By Pastor Steve M. Wadleigh
This series of blog posts are meant to explain and defend the doctrine of election. I started last week by defining this doctrine and then showing how the condition of fallen mankind demands the teaching of sovereign election. I then showed that the teaching of God’s sovereign choosing of men is found throughout the Bible. Today we will look at examples of God choosing specific individuals throughout all of redemptive history according to His sovereign will to the praise of His glorious grace. Later we will also see that Jesus Christ and his apostles taught that God is the one who chooses who will come to Him for salvation. Finally I will list some of the practical implications of this divine doctrine in our lives today.
My own understanding of this very important doctrine has grown through the years as God has progressively shed greater light on the “doctrines of grace” in my studies. The doctrine of election, like every truth about God, involves some mystery and sometimes stirs up controversy. This is all the more reason for us to examine God’s Holy Word for ourselves to see if it indeed teaches that God sovereignly chooses specific individuals for His purpose.
I would like to begin this examination by looking at Old Testament passages that teach a divine sovereignty being exercised toward specific individuals. Let us start with the story of Abraham. We are all familiar with this story, found in Genesis, of how God called Abram out of his father’s house and out of his native country to go to a land, “which I will show you, and I will make you a great nation” Gen 12:1-2. God chose Abram out of all other people of the earth for this great privilege and blessing.
In the book of Nehemiah we read:
Thou art the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, and gave him the name Abraham. And Thou didst find his heart faithful before Thee, and didst make a covenant with him to give him the land of the Canaanite, of the Hittite and the Amorite, of the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite– to give it to his descendants. And Thou hast fulfilled Thy promise, for Thou art righteous.
The verb translated “chose” in this passage is the verb bāchar (to choose, select, distinguish). This verb is used some ninety-two times in the O.T. to refer “to God’s sovereign action, the
normative divine initiative which is accountable to none other”. Bāchar “is used to express that choosing which has ultimate and eternal significance”. The word “indicates God’s prerogative in deciding what shall happen, independently of human choice”. It has a variety of uses, ranging from the choice of a place to worship, to the choice of persons for particular offices or tasks, to the choice of persons or a people to be participants in covenantal relationship with God by faith. In the case of this usage in Neh. 9:7, as well as all other verses to be cited, it refers to God’s voluntary and sovereign choice by which He furthers His plans and purposes.
We see the same word “bāchar” used of God choosing Moses in Ps. 106:23, David in I Chron 28:4, and Solomon in I Chron 29:1. In each of these cases it is clear that the context indicates that it was God who chose these individuals for His divine purpose, it was not they who chose, and in each case they were chosen out of a group. Moses was chosen out of all of the descendants of Abraham, David was chosen out of all of his brothers, and Solomon was chosen out of all of David’s offspring. God chose specific individuals and not others. In each case the choice was made by the sovereign will of God.
This word “bāchar” is also the word used in passages that speak of God choosing the nation of Israel:
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
Then the text goes on to say in verse seven:
The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples
God tells us that His choice of Israel to be His people was not based on anything but His sovereign prerogative – His divine will. The final O.T. passage that I would like to look at is in Isaiah:
“Behold, My servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.”
Here again we see the word “bāchar” being used to describe God’s sovereign choice of an individual to accomplish His purpose upon the earth. In this case it refers to non-other than the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, the one who would save His people from their sins. In each of these examples, God’s choice or election of these individuals in the course of redemptive history reveal to us that God’s choosing of individuals is the normative manner in which He directs His saving grace towards mankind.
God’s choosing of particular individuals is not only seen in the O.T. but it is also clearly seen and taught in the N.T. In the next blog we will examine the teachings of Jesus and His disciples on this very point.