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]


Vanity’s End

How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
“I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.”
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.
Isaiah 14:12-15 (NKJV)

The lowest depths…

As with the Devil, the heights of vanity also bring men’s hearts into the lowest depths of a living death; and this dark, hellish imprisonment of the soul makes it all the more fit for the even more real hell of eternity.

There is a kind of living hell in which some persons find themselves when the vanity of self, the lusts of the flesh, and the meaningless pursuits of the world have been permitted to take their full course through the life and being. This dark abode, this endless slide into the consuming void of emptiness, has at its core only eternal decay of spirit and bottomless despair of soul.

There lies within the fallen creature a restless evil, an insatiable lust for that which already infects it unto death. The more that it is fed, the more that its appetite grows; and the more that it is numbed through other courses of wickedness, the more that it longs for the inevitable and fearful death into which it reluctantly falls. Until the creature’s access to vain and wicked paths is cut off, it will forever return to its vomit as a dog, and go back to wallowing in the mire as the swine – loving itself in vain, hating itself in vain.

Yet even in the cutting off of its life from upon the earth, such a soul, in the torments of hell itself, continues the same inward spiral of wickedness and hatred towards God within the heart – and that with even greater despair upon despair, and sorrow upon sorrow.

The hopelessness of this woeful state cannot be sufficiently described in words – yet how many a soul is dragged away by his own lusts and enticed to the slippery sides of that pit, to crawl along the wall like a blind man unassisted by any means, his vision consumed by darkness within! The love of this world is as cold as it is sharp when it stabs one’s back; and the bitterness of this world is kindled into an unbearable flame that sears the conscience and scalds the mind to retreat into dull resignation.

But there is Truth which undercuts all excuse and disarms every defence of the thoughts.
There is Love which warmly bears all things until the heart’s complete surrender to it.
There is Light which makes bare every motive and intention, and graciously lays out a path once known to be impossible.
There is a LIFE of whole and unending goodness, a fountain of life and healing from within, which has been given in exchange for this existence of endless degeneration and vanity.

There is One who is all these things, Jesus Christ; and He is the mercy and grace of God to the lost sheep of His house.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
John 10:27-28 (NKJV)

He is calling.
Who is hearing?
Let them hear!

The hypocrites do not truly hear; but God is near to those who have been humbled.

Let His voice be heard throughout the land by whomever He is calling!
Let eyes of new faith be opened by His visitation!
Let hearts of stone be crushed and transplanted for hearts beating with the life of Jesus!

And may those who have already known His hand be found in the seeking and partaking of these things!

There is no captivity that He did not lead captive for the freedom of all those whom He is calling.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.”
Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)

His righteousness is not merely an external cloak for the covering over of transgressions: it is also a new pure and righteous state of the inward being which increasingly displaces and replaces the old unrighteous state of being that made us love to walk in vanity and sin. It is a spiritual food and a spiritual drink which increasingly sustains and overflows from within all those who partake of its living way through repentance.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to Me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, My steadfast, sure love for David.
Isaiah 55:1-3 (ESV)


“And all illusion ceases to exist.
The world’s caress is just the Serpent’s kiss.”
Theocracy (band)


Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man!
For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So He bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.
Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man! For He shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.
He sent out His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.
Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His deeds in songs of joy!

Psalm 107:4-22 (ESV)

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!

The Gardener

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
Genesis 2:15 (NKJV)

Jesus said to her [Mary Magdalene] “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener…
John 20:15 (NKJV)

Indeed, He is the Gardener.

The first Adam, having fallen into death, last set foot in the old garden, which he had been tasked to keep, and was driven from it, to keep it no longer.
The Last Adam, having risen from the dead, first set foot into the new garden, which He took upon Himself to keep, and draws men into it, to partake in its keeping.

Death began to take its hold in a garden.
Death began to lose its grip in a garden.

Behold, He makes all things new!

The Gospel Which Vindicates God

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:44

The wisdom of man says that unless our love for God proceeds from our own initial willingness to worship Him, then it is not truly love, but a robotic and forced relationship.

The problem with this assertion is that no man in himself is actually willing to love the true God until God opens the man’s eyes to His goodness in the first place. The will is only free to love that which is according to it’s nature; and the fallen nature is at its core a rejection of and a blindness to God’s goodness. To despise this fact is to despise the riches of God’s mercy.

“Seek and you shall find” was Christ’s admonition to those who are already His own disciples, and it was regarding prayer.
“There is not one who seeks after God” is the apostle’s precise description of fallen humanity without Christ.

“We love because He first loved us.”
– This means that unless He first freely loved me so as to open my eyes, I could never have freely loved Him. I may have sought my own earthly conception of Him; but that is not why He decided to have mercy upon me. He chose to show mercy before the foundation of the world for the glory of His own Name; and I dare not be so arrogant as to suggest that He simply foresaw that I was somehow more spiritually sensitive than others. I was in fact spiritually dead; that is what He foresaw. But His foreknowledge is a powerful personal knowing of the sinner which redeems them; this is what it means that He foreknew me.

It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me…
John 6:45

Pleading with men’s free will and intellectual desires does not win them to Christ; it rather wins them to a god who must always bow to their demands of mercy, as though it were an “inalienable right.” It brings them to worship a spiritually libertarian god of “fairness” who is obligated to give all sinners a “chance;” rather than the holy God of justice who was not lawfully required to save even a portion of such self-entitled, demonic wretches, yet who did.

The great conumdrum of the gospel is not how God can be fair if He chooses not to redeem every soul; it is rather how He can remain uncompromisingly just if He redeems any.

As the scripture says:

He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.
Proverbs 17:15

Therefore, the only Just One condemned Himself willingly under the wrath of God, that He might justify many wicked.

That is not fair.
But it was made to be just.
And those whose hearts He hardens, He hardens justly; for there is no one who of themselves seeks after God.

Let no man answer back to God, in any matter. Let them only come to Him, if by His gracious will they will come.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:25-30

(I beat this dead horse not because in doing so I think I will raise it; but in obedience to He who raises the dead.)

Knowing God’s Mercy – John Calvin

“Men will never worship God with a sincere heart, or be roused to fear and obey Him with sufficient zeal, until they properly understand how much they are indebted to His mercy.”
– John Calvin

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)