The Trinity and Election

The Father is the focus of most discussions about election. Election being the gracious and loving action of God in eternity past whereby he selected us to know his mercy and rescue from our sin that we might be brought back to him. 1 Peter 1:1-2, however, helps us understand the vital role of each of three persons of the Trinity in this wonderful grace. Note all three persons of the Trinity in this passage.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 

The idea of being elect exiles is the controlling thought of the two verses. The three prepositional phrases all modify this one major idea. In other words, each of the three persons is mentioned along with a specific work he is accomplishing and this is all in connection to election. This can be illustrated as follows.

To the elect exiles

  • according to the foreknowledge of God
  • in the sanctification of the Spirit
  • for obedience to Jesus Christ
  • and for sprinkling with his blood

The Father sets his love on us before the creation of the world. His foreknowledge here refers to his loving selection of us apart from our effort and solely by his grace. Here we see that the Father is the great architect of the saving work of the Triune God. It was in the Father’s heart to save us by his grace.

The sanctification of the Spirit is the moment when we are definitively set apart for God as his holy possession. When the Spirit regenerates us, washes us, and indwells us we are united to Christ and sanctified before the Father. This work of sanctification is the result of election. This work of sanctification also makes tangible the electing grace of God. The grace of God intended for us before time began is brought into the material present.

The work of the Son is touched on next. The cross is the hinge of all the work of God. The cross is the result of election but also the means by which God secures his chosen people. Election brings about the cross and it brings about the application of Christ’s work to us. Election also intends to bring about transformation in the believer—it produces obedience.

Every work of God involves all three persons of the Trinity. There is not one single thing that God does that does not include the Father, Son, and Spirit. One person may take the lead and play the primary role in the work but the other two are always present and contributing. In election the Father plans, the Son is faithful and obedient unto death, and the Spirit sets us apart. Out of election flows the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the sprinkling of Christ’s blood over our sinful lives, and the obedience to Christ that marks all disciples of Jesus. The present work of the Spirit in applying the work of Christ to our lives is a tangible expression of the Father’s electing grace. We are chosen by the Triune God. The Triune God executes his plan perfectly as he saves us fully.

What can we say? The purpose of election is to overwhelm us with the reality of undeserved grace and mercy. If we contemplate God’s kindness and love toward us in election we will find ourselves with Paul on our knees exclaiming: Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable are his ways! To him be the glory forever. Amen (Rom 11:33, 36). We will worship as we grasp a fraction of what is going on here in election.

God also intends his electing grace to produce in us comfort and assurance. Paul communicates to the church in Ephesus that they are beloved and favored by the Triune God. He roots much of his encouragement in the fact that God has chosen us in his love (Eph 1:2-5). The doctrine of election was never intended to engender philosophical debate. Every treatment of this doctrine in the New Testament is pastoral to the core. The New Testament authors were missionaries and pastors who wanted to encourage their people by showing them the heart of relentless and passionate God in pursuit of them. Election is a mighty expression of God’s love toward us.

As election encourages us it also humbles us. Election has a way of assaulting every vestige of pride in the human heart. It undermines human effort before God and strips us naked before him. It communicates to us loud and clear that salvation belongs to the Lord. God alone saves. We are the saved, God is the Savior. Election will not allow us to confuse these two roles. We bring nothing to the table here and therefore can take no credit. This is incredibly freeing if we allow it to be. It will produce people who boast in the Lord alone.

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