Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Calvinism and God's eternal purpose: U is for unity

In the introduction to this series I said that I want to write about how my views and my love for the doctrines of grace (aka Calvinism) have been built upon by my new understanding of God's eternal purpose.

I know I'm not the only "reformed" person who has had a change of mind regarding what the church should look like. We love what the reformers taught about salvation but think they fell short in reforming church practice. If that describes you: this series is written with you in mind. Feel free to help me build on these ideas because they are a work in progress.

In this third post I want to talk about unconditional election (it puts the "U" in TULIP) and how God's eternal purpose gives this doctrine some shape in Christ.

There is no doctrine that screams "to the glory of God alone" like this one. At it's most basic level unconditional election recognizes man's complete and total depravity making us unable to come to faith in Christ without the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit on our hearts. It is cause for praise to the grace of God and confidence of our place in Christ. He has begun this work in us and chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world therefore we will be with Him forever because He is faithful to complete what He started.

An understanding of God's eternal purpose transforms this doctrine from something individualistic - "I have been chosen" into something corporate - "we have been chosen in Christ". This becomes clearly evident as we acknowledge that most of the instances in Paul's epistles where he uses the term "you", he is speaking to a church. In other words he is lumping many believers into one and speaking to them as a single body. Rarely is Paul speaking to only one person when he says "you" and I cannot think of any instance where he is speaking to one person in regards to election.

I think that is an important distinction to make. Surely there is an individual nature to God's election. After all, there are "names" written in the book of life, right? Yet all those names are lumped together in one book. It is the body of Christ represented in that book that was elect before the foundation of the world.

The IN HIM as in "chosen IN HIM" makes all the difference in the world to how we regard election. We were not chosen for who we were before Christ came in to us. That would make our election conditional upon something we have or have done. We were chosen for who we are in Christ.

In Christ we are a holy nation and a royal priesthood. In Him we become the temple of the Living God. In Him we become His body. In Him we become sons and daughters of God. In Him we become His bride, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. We become Christ in corporate bodily form. This is what election is all about. Election is about being in Christ.

As I see it, our election is unconditional in regards to who we are in and of ourselves. Our election IS conditional upon one thing: that we are in Christ. We weren't "chosen" only to display God's mercy on us and bring praise to his glorious grace. That is part of it and a very big part, but it is only part. We were chosen to fulfill something that was missing in God's desire for creation. We were chosen to be a part of the new man in Christ. The man we were all created to be but failed.

Calvinist's won't get to heaven and be chanting nah nee nah nee boo boo, God chose me and He didn't choose you.

No, Christ through His blood has made us (Calvin or no Calvin) to be a kingdom and priests to Him and we shall reign on the earth. That's right, we are one with the King of Kings, we are in Christ, one big elected governing body. When we arrive we will all sing with one voice "praise to the Lamb that was slain" because it's all about Jesus, even election.

Please let me know if what I've said helps you understand election more or the eternal purpose more.

How can this change the way we talk about or preach about election?

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