God Hath Chosen You
May 18th, 1958 @ 10:50 AM
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
GOD HATH CHOSEN YOU
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
5-18-58 10:50 a.m.
These are the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message in 2 Thessalonians, the second chapter, the thirteenth and the fourteenth verses [2 Thessalonians 2:13-14]. Last Sunday night, we concluded at the twelfth verse of 2 Thessalonians 2 [2 Thessalonians 2:12]. Now we begin at the thirteenth [verse]. We left off at the twelfth verse of the second chapter. This morning we begin at the thirteenth verse:
But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
Whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[2 Thessalonians 2:13-14]
And as you could see, this is a sermon on election, on predestination. Above he said there are these who have perished in unrighteousness, “because they received not the truth [2 Thessalonians 2:10]…God sends them a strong delusion that they all might be damned who believe not the truth.” Then he says of these, “But this little flock in Thessalonica, these Christian people, these others who refuse the truth, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned” [2 Thessalonians 2:11-12]. “But you, we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” [2 Thessalonians 2:13].
Truth is a big, great, mighty mountain, and you can’t see to the top of it. The highest-most pinnacle is shrouded in mists and clouds and thick darkness. No man can see all of it. The most a man can see in the great mountain of truth is just one side—one side at a time. A man is so limited in his mind that he cannot even see two great truths together and make them fit.
For example, there is no man that has ever lived that could make fit together these two truths, though you can talk about them one at a time: the sovereignty of God, and the free moral agency of the man. You can look at one at a time, one side at a time, but you can’t see them both together. You can’t even see all the truth if you were in an airplane and had an air view of it.
We flew around Mt. Blanc, one of those rare and unusual days, the pilot said, when it was not covered with mist. And we flew all around and up above it. I could see it on every side, but I couldn’t see all of that mountain. I couldn’t see inside of it, and that vast, vast array of material, is there gold in it? Is there iron in it? I couldn’t see it. No man can see all of the mountain of truth, no matter who he is. There’s not even a man that can see all of chemistry, just one facet of the truth.
So when we come to look at the mountain of truth—at God’s work and God Himself, who is light and life and truth—it behooves us to be very humble. Another thing: for a man to change his mind and to admit that he’s wrong is no dishonorable thing. For a man to admit, “I was wrong in that, but I’ve changed my mind” is just to admit “I am a little wiser today.” So sometimes we approach subjects with deep prejudice and dislike, and yet if we will open our hearts, it has in it possibly a tremendous revelation of the truth of God. And for us to receive it is a mark of true wisdom. We are growing. We are beginning to learn and to understand.
All right, let’s start with this. There is no doubt but that woven into the very fiber of the Holy Scriptures is this doctrine of the elective purposes of God. Predestination, election; it is everywhere. It is all through it. You could not take it out and have the Bible left. Just like taking the woof or the warp of this suit I have on. If you were to take it out, you wouldn’t have a suit; so with the doctrine of the elective purposes of God in history. Our Lord is always presented as sovereign, as purposive. He is a majestic, unchanging Lord and King.
Now, I have chosen just a few—because we’d have the hour spent just to begin to look at them—I have chosen just a few of the Scriptures. Now you listen to these words. For example, in Mark 13:20, “Except the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, these that I have chosen—for the elect’s sake whom He hath chosen, He hath shortened the days.” Or again, the twenty-second verse, “False christs and false prophets shall rise, shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” [Mark 13:22]. The day is going to come when untruth is going to be so palatable and so apparently true, that if it were possible, the elect of God would be deceived.
Now look at the twenty-seventh verse: “And then shall He send His angels, and shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost parts of the earth to the uttermost part of the heaven” [Mark 13:27]. His elect—God’s elect—God is going to preserve and keep, and someday God shall gather them together from the four corners of the earth. Well, that’s just one incidental speaking of that.
All right, now here’s another one. In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, in the forty-eighth verse: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” [Acts 13:48]. God had there an elect, and those elect believed and were saved. Now in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, another very typical passage:
For whom God did foreknow, He did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He [also] called: and whom He called, them He [also] justified: and whom He justified, them also He glorified.
What shall we say then…if God be for us, who can be against us?
If we are the elect of God, all hell cannot take us away out of His hand. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth” [Romans 8:32-33]. He chose, He sanctified, He set apart, He elected.
Now, I haven’t time to read these passages, even these few that I’ve chosen. And you read one this morning. We read it together here in the ninth chapter:
For the children being not yet born, neither having done good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth:
God said, The elder shall serve the younger.
