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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Elect, Election

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ELECT, ELECTION (ἐκλέγεσθαι, ἐκλεκτός, ἐκλογή).—Though we have no reference in the Gospels to any conscious effort on the part of the writers to grasp the significance of the Divine action in choosing and rejecting the human objects of His favour and the instruments of His will, we have sufficiently explicit statements, incidentally valuable, to show clearly that they inherited the OT conceptions on this question. The self-identification of Jesus with the ideal Servant of Jehovah (Luke 4:18 f. = Isaiah 61:1 f.) at the outset of His public ministry at once widens the scope of the revelation of His Father’s elective activity, and emphasizes the profound depths in human-Divine relationships to which this activity in the freedom of its manifestation has penetrated. Once again, in what may without exaggeration be called the most critical moment of Jesus’ public life, when suffering and death (Luke 9:31) assumed large proportions in His sight, the revelation of His position as the elect of God (ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἐκλελεγμένος, Luke 9:35) not only assured His fearful disciples, but strengthened Himself in His often-expressed conviction that the consciousness of His eternal Sonship was well founded.

The variant reading ὁ ἐκλελεγμένος instead of ὁ ἀγατητός (Mark 9:7 = Matthew 17:5) is generally recognized as the genuine one, not only on account of the high authority of א and B, but also because, according to an obvious canon of textual criticism, it is the more likely reading of the two (see Scrivener’s . to the Criticism of the NT, ii. 247 f.; cf., however, Nestle’s of the Greek NT2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. 52, and art. ‘Ascension of Isaiah’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. ii. p. 501a). The Matthaean and Markan versions bear evident traces of assimilation to the voice at Jesus’ baptism. In this connexion it is important to remember how fully Jesus recognized that His position as the elect Son involved the fulfilment (ἐμελλεν τληροῦν, Luke 9:31) by Him of conditions foreordained as inseparable from His earthly life (cf. Luke 9:22; Luke 13:33; Luke 24:7, in each of which places is found St. Luke’s favourite and emphatic ΔέΙ: see also Mark 8:31, Matthew 17:21). The determining factor in the free choice (cf. ἐξουσίαν ἐχω θεῖναι αὐτήν, κ.τ.λ., John 10:18) by Jesus of the cross as the crowning act of His self-ahnegation was its absolute necessity (οὑχί ταῦτα ἔδει ταθεῖν, Luke 24:26). The ultimate synthesis of these apparently irreconcilable hypotheses may elude the keenest observation, but the reflexion that, in acting as He did, Jesus was fulfilling conditions which lie at the root of all well-ordered moral and spiritual activity (cf. ἔτρετιεν αὐτῶ, Hebrews 2:10; ὥφειλεν, Hebrews 2:17) will serve to remind us of a sphere where these seeming contradictions are discovered to be profoundly at one, both in their origin and in the end at which they aim. It is noteworthy that St. Luke not only gives the burden of the conversation between Jesus and His heavenly visitants; he also implies that Jesus was there informed in detail of the character of the death which He was about to suffer (συνελάλουν αὐτῳἑλεγον την ἔξοδον αὑτοῦ, Luke 9:30 f.).

How universally the title of ‘the Elect’ or ‘the Elect One’ had become identified with that of ‘the Christ’ is best seen in the contemptuous irony of the scoffing rulers who mocked on the day of the Crucifixion. The demonstrative οὗτος and the titular ὁ ἑκλεκτός combine to mark the emphasis with which they rejected the Messianic claims of Jesus; and not only the claims, but the foundation upon which those claims rested (cf. Luke 23:35). It is remarkable that St. Luke seems to be the only NT writer who has adopted the use of the word as a designation, strictly speaking, of the Messiah (cf., however, the variant reading ὁ ἐκλεκτός in the Baptist’s testimony to Jesus, John 1:34 WH [Note: H Westcott and Hort’s text.] ). This statement is not affected by St. Matthew’s quotation from Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1), who may be regarded as the originator of the title. Here we have the idea in prominence, but by way of interpretation rather than by direct statement (cf. his use of the verb ᾘΡέΤΙΣΑ, Matthew 12:18, instead of the merely descriptive Ὁ ἘΚΛΕΚά ΜΟΥ of Isaiah 42:1).

The only other writing of a late date in which ‘the Elect One appears as a Messianic title is the Book of Enoch, which seems to have been the chief means of popularizing its use. Indeed, it would be interesting to trace the influence of that work in this, as well as in other respects, upon the Gospels of the NT. Of the many names by which the coming Messiah is designated there, the favourite one seems to be ‘the Elect One’ (see 40:5, 45:3f., 49:2, 4, 51:3, 5, 52:6, 9, 55:4, 61:5, 8, 10, 62:1), and on a couple of occasions this is joined with another word or words which are equivalent to a characterization of the conditions upon which His election to the Messiahship rests (‘the righteous and elect one,’ 53:6; ‘the elect one of righteousness and faith,’ 39:6 [see The Book of Enoch, R. H. Charles’ ed. pp. 106–186]). A somewhat fantastic representation of the method by which the Divine election of Jesus was consummated occurs in Hermas, where the servant elected by his lord (ἑκλεξάμενος δοῦλόν τινα τιστόν, κ.τ.λ.), after having approved himself as a zealous guardian of his master’s interests, is chosen by the latter (μετὰ τοῦ τνεὐματος ἁγιου εἱλατο κοινωνἱον) to occupy the position of ‘great power and lordship.’ Whatever we may think of the orthodoxy of this teaching, it is at least interesting as showing how completely the habits of thought in the early Church were dominated by this aspect of the Incarnation, and how men strove by the aid of reason to harmonize the ideas underlying the titles of ‘Servant’ and ‘Son’ (see Sim. 5, i.–vi.).

As the Christological ideas of the early Church begin to emerge and to crystallize, we find this one holding a firm place, while at the same time another equally emphatic conception begins to assert itself. The election, by God, of Jesus was held to be a means to a wider end—the establishment of a chosen body which should exhibit on earth the graces and virtues of Him in and through whom their election was accomplished (cf. 1 Peter 2:4 f., 9f., where the writer’s insistence on the profound oneness of Jesus and His people is fundamentally and essentially Pauline, though he elaborates no argument to prove what he States; cf. ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ, Ephesians 1:4).

‘The fundamental conception of Jesus dominating everything was, according to the OT, that God had chosen Him and through Him the Church. God had chosen Him and made Him to be both Lord and Christ. He had made over to Him the work of setting up the Kingdom,’ etc. (Harnack, Dogmengeschichte, English translation vol. i. p. 81). ‘The Christian community must be conceived as a communion resting on a divine election’ (ib. p. 148).

We must not forget, however, that this Divine election has its roots struck deep in the election which issued in the Incarnation, and that, apart from the latter, which is the rationale and guarantee of the former, we cannot believe in the existence of ‘an elect race’ (ὑμεῖς δὲ γένος ἐκλεκτόν, 1 Peter 2:9). This was apprehended very soon by the Fathers of the Church, who never separate the idea of the election of Jesus from that of the community (ὁ ἐκλεξάμενος τὸν Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ ἡμᾶς διʼ αὑτοῦ, κ.τ.λ., Clem. Rom. [Note: Roman.] Ep. ad Cor. lxiv.; cf. also the Paulinism ὁ λαὸς δν ἡτοίμασεν ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημὲνῳ αὐτοῦ, Ep. of Barnabas iii. 6). While it is recognized that the ultimate Author of all elective purpose is God the Father, it is agreed that the active Agent in giving expression to the Divine decree is the Son, apart from whom (εἰ μὴ διʼ ἐμοῦ, John 14:6) it is not only impossible for men to approach God, but even to hear the voice of that calling (κλήσεως ἐπουρανίου, Hebrews 3:1; cf. Hebrews 12:25) which He addresses to them in Christ (ὁ καλέσας ὑμᾶςἐν Χριστῷ, 1 Peter 5:10), and which, when heard, is the antecedent condition of their election (cf. 2 Peter 1:10; see οἱ κλητοὶ καὶ ἐκλεκτοὶ καὶ πιστοί. Revelation 17:14).

It will scarcely be contended that there is any practical difference in the Christology of those who speak of an election διἀ Χριστοῦ, and of those who in the same connexion use the phrase ἐν Χριστω. We are able, perhaps, to see in the former expression an emphatic assertion of the delegated activity of Christ who prepares ‘for Himself’ a people (αὑτος ἑαυτῶ τον λαον τόν καινον ἑτοιμαζων ἑτιδειξη, Barn. v. 7, cf. xiv. 6) whose prerogatives and position shall be in correspondence with His royal priesthood, and with the Sonship to which He was chosen (1 Peter 2:4; 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 20:6; Revelation 1:6; cf. Hebrews 7:24 ἁταράβατον τὴν ἱερωσύιην, Romans 8:14-17 οὖτοι υἱοὶ θεοῦ εἰσινσυνκληρονομοι δὲ Χριστοῦ, κ.τ.λ.).

Nor is the teaching of Jesus Himself devoid of references to those chosen by God out of mankind ‘as vessels made to honour’ (cf. 2 Timothy 2:21, Romans 9:21). He indirectly tells us that ‘the elect’ have an influence in the Divine government of the world which makes for mercy and pity and salvation. The awful scenes accompanying the destruction of Jerusalem would result in the annihilation of its doomed inhabitants, were it not that, ‘for the sake of his chosen,’ the Lord (some of the old Latin versions read Deus) had determined to cut short the duration of that period (cf. Mark 13:20 = Matthew 24:22, in both of which passages occurs the verb κολοβοῦν, found nowhere else in the NT, showing the interdependence of the two authors, although the forms of the verb in both places are not the same). St. Luke does not make any mention in this part of his record of the elect, but curiously enough he makes a reference to the vengeance of God being wreaked (ἡμέραι ἐκδικήσεως, Luke 21:22) on the unfortunate city, which reminds us of the words of Jesus contained in another passage in the same Gospel. Jesus there is said to speak of God ‘avenging his elect’ (ὁ δὲ θεὸς οὐ μὴ ποιήσῃ τὴν ἐκδίκησιν τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν αὐτοῦ, Luke 18:7). It may be permissible to conjecture that St. Luke omitted to mention Jesus’ reference to the elect in the former context because of the promise implied in the interrogatory sentence just quoted. On the other hand, it is possible that a displacement has occurred in the text, with the result that we have a double reference to God’s activity on behalf of His chosen, each being suitable to the textual position it occupies. The subject of the prayers of those who appeal (τῶν βοώντων αὐτῷ) ‘day and night’ is that, in the first place, they may lie delivered from injustice; and, secondly, that they may soon see the vengeance of God active on their behalf against those who oppress them (cf. ἑκδίκησόν με ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀντιδίκου μου, Luke 18:3, where the first idea is prominent; and ἐκδικεῖςἐκ τῶν, κ.τ.λ., Revelation 6:10, in which the second thought is emphasized; cf. also the reference to the cry of Abel’s blood for vengeance, cf. Hebrews 12:24 = Genesis 4:10). It is possible that, by interpreting the cry of the elect in this twofold sense, we are able to obtain a clearer idea of the meaning of the ‘longsuffering’ of God with regard to them (μακροθυμεῖ ἐπʼ αὐτοῖς). The ambiguity of the expression is mitigated if we remember that the patience of God is needed even by His elect, whose insistent (cf. φωνῇ μεγάλῃ, Revelation 6:10, and ἠμέρας καἰ νυκτός, Luke 18:7) appeal for vengeance on their enemies and oppressors is not in harmony with the voice of that blood by which they were redeemed (αἶμα ῥαντισμοῦ, Hebrews 12:24). Much more, of course, does the patient waiting of God, sometimes amounting even to seeming tardiness, reveal His tenderness when exemplified in the case of those who torment His elect (ὥς τινες βραδυτῆτα ἡγοῦνται, 2 Peter 3:9). Arising out of this thought we are not surprised to find on more than one occasion that not only is it insufficient for their final acceptance that men should be ‘called’ (cf. the contrast πολλοὶ κλητοί and ὀλίγοι ἐκλεκτοί, Matthew 22:14), for this is in harmony with much of Jesus’ teaching elsewhere (cf. Matthew 7:24; Matthew 7:26 etc.), but that there is even a danger that the elect may lose that to and for which they were chosen (see … ἀποπλανᾷντοὺς ἐκλεκτούς, Mark 13:22, cf. Matthew 24:24; εἰ δυνατόν can hardly be an implied assertion of the impossibility of success attending the efforts of the false teachers to lead astray the elect; it rather refers to that object which they had in view). Another and a further condition must be fulfilled before the chosen of God may claim the salvation to which they were elected (… τὴν ἡτοιμασμένην ἡμῖν βασιλείαν ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, Matthew 25:34; cf. Matthew 20:23, Hebrews 11:6). On more than one occasion Jesus insists on the necessity of endurance or perseverance up to the very end of their experiences (ὁ ὑπομείναςσωδήσεται, Mark 13:13 = Matthew 24:13; cf. Matthew 10:22, Ephesians 6:18), and, on the other hand, we are justified in applying to this place His warning, which He gave to those whose joy in receiving the gospel message was but a transitory (πρόσκαιρος, Matthew 13:21 = Mark 4:17) emotion. Of a like nature is the incidental remark of the seer of the Apocalypse, that Jesus’ companions in His warfare with ‘the beast’ are those who not only were called and elected, but whose calling and election had been crowned by their enduring faithfulness (πιστοί, Revelation 17:14). We are thus able to appreciate the anxiety of later Christian writers, who emphasized this part of Jesus’ teaching, and who reminded their readers that their entrance into the eternal kingdom of Jesus was conditioned by their enduring zeal; for in this way alone their ‘calling’ and ‘election’ were made stable and lasting and certain (βεβαίαν ὑμῶν τὴν κλῆσιν καὶ ἐκλογὴν ποιεῖσθαι, 2 Peter 1:10, cf. Hebrews 3:14).

That Jesus held firmly by the Jewish belief in the election of that race to spiritual privilege, is evidenced by many signs both in His teaching and His methods of work. It is true that His words are in perfect harmony with the Baptist’s scornful warning against that foolish pride of birth which leaves out of sight the responsibility involved by privilege (cf. Matthew 3:8 f. and John 8:39 f.). At the same time, He is no less ready to assert the claims of His fellow-countrymen to the rights which were theirs as the Divinely chosen people (ἠ σωτηρία ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἐστίν, John 4:22; cf. τὸν ἄρτον τῶν τέκνων, Matthew 15:26). The sting of His bitter denunciation of contemporary religionists lay in His recognition of their spiritual position, and of the fact that they of right were the teachers of the people (ἐπὶ τῆς Μωσέως καθέδρας, Matthew 23:2, cf. Matthew 23:13 ff.). In spite of many disappointing experiences, He was again and again amazed at the lack of faith and spiritual insight amongst ‘Israelites’ (Matthew 8:10 = Luke 7:9; John 3:10, cf. Mark 6:6), and His pathetic lament over the decaying Jerusalem shows how eagerly He had hoped to make the Jewish nation realize its ancient place as the ‘first-begotten’ in the family of His Father (Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:9, cf. Hebrews 12:23). His activity in this direction betrays itself both in His words which incidentally express His feelings (ἄφες πρῶτον χορτασθῆναι τὰ τέκνα, Mark 7:27, Matthew 15:24), and in His deliberate instructions to His disciples to confine their missionary labours ‘to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 10:6). We are, however, bound to remember that St. Matthew alone records this restriction, and that there are some evidences of the abandonment of its strict enforcement even by Jesus Himself (John 4:39-42, cf. Acts 1:8; Acts 8:14 ff.).

Though Jesus felt Himself forced to recognize, in the attitude of the Pharisees and lawyers of His day, the failure of God’s people to realize the Divine purpose in them, He also recognizes no less distinctly that, according to that purpose, theirs was a high destiny (… τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θεοῦ ἠθέτησαν εἰς ἐαυτούς, Luke 7:30 [cf. for the use of βουλή in this sense Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28; Acts 20:27, Ephesians 1:11, Hebrews 6:17]), and it seems as if at times His realization of what this people might have become, and His keen disappointment at their actual achievement, led Him into speaking disparagingly of those who were outside the Jewish covenant (cf. the contrast ὑμεῖςἠμεῖς John 4:23, which is the verbal expression of a contrast running through the whole narrative [see Westcott, Gospel of St. John, ad loc.]; cf. also the privilege involved in the word πρῶτον as well as the harsh contrast τέκνα [παιδία] … κυνάρια, Mark 7:27 f.).

We may here note that St. Matthew has preserved several fragments which deal with the claim of Israel as God’s people to be the sole recipients of the gospel message (Matthew 10:5 f., Matthew 10:23, Matthew 15:24, Matthew 23:2 f.), though he also records sayings of Jesus which conflict with this (Matthew 24:14, Matthew 28:19, cf. Mark 13:10; Mark 11:17; Mark 14:9; Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47). Perhaps the most striking instance of these just referred to is that in which Jesus avers, as His reason for the evangelization of Israel alone, that His ‘coming’ is imminent, and that no time is to be lost, because, in any event, the work will not be completed before that occurrence (… ἔως ἐλθη ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἁνθρώτου, Matthew 10:23). It is evident that whatever may have been the case with regard to Jesus’ actual knowledge of the date of His parousia, those who heard His words understood Him to mean that it would take place soon (cf. καὶ τοτε, Mark 13:25, Luke 21:27, Matthew 24:30; οὐ μὴ τκρἐλθῃ ἡ γενεὰ αὐτη ἐως τἀντα γέοηται, Luke 21:32, see 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ff.). Moreover, the Evangelists seem to have established an intimate connexion in the consciousness of early Christianity between His second coming and the preaching of His gospel to ‘the cities of Israel’ (Acts 3:26, Romans 1:16; see Edersheim, Life and Times, i. 644 ff.; cf. also O. Holtzmann, Leben Jesu, English translation pp. 160, 301, etc.). ‘It might, of course, be objected, that the idea of the universality of the judgment leaves no sufficient reason for restricting the disciples’ work to the Jewish people, and that the heathen were perhaps even in more urgent need of the disciples’ preaching than the Jews, since to the latter had been given the Law and the Prophets. The justness of the objection may be granted. But against it we have set the belief in the election of Israel,’ etc. (O. Holtzmann, op. cit. p. 279 n. [Note: note.] 1). His own assertion with the limiting words ΕἹ Μή (Matthew 15:24) is strongly emphatic as to His conviction with regard to the Divine favour towards Israel. ‘The saying of Jesus to His disciples at the last supper, that they, to whom He committed His kingdom which He had received from His Father, would be beside Him … sitting on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:29 f.), indicates that He viewed the activity of His disciples, and therefore also their future judicial function, as primarily extending to the people of Israel. Also when Jesus spoke of a coming of the heathen from the east and west … He was thereby thinking of an ingathering … which, as a whole, consisted of native Israelites’ (Wendt, Lehre Jesu, English translation ii. 349 f.).

Not only do we find Jesus recognizing and acting upon the OT conception of the national election of Israel—that preferential treatment which His fellow-countrymen claimed as of right—though He reminded them from time to time that in order to a genuine Abrahamic descent it was necessary to cultivate an ethical and spiritual likeness to their great forefather, which would alone complete their title to the promises made to them through him (cf. the implied contrast between physical and spiritual descent in the words σπέρμα and τέκνα, John 8:37; John 8:39; cf. Luke 3:8 = Matthew 3:9). Jesus also Himself, in establishing His Kingdom amongst men, proceeds along lines exactly parallel to these. He assumes to Himself the right to select certain instruments whereby His designs may be furthered and ultimately accomplished. As He was the Chosen and Sent of His Father, so He is delegated to choose and send others, who were to he the few through whom God’s work upon the many was to be accomplished (cf. John 17:18; John 20:21; John 13:18 etc.). It is true that at times Jesus speaks of His disciples as His Father’s choice and possession (σοὶ ἦσαν, John 17:6), and that they are His by His Father’s gift (μοὶ αὐτοὺς ἔδωκας, John 17:6; John 17:9; cf. καὶ τὰ ἐμὰ τάντα σά ἐστιν καὶ τὰ σὰ ἐμά, John 17:10). At the same time He is no less emphatic in His declarations that they are His own elect, the result of His own discriminating choice (ἐγὼ ἐξελεξάμην ὑμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου, John 15:19; cf. ἐγὼ οἶδα τίνας ἐξελεξάμην, John 13:18). Our knowledge of Jesus’ acquaintance with the characters of His disciples prior to their selection by Him, is too scanty to permit us to judge accurately of His methods; but from the fact that they were for the most part natives of that part of Galilee where His earliest activity displayed itself, and that some of them were antecedently disciples of the Baptist, we are led to conclude that He possessed sufficient individual acquaintanceship to warrant His choice (cf. Mark 1:16 ff., Matthew 4:18 ff., Luke 5:10 f.; see John 1:40 ff.). He seems, moreover, to have felt a heavy weight of responsibility on their account, and in the review of His work towards the end of His life, He seems to congratulate Himself on being able to render a good account of His stewardship in this respect. As the result of His guardianship (ἐγὼ ἐτήρουν αὐτοὺςκαὶ ἐφύλαξα, John 17:12), they all justified His choice with but one exception, and that exception had its mournful justification (ἴνα ἠ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ), and, in spite of the necessity of such failure (κατὰ τὸ ὡρισμένον, Luke 22:22; cf. Acts 2:23, see also Luke 17:1 = Matthew 18:7), its awful warning (οὐαὶ δὲ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ διʼ οὗ, κ.τ.λ., Mark 14:21, Matthew 26:24). The work which this chosen nucleus was destined to achieve finds also a definite place in the consciousness of Jesus as He looks out on the world and down the future ages. He does not, in fact, hesitate to name those who are to be brought to share in the glory and in the power of His judgment-coming, though they are scattered in all directions over the world (ἐκ τῶν τεσσάρων ἀνέμων ἀπʼ ἄκρου γῆς ἔως ἄκρου οὐρανοῦ, Mark 13:27 = Matthew 24:31), His elect (τοὺς ἐκλεκτοὺς αὐτοῦ).

The work wrought by the little band chosen by Christ, and continued by their successors from one generation to another during the period intervening between the initiation of His Kingdom and its consummation, can hardly be better delineated than in the words of the present Bishop of Birmingham: ‘The Apostles were the first “elect” in Christ with a little Jewish company. “We,”—so St. Paul speaks of the Jewish Christians,—“we who had before hoped in Christ.” But it was to show the way to all the Gentiles (“ye also, who have heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation”) who were also to constitute “God’s own possession” and His “heritage.” The purpose to be realized is a universal one: it is the reunion of man with man, as such, by being all together reunited to God in one body.… And the Church of the reconciliation is God’s elect body to represent a Divine purpose of restoration far wider than itself—extending, in fact, to all creation. It is the Divine purpose, with a view to “a dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up” or “bring together again in unity” all things in Christ.… This great and rich idea of the election of the Church as a special body to fulfil a universal purpose of recovery,’ etc. (Gore, The Epistle to the Ephesians, p. 71 f.).

Here, then, we have in its incipient stages a revelation of this Divine process of working in its new and wider aspect. There is fundamentally no change of method, but rather a consecration of what has always in the OT been recognized as God’s plan of work (cf. e.g. Amos 3:2, Deuteronomy 7:6 etc.). In the fresh start, so to speak, which He has made we find His choice not merely involved in the Incarnation as the mode of procedure, but in the election of the Man Jesus (Luke 9:35), whom He deliberately ordained or appointed (ἐν ἀνδρὶ ᾧ ὥρισεν, Acts 17:31; cf. Acts 10:38) for His work. Jesus, acting on authority delegated to Him, chooses certain men and sends them to carry out what He has commenced. In the end He breaks down all national barriers and limitations (Matthew 28:19, cf. Mark 16:15), and people in every nation (ἐν παντὶ ἔθνει, Acts 10:35) are accepted by Him so long as they ‘fear God and work righteousness.’

Keeping these facts and considerations in mind, we are at liberty to ask ourselves the very difficult questions, On what basis does the Divine election stand? Is there any antecedent condition in complying with which men are placed amongst the number of God’s elect? From whatever point of view we look at this mystery, one thought, at least, clearly emerges: in His choice of Israel as the guardian of the sacred deposit of religious truth, God exhibited His wisdom in a way we, as students of the Divine government of the world, can discern and appreciate. Their genius for the work entrusted to them is universally recognized (cf., on the other hand, such passages as Deuteronomy 9:5 f., Deuteronomy 10:15, Jeremiah 31:1; Jeremiah 31:3, Malachi 1:2 f., which, however, do not conflict with the general truth of our statement, though they emphasize the absolute freedom of God’s choice). From them and from them solely have come into the world those truths which spring from a pure and spiritual monotheism; and we are not forbidden to recognize, in the analogous lessons taught to the world by other nations, that ‘the principle of selection’ (ἡ κατʼ ἐκλογὴν πρόθεσις, Romans 9:11) finds its place in their history too (see Sanday-Headlam, ‘Romans’ in Internat. Crit. Com. pp. 248 ff., 342 ff. etc.). When we remember that to the consciousness of Jesus the full and final revelation of His unique Divine Sonship was only made at His Baptism (Matthew 3:17 = Mark 1:11 = Luke 3:22), and confirmed beyond doubt during the period of His Temptation, we are at liberty to believe that His previous life was a gradual preparation for His final election, as well as a proof that in selecting Him for His work His Father had chosen the fittest Instrument to reveal Himself to mankind. Remembering, too, the gradual gathering together by Jesus of His little band of chosen disciples and followers, and the care taken by Him in training and disciplining them for their position and work, we are able to apprehend in some dim way the necessity of a moral and spiritual correspondence between Him who chooses and His chosen. The fact that Jesus Himself included Judas Iscariot amongst the number of His ‘elect’ (John 6:70) does not invalidate this contention, as we may well be allowed to believe that the unhappy traitor exhibited a character sufficiently endowed with spiritual possibilities to justify his election to the Apostleship. Perhaps he may be adequately described as one of those labourers who, having been hired (μισθώσασθαι ἐργάτας, Matthew 20:1) to work in the vineyard, were ultimately rejected because they failed to correspond with their new environment.

We may here note two different uses to which the word ‘elect’ or its equivalent idea is put in the Gospels. (α) It describes those who are chosen for a certain definite work, and are for this purpose endowed with suitable characteristics, and elected to certain special privileges and spiritual graces (see Matthew 24:22; Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:20; Mark 13:22). For them endurance and active perseverance to the end alone ensure their final salvation (ἐν τῇ ὑτομονῆ ὑμῶν κτἠσεσθε τἀς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν, Luke 21:19), though they are always to remember that God’s active sympathy is ever on their side (18:7). (β) it is also used of those whose salvation is assured by their sharing in the power and glory of the returning Messiah (μετὰ δυνἀμεως καὶ δοξης πολλἠς, Matthew 24:31 = Mark 13:26; cf. ὀλιγοι ἐκλεκτοι, Matthew 22:14).

In conclusion, we may be permitted to point out that in acting on ‘the principle according to election,’ God has for ever vindicated His justice and righteousness by choosing us ‘in Christ’ (see ἐν Χριστῷ, ἐν αὐτῷ, Ephesians 1:3 f.). By and in the Incarnation the human race and the separate individuals of the race have received those capacities and endowments which fit them for their work and for their Divinely appointed destiny (ὃς πάντας ἀνθρώπους θἐλει σωθῆναι, 1 Timothy 2:4). No one in the foreordaining counsels of God is contemplated as doomed to eternal exclusion from His presence (μὴ βουλόμενός τινας ἀπολέσθαι, 2 Peter 3:9), and if they are thus shut out finally (ὅπου ὁ σκώληξ αὐτῶν οὐ τελευτᾷ, κ.τ.λ., Mark 9:48), it is because of their own deliberate action in causing their bodies to be servants of unrighteousness, and thus in being stumbling-blocks in the way of the salvation of their fellow-men (cf. Matthew 5:28 ff; Matthew 18:6 ff., Mark 9:42 ff. etc.). No excuse as to lack of opportunity or privilege will avail; for although inequality will always here as elsewhere exist, none shall be judged apart from their capacities and opportunities (ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὴν ἰδίαν δύναμιν, Matthew 25:15); and all shall be recompensed according to the knowledge they were able to acquire (Luke 12:47 f.). It is true that apart from Christ (χωρὶς ἐμοῦ, John 15:5) we are powerless for good; but as none, not even those who have never heard His name, are outside Him (τἁ πάντα ἐν αὐτῳ συνέστηκεν, Colossians 1:17; cf. Ephesians 1:10 f.), so none need be apart from Him in that profounder sense whereby human life becomes Divinely active and abundantly fruitful. To all is given the opportunity of attaining the end to which they are called and chosen.

J. R. Willis.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Elect, Election'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/e/elect-election.html. 1906-1918.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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