How do you react to the use of the word “chosen” for those who are the children of God? Some folks get very excited about the concept of election. OF course, others are strongly put off by the whole notion. And many have bigtime questions about how it all works.
What we cannot deny is the fact that the idea of being chosen or elected to salvation is a concept that runs through the New Testament. WE find it in book after book and teaching after teaching. So we should not ignore it.
The debate over sovereign election is not what is on my mind. Rather, I am thinking a bit about how we know who are the elect. After all, we do not have access to God’s perfect knowledge of the future. We do not have access to the Lamb’s book of life that was written before the dawn of time. How can we tell who is among the elect?
1 Thessalonians 1:4-7 – 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 1:4 that he knows that the people in the church of Thessalonica are chosen by God. How does he know? It is not because of any sort of apostolic knowledge of the secrets of the Lord. Instead, Paul knows those people are elect because he shared the gospel with them, and they responded.
Paul says that the gospel came to them in power, Spirit, and conviction. As Paul shared the word of God with these people, the power of God and the Spirit of God brought about genuine, life-changing conviction. The people changed in how they thought about Jesus. They changed in how they lived their lives.
Notice that the Thessalonians willingly received the gospel message even though they suffered to do so. They experienced the genuine joy of the Spirit of God, even in the face of persecution and hardship. They also let their faith be known to others, they shared the gospel.
Yes, I know many folks are bothered by discussions of election. Many are harshly and emotionally divided over this issue. And while I have a strong opinion here, one which I believe to be biblically informed, I think there is something to learn from the simplicity of what Paul said and did here. Paul shared the gospel with these people. He did not worry about who was or was not elect. And when people responded to the gospel in faith and repentance, he knew that those folks had been chosen by God.
What then do we need to do? We need to know that God is almighty. We need to take the gospel to all people everywhere. We need to trust that God changes hearts and saves souls. And we can expect to see genuine changes in the lives of those who are genuinely saved. There will be joy. There will be a willingness to follow Jesus even in the face of persecution. There will be repentance, worship, and evangelism. And when we see those things, we should, like Paul, be confident that someone has been chosen by God.