make it alive.  He who claimed you and drew you to himself is also able to draw to himself the most hardened sinner.  So do not give up.  Do not lose hope.  Keep praying and then leave things with God.

  And that also gives us hope with respect to mission and evangelism.  It is not our cleverness, nor the effectiveness of our techniques that will ultimately bring people to faith, but the power of God himself.  So press on.  Share and preach the Word, expecting God to do what he has determined with it.  Preach the gospel and see to it that the Word goes out, because God promises that his Word will never return to him empty, but it will accomplish that which he has purposed.  God is not powerless, standing in the corner begging people to believe but unable to do anything about it.  Rather, he is sovereign and all powerful - also over the election and salvation of his chosen ones.  And so be bold, both in praying for and reaching out to the lost, knowing and believing that God will bring his people to himself.  And remember what the Lord said to the apostle Paul in a vision in Acts 18:9-10.

“Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

And then, when you do see God's work of grace in your life, then when you do believe the gospel even when your neighbour does not, be humble.  The doctrine of election teaches us that it is only because of God and not because of you that you belong to Christ Jesus.  And therefore, as 1 Corinthians 1:31 says, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

And finally, we may also be comforted in the knowledge that election is forever.  Election is the unchangeable purpose of God to choose to salvation a definite number of specific persons.  He will effectually call them, he will draw them into his communion through his Word and Spirit.  He will give them true faith in him, he will justify them, sanctify them, and after having powerfully kept them in the fellowship of his Son, finally glorify them.  He will do this as a demonstration of his love and of his mercy - since it is in love that he predestines us for adoption as his children, and it is in love that he has blessed us in the Beloved, in Christ Jesus.  And therefore we may rest in him.  Therefore we may trust him.  Therefore we may simply love him and praise him and glorify him for all that he has done for us in saving us through Christ Jesus. 

  And that's why Ephesians 1:3 begins by saying,

"Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ!"

Yes, blessed be our God for all that he has done in electing us to be his sons and daughters before the foundation of the world.  It was in love that he predestined us, according to the purpose of his will.    And this so amazing, so wonderful, so comforting that all we can do is to bless God, to praise him and to thank him.  Amen.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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