Sunday, August 14, 2011

Knowing the Elect

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

4 εἰδότες, ἀδελφοὶ ἠγαπημένοι ὑπὸ [τοῦ] θεοῦ, τὴν ἐκλογὴν ὑμῶν, 5  ὅτι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν οὐκ ἐγενήθη εἰς ὑμᾶς ἐν λόγῳ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν δυνάμει καὶ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ [ἐν] πληροφορίᾳ πολλῇ, καθὼς οἴδατε οἷοι ἐγενήθημεν [ἐν] ὑμῖν δι᾽ ὑμᾶς.

One fairly common criticism of Calvinism is that it squelches evangelism. The argument goes that if God elects people from before the world began why bother with evangelism? Won't He save the people He means to save no matter what?

The short answer to that is of course a simple "yes," but that is woefully inadequate. This verse gives a little more insight into the issue. The phrase τὴν ἐκλογὴν ὑμῶν is translated "he has chosen you," but technically it is "your election" or "your choosing." Verse 5 explains this. How do we know about your election? It is because the gospel came to them ἐν δυνάμει καὶ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ [ἐν] πληροφορίᾳ πολλῇ. What Paul means is that the gospel was not mere words to the Thessalonian believers, but it had true power to them.

How do we know who the elect are? They are the ones who respond to the gospel. It is our job to pray, preach, persuade, and do whatever we can to clearly communicate the gospel to people. But we cannot save anyone. All we can do is put the gospel out there. Their acceptance is between them and the Lord. We know the elect by the fruit of the gospel in their lives?

Does that mean that everyone who appears to live a godly lifestyle is saved? No. But we can be pretty sure that anyone who is not changed by the gospel is not saved. We can never be certain about anyone's future state. This is why we keep preaching the word. We put it out there. My prayer is that my preaching today would fall on fertile soil and produce fruit.

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