The Doctrine of Election
April 28th, 1974 @ 10:50 AM
2 Peter 1:10-11
THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 1:10-11
4-28-74 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Doctrine of Election. In our preaching through the second letter of Simon Peter, we have come to the middle of the first chapter. And our sermon is an expounding of the text in verses 10 and 11, 2 Peter 1, verses 10 and 11:
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, ye shall never fall:
For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
[2 Peter 1:10-11]
When you look at the wording, it comes as a surprise that the apostle does not say, “our election and our calling,” which would be chronological. But he turns it around, “our calling and our election.” He does so because of our experience. In life we know it that way. We know the calling of God, then we learn of His predestinated election of us.
You will find the apostle Paul doing the same thing in the eighth chapter of Romans, in this most famous of all verses: “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” [Romans 8:28]. Now having spoken of it in our experience, then the apostle will follow it chronologically from eternity to eternity, “For whom God did foreknow, them He also predestinated. . .and whom He predestinated, He also called; and whom He called, He justified; and whom He justified, He glorified” [Romans 8:29-30]; from our election, our predestination in heaven, through our calling and justification and back to the eternity of our glorification.
“Our calling and our election”; there are two kinds of a calling of God. There is a general call, a call of God to all men everywhere. The apostle speaks of that again in the third chapter of his letter, when he is speaking of the delay of the Lord in His return [2 Peter 3:8-9]. When the Lord went away He said, “I shall come back” [John 14:3]. Now that’s been one thousand nine hundred years ago, and He still has not returned. So there are scoffers and rejecters and unbelievers who say, “He has either forgotten us, or He did not intend the fulfillment of the promise.” So the apostle writes here, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is all suffering, long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all men everywhere should come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]. That is a general call.
It is not God’s purpose and God’s will that any man be lost but that all men should come to repentance and to the knowledge of salvation in Christ. That same kind of a thing is reflected in Ezekiel 33:11, the prophet quoting God says, “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his evil way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” This is a general call from God to all men everywhere that they turn and be saved.
But there is another kind of a call of God. There is an effectual call. It is personal, it is individual, and it is answered by the life of the one in response to whom God calls. That is a calling that all of us who have come to God know in our experience. Out of all that God shall do to call all the world to repentance and to faith, there are some of us who have heard that call especially, and have answered with our lives.
Now I cannot explain, or enter into, or understand the mystery of that effectual calling. Why does it bear fruit in this man’s life, and why does this man find himself unquickened and unresponsive? I do not know. I cannot know. Only God knows. The same message at the same hour in the same place will be preached to the people, and one man will be quickened, he will turn, he will respond, he will repent, he will accept the Lord, he will be saved! [Acts 2:38]. And by his side there will be another man who remains dead, unquickened, unresponsive, unmoved at all [Acts 28:24]. How do you explain that?
It’s the same sermon. It’s the same service. It’s the same appeal but one is brought into the kingdom, and the other is unmoved. I do not know. I find that same thing in a family. There will be a man in the family, a son in the family, and he is graciously responsive to God. His brother, of the same father and mother, the same environment, the same atmosphere, the same everything, his brother is absolutely indifferent and unmoved. There’s no response in him at all. How do you explain that? I do not know.
There is a word that goes out, and the people hear it, and for some it will go beyond the hearing of the ear to penetrate the soul, the heart. And the man hears, and he hears, and he really hears. There’ll be those present who are looking, and they see, and beyond the retina of the eye, there will be a seeing that enters the deepest life, and the man really sees. Then there are others who hear and hear and hear, and they never hear. They see and see and see, and they never see. How do you explain that calling? We cannot. It is something hid in the elective mind and predestinarian purpose of God.
I just know this. As I read the Holy Word and as I study the Bible, the elective sovereign grace and purpose of God is interwoven throughout its pages. There is no chapter without it. It is God. It is God’s sovereign grace and God’s elective purpose. It is that through the whole Word of the Lord.
For example, in the seventh chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses says to Israel, “God has chosen you to be a holy people” [Deuteronomy 7:6]. Then he says, “God did not choose you, He did not call you, because you were more numerous than other people, because actually,” he says, “you are the fewest of the nations, but God loved you,” says Moses, “and God remembered the oath that He sware unto Abraham, and unto Isaac, and unto Jacob” [Deuteronomy 7:7-8]. The elective choice of Israel was something not because of their intrinsic worth, but it was something in the mind and purpose of God. God did it.
