Jesus’ teachings on the end times highlight a controversial doctrine in the church – election. Again, J.C. Ryle speaks simply and clearly.
Jesus discusses openly the great privileges of God’s elect in Mark 13. Twice in this passage our Lord uses a remarkable expression about the elect. He says of the great tribulation, “Except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He has chosen, He has shortened the days.” He says again of the false Christs and false prophets, that they “shall show signs and wonders, to deceive, if it were possible, the elect” (Mark 13:20-22).
It is plain from this, and other passages in the Bible, that God has an elect people in the world. They are those, according to the seventeenth article of the Anglican church, whom “He has decreed by His counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation; those whom He has chosen in Christ out of mankind, and decreed to bring by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor.” To them, and them only, belong the great privileges of justification, sanctification, and final glory. They, and they only, are “called by the Spirit in due season.” They, and they only, “obey the calling. They are made sons of God by adoption. They are made like the image of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. They walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, attain to everlasting felicity.” To them belong the precious promises of the Gospel. They are the bride, the Lamb’s wife. They are the body of Christ. They are those whom God especially cares for in the world. Kings, princes, noblemen, rich men, are all nothing in God’s eyes, compared to His elect.
These things are plainly revealed in Scripture. The pride of man may not like them. But they cannot be gainsaid (denied or disputed).
The subject of election is, no doubt, deep and mysterious. Unquestionably it has been often sadly perverted and abused. But the misuse of truths must not prevent us from using them. Rightly used, and fenced with proper cautions, election is a doctrine “full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort.”
Before we leave the subject, let us see what these cautions are. For one thing, we must never forget that God’s election does not destroy man’s responsibility and accountability for his own soul. The same Bible that speaks of election, always addresses men as free agents, and calls on them to repent, to believe, to seek, to pray, to strive, to labor. “In our doings,” most wisely says the seventeenth article, “that will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.”
For another thing, let us never forget that the great thing we have to do, is to repent and believe the Gospel. We have no right to take any comfort from God’s election, unless we can show plain evidence of repentance and faith. We are not to stand still, troubling ourselves with anxious speculations whether we are elect or not, when God commands us plainly to repent and believe. (Acts 17:30. 1 John 3:23.) Let us cease to do evil. Let us learn to do well. Let us break off from sin. Let us lay hold on Christ. Let us draw near to God in prayer. So doing, we shall soon know and feel whether we are God’s elect. To use the words of an old divine, we must begin at the grammar school of repentance and faith before we go to the university of election. It was when Paul remembered the faith, and hope, and love of the Thessalonians, that he said, “I know your election of God.” (1 Thess. 1:4.)