************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 16 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 23, 2020
Belgic Confession Article 16
We are all familiar with elections -- boy are we ever. The word "election" simply means choosing out of a number of people. Two Tuesdays from now we get to elect who we think should be the nominee for President of the United States. And, we get to elect who should be on the County Board of Supervisors. At the end of March we get to elect for church office. In November we elect the next President.
Recess time when I was a kid always involved another kind of election. We played soccer, baseball, and hockey and two boys got to pick who was on their team. I always felt sorry for the kid who was chosen last. I have to confess I was never one of the first picks until I got to college and was chosen to play on the hockey team.
Did you know that the Lord also chooses? The Lord chose Abraham when He called him to be the father of many nations. The Lord chose David from among the sons of Jesse. The Lord Jesus chose twelve men to be His disciples. In Article 16 we learn of a different type of election, the election unto salvation made by God. Based upon the Bible, we learn that the Lord chooses the people He will save.
God chooses. God elects. This is the basis for salvation. This is the ground for salvation. We don't choose the Lord; rather, He chooses us; He, and He alone, does the choosing. It is He who first looked at me with the love of Christ Jesus. As long as you remember that you cannot go wrong.
The doctrine of election often is misunderstood and misrepresented. For instance, John Calvin has been mistakenly considered the author of election. A well-known radio preacher called it a "doctrine out of hell." Those who accept election are dismissed as cruel and as "the frozen chosen." Preachers who believe a particular view of election have held it over their people in such a way that elderly saints enter death with no assurance of salvation.
I Election of Sinners
A Today is Mission Emphasis Sunday. Who of all the lost has the Lord chosen? Does the Lord choose only those who He knows will believe the Gospel? Does He choose only the best, most religious, smartest? Does He choose only those who would be of the most use in His Kingdom? No, the Lord does not choose as we do; He does not look at the outward appearance. Be honest and admit that if the Lord chose only the best and the nicest, none of us would be saved. As mentioned when we looked at original sin, we are all like rotten potatoes or rotten apples.
Who has the Lord chosen? Let's start off by saying the Lord chooses sinners to be His people. I'm happy about that because that means I am included. It is a matter of grace and grace is not something we deserve; rather, it is something we are freely given. Because it is of grace, it is possible for any sinner -- including you and me -- to be saved.
The Lord chooses sinners. The Belgic Confession of Faith emphasizes this by considering election in Article 16 -- after the creation and fall of man in Articles 14 & 15. With the Confession we stated we believe this. Did you agree to that truth? Did you agree that we are conceived and born in sin? Would it not be just if our confession stopped at Article 15? Why then does it go on? It goes on because of the electing good pleasure of God!
It would have been just if God stopped with our creation and fall. But He didn't. Instead, in election God opens the doors of grace to lost sinners. So note how this article on election starts: "We believe that --all Adam's descendants having thus fallen ..." It starts with the fall. And then it talks about those God has elected and chosen in His eternal and unchangeable counsel. Do you see the wonder of God's grace? The Lord could have left the whole world in perdition. The Lord would have been just in leaving the whole world in perdition. But He didn't.
Every child of Adam is lost because of sin. None can save themselves or escape the power of death. It is at this point that God reveals His electing love. Election is grace for sinners. To use the language of Article 15, election is of those whose nature is corrupt or polluted, who inherited depravity, and whose life constantly boils forth with sin.
So, we start any discussion of election with the fact that it is God's saving grace for lost sinners. When seen this way, it is not a cold, heartless doctrine. Rather, it is a wonderful doctrine of love and grace.
B Our Bible reading from Ephesians 1 informs us that God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4). Let me emphasize that it is before the creation of the world. We believe this. We believe election is from eternity to eternity. What comfort this gives us.
But now the downside. Some of our Reformed forefathers applied human logic to this and got lost in all their talk about the divine order of God's decrees. If we start with election rather than with sin, if we start with predestination rather than with the Fall, then even God comes across as cold and heartless. Let us therefore, my brothers and sisters, always see the truth of election in the light of God's desire to choose, save, love, and rescue lost sinners.
II Election as God's Sovereign Good Pleasure
A "We believe ... God showed himself to be ... merciful in withdrawing and saving from this perdition those whom he ... has elected and chosen in Jesus Christ out Lord." Note the phrase "withdrawing and saving." This conveys the idea that out of the pool of iniquity, the Lord saves His elect by drawing and pulling them out.
How does God do that? Through the call of the Gospel. God makes known to them, says Ephesians, the mystery of His will. God mercifully sends the Gospel to the people He wishes and at the time He wishes. The elect respond in repentance and faith and receive redemption through the blood of Christ.
