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Election in the Light of the Old Testament Background

Unless otherwise noted, biblical quotations are from the New International Version.

Election has often been a formidable subject in the Christian community. It has generated much controversy within the church and much misunderstanding outside the church. The classical Augustinian and Reformed doctrine is largely based on Romans 9-11. Saint Paul introduces his theology of election with the following words:

    I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

    It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."

    Not only that, but Rebecca's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

    What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For He says to Moses,

    "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

    It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display My power in you and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.

    One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists His will?" But who are you, 0 man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, 'Why did You make me like this?'" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? — Rom. 9:1-21.

As the apostle proceeds with the theme of election, it becomes apparent that election is vitally connected with God's program of salvation history recorded in the Old Testament. Paul is not introducing some new doctrine but is building on an Old Testament theme. His citations from the second volume of Isaiah demonstrate that the New Testament doctrine of election has its roots in the Old Testament and especially in Isaiah.

All the great New Testament words and concepts have a definite Old Testament background. If they are to be correctly understood, they must not be isolated from that background. In the history of Christian theology the doctrine of election has sometimes been divorced from its Old Testament background. Wrenched from the framework of salvation history, it has been set in a speculative, rationalistic and individualistic framework. Whenever this has happened, a hard-fisted, deterministic view of God's sovereignty has cast a somber shadow over His graciousness toward all men in Jesus Christ.

Election in the Second Volume of Isaiah

The second volume of Isaiah is certainly the greatest theological book in the Old Testament. It has a well-developed theology of Creation, providence, redemption, God's sovereignty, salvation history, human depravity, God's righteousness, the judgment, the kingdom of God, the person and work of the Messiah and, of course, the concept of election. No wonder Isaiah is quoted more frequently in the New Testament than any other Old Testament book.

In Isaiah election refers chiefly to Israel and the Messiah. Abraham and Cyrus are also mentioned, but Abraham is merely the father of Israel, and Cyrus is an obvious type of the Messianic King.

Israel. With respect to the election of Israel, Isaiah says:

"But you, O Israel, My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham My friend. — Isa. 41:8.

But now, this is what the Lord says—He who created you, O Jacob,
He who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine."
— Isa. 43:1.

"But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, Israel, whom I have chosen.
This is what the Lord says—
He who made you, who formed you in the womb,
and who will help you:
Do not be afraid, O Jacob, My servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen."
—Isa. 44:1, 2.

"For the sake of Jacob My servant, of Israel My chosen,
I call you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor
though you do not acknowledge Me."
— Isa. 45:4.

"Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called:
I am He; I am the first and I am the last."
—Isa. 48:12.

"I have put My words in your mouth
and covered you with the shadow of My hand —
I who set the heavens in place,
who laid the foundations of the earth,
and who say to Zion, 'You are My people.'"
—Isa. 51:16.

Election means God's choice or preference. The Jews are therefore known as "the chosen people."

Messiah. With respect to the election of the Messiah, the Lord declares through Isaiah:

"Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My chosen One in whom I delight;
I will put My Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations." —
Isa. 42:1.

"Come together, all of you, and listen:
Which of the idols has foretold these things?
The Lord's chosen Ally will carry out His purpose against Babylon;
His arm will be against the Babylonians.
I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called Him.
I will bring Him, and He will succeed in His mission."
—Isa. 48:14, 15.1

Listen to Me, you islands; hear this you distant nations:
Before I was born the Lord called Me;
from My birth He has made mention of My name.
He made My mouth like a sharpened sword,
in the shadow of His hand He hid Me;
He made Me into a polished arrow and concealed Me in His quiver.

He said to Me, "You are My Servant,
Israel, in whom I will display My splendor."
But I said, "I have labored to no purpose;
I have spent My strength in vain and for nothing.
Yet what is due Me is in the Lord's hand, and My reward is with My God."

And now the Lord says—
He who formed Me in the womb to be His Servant
to bring Jacob back to Him and gather Israel to Himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and My God has been My strength—

He says:
"It is too small a thing for You to be My Servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make You a light for the Gentiles,
that You may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth."
— Isa. 49:1-6.

