Election as Identity

The New Testament uses many diverse terms and images to describe our new identity in relationship to God, which comes as a result of his saving grace. For example we are described as saints, the church, children of God, people of God, the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, a holy priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, the beloved of God, sojourners, exiles, and those for whom Christ died. These are precious titles that we gladly embrace. We draw strength and comfort from them as we are reminded of God’s great care for us.

The New Testament also identifies us as the chosen and the elect of God (Mt 24:22, 24, Lk 18:7, Rom 16:13, Col 3:12, Tit 1:1, 1 Pet 1:1, 2:9, 2 Jn 1, 13). Just as we are the children of God we are those who have been graciously chosen by God. The doctrine of election defines who we are—we cannot escape it and why would we want to. This truth about us and our relationship with God is just as precious as every other identity we are given by God. This is who we are. This epithet is one that is intended to create in us great gratitude, humility, confidence, assurance, and hope.

This is a very different starting point for a discussion on election. If you remove yourself from the debate that swirls around the doctrine of election and read the New Testament with fresh eyes you will find that this doctrine serves very specific pastoral purposes. Besides being an identity for the people of God it is used by the NT authors to encourage unity in the body, foster humility before God, drive us to our knees in praise, give us fuel for the task of mission, grant us confidence in the last day, and create within us a hushed reverence for the freedom and mystery of God.

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