Elect In His Calling

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
1 Peter 1:1-2 (ESV)

The election of the saints is according to something, in something, and for something; all of which things play out in this present time upon the earth.

These are not theoretical matters, but living and consequential matters: each one of the three proceeding from God Himself with the intent and power to find their fulfillment by the obedience of faith in the elect ones.


Elect “According To”


“…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…”

The first of these three is the only sure fountain of the other two. If we do not appreciate the humbling enormity of what this election, or this choosing, is “according to,” then we rob the subsequent matters of their true source of power.

For if God’s electing grace was according to our own choosing, then He should still be waiting for our dead souls to impossibly come alive and choose. But praise be to God! That while we were yet dead in our trespasses and sins, He made us alive: so that we might see, with eyes of a faith once unattainable, the grace of God bestowed upon us in a predestinating love that conforms us to the image of His Son!

That God foreknew is not a theological term for divine time travel. God did not peer helplessly along the parade of souls through time, hoping to see if there were many who decided to believe in Him. The prophets indeed tell us what God sees when He looks upon fallen man: “And there was no man to intercede.” Men have altogether failed to intercede, even on behalf of their own souls. And how could they? For they are not able to please Him, being without the gift of faith, the seed of His Life, in them.

That God forknew the elect means that He KNEW THEM before their time. It is a term of the longing and loving relationship of the Shepherd who seeks out the one lost sheep of the hundred, laying down His very Life for it. The call goes out, and His lost sheep hear His voice, responding with cries for help.

Later on (v.3), Peter will say that according to this abundant mercy, we have been caused to be born again “to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” A living hope! A tangible hope! This means that the subsequent sanctification of the Spirit also comes from God, and not from ourselves. It is God’s power by which we are being gaurded through faith for the revealing of this ever-unfolding salvation until the Last Day (v.4-7).


Elect “In”


“…in the sanctification of the Spirit…”

The relational foreknowing of God, once having planted its seed, is meant to produce the fruit of the same Spirit by whose power we have been generated from above. It is at this point of contact with our lives that the electing and calling will of God tests the soil of the heart of a man. It is here that the seed will germinate and become fruitful, or wither.

It is here that the birds of the air will consume the seed if the soil of the heart is hard and unreceptive to its manner of dying. It is here that the heat will scorch it for lack of depth and root, though it spring up quickly at first. It is here that thorns and thistles will choke it out unless resilient growth displaces them.

And in that parable of the soils is also seen the progression of growth based upon how those three bad soils failed to receive the seed: hardness of heart in the first case, lack of depth in the second, and worldly cares in the third. Whereas, the pattern of growth is as follows: first, the heart softening to recieve the Seed which died and now lives, that it may spring up anew; second, the newly softened ground giving way to greater depth of root; and third, depth of root producing a resilient and fruitful planting – a tree which the birds of the air rest in the shade of, the sun cannot scorch, and the thorns and thistles have no effect upon.

Such is the work of the Spirit of God in a heart that keeps its First Love, surrendering to His mighty work. It is not for lack of His powerful working that we have no power; it is rather for our lack of abiding faith in He who continually works powerfully in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. The three bad soils are so easily emulated in us – and the elect saint must vigilantly fight these conditions of the heart if Christ is to be fully formed in it.

The saints (Gk. holy ones) are elect in the santification of the Spirit.

“In” – it is a matter of abiding. Holy ones are those who do not allow their garments to remain defiled if they become stained. Therefore, we are later exhorted by Peter to be found confirming our calling and election; because continual repentance keeps the elect in the sanctification of the Spirit, by which their true obedience is made possible.


Elect “For”


“…for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood…”

This third matter of the elect’s calling is inseperably twofold.

There can be no true obedience – the obedience undefiled by selfish motives – unless the heart from whence it proceeds is already being purified by a worthy sacrifice. If even the prescribed sacrifices of the old covenant were in themselves unable to perfect those drawing near to God, nor could they cleanse the conscience, nor actually take away sins; how much more inadequate then are the sacrifices of which our own vain minds conceive in our pitiful attempts to enter the holy court of God.