It shall be Jacob and not Esau.
For God said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
So it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.
[Romans 9:11-13, 15-16]
Now, that thing that you find in the Scriptures, you will also find reflected in the ancient and true articles of the faith. Anytime a group of people get together and write out a confession of faith that reflects the teaching of the Word of God, it will have in it an article, a confession, on this thing of election: the elective purpose of God.
I have copied from the old Waldensian Creed. Quote:
That God saves from corruption and damnation those whom He has chosen from the foundations of the world, not for any disposition, faith, or holiness that He foresaw in them, but of His own mere mercy in Christ Jesus His Son, passing by all the rest according to the irreprehensible reason of His own free will and justice.
I have chosen from the Church of England, Article 17, upon predestination and election. Quote:
Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath decreed by His counsel secret to us to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation. Wherefore, they, which be imbued with so excellent a benefit of God at length by God’s mercy attained to everlasting felicity.
I have chosen this from a Baptist Articles of Faith written over three hundred years ago. Article 3 says—I quote:
By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated, foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ; others, being left to act in their sins, to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice. Those of mankind that are predestinated to life, God before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose have chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory.
And you could on with that by the hour. Wherever there is a true confession of faith, you will find in it an article on predestination and election: the sovereign purposes of God.
So I come to my text. Paul writes to the little faithful band there in Thessalonica: “We thank God for you because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. There is not anything—this was written for their edification and their comfort, it was written for their strength—there is not anything in this world that has in it the comfort, and the strength, and the encouragement as to believe in the elective purposes of God. Any other theology, to me, is spineless and water. It is nothing!
If God does not rule this universe and if He does hold our destiny in His hands, then finally we may fall a prey to the devil. But, God’s Word and God’s purpose stand assured. And to come into the knowledge of that will and purpose, and to yield to it, is the rock upon which a man can build his life. Now, I say, there’s not anything that is more comforting and encouraging than this revelation in the Holy Scriptures of the elective purposes of God.
For example, one of the fine men here in this congregation a year or two ago gave me a book entitled A Man Called Peter. Peter Marshall was a very famous preacher in Washington, D.C., and was elected chaplain of the Senate. He was pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church there. He died suddenly with a heart ailment at forty-six years of age. And as his wife Catherine Marshall meditated over the untimely death of that brilliant young preacher, why, she came to the conclusion that there was an all-purposiveness in the will of God that reached down and guided his life, for, she said, “Several times he had narrowly missed death before.” And then she describes those times.
One time, as a youth, he was walking through the moors of Scotland on a dark, inky night and suddenly fell to his knees, reached out his hand, touched nothing. He was at the edge of a deep, deep gorge. One step more, and he would’ve plunged and hurtled to his death. But he was stopped suddenly, for no reason at all. Another instance she describes: he was walking down the street with a companion, and a car accident took the life of the one walking by his side, and he was spared. Another incident; he went to catch a plane and missed it. The plane later plunged to a fiery holocaust, and every passenger aboard perished, and he was spared.
Then at forty-six years of age, God took his life. You doubtless—or let’s say it like this—the great mass of humanity would never have heard of Peter Marshall had he not died in the prime of his life and he had he not been married to a brilliant wife who made his name a household word. Peter Marshall has done a thousand times as much for God in his death as he ever did or could have in his life.
That is a part of the great strength and comfort that comes to one who is able to see the revelation of the elective purposes of God in Christ Jesus. If you believe that your life is a hit-and-miss affair, every day is an adventurous parade of events, everything that happens is fortuitous, you’re just as liable to land down as you are up—if you believe that, then there’s no reason and no purpose in life. You just might as well be dead. But if you believe that God lives and God has a reason and God has a purpose, and the glory of man is to give himself to that great purposiveness of God, then you have a raison d’être, a reason for being, and you are indomitable!
Every one of the Reformers was a predestinarian—Luther as well as Calvin—and that’s why they wrought as they did. They believed that they were working in the will of God, and they were unstoppable, indomitable, unshakable, immovable! It puts iron in a man, makes him stand up straight for God. “This is God’s will, and I have found it, and I’ve given my life to it.”