Same thing is found in individual life. When Ananias in Damascus said to the Lord, “Lord I do not want to go see that man Saul of Tarsus; he is here with orders to hale us into prison and unto death. And I am afraid of him” [Acts 10:13-14]. And the Lord God said to Ananias, “Ananias, you go, you go, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to preach My name, My grace, My salvation to the Gentiles and to the kings, and to Israel” [Acts 9:15]. It’s something God did.
And in the first chapter of the Book of Galatians, the apostle Paul says that, “The Lord God separated me from my mother’s womb,” those are exact words, “The Lord God separated me from my mother’s womb that I might preach the gospel of the grace of the Son of God” [Galatians 1:15-16]. The election, the purpose, the choice, the calling of God is throughout these Holy Scriptures.
Now our response is severalfold. One: it is with infinite gratitude, and thanksgiving, and praise to the Lord that His elective purpose and goodness reached even to us. And may I take myself now as an example?
I thank God, I praise His name that in His elective purpose God placed my life in Christian America. I have been in the heart of Africa. I have been in villages where, through an interpreter, I asked the entire village if there was a Christian, one Christian, and there was not one, no bowing or loving before the name of Jesus. Why was I not born in the heart of Africa? Why was I not a Hottentot, never heard the name of Jesus and die without God? How is it I was born in Christian America? I thank God for the elective purpose. I had nothing to do with it. I thank God that I was reared in a Christian home, in a Christian family.
I asked my mother, “When did you first take me to church?” In the little, white crackerbox of a church house that we attended in that little village, there were no nurseries. So I asked Mother, “When did I first go to church?” And she said, “I took you to church when you were a month old.” My mother held me in her loving arms when I was a little child of a month of age, attending church. I knew no other thing in all of my life. I grew up in the household of faith. I did not choose that. There are many homes in America that are not Christian. There are many homes in America that are anti-God, and anti-church, and anti-Christ. Why was I not born in one of those homes? I thank God for the elective purpose, when God chose to place me in the arms of a Christian mother, and in the home presided over by a Christian father.
I thank God for His election of a place for me to serve. All of us have an election in our assignment from God. There is a work God hath chosen for us to do. And in that election I am so grateful to God. God did it. And I praise His name forever.
In the summer of 1944, at the end of the summer months, I was eating lunch with a young man. He is now the director of all of our mission work in Africa. He was a professor of missions at our seminary in Louisville. Being in school together, we came to be fast friends. He grew up here in Dallas. His father was superintendent of education in Dallas. And he loved this city and loved this church. So at the end of the summer of 1944, we were eating lunch together, and he said, “Has anything happened this summer?” I said, “No, not at all, nothing.”
As the conversation continued, why, I happened to say that I was to preach in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Dr. Truett had died and the committee had asked me to preach at the church. He said, “Why, I thought you said that nothing had happened?” I said, “Nothing has happened, nothing at all.”
A quarter of a century later, Dr. Garner and I were breaking bread together. And he said, “Do you remember at the end of the summer of 1944 I asked you had anything happened and you said ‘No’? Then as we discussed, I learned that you had been invited to preach in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, the pulpit left vacant by Dr. Truett, and you said, ‘Nothing happened.’”
“Well,” I said, “it hadn’t. I was just invited to fill the pulpit with great many other ministers because of the death of Dr. Truett and for a year previous, his illness. And I was just one invited to carry on the work of the church in the death of the great pastor.”
He said, “You know, you know, I sat down to write the pulpit committee and to recommend you to the pastorate of the church.” And he said, “As I sat down to write the letter, it came to my heart, why, I need not do this, not at all. This is extraneous. If God wants him there, God will place him there. And I need not write a letter, and there’ll be no word from me to the pulpit committee. If it’s of God, God’s will will be done.” So he said, “That’s why I was so interested.” And he said, “I knew, I knew that you were going to be called as pastor of that church. God did it.”
I wish I could speak a word, an earnest one, to every young minister facing the future of the unfolding years before him. You know what I’d like to say to him? “My young friend in the ministry, you don’t need to finagle, and you don’t need to pull wires, and you don’t need to press upon others yourself, nor do you even need to commend yourself. God will do that. God will take care. God will open the door. God has an elective purpose for you! And if you give yourself to the will of the Lord, God will bring you into that pleasant place where God intends for you to serve.”
I thank God for His elective grace that brought me to this dear church, that I could stand before this precious congregation. There is more; our calling and election, “For thus an abundant entrance is ministered unto us into the everlasting kingdom” [2 Peter 1:11]. There is more in this election of God. There is much more.