Therefore the writer to the Hebrews said,

For by one offering He has perfected the carrying through of the ones being sanctified.
Hebrews 10:14 (LITV)

Those who are being sanctified are being “carried through” into the holy of holies: not by God deceiving Himself and merely hiding our sins from before His face; but rather by we no longer deceiving ourselves, and He actually taking away our sins as we behold His face.

The matter therefore once again comes down to the substance of our faith: what our hands and feet proclaim to be our hope, and what our path testifies to be our vision. The blood of Jesus is that by which our faith is fully assured, and that which sprinkles our hearts from an evil conscience, and that which washes even our body as in pure water to walk in the obedience of a living faith.
To enter the holiest place is to enter as a living sacrifice upon an altar. To remain in the holiest place is to remain and increasingly embody an intercessory posture.

Earlier I noted how the unregenerate man has no intercessory ability (or desire, truly). But those who are elect by God’s will in the santification of the Spirit are brought into an obedience that is a life of intercession on behalf of the body of which they are now becoming an integral member. The obedience to Jesus and the sprinkling with His blood is what they are now purposed “for,” as priests in His living temple, ministering unto God.

As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5 (ESV)


“So great is the office for which God hath appointed them, and which it is not lawful for them to decline.”
– Author Unknown, to “Diognetus”
[circa 130AD~200s AD]


Resurrection Life

And Enoch walketh habitually with God, and he is not, for God hath taken him.
Genesis 5:24 (YLT)

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Hebrews 11:5


§IALL THINGS NEW


Although the death of the body is no longer to be feared by those in Christ, nevertheless, we ought not so quickly respect or contentedly resign to its unnatural sleep, but rather always gladly strive to ascend in the new life which Christ Jesus has purchased for us; even to the full redemption of our bodies.

“Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”
Luke 24:5-6

O, that the power of the curse were not so highly esteemed by those on whose behalf it has been lifted, and in whom it can be undone!

The things of the Spirit of God seem far off and ethereal to the carnally minded, who deem embodiment itself a curse. But to be with the Lord is to still be embodied: it is not be disembodied, but rather to be transfigured in body. “For there is a spiritual body.”

At this very moment, Jesus is sitting on the throne of majesty in a literal human body, even the same body which a young Hebrew servant-girl bore in her womb. But that same body, which was just as able to die as our own bodies, was also made incorrubtible by the power of God’s Spirit, of whom it had been conceived.

If therefore we ourselves have been born of the Spirit of God in His regeneration, then we too have become a generation conceived of the Holy Spirit until Christ is fully formed in us, so that even our body is able to become blameless – just as the body which Christ walked in and died in – and ought to be honored to such an end. Yes, these bodies are able to be walked in even as He walked, and to do, as He said, “greater works than these,” by the Law of the Spirit of Life in Him. And although they might still be able to be made subject to death, they are now by His quickening Spirit even more able to be made subject to a completed resurrection, even as death could not hold Him. For it may be that we are the generation timely-born, of which I believe Paul glimpsed, but could not declare much regarding.

If then our old man is put fully to death, how can our new man not be raised fully to life, even the body, which also belongs to the New Man, which is Christ’s own body? And this can indeed be, since the bodies of the redeemed are already able to be made subject to His life even now – He who was able to be transfigured even before His death, yet still submitted to it on our behalf, that He might taste death for us all, and we could obtain His resurrection life.


§II THE QUICKENING SPIRIT


And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Romans 8:10-11

Here there are two Persons of the Godhead expected to be dwelling in us. The first is Christ, with whom our body still remains “dead because of sin.” And this is where men tend to stop, which is the miserable life of Romans 7. But the second Person here is the Spirit, by whose power God “quickens our mortal bodies.” Therefore, it is unlawful for us to comfortably accept the death at work in our members when the gift of the Holy Spirit to us is the same power which raised up Christ from the dead!

So then, by the rebirth of that Spirit we are no longer of the seed of the first Adam, but rather of the Last, who in us becomes a life-giving Spirit. And if this be so, then that same Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from out of the dead is able also to do such a work in us, if in Him we likewise die. For if we in the new birth have already become like Him, whose body was able to die, yet now lives; how much closer are we (than we had thought) to His full resurrection life, even the redemption of our very bodies in transfiguration! For by Him we are unashamed to look upon He whose Word is near, “even in your mouth and in your heart.”

