As I take up the challenge of becoming a little more confessional — and maybe even establishing some Reformed ‘cred’ — let me say up front that I believe in election (and predestination). I think the Bible teaches it.
I can hardly put it better than Article XVI of the Anglican Church:
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour.
I want to be clear about this. I don’t want to hedge or qualify. Election doesn’t need ‘redeeming’.
But I do want to say that, biblically, election is purposive. It aims at redemption: God consistently chooses some for the sake of all. It thus serves God’s work of reclaiming, perfecting and transforming his dearly-loved creation.
We see this in Genesis 12. God’s choice and call of Abraham is painted against the widest possible canvas, the creation of world pleasing to God, and the subsequent tragic rebellion and fall of humanity. Into the resulting situation of curse, God speaks to Abraham ,explicitly calling him out in order to bring blessing upon ‘all the families of the earth’.
Likewise, the nation of Israel is chosen not because of its moral or military impressiveness but in order to be a priestly kingdom who mediate the knowledge and blessing of God to the nations (Exodus 19).
Ultimately, when Jesus chooses and calls some Israelites in the Gospels — rough as guts fishermen, tax collectors, and even (mysteriously) at least one who would betray him — he commissions them as ‘fishers of men’ and calls them ‘a city on a hill’ and ‘the salt of the earth’. Later, he sends them out to announce the good news of the kingdom — first to Israel then to the world.
This is partly why, I believe, Article XVI goes on to speak of the ‘sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort’ election is to the godly. Rightly taken, it doesn’t feed anxiety or gnaw away at assurance (‘How can I ever know that I’m one of the elect?’). Nor does it bolster a triumphalism that licences ungodliness (‘I’m part of the elect but you aren’t’).
Rather, election motivates the godly person to live Christianly in firm confidence and ardent devotion.This is how the promise of election is ‘generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture’ (as the Article puts it). Even in 2 Peter 1, the exhortation to ‘make your calling an election sure’ is no invitation to introspection but a call to active faith manifested in Christian character.