I was listening to a podcast the other day (godpod from HTB in London), and came across a fascinating interpretation of election, or God’s choice of people to be saved. It’s a tough doctrine to think about. Some say that God chooses (elects) only particular persons to be saved. The logical implication of this is that God chooses some to be damned, if only implicitly. I’ve always found that hard to reconcile with the love of God, and it’s perhaps the biggest reason I’m not a Calvinist. The proposal I came across concerning election turned the doctrine on its head. Basically, instead of election being for the sake of the elect, it is for the sake of all. Instead of God choosing the chosen people for the sake of the chosen people, it is for the sake of all.
The group discussing it traced lightly over Adam, Abraham, and Israel. God’s choice runs through the whole Old Testament as a major theme. God chooses Adam to exercise Godly dominion and care for his creation separate from all the other created beings. God chooses Noah to preserve a remnant to repopulate the earth. God chooses Abraham to bless the whole world. He chooses Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and all the children of Israel to bear his message. He chooses the kings and the prophets. In no case was the election for the sake of the elect; rather it was for the sake of those who the elect would serve. Adam’s election was not for Adam; it was for the whole creation. Abraham’s election was for the good of the whole earth. “The scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham, ‘all nations will be blessed through you.’” (Galatians 3:8)
Tracing the idea further, God’s choice of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph must be seen as actions to create and sustain the promise to Abraham. God’s choice of Moses was not for Moses. It was for Israel, and in turn all those whom Israel was called to bless. The same with the judges, the kings, and the prophets. Ultimately we arrive at Jesus, who is the ultimate Elect one. He is God’s chosen vessel to redeem humanity. All of God’s choices and actions prior to him come to climax in him. All election after Jesus stands in the shadow (or light perhaps) of his life, death, and resurrection. But even Jesus’ election was not for him, but because God loved the world, and longed to get the whole creation project back on track, to redeem and restore it.
This has huge implications for how we understand God’s choice of us. We are not chosen to sit on a pew and “sit, soak and sour,” as my pastor used to say. We are instead God’s chosen vessel to bring redemption and restoration to the whole world. Our election is rooted not only in God’s love for us, but it must go forward into our vocation to “bless all nations.” This idea is much more challenging. It compels us to always look beyond ourselves, to look to a creation which is “groaning in the pains of childbirth,” eagerly yearning for the “revelation of the children of God.” God chooses us that he may “choose” others. Our faithfulness to this call matters.