Who are the “chosen”? Who are the “elect”? Who then can be “saved”?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Peter 1-3

For those following our “Read-Thru the Bible” in a year schedule, today’s scripture reading brings us to the 1st Epistle of Peter, chapters 1-3.  The task before me is an impossible one…to sum up in one devotional commentary a passage of scripture that consumed twenty weeks of study when I preached a sermon series in this epistle in 2014.  For the sake of brevity, I will focus on the opening salutation of 1 Peter.

Peter’s first epistle is one of encouragement and exhortation to 1st century Christians experiencing the first wave of persecution.  Rome ruled the known world and the infamous Nero was emperor.  The Illustrated Bible Dictionary describes the reign of Nero as follows:

“[Nero] became emperor of Rome when he was about seventeen years of age (A.D. 54), and soon began to exhibit the character of a cruel tyrant… In May A.D. 64, a terrible [fire] broke out in Rome, which raged for six days and seven nights, and [destroying] a great part of the city. The guilt of this fire was attached to [Nero] at the time, and the general verdict of history accuses him of the crime.

Tacitus, a Roman Senator and historian writes (Annals, xv. 44)] “Hence, to suppress the rumour…[Nero] falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians…in their deaths they were also made the subjects of sport; for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and, when day declined, burned to serve for nocturnal lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle…”

Among those who died during Nero’s assault on the church were the apostles Paul and Peter.  Peter identifies himself as the author and greets the intended recipients of his letter In the opening verses (1:1-2).

1 Peter 1:1-2 – “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers [sojourners; exiles] scattered [dispersed] throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia [the regions of Asia Minor/ modern Turkey],
2  Elect [favored, chosen before the foundation of the world] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father [saved in accord with God’s foreknowledge, who by divine influence, embraced Christ as Savior], through sanctification [rendered holy, consecrated, separated] of the Spirit, unto obedience [incomplete submission] and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace [favor, acceptance, goodwill] unto you, and peace, be multiplied [increased, spread].”

Let us note first of all the author: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:1a).  What a testimony of saving grace and the LORD’s favor!  Peter, a fisherman (Mark 1:16-20), brother of Andrew, not only a disciple (student) of Jesus Christ, but an apostle!  Peter, the disciple who thrice denied Jesus the night He was betrayed.  Faithful Peter, his life a testimony of forgiveness and restoration; a natural leader privileged to be named in Christ’s inner circle (Mt. 17:1-2; Mk. 5:37, 9:2, 14:23).

Writing to “the strangers [sojourners; exiles] scattered [dispersed] throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1).  Peter is an elderly man, a beloved apostle; a seasoned veteran of suffering and persecution.  The recipients of his letter were not strangers to Peter, but “strangers”, aliens, foreigners to this world (1:1).  Scattered by persecution, rejected by their family, friends, and neighbors; driven from their homes…they were sojourners…people without a home or country in this world.

The recipients of Peter’s letter were not only “strangers”, they were also “saved”… “Elect”, literally “chosen by God” (1:2a). 

The doctrine of “election” is one of the most hotly debated doctrines in churches and seminaries.  Borrowing a definition of Election from Augustus H. Strong’s Systematic Theology, we read:

“Election is that eternal act of God, by which in His sovereign pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, He chooses certain out of the number of sinful men to be the recipients of the special grace of His Spirit, and so to be made voluntary partakers of Christ’s salvation.” [Augustus H. Strong; Systematic Theology (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1907) p. 779.]

There is no doubt the Scriptures set forth the doctrine of Election; however, the debate centers around the extent of its application. 

God has chosen, according to His foreknowledge, those who would be the objects of His saving grace through faith in the sacrificial offering of Christ for sin.  The apostle Paul described “election” in Ephesians 1:4 in these words:

Ephesians 1:4 – “According as [Even as] He hath chosen us in Him [for Himself] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy [consecrated & set apart] and without blame [above reproach] before him in love:

The believer’s salvation was part of God’s divine plan in response to man’s sin: God chose us, we did not choose Him.  Jesus taught His disciples, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained [appointed] you…” (John 15:16).

Who then are the “chosen”?  Who are the “elect”? Who then can be “saved”?

Some will no doubt take me to task on this point, but my answer is, “whosoever will”.  The elect are “whosoever will”.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 10:13 – For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I close with a simple summary on this matter of Election by quoting the great American evangelist of the late 19th century, D. L. Moody.

When asked the question, “Who are the elect?”, Moody answered: “The whosoever wills are the elect and the whosoever won’ts are the non-elect.”

I cannot remember the source, but someone else addressed the debate over “Election” and “Free Will” in this manner:  On the door to heaven, from our side, it says, “Whosoever will may enter.  When you get on the other side of the door someday in heaven, you’re going to look back, and on that door you will find written, “Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.”  (Eph. 1:4)

My heart rejoices to close this devotional commentary with this eternal truth:

 1 John 2:2 – And He [Jesus] is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith