In A Simple Solution to the Predestination vs. Free Will Debate/”Paradox” I wrote about how every bible verse that speaks of predestination does not mean God is individually choosing who is going to heaven or hell but rather that God corporately chose the church.
In this post I want write about a related concept, that of election. The question is, who are God’s elect (chosen ones)?
One answer given is that God elects some individuals to heaven and damns the rest to hell. This is the same concept that I refuted in the post that I linked to above. Here I want to dismantle this false picture of an unfair God who arbitrarily favors certain people over others.
To answer the question, let’s first look at the concept of election in the Old Testament.
Many individuals were chosen in the OT as types and shadows of the true elect. The most pertinent example is Abraham, who was chosen from among all the people in the earth. What is important to notice is why God chooses an individual out of everyone else in the first place? The scriptures say that Abraham was chosen so that “all nations would be blessed through [him]” (Galatians 3:16). Thus, as the OT conceives it, election is God selecting an individual (or a group; Israel in the OT) for the benefit of all others.
The reason that the non-elect can have hope for the future is precisely because of God’s election of Israel…Divine election is, strange as it may seem, a message of hope for the whole world. – Robin Parry
We can see this theme continued in the New Testament. In the gospel narratives, Jesus chooses disciples who will later take the Good News around the world; Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16, emphasis mine). In Acts, God says that Paul “is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (9:15, emphasis mine).
The elect in the NT refers to the believing community. God chose the church as the means by which to bless the whole world. It’s not about who’s in and who’s out. Whenever election is mentioned in the scriptures it is completely unrelated to all of our modern notions of the afterlife. God did not make choices for each individual but rather he made a single corporate choice for the benefit of all.
Ultimately, however, we must think Christocentrically. The true elect one, who preceded the birth of the church, is Christ. Just as Israel was elected so that all nations would be blessed, so Christ was elected so that in him all humanity would be blessed.
Jesus represents Israel in himself, hence he embodied Israel’s election in himself (e.g. read Matthew, which portrays the life of Christ as parallel to the history of Israel). In a similar fashion, the church is representative of Jesus (read how closely Jesus identifies himself with the church in Who is the Light of the World?). This is why the church is called the body of Christ.
Jesus is God’s elect, and since all are included in the work of Christ, all are included in the benefits of his election (just as all nations were to be blessed by the election of Abraham).
Israel (Jacob) himself was chosen (over Esau; Gen. 25:23) but individual Israelites are not chosen to be in the nation of Israel. Rather, as descendants of Israel they share in God’s election of him. They are elect in Israel, not elect to be in Israel…our election is actually a participation in Christ’s election. Notice how Paul puts it in Eph. 1:4: “evan as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Not “chose to be in him” but “chose us in him.” Similarly in Rom 16:13: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord…” Chosen “in the Lord” not “chosen to be in the Lord.” Christ is the Elect One and those who are united to Christ share in his election. – Robin Parry
So how has humanity benefited by Christ’s election on its behalf? By Jesus becoming its substitute. This will be the topic of my next post.