“Election” Deuteronomy 7:1-11 March 21, 2010
SI: Deuteronomy has been called the Romans of the Old Testament.
That’s because it’s a book about God’s grace
and the life of faith and obedience we give to God in response to his grace.
It’s also called the Romans of the Old Testament because it is a very doctrinal book.
Many of the great doctrines the Apostle Paul expounds in Romans
are presented in Deuteronomy as well.
In this passage, Moses mentions one of those doctrines.
He reminds the Israelites that God chose them to be his people,
not because of anything in them, not because of what they had done,
but because of his love for them and his determination to redeem them.
That’s the doctrine of election.
INTRO: One night when I was about nine years old, my dad came into my room,
sat on my bed, read the Bible to me, prayed with me. That was his habit.
I don’t remember what he read or what he said in his prayer.
But after he had left and turned off the lights—
in those quiet moments I felt a deep conviction of sin and a fear of hell
and a need for salvation and a need for Christ. So in my bed, in the dark,
I prayed and asked the Lord to forgive me and save me.
You could say that’s when I chose God.
That’s when I chose to follow the Lord and become a Christian.
What about you? When did you choose God?
If we had time to go around the room this morning and for everybody to say
a sentence or two, all of you who are Christians could name a time.
Some of you would say: I chose the Lord when I was a child.
I was so young, that I can’t remember an exact time or event.
From my earliest days I knew I was a sinner
and that Jesus loved me and died for me and I believed in him,
and I’ve trusted him and walked with him ever since.
Some of you would say: I remember exact day when I chose the Lord.
I was a teenager, I was a young adult, and I heard the Gospel from this person.
And I prayed, I asked the Lord to forgive my sins and save me.
That’s when I chose God.
But when did God choose you? What does the Bible say? It says:
“From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit
and through belief in the truth . . .For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be
holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus
Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace.”
What’s the answer? When did God chose you?
From the beginning. Before the creation of the world.
That’s what the Bible calls election. The doctrine of election.
That’s what Deuteronomy 7 is about and we’re going to study it this morning.
Election means that God has been pleased, from all eternity, to choose particular
men and women, boys and girls, out of the fallen and damned human race.
In love he determined to save these chosen ones through his Son.
So Jesus Christ came into the world and laid down his life for the elect.
And at just the right time, God comes to these people he has chosen,
he calls them by his Spirit, he gives them faith in Christ, so that they choose him.
He sanctifies them and he keeps them from falling away from the faith,
until he brings them at last to glory in heaven.
No one ever repents and believes in Christ except the elect.
No one ever chooses God except those who God chose first.
That is the biblical doctrine of election.
It’s a very controversial doctrine. Always has been.
Paul himself faced this controversy. In Romans 9 he anticipated that people
were going to object to election, and he even anticipated their objections.
He knew that people were going to say two things:
First, it’s unfair for God to choose some and not others.
Second, it takes away people’s free will and destroys human responsibility.
Paul made it clear that neither of these objects will stand.
But throughout church history and still today, those are the two objections
always raised against the doctrine of divine election—even by many Christians.
Hard as it may be, I want you to believe this doctrine with all of your heart.
Election lies at the very center of the Bible’s teaching about salvation.
Because in election you see that your salvation truly is by grace alone.
In election you see that your salvation from beginning to end is of God.
When you believe, personally, that God chose you before the creation of the world,
out of sheer grace, that produces in you the love, wonder, gratitude, passion,
and humility which makes for a truly Christlike life.
That’s obviously why Moses told Israel they were God’s chosen people.
His big concern in Deuteronomy is to encourage them to a godly life
in the Promised Land. That’s what the Lord wants from you too.
So let’s look at this passage and this great doctrine under two points:
1. The evidence of election
2. The benefits of election
MP#1 The evidence of election
The most important evidence is that election is all over the Bible.
Let’s just start with Deuteronomy 7, and the Lord calling Israel his chosen people.
He didn’t chose the Egyptians or the Canaanites or the Assyrians.
God left those nations and the people in them in the darkness of idolatry.
But out of all the peoples of the earth, he chose the Israelites to be the recipients
of salvation. Not because of what they had done, not because of how great
they were, but because of his grace.
And before God chose Israel, he chose Abraham out of all of the unbelievers in Ur.
“For I have chosen Abraham, so that he may direct his children to keep the way of the Lord.”
And so we have here God’s people being distinguished from the rest of mankind by
being called his chosen people. That designation is used throughout the Old
Testament and into the New Testament.
Often, Jesus Christ and his Apostles referred to believers as the elect. Jesus said:
If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect,
whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.
For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive
the elect—if that were possible.
And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth
to the ends of the heavens.
Throughout the epistles, believers are constantly called “the elect” or “the chosen.”
Paul says to the Colossians:
“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion.”
