God's Choice of You
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
The word "election" is used in the Bible to refer to those God has chosen to be saved. Where the King James version has "election," versions translated more recently (like in the past one or two centuries) have "choice" (NASB) or "chosen" (NIV).
This idea of "election" has puzzled many people. It would be nice if you were among those God has chosen to bless, but what if you're not? It doesn't seem right that He would leave some of us out in the cold without any hope because of some arbitrary choice He made before we were born. I mean, why bother? If you are one of the elect, then great; you cannot be lost. But if not, too bad, you cannot be saved. And if that's the situation, then why bother preaching the gospel? It won't change anything.
Actually, this problem only exists for those who misunderstand "election." This choice God has made is not arbitrary and the election process is not unconditional. God is holy and righteous and without injustice. Each one of us has control over whether we are among the "elect" or not.
The Church is the Chosen People of God
"Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 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." (I Thessalonians 1:1-5).
Election Involves the Godhead
"...in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father...but also in power and in the Holy Spirit." (I Thessalonians 1:3b, 5b). It has been said that the Father formed the plan of salvation in His mind in eternity before the beginning, that the Son carried it out, and that the Holy Spirit revealed the plan to us. Though perhaps the separate Divine roles might be a little oversimplified, this brief summary seems to fit pretty well the Scripture's teachings on the subject. We know that the plan began in the mind of God in eternity and was carried out by His Son (Ephesians 3:8-11). Jesus died on the cross to secure our salvation by His blood (Ephesians 1:7). We also know that these things have been made known to the prophets and apostles in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:4,5; 1:13,14).
Election and the Work of Faith
"...constantly bearing in mind your work of faith..." (I Thessalonians 1:3). Those who were chosen, or elect of God were engaged in their "work of faith." This is one of the things that distinguish the chosen from those who are not chosen. The response these people had made to the gospel was that they believed, or had faith in its message of a Redeemer. This faith was the motivation behind the work they did.
As Paul observed their "work of faith," he said that it was by this that he "knew" that they were "brethren, beloved by God" (I Thessalonians 1:4). He based, in part, his confidence of their election on their "work of faith." Had they rejected the commandments of God, they would be rejecting God (I Thessalonians 4:1-8; especially verse 8).
The Scriptures make it clear that apart from our submitting to God's commandments, we cannot be a part of the elect. In fact, if we once were one of God's elect, but later cease walking by faith, that our election will no longer be sure or certain (II Peter 1:10,11). God elects those who obey Him by faith.
Election and the Labor of Love
"...and the labor of love..." (I Thessalonians 1:3). Not only are we chosen of God by our "work of faith," but also by our "labor of love." "Labor" here refers to unceasing toil. But this toil is borne of love; and toil borne of love is not burdensome. Jesus invited us to take His yoke upon ourselves, assuring us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). John said "We love because He first loved us" and "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." (I John 4:19; 5:3).
Those who do not love the Lord are not chosen by Him. Those who love the Lord show it by their "labor of love." When Paul saw the labor of the Thessalonicans, he became confident that they were among God's chosen, because God elects those who love Him.
Election and Steadfastness of Hope
"...and steadfastness of hope..." (I Thessalonians 1:3). Another key ingredient in our election is the "steadfastness" or endurance of our hope. The brethren at Thessalonica had a living hope that would not die. The Hebrew writer encouraged us to "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who has promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23). The Roman Christians were told, "For in hope we have been saved..." (Romans 8:24).
No Christian knows what the future holds as far as what he or she will face in this lifetime. If, even during the bleakest of times, we can focus our thoughts on the hope provided us in Christ, then we will find the strength and perseverance that we need. To remain among God's chosen, we must be steadfast.
Election and the Gospel
"...for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction..." (I Thessalonians 1:5). From the beginning, God chose to save those who would obey the gospel. It had been predestined. Note that God did not predestine who would or would not respond, but rather what would happen when someone chose to respond in and of his own free will. God's electing us has never been arbitrary, nor has it been unjust.
Paul wrote, "...brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. And it was for this He called you through our gospel that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Thessalonians 2:13,14).
What we see here is that God's call to us is issued through the gospel, and this is how He determined to choose us "from the beginning." When called, if we obey the gospel (allow the Spirit to guide us through the gospel unto sanctification and place our faith in the truth) then we become members of God's elect.
The Basis of God's Election
"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.; and whom He predestined, these He also called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, He also glorified." (Romans 8:29-30). Before the foundation of the world, God knew who would be justified and glorified. He tells us who in this passage! It is those who become like His Son. It is those He called, and as we have already seen, His call is issued through the gospel (see also Romans 10:14-17). Those who respond to the gospel by faith are justified and glorified. It has been predestined.
The election of God has never been unconditional. Neither has it been arbitrary, for that would make God as one who shows partiality. But God is righteous. "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him." (Acts 10:34,35).
God is holy and righteous and without injustice. Each one of us has control over whether we are among the "elect" or not.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 3.12; December 1996