B According to the plan of God not everyone hears the Gospel. It is not for us to question why some people hear the Gospel and others do not. Rather, it is very humbling that we hear the Gospel. Who are we and what have we done that we and our children may hear the full and complete Gospel? Are we more deserving than the people of Turkey where the Gospel first went twenty centuries ago and where now it has all but disappeared? Are we better than the millions in our land who never set foot in a church building or hear a false Gospel? What is the difference between us and the millions in Latin America who are still caught up in the deceit of Roman Catholicism? The very fact that we have the Gospel preached to us demonstrates God's electing love; it is only because of the eternal good pleasure of God that we may sit under the pure preaching of His Word.
C Of those who hear the Gospel, some embrace it and others reject it. Those who reject it are responsible for their rejection and will have to answer for their actions. Those who embrace it do so because of God's sovereign good pleasure.
There are those raised in the church who have left it. They find no pleasure in the service of the Lord. They are responsible. On the other hand, there are those who were unchurched, have been brought into Christ's fold, and received Jesus by faith. This is not something they initiated or for which they can take credit. It is the Lord's sovereign good pleasure that draws and pulls us to Himself. What is important is not the how -- whether by birth or by the witness of a neighbor or because of the internet -- but rather God's sovereign drawing power.
D By His eternal and unchangeable counsel God has elected by His pure goodness, without any consideration of works. Most churches turn this all around. They say God considers works; more specifically, they say God considers the work of faith; that is, they say God elects those who He foresees will repent and believe. Do you see what this does? It robs God of His glory in saving sinners. God did NOT elect people to be saved because He foresaw that they would believe; in fact, it is quite the opposite. God did not elect because they believe, but they believe because God elected them! If salvation were in any way dependent upon us, no one would ever be saved! The reason for the grace of election, thank God, in not in us but in Him. It arises out of His "pure goodness."
E "We believe ... God ... has elected and chosen in Jesus Christ." This comes from our Bible reading: "For he chose us in him [that is, Christ] before the creation of the world." We are chosen in Jesus. Neither Paul nor the Confession says we are elect because of Christ. Rather, we are chosen in Christ.
If you ask for the deepest reason behind God's electing love, you must look into the Father's heart. There, in the secrets of God's own being, is the reason. There, we see that the Father is no less willing than the Son to save sinners. It all originated with the Father. If was the Father, moved by love, who sought a Mediator to save His people. He appointed and anointed His own Son, Jesus Christ, and in Christ we are chosen to eternal life. In Christ all the love of the Father is communicated. Our election is by the Father and in the Son. And, we can add something about the operation of the Spirit. It is an act of the triune Godhead.
III Election as Experienced
A Many are offended that included in the teaching of election is the doctrine of reprobation. When some are chosen, others must be left behind. The Confession says,
He is justNotice how carefully this is worded. Does God make people reprobate? No. No, He leaves them in the ruin and fall into which they plunged themselves. In other words, they get what they deserve. They get what they have earned. As for the elect, they get what they don't deserve. They also deserve to be left in their misery. They also deserve judgment and hell fire. It would be just on the part of God if everyone was punished eternally. It, therefore, is not unjust that some are rescued.
in leaving the others in their ruin and fall
into which they plunged themselves.
B Who exactly has problems with the doctrine of election? Who objects to the truth that God saves some, but not all? It can only be those who don't believe the truth of Articles 14 & 15. It can only be those who don't believe in original sin. It can only be those who don't believe man is so fallen that he is unable and unwilling to come to God. It can only be those who don't understand God's Word or who reject God's Word.
Those who understand the Scriptures, those who know their sin and misery, those who know the justness of God, don't raise objections to this doctrine. Those who pray with the tax-collector in the Temple, "Lord have mercy on me, a sinner," those who pray with the repentant thief on the cross, "Lord, remember me," have no problem with this doctrine.
If we live out of grace and know we are sinners who deserve nothing but death, we end up in the same place as St. Augustine. Augustine said,
The doctrine of reprobation is not the problem for me; I find enough evidence for its truth in myself every day. No, it is the doctrine of election -- being chosen -- that I cannot understand.
C Do you know who else has problems with election? Those who object to election saying it makes men careless about their salvation and their resulting good works. But the truth of election does not push any away from the throne of grace. Rather, it draws them there. It generates such a tender affection for the Lord Jesus who has chosen them. Then follows a close walk with God and living a life for the praise of His glory (cf Eph 1:4,12).
In our Bible reading this doctrine of election is presented in the context of comfort and joy for God's people, and rest for our hearts. What greater peace can I have than to know that from eternity God has set His love upon me? What greater joy is there than to know that from eternity Christ has my name written in His book of life?
"We believe ..." We believe God is just in leaving some in their ruin and misery. We believe God is merciful in drawing to Himself those sinners He has elected in Jesus Christ. Do you believe?
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