When Paul writes to Titus he says he is:
“An apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect.”
Peter addresses his letter
“To God’s elect, strangers in the world who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge
of God the Father.” And calls them “a chosen people . . .belonging to God.”
And the Apostle John was fond of this word. He writes
“To the elect lady” and speak of our “elect sister.”
And you can get out concordance yourself and look up the many other passages
where the word “elect” or “chosen” or “foreordained” or “appointed” or
“predestined” is used in reference to believers to show that God’s people are
distinguished from the rest of mankind by a prior choosing of God.
If we are the elect, then obviously there was an election.
In addition there are the numerous passages where this doctrine is explicitly taught.
John 15. Jesus says:
“You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will
last.” “You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”
John 17, Jesus again:
“I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”
Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas:
“When the Gentiles heard (the Gospel), they were glad and honored the word of the Lord,
and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”
There it is, plain as day, those who believed did so because they were appointed.
Romans 8, Paul again:
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?”
We read Romans 9 earlier in the service and there it is in black and white.
Paul’s exposition of Jacob and Esau: “Before the twins were born or had done anything
good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him
who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’”
And then Paul’s powerful answer to those who say that God isn’t fair and that
this goes against man’s free will. “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?”
Honestly, we’ve barely scratched the surface. We could talk in more detail about
1 Corinthians 1 and Ephesians 1 and 1 Thessalonians 1 and 2 Thessalonians 2.
Yes, I’m deliberately piling these up to show you that the Bible is filled with
the wonderful teaching that God chose you for everlasting life by his grace.
He gets the glory. Because election means salvation is all of grace.
Another evidence for election is the experience of conversion and the new birth.
You cannot read the story of the conversion of the Apostle Paul and believe
that Paul chose the Lord first. No, God chose Paul first,
before the creation of the world, as Paul himself would later write.
Then the Lord sought out Paul and changed his heart and turned his natural
hatred of Christ into faith and love. And remember what Ananias said to Paul?
“Brother Saul . . . The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will.”
That’s exactly what happens when every unbeliever is converted.
Even if it’s not as dramatic as Paul. It’s God’s choice and God’s grace.
And what about the undeniable fact that many covenant children have known
the Lord from their earliest recollection? David spoke of trusting the Lord
from his mother’s breast. So did Jeremiah and Timothy.
And multitudes of Christians throughout the centuries have said the same thing.
I grew up in a Christian home and I never knew a time when I did not know and
trust the Lord. It’s perfectly clear these Christians did not choose the Lord first.
He chose them. He put them in Christians homes. He drew them.
So there is the teaching of Scripture, the experience of the new birth,
and one more evidence of election—the instinct of the Christian heart.
No matter what your denomination, no matter what your theological stance,
the instinct of the Christian heart is that God chooses.
There are plenty of Christians who don’t believe in election. They don’t believe
that God has chosen particular people for salvation and not others.
Instead, they believe that God has just made salvation possible for everybody
but he leaves it up to your free will to make it happen.
That means the ultimate decision for your salvation rests with who? With you.
It also means that God hasn’t done anything more for you
than he has done for those people who are eventually lost and go to hell.
He made salvation possible for them, he made salvation possible for you,
and it’s your good decision that makes the final difference.
But here’s the thing, How do Christians who believe that pray for a loved one
who is lost? How do Christians who believe that the thing that makes the final
difference is your choice of God, how do they pray for a loved one to be saved?
They pray as if it’s all up to God.
They say: Lord, please, save my son. Draw him to yourself. Give him faith.
What is that but the true instinct of the Christian heart affirming that
salvation ultimately lies in the choice of God, not in the choice of men?
And how do Christians who deny election give their own personal testimony?
Do they say: I sure am glad I was wise enough to chose God?
Do they pat themselves on the back and say: God made salvation possible
for everybody and I’m one of the smart ones who said yes?
No. Their testimony is, I was running from God. But God didn’t let me go.
He brought the right people into my life. He arranged the circumstances.
He stepped in. He had his eye on me. He did it all. I owe it all to him.
It’s almost as if he . . . chose me beforehand.
Whatever the Christian head might be foolishly thinking,
the Christian heart knows by instinct that we are saved by grace alone,
Election is a glorious doctrine that gives God all the glory.
And it’s incredibly sweet.
In eternity past, God chose me, by name, personally, in Christ.
And he has saved me so that I can live for him.
Do you believe it?
There are mysteries. There are difficult questions.
But do you believe it? You must—it’s true, and it’s great.
That leads us to the next point. Let’s consider . . .
MP#2 The benefits of election
And by that I mean, what are the benefits that come to Christians who embrace
the doctrine of election and work it out in their lives?
If the things we believe don’t make a real difference in our lives,
then what good are they? They’re just theories and formulas.