In this passage the Messiah is also called Israel. This title refers both to the chosen people and to the chosen One. In Isaiah there is an interesting interplay between these two elect entities. Both are called the elect. Both are called "the servant of Yahweh." And both are the subject of Isaiah's great servant songs. If we are to grasp the biblical concept of redemption through substitution and representation, we must not lose sight of the fact that Jesus stands before God as Israel. The many are justified in the suffering of One (Isa. 53:11). And the many are constituted children in the election of One.

We might cite another Isaiahic text on the election of Christ:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me. — Isa. 61:1.

Anointing signifies election. Samuel anointed David because God had elected him to be king. Cyrus was anointed to punish Babylon and to release the Jews. Hazael was anointed or elected to punish idolatrous Israel.

Election means to be chosen by God for a specific role. It indicates preference. In Romans 9:13 Paul cites Malachi: "'Jacob [in context, Israel as a nation I loved, but Esau [representing the nation of Edom] I hated."' When we remember that Jesus could also talk about hating father and mother as a condition for being His disciple, we realize that we are dealing with idiomatic speech which designates preference. Christ must be preferred above all earthly kin. So, to fulfill a particular role in salvation history, Jacob is preferred and Esau is not preferred.

The Reason for Election

God's love prompted Him to elect Israel. Love has its own reason.

    Because He loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, He brought you out of Egypt by His Presence and His great strength. — Deut. 4:37.

    The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. — Deut. 7:7, 8.

    After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, "The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness." No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people. — Deut. 9:4-6.

    Yet the Lord set His affection on your forefathers and loved them, and He chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. — Deut. 10:15.
Election is absolutely unmerited. Israel was not elected on the ground of her past or future faith or on the ground of her past or future greatness. Election proceeds from the unmerited love of God.

Yet we need to choose our words carefully at this point. Some have used the expression "unconditional election." If this expression simply means "unmerited election," then we could have no objection. But the history of theology shows that "unconditional election" is sometimes understood to mean more than this. Some systems of thought have used the term "unconditional election" to mean that people can remain the elect of God despite unbelief, disobedience or open apostasy and rebellion. But the history of the Jews and the solemn warnings of John the Baptist and Jesus demonstrate that the Jews could find no security in being descendants of Abraham unless they did the works of Abraham. And as Paul clearly teaches in Romans 11, unbelief caused the Jews to be "broken off." As Peter declared, anyone who would not listen to God's new Moses—the Messiah—would "be completely cut off from among his people" (Acts 3:23). The fatal mistake of the Jews was that they came to believe that their election as God's special people was "unconditional." The warnings of all the prophets, including John the Baptist and Jesus, could not break the spell of their fatuous conceit that they were God's people and would remain His people regardless.

The Purpose of Election

As far as the Old Testament doctrine of election is concerned, the emphasis is certainly not on election to individual salvation in the world to come. We cannot say that the element of individual salvation in the world to come does not appear in the New Testament, but we do need to keep the New Testament doctrine in the perspective of the Old Testament background.

The first eleven chapters of the Bible deal with the nations. Then the record moves to Abraham and the Jews. God elected Abraham. What was God's purpose in choosing Abraham out of all the nations?

    The Lord had said to Abram,
    "Leave your country, your people and your father's household
    and go to the land I will show you.
    I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
    I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
    I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
    and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
    — Gen. 12:1-3.

This final statement that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" is repeated in Genesis 22, 26 and 28. The theme is taken up in the second volume of Isaiah and then brought to its fulfillment in the New Testament (see Gal. 3:8).

God's choice of Abraham did not mean that He intended to discard all others. God chose Abraham as a means of blessing the others. The election of one was for the blessing of many. The corollary of the election of one party is not the rejection (much less the inevitable damnation) of the other party.

Let us consider God's purpose in the election of Israel at Sinai:
    Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine. — Ex. 19:4, 5, KJV.
In this passage God is not saying that in choosing Israel He is going to discard His interest in the world. He chooses Israel because the whole world is His. He has a saving purpose which is as wide as the world. Israel is chosen to be His instrument in that saving purpose.

God further declared to Israel, "You will be for Me a kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19:6). The primary office of the priesthood was not to offer sacrifice but to teach the oracles of God.

God delivered Israel from Egypt in order that Egypt might know that Yahweh was the Lord (see Ex. 7:4, 5). By His mighty act of election God wanted His name to be "proclaimed in all the earth" (Ex. 9:16).