Now, let’s look at our text more closely: “We are bound,” he says, “to give thanks to God for you, brethren, because God hath from the beginning elected you—chosen you” [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. So then it is an eternal election. It’s not something that God decided yesterday or the day before, but it is an eternal purposiveness in God. God hath from the beginning, when, the beginning—used to think it began in Adam. No, long before Adam [Genesis 1:26-28, 2:7, 16-25], we have learned this world was. Then the beginning was when He created these worlds and flung them out into space [Genesis 1:1-25]. No! “In the beginning was the Word” [John 1:1]. There was a time when space was shoreless and time was unborn. Time is a creation just like matter is a creation. That’s hard for us to realize. But it is. Time is a creature.
There was a time when time was not. There was a time when matter was not, there in the beginning when God alone was. “In the beginning was the Word” [John 1:1]. And in the beginning was the choice and the elective purpose of God [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. He chose you in the beginning [Ephesians 1:4-6]. He knew your name and who you were and all about you in the beginning, before the foundation of the world: “God hath from the beginning chosen you” [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. Then it is a personal election: “chosen you!” God knows you and all of about you, and God has an elective purpose for you [Ephesians 2:9].
God chooses nations, such as Israel [Deuteronomy 7:6-7; Ezekiel 20:5]. God chooses kings and rulers, such as David and Cyrus [2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 1:1]. God chooses apostles, such as Paul [Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1]. God chooses preachers and missionaries. God quickens the heart. There will come a child and say to father or mother, “I feel in my heart that God has called me.” The parents bring the child to me, and I will ask the little fellow, “Little fellow, you feel that God has called you?” And the little fellow will say, “Yes. I feel it in my heart.”
That is the elective purpose of God, quickening the soul [Ephesians 2:1]. Down the aisle comes a little fellow, like I did one time as a boy. And I give my hand to the preacher, and I say to that preacher, “I believe God has called me to be a preacher. God has called me. I feel it in my soul. I feel it in my heart.” And many, many of you here have felt the moving of the Spirit of the Lord in your life. He calls you. He calls you.
Now, He “hath from the beginning called you—chosen you—to salvation” [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. Then it is of God. It says here in my text that God does that. You would never respond were it not for God; never! Satan will not call you to salvation. The world of sin and of the flesh will not call you to salvation. You are called to salvation by the Spirit of God! [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. It is God that does it. Then if it is God that does it, of all things, that’s the most humbling doctrine in the world. “Why me, Lord? Why me? Why me? Why me?” If we are justified by the works of the law [Galatians 2:16], then we are elected according to the works of our lives: our good deeds [Isaiah 64:6]. But if we are justified by grace [Romans 3:24], then we are elected by the unmerited love and mercy of God upon us. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy did God save us” [Titus 3:5], did God choose us.
Then all of our virtues are gifts of God. Faith is a gift of God. Repentance is a gift of God. All of the deeds of our lives that we might have been able to do, we’ve been able to do them by the grace and love and goodness of God. They’re not of us. They are of Him [Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13]. I do not know of a saint—a great, good man anywhere, anytime—who has ever stood up and avowed that the worth and merit of his life was his own. But the saintlier a man is, the more is he disposed to give all honor and glory of his life to Jesus Christ and the elective purpose of God.
For example, I copied this out of a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. And I quote from him:
If you ask me why He saves me, I can only say because He would do it. Was there anything in me that should recommend me to God? No, I lay aside everything. I have nothing to recommend me. When God saved me, I was the most abject, lost, and ruined of the race. Verily, I had no power to help myself. Oh, how wretched did I feel and know myself to be. If you had something to recommend you to God, I never had. I will be content to be saved by grace, unalloyed, pure grace. I can boast of no merits. If you can do so, I cannot. I must sing.
Then, he quotes from an old hymn,
Free grace alone,
From the first to the last,
Hath won my affection
And held my soul fast.
[“Thy Mercy, My God,” John Stucker]
Or as we might sing today,
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
[“Rock of Ages,” Augustus Toplady]
It is all of the love and favor and grace of God [Ephesians 2:8]. The glory is His. It is not of us.
All right, now I have a word here concerning the last part of that text, which is a very revealing Scripture and explanation. He is thanking God for the little band of Christians at Thessalonica: “We are bound to give thanks to God for you brethren, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation” [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. Now, look at it. How does God choose us? How is the way? How do you know? “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through”—the Greek word is e-n, en—”sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” [2 Thessalonians 2:13].
Then the elective purpose of God is not some to heaven and some to hell. It is the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. And the outworking of the sanctification and the belief of the truth ultimately is heaven and hell. But God does not elect some to go to heaven and some to go to hell. But God elects the sanctification of the Spirit and the belief of the truth, and when a man opens his heart to the truth, and when a man opens his soul to sanctification, then the outworking of that leads one to glory, to heaven, and the other to damnation and to hell [2 Thessalonians 2:13].