But if they alive, if they are powerful, then they can change us.
And the doctrine of election is a living and powerful truth.
John Piper has a sermon on 2 Peter 1:10,
“Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure,
for if you do these things, you will never fall.”
He says that when you come to a point in your Christian life in which you
truly believe that you are one of the elect, that the Lord has chosen you,
and called you away from a sin and death into life and sonship—
then you will experience divine power.
He uses an interesting illustration.
Imagine you are a soldier, taken prisoner, and put in a terrible POW camp.
Conditions there are brutal and cruel, death is all around, your body wastes
away and you lose your will to live.
Then one day the commander of the camp walks in at roll call and starts pointing.
You, you, you, you, YOU. Prisoner exchange. You’re leaving.
Piper asks: Would that knowledge that you had been chosen be a bare and
worthless piece information to you? Would you compartmentalize it and go
on with your usual life?
No! When you realized that you had been chosen, you would feel hope
surging through your body and mind. Home! Family!
I can make it. I’m not going to die. I’m going to hold on.
Power would come to you just knowing you were chosen.
God’s election is even more wonderful.
And when a Christian really knows that the Lord has said YOU!
I’ve chosen you before the creation of the world.
I’ve set my affections on you.
Come out of sin and death. I’m going to show you my glory, give eternal life.
Because of my choice and my call, you are going to see and experience
things in my eternal kingdom that are so wonderful they cannot be described.
So I want you to start getting ready. Calling you to a life of godliness.
When a Christian comes to the point of knowing, really knowing,
that he has been chosen and called by God for great things—
then divine power surges through him—and he’s changed.
Let me just give you one example.
If you know God has chosen you before the creation of the world,
you’ll be able to handle criticism. How do you handle criticism?
Calmly? Confidently? Objectively?
Nobody like to be criticized. It not only hurts, it can be consuming.
You can get 10 compliments and one criticism and you’ll dwell on that one
criticism for hours and either get despondent or mad depending on personality.
And we all have those people in our lives whose opinions really matter to us.
It might be your parents, or your children, or your peers.
It might be people of the opposite sex, might be someone you admire.
For everyone there are the eyes that matter.
People whose judgments you live and die for.
And when you get criticized by them, it can be devastating.
A man says: My father never complimented me, never encouraged me,
he always criticized me—and that man lives his life under that criticism.
It affects the way he looks at himself, relates to his own children.
He’s always judging himself by it or reacting against it.
It might not be that severe.
But often times the criticisms of other people shake us and control us.
They make us timid and despondent and angry, they disturb our peace.
You need to believe the doctrine of election.
You need to get a hold of it. You need to preach it to yourself.
God loved you before you had a being.
He loved you and chose you before the creation of the world.
In eternity past, you were on his mind. He spoke your name. Ponder that.
And when Jesus Christ came to earth, he prayed for you.
In his High Priestly prayer, prayed for those Father had chosen.
That means Jesus prayed for you.
And when he was hanging on the cross he thought of you. Ponder that.
And after you were born in sin, before you could even pronounce His name,
the Lord had his eye on you, his chosen one, and was working things out
in your life so that you would hear the Gospel and come to him in faith.
Not only should that humble you to the dust, it should lift you to the sky!
What are the criticisms of people, even the people who matter if you know
that you’ve been chosen and loved from all eternity by God?
Even if their criticisms are right on target, and hit a very sensitive place,
and reveal the worst failures—Your eternal God and Father, who knows
everything about you, chose you anyway, to be the object of his love.
So you can face those criticisms openly and not be devastated.
Listen to the way Charles Spurgeon put it:
“What worry do you have about the words of man, if you are chosen by your Maker?
What do you care for the pitiful chirpings of some tiny sparrow when you know you are an eagle of the royal race? Will you care when the beggar makes fun of you , when the royal blood of heaven runs in your veins? Will you fear if all the world stands against you?”
“I am one of His elect. I am chosen of God and precious. And though the world throw me out, I am not afraid. Ah! you weak professing Christians, some of you bend like willows. There are few oaken Christians now-a-days, that can stand the storm; and I will tell you the reason. It is because you do not believe you are elect.”
So how do you know you are elect? And how grow in your assurance of it?
It’s no secret. The Bible makes very clear who the elect are.
Paul puts it best in 1 Thessalonians 1
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
(How?) because our gospel came to you not simply with words,
but also with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction.”
There’s the answer. You know you have been chosen by God if you’ve
believed the Gospel with conviction and if it’s changed your life.
Faith and holiness.
If you believe in Jesus Christ and are doing your best to live for him every day
then you are one of God’s elect, his chosen people—
not because of anything you’ve done, not because of anything in you,
not because you’re better than any other person, you aren’t!
—but because of God’s grace. So he gets the glory.
Believe it. Embrace it. Live it.