As the fame of the Exodus event spread among the nations, many feared and quaked. But Rahab, though only a poor, sinful heathen, heard and believed. "By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient [perished not with them that believed not - KJV]" (Heb. 11:31). Why were the inhabitants of Jericho destroyed? Because they were arbitrarily marked as non-elect? No! They perished because they did not believe even though God's name had been proclaimed to them.

In placing the Jews in Palestine, God placed them at the crossroads of the ancient world. They were situated between the two great centers of ancient civilization—Mesopotamia to the north and Egypt to the south. God purposed to bless Israel as He blessed Abraham, so that all nations could be blessed.
    Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
    Sing to the Lord, praise His name;
    proclaim His salvation day after day.
    Declare His glory among the nations,
    His marvelous deeds among all peoples....
    Say among the nations, "The Lord reigns."
    — Ps. 96:1-3, 10.

    Praise the Lord, all you nations;
    extol Him, all you peoples.
    For great is His love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
    Praise the Lord.
    — Ps. 117.
The Jews erred because they misunderstood the purpose of election. They interpreted election selfishly as if it were their privilege to sit down in isolation and contemplate their good fortune. They thought that God's choice of them meant His rejection of all others. And they compounded their error by assuming that their election was unconditional.

When God declared His name in His judgments on Egypt, some Egyptians believed and departed from Egypt with the Israelites. Election does not mean partiality or favoritism. 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved' " (Joel 2:32). "The same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him" (Rom. 10:12). The election of Israel did not mean the inevitable exclusion of Egypt from God's saving intent. This is made clear in the following prophecy of Isaiah:
    In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and witness to the Lord Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, He will send them a savior and defender, and He will rescue them. So the Lord will make Himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them. The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; He will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and He will respond to their pleas and heal them.

    In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, "Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance." — Isa. 19:19-25.
So also, when Paul cites Malachi 1:2, 3 ("'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated' "—Rom. 9:13), he is not declaring that Edom is outside God's saving intent. Just as Isaiah speaks of Egypt as being embraced in God's purpose, so Amos includes Edom in God's saving purpose (Amos 9:11,12).

Israel, however, did not understand or accept the divine purpose in her election. Elijah thought that because Israel failed, God's covenant purpose was in jeopardy. But Isaiah, like Paul after him, saw further than Elijah. Isaiah was able to see that even the stumbling of Israel was taken up in the purpose of God. The seventy-year captivity was proof of that, for God did with His people in captivity what they failed to do in their prosperity. Through His dealings with His people, His name was declared among the nations both in captivity and restoration.

God wanted to bring salvation to the Gentiles through Israel's faithfulness. But when Israel refused to be faithful, God could still bring salvation to the Gentiles through her failure. This is the divine mystery of God's sovereignty which Paul perceives in Romans 11—a mystery of saving love—which leads him to conclude his presentation of election with a hymn of praise:
    For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all.
    Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

    How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!
    "Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been His counselor?"
    "Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay him?"
    For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
    To Him be the glory forever! Amen.
    — Rom. 11:32-36.
It is in the context of captivity to Babylon and the coming deliverance that Isaiah reminds Israel of her election. And in this he states more clearly and fully the purpose of her election:

    "And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all mankind together will see it.
    For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.....

    See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and His arm rules for Him.
    See, His reward is with Him,
    and His recompense accompanies Him.
    — Isa. 40:5, 10.

    "You are My witnesses," declares the Lord,
    "and My servant whom I have chosen,
    so that you may know and believe Me
    and understand that I am He.
    Before Me no god was formed,
    nor will there be one after Me." . . .

    . . . the people I formed for Myself
    that they may proclaim My praise . . .

    "I have revealed and saved and proclaimed —
    I, and not some foreign god among you.
    You are My witnesses," declares the Lord,
    "that I am God."
    — Isa. 43:10, 21, 12.

    "Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
    Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
    You are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me?
    No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.
    — Isa. 44:8.

    "Gather together and come; assemble,
    you fugitives from the nations.
    Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood,
    who pray to gods that cannot save.
    Declare what is to be, present it—
    let them take counsel together.
    Who foretold this long ago,
    who declared it from the distant past?
    Was it not I, the Lord?
    And there is no God apart from Me,
    a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is none but Me.
    "Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other."
    — Isa. 45:20-22.

