Genesis 18:19 "For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”
When God says of Abraham in Genesis 18:19 - "I have chosen Him", it is the first mention of the word "chosen" in the Bible. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 calls this truth: God's elective "purpose of grace": "Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility." In past blogs we have noted the practical importance of election as well as a thumbnail sketch of its relationship to human responsibility in salvation. God's Sovereignty and the human responsibility to believe the Gospel are both taught in scripture as complementary, not contradictory truths. The importance of Divine election in the Biblical record cannot be overestimated. For starters, the subject of election can be divided into four subheadings:
1. The corporate election of nations, such as Israel. (Psalm 105:6,26; 106:25)
2. The election of Jesus as the Savior of mankind. (Isaiah 42:1; 45:10; Luke 9:35)
3. The election that deals with certain vocations like kings, priests, prophets, apostles and other vocations. (Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15)
4. Then of course the most common designation, election unto salvation. (The majority of passages, such as Ephesians 1:1-14 and 1 Peter 1:1-2)
Though we can certainly make mention of the first three, the fourth area is what we will be considering as we trace election through the Bible. Moses' writings will be featured today, being that the doctrine of election is first mention in the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. We won't focus on every passage (since there are over 100 in scripture), however we can treat a fair number to gain a sense of the common principles God has ordained in the Biblical doctrine of Election unto salvation.
Election's Purpose: Godliness
Genesis 18:19 is the first mention of the word "chosen" in the Bible that states: "For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” Abraham is the proper starting point, being that he is designated the father of faith and is used often in scripture as an illustration of many other fundamental truths of salvation. Abraham is designated as having believed God, and it being credited to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:16) Abraham, the father of faith (Romans 4:11,16), was chosen by God the Father. God chose Abraham for the purpose that Abraham would command himself and his children to do righteousness. This speaks of the purpose of election. Other scriptures reveal this to be the reason why God chose as many people as possible to call and convict unto salvation. (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)
Election's targets: the helpless
Though Genesis 18:19 is the first mention of the word "chosen", it most certainly is not the first time we run across the teaching or idea of God's Sovereign choice. As you go back through the proceeding chapters of Genesis, you discover God has chosen Shem and his bloodline to be the bloodline of redemption following the flood. In Genesis 10 we see ten generations stretching from Shem to Abram, indicating God's Sovereign choice. Were those men and that bloodline composed of people who could save themselves? No! In fact the theme of death runs through the genaeologies of both Adam to Noah in Genesis 5 and Shem to Abraham in Genesis 10. All men were born sinners. Helpless, blind, incapable of saving themselves. Furthermore, in Genesis 12 we see God choosing and calling Abraham himself out of paganism and into His redemptive promises. (Joshua 24:1-3; Acts 7:1-8). Abram was 75 years old when he heeded God's call. If God had not intervened, he would had remained in darkness. To compound the helplessness of his condition, his wife Sarai was barren and incapable of having children. (Genesis 11:30) Scripture is quick to remind us that whenever Abraham heard the call of grace, in faith he trusted God and began looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:8-19) Election and human responsibility are complementary truths that we believe because they are taught in scripture. Consistently through the Biblical record, God's Sovereign choice explains why a person believes while asserting that a person must believe in order to be saved. So from Moses' writings we have learned so far that election's purpose is godliness and God's Sovereignly elects helpless people. However there is another important consideration of Sovereign election we learn from Moses: namely the motive of God's elective purpose.
Election's motives: God's love
As you move past Abraham's life, you discover God's elective purpose continuing to work. We see that Isaac was chosen to be the son of promise, not Ishmael (Genesis 17:18-19) and that God loved Jacob but hated Esau. (Malachi 1:2-3) In all of the people God chose unto salvation, the end result was godliness and it is clear that each one God chose was helpless to save themselves. So what is God's motive in election? Whether speaking of individual, corporate, Christ's election or election unto vocation, the motive is singular: God's love. Moses writes these words in Deuteronomy 7:6-8 "For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt."
Now notice how Moses under Divine inspiration brings together the three of the four headings of God's elective purpose. First, he states in Deuteronomy 7:6 that God wanted a holy and Godly people - hence election's purpose. Next in Deuteronomy 7:7 we see that Israel was a helpless targeted people, the weakest and the smallest among the nations. Thirdly, we see in Deuteronomy 7:8 the motive for why God chose Israel: love. God did not choose Israel because of His foreseeing her faith. If anything, a summary of Israel's history will reveal repeated failure and apostasy and the ultimate treachery, the crucifixion of His Son along with the Romans. God chose to love Israel in order to bring about His glorious purposes. Moses repeats this singular motive for God's elective purpose, both individually and corporately in passages such as Deuteronomy 10:15 and 14:2. The New Testament affirms this singular motive for Sovereign election in passages such as Ephesians 1:4 and 1 John 4:19. So Moses' writings teaches us that election's purpose is Godliness, it's targets are helpless apart from grace and it's motive is love. From the final book of Moses, Deuteronomy, we pick up on one more truth concerning election....
Election's beginning: Eternity
Deuteronomy 32:8 states - “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
When He separated the sons of man,
He set the boundaries of the peoples
According to the number of the sons of Israel." To what event is Moses speaking about in this text? For one thing we know that when Jacob, Abram's grandson, went down to Egypt with his family to live in time of famine in Genesis 46:27, there was a total of 70 persons. According to Genesis 10, the so-called "table of the nations" that lists all of the descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth numbers a total of 70 persons from whence all of the nations and peoples in the Bible would derive. How could God set the boundaries of each nation and the number of each nation unless He had already chosen Israel before any of her forefathers were born? As faintly as the Old Testament can trace it, we can say that in the Old Testament revelation, a clue is given for the first time that God's elective person did not begin the moment someone chose Him or even right before their birth, but happened outside of history.
As we have discovered in our survey of Moses' writings, God's elective purpose aims at the goal of making Godly people, has targeted individuals who are otherwise helpless, is rooted in the motive of God's unending love and fourthly, is a choice God made outside of history (or what the New Testament brings out most clearly as being before time began).