Not only has God chosen us and called us to Himself, spoken to our hearts and placed in us a quickened response, not only has God chosen us and called us [Romans 8:30]; and not only has God elected us to our places of service [2 Peter 1:10]; but you see, this is just temporary here in the earth, this is just for a while [1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17]. Dr. Truett was pastor of the church for forty-seven years, but his ministry came to an end. It was so brief compared to the length of time. I have been here, soon, thirty years. As I look back it seems like a yesterday to me when I first came. Our life and work before God is so brief here.
Yesterday in this sacred place we had a memorial service for one of the members who had belonged here since 1915. And after the service was over, I was talking to two of our sweet members of many years, just beyond the door of the church. And one of them said to me, “You know, our ranks are thinning, we who have been here for many years.” And the other one said, “Yes, I have been to nine funeral services in the last few months.”
And I said, “Did you know, when I stand up and look at our congregation, there’s just a handful of them who were here when I came thirty years ago?” It is so brief, however our assignment in this life. But isn’t there something else? Doesn’t God purpose some better thing for us than that we grow old and die, and lay this mantle down? [Psalm 144:4].
That’s why the apostle says, “For thus, for so is an entrance ministered unto us into the everlasting kingdom of God” [2 Peter 1:11]. Not only is it here, chosen and called and elected of God here, but it is no less there. The gates that were opened to us by His gracious hands of salvation and blessing and assignment [2 Peter 1:11], those gates will also be opened unto us into the glory that is yet to come, when we enter into the joy of our Lord [Matthew 25:21].
Now in the little moment that I have, let me speak of that election and what it means to us in our lives. Number one: if I believe in election, in predestination, then why do I not just be seated, take it at ease in Zion, because if God’s going to do it, it’ll be done, whether I enter into it or not? If God predestines, and if God chooses, and if God decides, then my entrance into it is immaterial. It’ll be a yes or a no. It’ll be according to what God says, what God has chosen, so why should I strive and why should I work?
Now that is legitimate question and might be a good observation of those who look at the doctrine. But when you study it, you will find it just the opposite! There is not anything that will put iron in a man, there’s not anything that’ll turn him into a lion like believing this is God’s will! God has called. God has chosen. God has spoken. God has elected! This is His purpose, and this is my assignment.
Now I speak of that from history, from reading in history, and I speak of it in experience. Do you remember Peter the Hermit? In the Middle Ages he stood up in Europe and called all Christendom to the Crusades, to win back from the Mohammedan infidel the sacred shrines of our Lord in Israel. And Peter the Hermit stood up and he said, “God wills it!” And those words were like liquid fire that flamed in the hearts of every Christian in continental Europe. “God wills it!” and you have the story of the Crusades, one of the great historical impacts of all time.
Or take again, Martin Luther as he stands in trial for his life before the Diet of Worms. And there he is accosted and accused and condemned by the Roman hierarchy. Martin Luther stands up, and he says, “I can do no other, here I stand! God help me!” It puts iron in a man! It makes him steel, makes him like a lion!
Take again, the Calvinistic Puritan Pilgrims who came to this country; all of us read about their search for religious liberty. They came here to build a little house of worship according to how they wanted to worship God. And they wanted to be free to call upon His name as they felt God had called them to call upon His name. But you never hear of the great, ultimate purpose for which they came here.
They said, “God has called us for the evangelization of the New World, and God has called us to make that a center for the evangelization of the whole earth!” And when they came they faced hardships indescribable, and a decimating death that practically destroyed their colony. But they were never discouraged. “God has called us!” It puts iron in a man, makes him like a lion.
I have a dear friend and he went to a hard place to build a little church, a lighthouse for Christ. And in that community, in the bitterness against his coming, they tried to shoot him through the windows of the church. And they would take cans of garbage and during the services throw it down the aisle. I cannot take the time to recount the hardships that he underwent as he was building the lighthouse for Christ in the place. Why did he not quit? Why did he not go to a more salubrious clime? Why did he not find a more felicitous service? Why did he not say, “It’s too hard for me, this is too difficult? I will find me an easier assignment.” Why? Because God called him; he was elect of God to do this! And there he stands at the peril of his life, “This is God’s work for me!” There’s not anything that’ll do for a man what election will do. “This is God’s call. This is God’s assignment and here I stand, so help me God.”
Now the apostle writes, “Wherefore, my brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure” [2 Peter 1:10]. Now that really raises something that I agonized through in my life. How do I know my calling and election? How do I know my assignment that I can make it sure? Bebaios, “confirmed, established, sure,” bebaios, how can I know that? How can I?
Well, I want to tell you what I did, and what I find so many other people attempting to do. In the years gone by, I sought a confirmation of my election and my calling by some kind of a heavenly sign. “Lord, how do I know that I’m born again, that I’m a child of God, that I’m a Christian? How do I know? [1 John 5:13]. And how do I know that I am in God’s elective purpose and place for me? How do I know?” [2 Corinthians 13:5].
So I got down on my knees, for years, down on my knees, pray at my bedside at night and say, “O God, give me a confirmation. Lord, show me a sign from heaven that I am elect of God, chosen of God, born again, really in the kingdom and doing God’s work assigned me. Lord, show me a vision of an angel. Lord, show me a light from heaven. Lord,” and then as one of them testified, “Lord, let a ball of fire break over my head and strike me to the ground.”
Now when I say these things to you now, I’m ashamed of them, that I ever did such a thing. But I did, to my shame and humiliation. I prayed and prayed and prayed for a sign from heaven, “Lord, let me see a vision.”
So many of us are like that. We seek to confirm our election, our calling, our choice, our being born again, our place. We seek to confirm it by some kind of esoteric, monstrous experience that is alien to the mind of God and has nothing to do with our call or election whatsoever.
Well, as the days passed I grew in grace and grew far beyond that. If I were to see an angel, or a ball of fire, or light from heaven, it would never occur to me now that it is a part of the confirmation of my election, and my choice, and my calling in Christ Jesus. If God would give me a vision of angels, I’d praise His name for it, but that’d be all. If I were to see a ball of fire break over my head and strike me to the ground, I’d just pray when I got up that I’d be a better servant of Jesus, and that’s all. It’d never occur to me that it be a vindication of what God has done.
Well, how do you vindicate it? How do you establish it? How do you make it sure, as he translates here? Well, that’s what the apostle is writing about. “My brethren,” he says, “give diligence, give diligence to make it sure, our calling and election” [2 Peter 1:10]. Do you notice he used that word just above: “And beside this, giving all diligence, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love [2 Peter 1:5-7]; diligence!
How do I make my calling and election sure? [2 Peter 1:10]. This is the way I do it. I work at it. I work at it. I strive in it. God called me to faith in Him. God called me to trust in His name [Romans 8:30]. And I must be busy loving my Lord, and serving my Lord, and honoring my Lord, and praising my Lord. I must be diligent in it [Colossians 3:23]. Because if I’m called and elected, that is the confirmation and the establishment, I am diligent in it [2 Peter 1:10].
When the people are praising God, oh, my heart just rises! I want to clap my hand, or pat my foot, or say, “Amen,” or “Hallelujah,” or do something. I’ve just got it in my soul. And when the people gather together on Sunday I could not conceive of my not wanting to be with God’s people when they assemble to praise His name. And when God’s Spirit moves in the congregation, I just overflow. That’s the confirmation; diligent, diligent [2 Peter 1:10].
And in my calling and election as a pastor, how do I make that calling and election sure, bebaios, confirmed, established? [2 Peter 1:10]. I do it by asking God to help me to be a faithful minister of Christ, to be responsible for the souls of my sheep, to watch over them for good, to think about them, and pray for them, and to love them, and try to encourage them in the faith, to be a good minister of Jesus Christ.
O Lord, I love this place. I love this dear church. I love this congregation. And Master, as You have blessed it in these years and the years that are past, dear God, may it be but a harbinger, an earnest, a portent of what God shall do in the years yet to come; souls to be saved, the gospel faithfully to be preached, the people to be gathered for worship and praise, our souls to be taught in the way of the Lord, O God, may it be a lighthouse for Thee till the Lord shall come down in glory from heaven—elect, called, chosen, for just such a purpose. Oh, the fullness of heart and life when we bury ourselves, immerse ourselves, submerge ourselves in the call and will of God!
And that’s the appeal of this precious hour to your heart. Does God say something to you? Does He speak to you? Does the Lord call? If He does, would you answer, “Here am I, Lord. Here I am.” A family, a couple, or just you, if you’re in the balcony there’s time and to spare, coming down one of these stairways, if you’re in this press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, make the decision now in your heart, and when you stand up in a moment, stand up, “O God, bless me, bless me. I’m answering.” On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.