Israel—blind and sinful—was to be a witness of God's saving power to the intent that all nations might hear about it. Isaiah says more about the salvation of the nations than does any other Bible prophet. And it is in the context of the deliverance of God's people from their captivity:

    "Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
    because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for He has endowed you with splendor."
    — Isa. 55:5.

    "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
    See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,
    but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you.
    Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn...."

    "Surely the islands look to Me; in the lead are the ships of Tarshish,
    bringing your sons from afar, with their silver and gold,
    to the honor of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
    for He has endowed you with splendor."
    — Isa. 60:1-3, 9.

    . . . and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
    to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
    the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
    They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.
    — Isa. 61:3.

    "I will set a sign among them,
    and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—
    to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece,
    and to the distant islands that have not heard of My fame or seen My glory.
    They will proclaim My glory among the nations." — Isa. 6:19.

Beside these beautiful scriptures we might place Zechariah 8:23:
    Thus saith the Lord of hosts;
    In those days it shall come to pass,
    that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations,
    even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying,
    We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.—KJV.
Along with this theme of election Isaiah dwells on the servant theme. Israel was elected as Yahweh's servant. The Lord did not desire their service for Himself but for the benefit of the nations. The Jews often thought that the nations existed for their benefit, though they were called of God to serve the nations. One nation was elect for the blessing of all. Isaiah merely enlarges on the purpose of God's covenant with Abraham, a purpose that the chosen people generally failed to grasp. Joseph is a good example of the purpose of election. God chose him in order that he might save his brothers. This was the election of the one for the salvation of the many.

God's Purpose Realized in the Messiah

Did Israel, the seed of Abraham, fail to fulfill God's purpose? In an important sense, no! Isaiah turns his vision from the nation of Israel to the Messiah. He is the true Seed of Abraham, the true Israel and the true Remnant. In this faithful, suffering Servant, God fulfills His covenantal purpose.

    "Here is My Servant, whom I uphold,
    My chosen One in whom I delight;
    I will put My Spirit on Him
    and He will bring justice to the nations...

    He will not falter or be discouraged till He establishes justice on earth.
    In His law the islands will put their hope." ...

    "I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness;
    I will take hold of Your hand.
    I will keep You and will make You to be a covenant for the people
    and a light for the Gentiles."
    — Isa. 42:1, 4, 6.
He says:

    "It is too small a thing for You to be My Servant
    to restore the tribes of Jacob
    and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
    I will also make You a light for the Gentiles,
    that You may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth."
    — Isa. 49:6.

    See, My Servant will act wisely;
    He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
    So will He sprinkle many nations,
    and kings will shut their mouths because of Him.
    For what they were not told, they will see,
    and what they have not heard,
    they will understand.
    — Isa. 52:13, 15.

    But He was pierced for our transgressions,
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
    and by His wounds we are healed....

    After the suffering of His soul,
    He will see the light of life and be satisfied;
    by His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many,
    and He will bear their iniquities.
    Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great,
    and He will divide the spoils with the strong,
    because He poured out His life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
    For He bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.
    —Isa. 53:5, 11, 12.

In Jesus we see the principle of election perfectly exemplified—the election of One for the blessing of many." 'The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many'" (Mark 10:45).

The outline of salvation history recorded in the Bible begins with the nations. Then it narrows to Abraham. It narrows still further, because Abraham had two sons, and Isaac alone was elect. Isaac himself had two sons, but only Jacob was elected to carry forward the covenantal purpose of God. Then the prophets make clear that the whole nation of Israel will not be included in the elect community. Only a remnant will survive.

When the crucial test came, the faithful remnant was reduced to one person, the Son of Man who entered death single-handed and rose again as his people's representative. —F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), p. 62.

Very often those who talk about "particular election" do not make God's election particular enough. The first Christian sermon ever preached announced God's election of one Man to be both Lord and Christ (Acts 2). Here is the Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16) in whom all nations are blessed. God's plan has triumphed gloriously in His faithful Servant. There can be no failure with the sovereign Lord. His word will not return unto Him without accomplishing its purpose (Isa. 55:11).

