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Confusion or comfort?

There are few doctrines in the Bible that are as misunderstood as the doctrine of election. This isn’t because the Scriptures are not clear. It happens because one of the key principles of biblical interpretation is not carefully followed.

That key principle, learned by every student in confirmation class, is this: There are two types of doctrine taught in Scripture—doctrines that are law and doctrines that are gospel. Law doctrines teach that God is a holy and righteous God who by his very nature must punish sin. Gospel doctrines remind us that our God is a loving and merciful God who desires to save sinners. The law tells us what God wants us to do. The gospel tells us what God has done to save us. The law shows us our sin and our need for a Savior. The gospel shows us our Savior. The law threatens us with God’s punishment and causes us to be afraid. The gospel promises that because of what Jesus has done, there is now no punishment from God waiting for us.

Every doctrine of Scripture is either law or gospel; no doctrine can be both. And every doctrine of Scripture can be correctly understood only if we properly determine which ones are law and which are gospel.

The doctrine of election is the teaching that before creation, before we were born, God chose (elected) us to be his children, to come to faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to receive his gift of eternal life—all because of his grace. The doctrine is most clearly taught in Ephesians chapter 1, where Paul writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (vv. 3,4). Paul goes on to say that God did this in love so that we would be adopted as his children. In Christ we have redemption through his blood. Paul assures us that we have forgiveness because of the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. He did this in conformity with his plan, so that we would have the sure hope of eternal life. And in keeping with that plan, he brought us to faith and marked us with the seal of his forgiveness.

It is not difficult to answer whether the doctrine of election is law or gospel. It is pure gospel. It’s a teaching filled with nothing but comfort and assurance.

If the doctrine of election causes you to be nervous and filled with doubt, you have made it into a doctrine of law. If you ask the question “Why has God chosen some and not others?” you have turned a doctrine of comfort into a doctrine that causes fear and uncertainty. If you wonder whether you can be sure that you are among the elect, you are not seeing election as a doctrine of gospel.

If you have doubts about your salvation, if you wonder whether you are really a child of God, or if you are trying to make the doctrine of election make sense using human reasoning, stop and read about election in Ephesians. There you will see that this teaching of Scripture is a beautiful source of gospel comfort and assurance, one that calms your fears, removes your doubts, and reminds you that you are a child of God and an heir of eternal life—all because of a gracious God who called you his own before the world began.

Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 111, Number 02
Issue: February 2024

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This entry is part 1 of 52 in the series presidents message

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