Now you look at that a moment. The doctrine of the election in the Word of God and in human life, as I see it; the doctrine of election, of predestination, is never mechanical. That is, God doesn’t make a decree and then these human beings, like automatons obey it impersonally, like you’d turn wheels and cogs. There’s no such a thing as that in the Bible. If that were true, then everybody would be saved, for it is the will of God that all men come to the knowledge of the truth [1 Timothy 2:4]. But the elective purpose of God is the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. And those who turn their hearts to receive the truth, to believe the truth, and to be sanctified by the Spirit, they are the elect of God! And those who refuse, they are the non-elect of God!
God’s elective purpose, I say, is not to heaven, it’s not to hell, but God’s elective purpose is the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. And the man who opens his heart to the truth is elected, and the man who says, “No, I will not open my heart to the truth,” that man is nonelected. And he has no cause, as Paul discusses in the ninth chapter of Romans, to find fault with God about that—none at all [Romans 9:14].
For example, I have a gift in my hand. To me, it is a wonderful gift. The gift that I have in my hand is the love of God, and the worship of Jesus as Lord, and our church, and its communion and fellowship, and our prayer meetings, and our love for the lost, and our gifts to missions, and our intercession for the world, and our joy in the Holy Spirit. I have a gift in my hand. “Here, brother, won’t you take it?” And he looks at the gift in my hand and says, “Take it? Why, I despise it! I don’t want it! I dislike it.” And, down the street he goes. And so, I take the gift in my hand—the love of God, and the forgiveness of Christ, and a regenerated heart, and a new spirit, and the love of the Lord, and the communion and the fellowship of the saints—and I give it to this man here, and he takes it and rejoices in it. Does this man have any cause to grumble? He wouldn’t have it. I give to this man here. He is elect.
Here’s a fellow goes down Ervay Street, and he sees all of these people pour into this church, and he says, “Oh, I wish I were elect. I wish I had a place in the kingdom of Christ. I wish I could belong to that church. I wish I could be seated there Sunday morning and listen to that pastor as he opens the Word of God. Oh, I wish I could sing the hymns of Zion. I wish I could be in the glory road with God’s people.” And, so, I go out to him, and I say, “Say, friend, I hear—I hear that you want the Lord Jesus as your Savior, and you want a new heart, and you want to be baptized and belong to the church, and you want to sit down here with us and enjoy heavenly things and heavenly places. Come, my brother, welcome.” He says, “Listen here, preacher. I don’t like anything about that church, or about that religion, or about any invitation you are making.” And he walks on down the street. Should he grumble and find fault? He’s non-elect!
Why, there are people in this world by the uncounted millions who love the brothel house. They love the opium den. They love to desecrate God’s holy day. To them, it would be the height of misery and agony and unhappiness to interfere with their fishing or their golf or their drinking or their sinning, to seek a new heart and a new spirit in God. They are the non-elect. They don’t want it! They’re not interested in it! And it’d be a miserable thing if God forced it on them!
One of the funniest stories I ever heard in my life I heard a long time ago which illustrates this exactly. There were two boats exactly alike anchored to a pier in New York Harbor. One of them was a bartenders’ outing. And the other boat was for a Sunday school picnic. Well, a bartender came running down the street, running to the wharf and the pier, and just as he got there, the last boat was leaving. He gave a great big jump, landed safely on the boat, and when he found out where he was, he was with the Sunday school picnic. Miserable, miserable; oh, it was a sorry setup for him. There they were singing the songs of the Zion, when he wanted to sing “Sweet Adeline.” There they were drinking pink lemonade, when he wanted to drink beer and bourbon. There they were reading out of God’s Word and praying, when he wanted to shoot craps and tell dirty stories, just as miserable as he could be. He’s non-elect, non-elect.
Now, let’s turn it around. Who are the elect? Why, the text tells us, “God has chosen you in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. All right, let’s try it. The pastor stands here this morning in this sacred pulpit and in this sacred hour, and he raises his hand, and he says, “Is there somebody here—is there somebody here that would like to have a new heart? Is there somebody here that’d like to have Jesus come into his soul? Is there somebody here that would like to have the Holy Spirit of God set him apart as belonging to heaven? Is there?”
And a man stands up, and he says, “Yes, sir, preacher, I do. I do.”
I say back to him, “Sir, you are elected. You’re one of God’s. The Lord has chosen you.”
