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 Life-giving call goes out, and His lost sheep awaken to 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]


Priesthood: The Calling Which Purifies


§I ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICES


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 2:5 (ESV)

Our obedience to the priestly calling of every member of God’s house is the only source of our ability to please Him in what we do. And the priestly calling of all believers is not, as many evangelical traditions have made it, to primarily be the confidant of one another’s sins: it is rather to be a minister UNTO THE LORD, who purifies the true ministers of His temple.

For despite the small good that can come by the confession of our faults one to another (Jas 5:16), there is no overcoming power in the act of itself; and even the prayer of a righteous man, though it may avail much, is soon discovered by many to be of little use in the continued overcoming of worldly and fleshly lusts. This is because we tend to minister in these things not unto the Lord, but rather unto ourselves.

Men seek “accountability” for their besetting sins amongst themselves, and in so doing tend to quickly neglect the power of God; which is found only in each one offering his own incense upon the altar of the brokenness of interceding love to Him, through obedience according to the giftings and callings of God.

For there is but one mediator between God and men: “the MAN Christ Jesus.” And if that Man alone (to whom we truly have to give an account) does not appear or seem close enough as to keep us from falling, then we have found the real root of what besets us: that our present experiential knowledge of God Himself is lacking.

“…to offer spiritual sacrifices…”
A spiritual sacrifice makes no excuse for the self: this means that the one offering does not consider their present sins worthy of hindering an entrance into the holy places. For the blood that has been sprinkled for us, and the body that has been torn open for us, gives us entrance, so that “going boldly” we may find grace in the time of need. His throne in the temple is the mercy seat – and have not our own hearts become a seat of mercy for His holiness, if He has indeed regenerated us in Christ? We have no excuse not to offer the spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to the Lord, in view of God’s mercy.

“…acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
To confess sin to a brother, or to receive prayer from an elder, is only a spiritual sacrifice as far as it is done freely as a love offering to the Lord (and this can only proceed from a heart enraptured in some degree by His goodness). But the confession of a sin or the receiving of a prayer as a resort to please the real or perceived standards of others, or to attain to a level of personal piety whereby one might feel spiritually accomplished, is idolatry, and is an unacceptable sacrifice.

Time will tell the source and motive of all personal piety. Even an external source or motive, if it is yet other than the goodness of God Himself, falls woefully short of His glory. God will not be mocked. And He will not uphold the proud: He will allow them to fall again, especially if one whom He loves cannot be humbled unto His grace by any other means.

Therefore, we are not left to our own devices, nor to the cleverness of schemes, nor to the wisdom of sound counsel only. But we are called to fulfill the calling of a new priesthood, wherein is found a santification that goes far beyond the overcoming of only one particular sin, though that victory is also given.

The office of priesthood is the office of intercession. If we will minister to the Lord acceptably as priests, then we will seek Him earnestly in all our motives – especially those pertaining to good works, though without delaying in action. We will also be willing for Him to lay upon our hearts the burden of His own soul for His house, and for the lost sheep of His pasture.

We too quickly excuse ourselves in saying, “But I am unworthy to minister to others.” Yet aren’t we much more unworthy to minister to the Lord, which is our first and primary calling, and for which He has made us a way into the holy of holies? Surely then, He will make us able to minister to others in word, in deed, and in prayer, if only we are found ministering to Him in the same things by the bearing out of our souls before Him, and the seeking of His heart to become our own.

And how, one might ask, can this ministry intercession cleanse a man’s way?


§II“LIFT UP YOUR EYES”


And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him.
Acts 5:32

Ministering to the Lord in the seeking and doing of His will, despite ourselves and despite our existing shortcomings, is the magnet for His overcoming power. We become witnesses of His work only through obedience. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “Exercise thyself UNTO Godliness.” A man with no living experience of walking by the palpably leading hand of God will be a man of little or no strength in God; since the scope of his walk requires little or no strength, and he sees nothing beyond where he sits.

The overcoming power of God is given according to the measure of obedient faith in the various callings of God upon each one. And although the obediences to which He may call us might appear irrelevant or unable to affect our present sins, that is not at all the point. Dare we counsel God in the methods by which He delivers us from our own folly? He places one step at a time in front of us; and He orders those steps according to HIS wisdom, not our own.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
2 Chronicles 16:9 (NKJV)

The Hebrew for “loyal” here carries the concept of which Jesus spoke when He said “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single (or sound), thy whole body shall be full of light.”

In other words, while men seek to rid themselves of particular sins by developing tunnel-vision for those sins, the greater answer is truly found in developing a focused vision for whatever places Christ is calling one to in Him. For what the eye beholds, the body will soon reflect. The beholding of He who dwells in us and calls us will transform the beholder and the obeyer – and He is only beheld unto transformation by those who obey Him.

To neglect any prompting of the Holy Spirit is to neglect stepping into a greater place of His power.

If we wait to cross the Jordan until we are first made perfect, then we will never cross. We need to cross in order to find the beginnings of His perfecting power; for in that obedience are contained the seeds of perfection, and also the loyalty of heart which God answers in overcoming strength. In stepping into Jordan, the floodwaters which seemed to prevent us from taking the promised land are suddenly backed away from us, even beyond Adam (Josh 3:16), and the conquering of Jericho (the stronghold) comes well within the realm of possibility.

God fights on behalf of devoted hearts, and teaches them through continued experience to also fight for themselves. We are being made perfect through the crucible of obedience unto greater obedience.

As it was prophesied of such a priestly generation, to whom He comes as God into His temple:

And He (the Lord) shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
Malachi 3:3

Priesthood in God’s temple means that we are called to fearfully minister to His heart through walking by faith in the face of all ungody fear; and in this ministry we will find that He begins ministering far more deeply to our own hearts in the purification of the Holy Spirit than by any other means. It is the office by which the exercise thereof will call up a dead church to rise and meet the Lord who calls her to “come away,” shedding all the trappings of self-made religion as the faces of heaven’s inhabitants beam with awe and joy at the sight of a worthy Bride.

The heart of sanctification is not to please ourselves, but to honour God, who is worthy.

They shall enter into My sanctuary, and they shall come near to My table, to minister unto Me, and they shall keep My charge.
…And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
Ezekiel 44:16,23


“Experience is the secret of power.”
Brian Troxel


SEE ALSO:

Neglect It Not: Intercession

HIS Intercession Is Our Calling

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)

The Holy Spirit’s Longing

The immensity and depth of the anointing into which the Holy Spirit longs to baptize God’s children is such that words too holy to be spoken, songs too holy to be sung, and deeds to holy to be done might yet be able to become spoken and sung and done through we as His broken vessels – if we only will allow ourselves to be so shattered by His revelation to us. He would put a new song in our mouths, if only we stopped using them to make excuses.