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)

Now, might we still die an earthly death, just as generations of generations have done before us? It may well be. We are not greater than they who gave life and limb for the gospel to reach our own ears, nor than most of those whose bodies expired, as all things have been cursed to do. But that is not necessarily our only gift, if we should lay hold of the resurrection life of Christ Jesus. Why then should this glorious truth not be preached to those whose manifestation as sons of God has been groaned for by the whole of creation in every age since death entered in, and still groans to this day? Will not the God who answered the prophets of old by fire much more answer the righteous in things that pertain to better promises?

For the creation was not subjected to futility without hope; and that Hope has now come, and dwells even now in the redeemed, and even now graces many a life – and yet, do we still wallow in that which He has done away with? When will we ourselves be done with it?

Again,

“Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”
Luke 24:5-6


§III LIFE THROUGH DEATH


Or is it all in vain that the Spirit within us is provoked to righteous jealousy? No! Salvation is nearer than when we first believed; but who will labor for its fruit today, rather than waiting upon the death of the curse to do its work on their behalf? What many glories shall be missed by those who invested little in the work of the Master!

Why should we wait upon death to be our first and only enemy truly conquered, when Christ charged forth through all enemies in life, and conquered death as His last? Let us rather, as He did, conquer all other things at the present time, that we may also conquer death at its appearing, even as He did. Let rather He who began the good work in us be allowed to bring it to completion, even unto the Day of Christ; whose Day’s appearing does not end in the secret confines of the heart, but only begins; and whose Spirit groans for His very likeness become manifest even in our bodies! And His likeness is that of a man from whom the world stands aghast in rejection, and that of one who has been smitten by God and afflicted.

…His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and His form beyond that of the children of mankind…
Isaiah 52:14 (ESV)

If the image of God is to be seen in us, then it is an image to be painted with blood – both His and ours. Sanctification is costly, to the degree that one values the vanity of self.

For if those whom He justifies He also glorifies, then He does so by an ongoing resurrection through death in those who go about bearing the dying of Christ’s body in their own, filling up what sufferings are yet lacking in it. For even if we were to walk with God as Enoch or Elijah did, it is not therefore our assured right to be translated without suffering finally at the hands of evil men, but only a possible privilege.

There is no part of Christ’s body of flesh that was not subjected to scourging and death. Likewise, there can be no true part of Christ’s mystical body (the church) that does not partake in at least a similitude of the same suffering. Therefore, any member of this body that has not so humbled themselves remains a shame unto it, and remains unworthy to partake in His resurrection life.

And if one now says, “Ah, yet by the living sacrifice of His body and blood, He has made me worthy;” then let that one know, that such a powerful grace should be becoming manifest in a living sacrifice of themselves unto His workmanship.

There is a day appointed in which the God of peace will perfom a quick work, to sanctify us not in part but in whole, and to keep us blamless in spirit, in soul, and in body unto His Day: and His Day has begun to dawn already.

O, that our mortal flesh would see His appearing in immortality!
O, for the creature’s newness of life to be manifest as the noonday!
O, to lay hold of this gift, and the lowliness of spirit that is its price!

Apostasy, Our High Priest, & Our Participation

The book of Hebrews was of course written to Christians, but also very much with the doubting Jew in mind. With this observation as part of his basis, John Owen had what seems to be a unique perspective on one particular element of the following warning:

He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
Hebrews 10:28-29

“The last aggravation of this sin with respect unto the blood of Christ is that it is that ‘wherewith he was sanctified.’ This is not a real internal sanctification, but a separation and dedication unto God, in which sense the word is often used. Some have thought that this refers unto the person guilty of the sin here insisted on; but the design of the Apostle in the context leads plainly to another application of these words. It is Christ Himself who is spoken of, who was sanctified and dedicated to God to be an eternal High Priest by the blood of the covenant which He offered unto God. That precious blood of Christ whereby He was sanctified and dedicated unto God they esteemed an “unholy thing,” that is, such as would have no effect as to consecrate Him unto God and to His office.”
John Owen, from his commentary on the book of Hebrews

An earlier section of Hebrews directly confirms this:

For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
Hebrews 7:26-28

This actually renders the warning much more grave than it sounds on the surface, particularly against the religious deception of antichrists. The writer of Hebrews is saying that this apostasy from Christ is of such a nature that it denies not only the full legitimacy of Jesus’ high-priestly office, but also its absolute uniqueness.

