Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? (Romans 9:20)
Today in our series Living in the Light of Christ’s Return, we venture into our third message on 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. We are discussing the doctrine of election which is God’s choice in eternity past of certain individuals who would be the special recipients of His grace.
As I have remarked several times in the introduction to these sermons, there is much opposition to this doctrine. Many believe it is unfair for God to choose some but not all, as if we have a valid claim against Him that makes Him obligated to treat all in the same way. The apostle Paul anticipated this objection in Romans 9 by saying the potter has power over the lump of clay. The vessels the potter fashions do not raise objections against him because he decides to make one a beautiful vase to use in a king’s palace and then chooses another to be used for a chamber pot. I realize this is stated somewhat crudely, but it illustrates how small and insignificant we are compared to the one who created us.
Rather than seeing ourselves as deserving of the king’s palace, the scriptures teach the wickedness and rebellion of our hearts never commends us to any favors the King should bestow. We are undeserving and unlovable. It is only because of His mercy and grace and for the pleasure of His good will that He chose anyone to be His child. This understanding of election is precisely Paul’s doctrine in Ephesians 1.
There is never a time in the services of Berean that we fail to mention our purpose in meeting is to glorify God. In the messages, in the songs, in the prayers—somewhere you will hear this theme at least once and most often many times. We do our best to push away from ourselves to promote the majesty of Jesus Christ and the magnificent love of God the Father who sent Christ to purchase our salvation and reconcile us to Him. He was the just dying for the unjust, and the unjust deserve only punishment. Christ took our punishment in His vicarious suffering and death. Praise His name and to Him alone be the glory!
I doubt anyone who has attended Berean for any length of time would miss this emphasis. If they do, they have missed the point of the entire service. You can imagine my dismay and surprise that a visitor recently left our services with this question: “What good was there in the sermon for me?” I understand this person thought he was offering good spiritual critique. However, he was exposed by his question which helps me understand why he did not like the doctrine of election. The right question to ask after any sermon whether it is mine or any other pastor’s—the right question is: “Was God glorified in the sermon today?”
The doctrine of election will point you solely to the Trinity as the reason for your existence and the only hope of your salvation. What is in this for me is not the question. What is in this for God is the only point that matters. God uses the doctrine of election to push our self-esteem down into the dust. He will not let you think of you until He is satisfied that He is recognized above all. He will not let you think how you surely deserve more than you get or that you are somehow owed a “chance” to be used as a vessel in the King’s house. We are earthen vessels—pots of dirt, to be used where God alone sees fit to place us. Make sure you understand who the Creator is and who is the creature.
(This article appeared in the Berean Bulletin on June 24, 2018)
Pastor V. Mark Smith