This may be one of the most controversial doctrines of the gospel. It rubs against our natural thinking and common sense; election says that the Lord has chosen some for mercy (cf. Rom. 9) so that His glory would be displayed to all creation. This means that we do not come to faith in Christ of our own accord; rather, He draws us to Himself. Natural thinking says that we put faith in Jesus, and that this is a decision, a choice, which we freely make. But, we must disregard all philosophy and human tradition (cf. Col. 2:8). Instead, we must read the Word of God and discern the message of the Scriptures. And when discussing election, we turn to Ephesians 2:1-10.
The first point which Paul presents to us is the total incompetency and impotency of humanity in its natural state. He tells his audience: “you were dead in your trespasses and sins;” and for the sake of clarity he says, “we too all previously lived among them [sinners]…and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.” All men are dead in sin, naturally; we are born into it (cf. Ps. 51). And Paul does not use words haphazardly. We are born dead. We are powerless, doomed to condemnation, and void of life. You see, the punishment for sin is, and always was, death. And we are born with sin. So even though we physically live and move and breath, we are under a death sentence from which we cannot of our own escape. The only way to fulfill the punishment is death: so we cannot pay off our debt to God’s justice. This is the first point in the proof of election: man’s total inability to save himself.
But, glory be to God, we are not left there! Paul’s second point is the atoning work of Christ Jesus our Lord. God, “rich in mercy,” loved us ere we loved Him (cf. 1 Jn. 4:10) and made us alive with Jesus. How? By His death – which atoned for sin – and His resurrection (His coming again to life) – which bestowed life onto and into us. God “raised us up” with Jesus and “seated us in the heavens” so that we are no longer enslaved to our sins and bound in the chains of this temporal, fallen life. Why? So that He could display His glory and His riches in us because of the work Jesus did on our behalf. Dead men do not bring themselves to life: Jesus, with His spilt blood and His resurrected life, brought us to life of His own power. How can one obtain this life? That is Paul’s third point.
We “are saved by grace, through faith.” So, the method for obtaining grace is faith: faith in the promise that the blood of Jesus is enough to atone for sin. ”And this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift.” This faith which obtains grace, says Paul, does not come from you. You cannot summon faith in Christ. You are dead. In order for you to come alive, you must have faith, but dead men cannot do anything. God has to give you even this faith: “it is God’s gift.” Why would God make salvation possible in this way? ”So that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” Our salvation is not primarily for our benefit. Our salvation is all so that “He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace.” We are about the glory of God, not ourselves. And that is the purpose and beauty of the doctrine of election, that is its great comfort. It puts all attention, all focus, all glory, and – most comforting – all work on God’s shoulders, where it rightly belongs.