For Christ’s own blood consecrated Him unto an office that can neither be substituted, nor shared with, nor acted within, by any other man. And to do so is to “do despite unto the Spirit of Grace.” For the Holy Spirit is the only rightful person by whose power we can be made partakers in the very same Indestructible Life according to which our High Priest made His intercession.

Therefore it is by the Spirit’s groaning within us that we are continually made both witness and subject to the transaction of Christ’s death and resurrection within ourselves, as we also groan with Him.

By this we eat of His bread, and by this we drink of His cup; for in this we discover and become a functioning member of His living body, which is thereby being perfected.

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
1 Corinthians 10:16 (ESV)

Will & Desire, Nature & Grace

Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Psalm 37:4

The heart which delights in the Lord will eat the fruit of Godly desires; but the heart which delights in itself will eat the fruit of sinful desires.

The sinful will desires not against its own nature, nor do the sinful desires will against their own nature.
Likewise, the sanctified will desires not against its own nature, nor do the sanctified desires will against their own nature.

But the will of each desires against the nature of the other, and the desire of each wills against the nature of the other; for two contrary natures cannot be at peace in one man.

Therefore God in Christ became man so that body soul and spirit might escape the sinful nature through the likeness of His death and resurrection by faith; and the God-man first became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God – not in ourselves – but in Him.

As the scriptures say,

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Galatians 5:17

If you have found a hunger and thirst for righteousness, it is His mercy alone to which you owe thanks, and His grace alone by which you must walk; only then will you find HIS righteousness bestowed upon you as a garment, and HIS holiness poured upon you as pure water.

There is no righteousness you can apprehend, no mercy you can earn, and no state of grace you can achieve. But that which Christ has apprehended, earned, and achieved, He now gives; and He gives it beginning in the seed of faith, which He alone also plants, waters and gives growth to: so that the man of faith might, by the application of grace, apprehend – and not apprehend that which God has already apprehended for him, but rather apprehend that which God has apprehended him for.

For that which the Spirit of God concieves is “born, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” And if such a thing born should become full-grown, it must not forsake, but rather mature in, the very same elements of the very same Christ. For His gospel is unto His own, and they hang upon it, and He is their vindicator unto life.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” We are not our own workmanship, nor can we ever be forged in the foundry of our own will unto these good works. For only His will is that which follows after His desire, and so proceeds from His divine nature. And this perfect cascade of nature down unto holy deeds cannot be ascended from deeds unto nature by any man, any more than a worm can ascend the watery steps, the grace and vigor for which is given only to the river trout.

It is our tendency, according to the flesh, to venerate the “free will” of man, which truly is free only within the realm of its given desires; so that we prove ourselves unfruitful in the actual works of God, building rather a faith unto ourselves (though we confess no such thing aloud), unto great and terrible disappointment.

For the will is free only to follow after the desires of the heart; and the desire is free only to follow after the dictates of nature.

Will is determined by desire, desire is determined by nature, and nature is determined by God.

Thou wilt say then unto me, “Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?” 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 9:19-20

God’s decree is not limited by the bounds of our desire; the bounds of our desire are rather set by God’s greater decree.

The soul which cries at the supposed “unfairness” of this arrangement has not considered the fierce wrath which he has deserved since before he was brought forth from the womb, and how merciful it is that divine justice has not yet been poured out upon him. For it is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Romans 12:1-3

What, according to this scripture, does our ability to sacrificially offer ourselves derive from?
“The mercies of God”!

And how are we freed from being conformed to this world?
Not by renewing our own minds (which men are tended towards), but rather “by the renewing OF” our minds (a work of the Word and Spirit of God); which then leads to the working out in us of the singular decreed will of God, which singular will is “good, acceptable, and perfect.”

And the command here is one toward humility before God, which can be genuinely and soberly practiced only in light of God’s graceful gifting of faith toward each one who has ever found it.

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
1 Corinthians 15:10