Then turn it around. And the pastor stands here, and he preaches the best he can, and he pleads for the lost, and he says, “And in Christ stead, ‘Be ye reconciled to God’ [2 Corinthians 5:20]. Will you take the Lord as your Savior? Will you look in faith to Him and let Him give you a new heart and a new spirit. Will you turn aside from the world that you might walk in the glory road with us?”
And the man says, “No, sir, I won’t.” He is not elected. For election is the sanctification of the Spirit, that is, setting aside for God in the soul and belief of the truth, the acceptance of Jesus Christ, who is the truth and revelation of God [2 Thessalonians 2:13].
I have that illustrated oh, oh, oh, oh. I couldn’t help but weep with a young woman who came to see me because I’m pastor of this downtown church. Lots of people come to see me whom I do not know. But because of the intimacy of the burden and the problem, they come to me down here. This girl did.
She’s a young woman, about twenty years old, had a little baby girl, oh, two years old, three years old. And her husband there by her side, and in tears she just poured out her heart. She loved that husband, and he was a fine-looking and prosperous young Dallas businessman. She loved him with all her heart. And they had this beautiful little girl. And she wanted to keep her home, and please, could I help her keep her home?
Then I turned to him, and he says, “I don’t want to keep the home. I don’t want her, and I don’t want the child. I am giving her the house and the child. I want nothing of it.” And do you know what the trouble was? This was the trouble. That girl had been reared in a godly, Christian home, and she loved Jesus. And when the little baby was placed in her arms, she wanted to rear the child in the love and nurture of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4]. And that young man said to me boldly and flagrantly and unashamedly, he says, “I hate the church, and I hate the people in it. And I hate the songs they sing. And I hate the God they worship. And I don’t want anything of it.”
I said, “Man, no man could be like that!”
He said, “I am.”
Well, I said, “Whom do you like?”
And he named what he liked. He liked the crowded nights to drink, and to curse, and to carouse, and to live in the darkness of sin. I couldn’t help but cry with the girl. What can you do? “I hate the church, and I hate the God they worship. I don’t like the songs they sing, and the sermons they preach, or anything about it.” You just stagger at it. But that’s not unusual. You’ll find that down almost every street. You’ll find that mostly in the circle of every home.
Some of them, some of them in sanctification of the Spirit, in belief of the truth [2 Thessalonians 2:13]; “Preacher, I do! I want to be saved. I want a new heart. I want Jesus in my soul.” And some, “No, sir, I am absolutely indifferent and unconcerned.” God’s elect and the world’s non-elect. Oh, these things bring you to your knees. God, have mercy upon our souls.
Now, may I make that appeal? Is there somebody here who would stand up and say, “Preacher, I do. I want a new heart, a new life, a new hope, a new promise; sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. I do. I do.” Then you come. You are the elect of God! Come. Come. In Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God [2 Corinthians 5:20]. Come. Come. And with you, a family to put their lives in the church, or one somebody to put his life with us in this precious communion and fellowship, would you come? By letter, by baptism, by consecration of life, any way the Lord opens the door and whispers the word. If it’s of me, it is nothing. If it is of God, come. Come, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The mountain of truth
Higher than eyes can discern
Can only see one side at a time
When we approach the mountain, it behooves us to be humble
II. The doctrine of the election of God
into the fabric of the Bible(Mark 13:20, 22, 27,
Acts 13:48, Romans 8:29-33, 9:11-13, 15-16)
in ancient and true articles, confessions of faith
Church of England, Article 17
Baptist Articles of Faith, Article 3
comfort and encouragement to believe in elective purposes of God
Seen in our lives today
Peter Marshall reflecting upon death of her husband at 46
Every one of the Reformers was predestinarian
III. This election isâ€¦
Eternal, “from the beginning” – before foundation of the world(Genesis 1:1, John 1:1)
– He has chosen you
Humbling – He has called you to salvation (Titus
3:5, Ephesians 2:8)
1. Charles Spurgeon
2. Hymns, “Thy Mercy,
My God”, “Rock of Ages”
IV. Purpose and ultimate result –
sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth
Not a mechanical decree followed by automatic human submission(1 Timothy 2:4)
Those who turn their hearts to receive the truth, they are the elect
The non-elect do not want the Lord, or to be saved
A gift in my hand, you don’t want it; give it to someone else, you have no
right to grumble
They would be miserable if God forced it on them
a. Bartender got on the
wrong boat, the one with Sunday school picnic
The elect will answer yes when asked to come to the Lord(2 Corinthians 5:20)
girl married to man who hated the church