The second mark of a model church is it will give ample evidence of God’s election. The inspired Scripture reads, “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice (or election) of you” (I Thess. 1:4).
The doctrine of divine election or God’s sovereignty in salvation might be new or confusing to some of my readers. Some have incorrectly viewed it as God’s choice of sinners based on the condition of their foreseen faith. Others have erroneously assumed that all individuals are elect but only some believe.
But what does the Bible actually teach? Those who believe were “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (I Peter. 1:2) and “in love He predestined us to adoption” (Eph. 1:5). To know someone in the biblical sense carries the idea of love and even intimacy, so when the Bible speaks of the all-knowing God having foreknowledge of individuals, the meaning is He loved this person in advance in a special and intimate way. The elect of God are those “beloved by God” or God’s special loved ones. This is unconditional love set upon us before creation itself (cf. Deut. 7:7-8 & Eph. 1:3-6) all to the glory of God’s grace.
This great truth is not meant to confuse but rather comfort God’s people. Imagine the typical Thessalonian convert out of paganism. Rejection came their way from former friends and family because they now confess Jesus, not Caesar, as Lord. What comfort that God had chosen them though the world had now rejected them.
The Greek verb eklegomai means “to speak out of or out from” or to choose, select or pick out for oneself with a view to a relationship with the one chosen. This word is used six times in the NT of God choosing or electing sinners to salvation through no merit of their own.
The Greek noun eklektos means one who is choice, chosen, select or elected. This word is used fifteen times in the NT of sinners chosen by God, such as Mat. 22:14 “For many are called (invited), but few are chosen.” See also Romans 8:33, Col. 3:12, 2 Tim. 2:10 and I Peter 2:9.
To complete the word study, the Greek noun ekloga means choice or selection and is used six times in the NT, always of the Divine choice (see Romans 9:11; 11:5, 7, I Thess. 1:4 and 2 Peter 1:10).
A thorough study of the whole Bible on this subject leads to these five indisputable facts about God’s election of believers:
1. Election happened in eternity past and so is one proof of God’s unconditional love for sinners. We had nothing to do with our election. What comfort!
2. Election is not unfair but is both just and gracious. Fair would mean all are judged and condemned to hell.
3. Election of individual Jews and Gentiles to salvation and eternal life is clearly and frequently taught in both the Old and New Testaments. This is no obscure or seldom mentioned doctrine.
4. Election does not diminish man’s responsibility to repent and believe in Christ. Not in the least. Both election and man’s responsibility are true. How both are true is not clear to our finite minds. What mystery! On this subject Charles Spurgeon said, “Where these two truths meet I do not know, nor do I want to know. They do not puzzle me, since I have given up my mind to believing them both.”
5. Election leads to conversion to Christ and therefore a changed life. All who are chosen are in time called and justified.
Now, back to this being a mark of a model church. How did Paul know these people were elect? Evidence! Where there is smoke, there is fire. Where there is fruit, there’s a root. Election in eternity always leads to evidence in time. He simply knew they were elect “for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (1:5).
Their preaching was no mere discourse or trained oratory. It was not dull, lifeless “blah, blah, blah” that fell harmlessly to the ground. They weren’t ignored or misunderstood. Their message came with power.
Paul knew all about “word only” ministry. He was trained in dialogue, argument and counter-argument. For years he had cited the famous dead rabbis and traditions of Judaism in a Spirit-less, word-only, soul-killing ministry of law and condemnation.
But now, he preached the good news of God’s grace in power! He preached with a special unction or anointing from the Holy Spirit. And he lived with power as well.
These weren’t the latest traveling philosophers in it for fame, money and power. These were not the sexually immoral false teachers playing fast and loose with the truth and gullible women.
Paul and Co. worked day and night at tent making so people prone to laziness and privilege would learn to work hard. They pursued holiness so people prone to sexual immorality would see the difference Christ makes. They suffered persecution joyfully to show them it could be done.
Paul knew what is too often forgotten today: the foundation for all ministry success is God’s election of sinners, not man’s clever tactics or powers of persuasion or even the sinner’s ability to believe. This first century model church gave ample evidence of God’s election.
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight