by James Smith, 1859
"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth." 2 Thessalonians 2:13
That God has chosen his people in Christ, is plainly asserted in his holy Word. That he chose them to salvation, is as clearly testified. It is not therefore for us to cavil at this doctrine — but believe it, improve it, and draw comfort and encouragement from it. All have sinned. Every sinner deserves to be punished with everlasting destruction. To prevent this, God chose some of the human race to be his own people. His choice of them, was an act of grace. He fixed salvation as the end — and chose them to that. He fixed on holiness as the medium — and chose them to that. He fixed on the sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, as the means of salvation — and therefore he chose them to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. Election therefore is the act of God, making choice of his people, and giving them to his Son, to be preserved in him, and saved by him.
Election is the fruit of divine love, and flows from the most free, sovereign, and eternal love of God. Election is eternal — the people were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Election was to the means as well as to the end, we are not only chosen to be saved — but chosen to believe, to be sanctified by the Spirit — and so saved. When we believe the gospel, and experience the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit within us — then we have proof and evidence, that God has chosen us to salvation.
For the election of the Thessalonians, Paul felt himself bound to give thanks unto God. And for the election of God’s people in general, and for our own election in particular, we ought to feel ourselves under the deepest obligation, to praise and bless the Lord. We are bound to bless God for every mercy — because we are totally undeserving of the least. But we are especially bound to bless him for spiritual mercies, and particularly for this of our election to salvation; because without it, there could be no salvation. For if God had not chosen us — we would never have chosen him. If he had not chosen to save us, and to make us willing to be saved by his grace — we never would have been saved.
And then, it is such a marvelous expression of his love. To choose us out from others. To choose us before time. To choose us in Christ, and to choose us to be the care, charge, and social companions of Christ. O wondrous love! O amazing grace!
More, it is such a merciful exercise of his sovereignty. Angels fell — and were all allowed to perish. Man fell — and some of the fallen race were chosen to salvation before they fell. If left to themselves — all must have perished. But sovereignty interfered, and many of the fallen human race are saved.
Besides this, election is a source of blessing to all, of injury to none. None are the worse for God choosing his people in Christ — but all are the better. For the elect’s sake, the days of earth’s tribulation are shortened. For the elect’s sake, innumerable mercies are showered down, and innumerable privileges are conferred on this poor fallen world.
Election does not prevent the salvation of one — but it secures the salvation of millions. It lays no stumbling block in the path, it puts no difficulty in the way of any. The fountain of salvation is open, and whoever will may come — come and obtain a full and free salvation. The door of mercy is open, and whoever will may enter in and be saved. But no one will come to Christ that they may have life. Therefore God in the exercise of his adorable sovereignty, determined to dispose his elect — to make them willing in the day of his power — so that they may believe and be saved.
But for election — all would be lost! Through election — countless myriads are saved! No man is lost, because he is not elected — but simply because of his sins, and inveterate enmity to God. But many are saved, who otherwise would have been lost — because they are chosen to salvation.
If any one disposed to cavil reads these lines, to him I say — you may be saved if you will — but if you will not, do not find fault with God, because he chooses to save myriads of others, and just leaves you to your liberty, and allows you to do as you like. He never decreed to damn you as a creature — but only threatened to damn you as a sinner; nor yet to damn you as a sinner, except you refused to repent, rejected the Savior, and chose death in the error of your way. Would you have God force you, treat you as if you were a horse or a mule? If he offers to save you, and you refuse to be saved — if he opens the way of escape, and you refuse to walk in it — if he allows you to use your own will, pursue your own course, and have your own choice; while he warns, invites, and threatens you — then on what ground, on what principle, can you find fault?
Do you say, "Others are saved." True — but you do not want to be. Do you say, "God wrought for others." True, and he offered to do so for you. But you preferred sin, preferred being the servant of Satan, preferred having your own way — and now at least you ought quietly and patiently to suffer the due desert of your deeds, the result of your own deliberate choice.
Believer, the doctrine of election should be preached by us; should be believed by you; and should be loved by all. It should engage our minds, win our affections, and draw out our gratitude to God. We should not cavil at it — but praise God for it, realizing that we are under obligation to do so.
We should trace our election through faith and holiness, for only those who believe in Jesus, are devoted to God, and are actively employed in the performance of good works — have any evidences of election. For God chose his people to save them from sin — not in sin; to make them holy on earth — in order to make them eternally happy in Heaven. If therefore people are unholy and unbelieving, there is no proof of their election, however confidently they may talk.
Paul knew that the Thessalonians were elected of God — but it was because the gospel came home to their hearts with power, and they turned from their idols, to serve the living God; and in the exercise of a working faith, laboring love, and a patient hope, he found them waiting for God’s Son from Heaven.
If the gospel thus comes home to us, turning us from sin — to holiness, from self — to Christ, from the world — to God; if in us appears the work of faith, the labor of love, and the patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ — if we become imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ — if our faith grows exceedingly, and if our love to all the saints abounds — then, then there is no doubt but that we are the beloved of the Lord, and that he has from the beginning chosen us to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.
"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you — because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 1:3-6