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Pauls Epistles

Elect of God: NT

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New Testament

Paul's Epistles

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]M[/dropcap]oving from the parables, we turn to the writings of Paul.  Remembering that it was he who went to great lengths to explain what he meant by the term 'justify,' we have confidence that he would not neglect to do the same with regards to G1588 if it were necessary.  The first time he used G1588 was in the crescendo of his discussion which he began in Romans 5.

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  (Romans 8:31-34)

Paul opened the paragraph with his focus on ‘us,' not on the ‘elect.'  He used ‘elect’ as a title for 'us,' but the purpose of his paragraph was not to define or expound on the meaning of G1588.  Instead, he used G1588 without any explanation of what it meant as if he assumed his readers were familiar with the word.  His passing use of the word implies that a traditional definition was intended.

If we insert the same definition from the LXX that we applied in the parables, we find it does not distort the flow of thought:  "Who shall bring a charge against God's [chosen (and choice) people]?"  In fact, we find the definition is a perfect fit, for the expression of God's kindnesses and grace towards His people fills the entire passage.  Thus, there is no reason for us to use a special definition here.

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]P[/dropcap]aul's only other use of G1588 in Romans is in his greeting to Rufus ('elect in the Lord' Rom. 16:13), which is in a passage of personalized greetings having no clarifying context.  So, we will pass on to the next occurrence, found in the letter to the Colossians.

Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  (Colossians 3:9-13)

In this passage, Paul was calling the believers to holy living, and in the surrounding context, he gave much instruction in how the believers were to treat one another.  We probably can agree that he did not use G1588 in the sense of definition (1).  We probably can also agree that both definitions (2) and (3) could be inserted without disrupting the flow of thought.  However, when we look at the context, we do not find Paul expounded on G1588 to explain that he was using the term outside its normal definition.  Therefore, it is reasonable to assume he used the word in its normal sense.  Our understanding of the passage certainly must be that he was instructing the chosen (and choice) people of God to live in a godly manner, for there is no reason given for us to think he meant something else.

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]M[/dropcap]oving on to the next occurrence in the New Testament, we find an interesting use of G1588 in Paul's second letter to Timothy.

Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evil-doer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.  Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  (2 Timothy 2:8-10)

The more one ponders the above passage, the more interesting it becomes.  At first glance, it may appear that 'elect' must take on the meaning of 'chosen for salvation' in this passage: "Therefore I endure all things for the sake of [those chosen for salvation], that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus."  However, upon further reflection, we see this is an impossible rendering, especially when we consider the reason Paul endured suffering: that the elect might obtain salvation.  Paul’s wording implies that if he did not endure the suffering, some who were G1588 would not obtain salvation.  Clearly, ‘chosen for salvation’ is an impossible rendering, for nothing can prevent God from saving someone if He chose them to be saved.  Therefore, in this passage, it is highly unlikely that 'elect' could mean 'people chosen by God for salvation.'

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]U[/dropcap]p to this point in our New Testament survey, 'elect' has always referred to the people of God.  Even within the LXX, we found it was used to refer to God's people.  However, at first glance, it appears Paul could not have been using the word in this sense, for why would the people of God need to obtain salvation?

As we consider the context further, we notice Paul attributed the cause of his suffering to two main elements of the message he preached: that Jesus was a descendant of David, and that He rose from the dead.  The persecution for this message would have undoubtedly come from the Jews, who were especially offended by these doctrines.  Perhaps if Paul had not emphasized these doctrines, he would have avoided much trouble, but he made them the central focus of his preaching in the synagogues.  His purpose was not to rile up the Jews but to deliver the gospel to those who would hear, that they might be delivered from the bondage of the Law and obtain the salvation in Christ.

With this in view, perhaps we begin to see how it is that the people of God would need to obtain salvation in Jesus.  If we understand Paul as using the term 'elect' to refer to godly Jews (and proselytes) who received the gospel with a humble and contrite heart, then the passage begins to make sense.  There were godly Jews in the synagogues at the time Paul went about preaching, who were the true people of God and part of the elect.  Because they were godly in heart, if they had died before hearing the Gospel they would not have gone to eternal perdition, just as their godly fathers, who died before the time of Jesus, did not go to perdition.  However, although they were godly, they had not received the salvation which is in Christ Jesus because they had not yet heard the gospel of Jesus.  Paul was convinced that despite their godliness, this salvation in Jesus was needful for them, so he endured all things for their sake, that these elect might obtain the salvation in Christ Jesus.

Perhaps it does make sense after all for Paul to speak of the true people of God obtaining salvation in Jesus.  It appears he used the term 'elect' to distinguish between those who were inwardly godly and those who had a mere outward show of godliness.  Reflecting on our earlier discussions, we realize that not only does it make sense, but it also corresponds with how the LXX used the word and how Jesus used it in the gospels.  It appears Paul used G1588 here in the normal sense of the word.

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]W[/dropcap]e find Paul's final use of G1588 at the beginning of his epistle to Titus.

Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior;  (Titus 1:1-3)

Paul opened his letter to Titus with a statement that his ministry as a bondservant and apostle was in full agreement with the doctrine of belief held by the elect, and the truth which corresponds with godliness.  In other words, his ministry did not contradict their doctrine or godliness.  Later in the chapter, he addressed sins in the lives of the believers, such as the lying of the Cretans.  He told Titus to rebuke them sharply, for these things were not in accordance with the faith or godliness.

Although Paul referenced God's promise from before the beginning of time, we see he did not take the opportunity to expound on the concept of 'elect,' nor do we see evidence that he used the word in a special sense.  He simply referred to the elect as those who have faith.  Furthermore, if we insert the normal sense of 'chosen (and choice) people,' we find it fits in the context for it is clear he was referring to the true people of God.  Thus, we again find it reasonable to assume the normal sense of G1588.

In our look at the use of G1588 in Paul’s epistles, we have not seen any indication of a new meaning applied.  In particular, we do not see any context where 'chosen for salvation' was applied to the word.  In fact, we uncovered one passage where 'chosen for salvation' is a highly improbable, if not impossible, definition of the word.  It appears Paul consistently used the word in its normal sense, as would have been commonly understood from the LXX.