In Romans 9-11 Paul addresses himself to the question, Does the stumbling of the Jewish nation as a result of their rejection of the gospel mean that God's covenantal purpose has failed? The answer is no, and for two reasons:

1. What God failed to do through national Israel He did through Jesus Christ, who was ultimately the real Israel of God. Jesus Christ is the goal of the Old Testament. God has achieved His goal in Jesus Christ. Therefore God's plan is a glorious success even if none of the Jews would believe.

2. Far from frustrating God, the stumbling of Israel is taken up into the divine strategy for the world. Paul shows that God uses their fall for the salvation of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:11). God's dealing with the Jews illustrates that there is no such thing as unconditional election. "They were broken off because of unbelief" (Rom. 11:20). When the elect nation stumbles and falls, God puts aside the elect and then does the unthinkable. He elects the non-elect, that is, the Gentiles. To show that this is God's prerogative, Paul cites the words of Isaiah:

    "I revealed Myself to those who did not ask for Me;
    I was found by those who did not seek Me.
    To a nation that did not call on My name,
    I said, 'Here am I, here am I.'
    All day long I have held out My hands to an obstinate people,
    who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations."
    — Isa. 65:1, 2.

Just as the election of the Jews did not mean the inevitable damnation of the Gentiles, so the election of the Gentiles into God's new Israel through Jesus Christ does not mean the inevitable damnation of the Jews.

Again I ask, Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! — Rom. 11:11, 12.

Just as the Jews were elected so that God could bless the Gentiles, now the Gentiles are elected so that God may bless the Jews. The election of Gentiles through Jesus Christ into the redeemed community is unmerited, but it is not unconditional.

    I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?...

    If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either.

    Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in His kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?—Rom. 11:13-15, 17-24.
Election is no good cause for arrogance. In the first place, it is unmerited. The gospel makes it clear that God's election is grounded in Jesus Christ. "He is before all things, and in Him all things [including election] hold together" (Col. 1:17). One Man has died and has risen again, and one Man alone pleases God. When the Spirit gives us faith in hearing the gospel, we are thereby "baptized" or incorporated into Christ. All that He has done and all that He is counted as ours in the merciful reckoning of God. Has Christ died? So have we. He is elect. So are we. We are all this because of Him. We are elected ''in Him" (Eph. 1:4). We can therefore take all God's promises to the elect, like the great promises found in Isaiah 40-66, and apply them to ourselves solely because Christ has become the faithful Servant on our behalf and has merited all this blessedness for us.

In the second place, election calls for humility because it is not unconditional. While we cannot enter God's kingdom by virtue of either our faith or obedience, our willful unbelief or disobedience can cause us to be cut off.

Thus, if we have come to faith, we are in Christ and therefore elect, but we cannot take any credit for this. Election is all of grace. Christ says, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). Salvation is wholly due to the divine initiative. While we cannot take any credit for the privilege of election, we must accept its personal responsibility. "Do not be arrogant, but be afraid" (Rom. 11:20). Through the elect, God still desires to bless all nations. "'You are the salt of the earth.... You are the light of the world" '(Matt. 5:13,14). "'Therefore go and make disciples of all nations'" (Matt. 28:19). "'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation' " (Mark 16:15). The revelator declares:
    Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.—Rev. 14:6.

    After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

    "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." —Rev. 7:9, 10.
    The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. .. . The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. . .

    On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.—Rev. 21:23, 24, 26; 22:2.
To fail in our responsibility to be a blessing to others means that we, like the unbelieving Jews, become like that barren fig tree which merely cumbered the ground. It must be cut down. Jesus also said, "'He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit' " (John 15:2).

The servant of Yahweh, brought to view in Isaiah, could only accomplish the covenantal purpose of God through suffering (Isa. 53). To be elect through union with Christ means to be elected to suffering.
    For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him. — Phil. 1:29.

    I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death. — Phil. 3:10.

    Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. — l Peter 4:12.
The elect should not be surprised when they are called to suffer but should rather expect it. When God called Paul, He said, "'This man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for My name'"(Acts 9:15, 16). Fellowship with Christ means fellowship in His sufferings.
    Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.—Rom. 8:17.



1 Although Cyrus may be in view in this scripture, the prophet uses him as a type of Christ.