God’s Word for You
2 Peter 1:10-11 Election and certainty
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, June 19, 2022
10 Therefore, brothers, be eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be given to you.
Ancient Christians debated (sometimes hotly debated) whether the doctrine of election should be taught from the pulpit to ordinary Christians. But we should not keep silent about anything the Holy Spirit has revealed in the divinely inspired Scriptures. So we should say in simple and comforting words: God chose individual people to be his faithful sons and daughters. He did this before the creation of the world, before these sons and daughters ever were born or conceived, before their souls came into being in the act of their conception. If I may use a simple if unhistorical example: It is as if God wrote your own name, O Christian, on a card or slip of paper, and tacked it up on the very top of a bulletin board in heaven. From that moment in eternity onward, all of God’s creative acts, all of human history, all minor incidents, storms, rainfall, breezes, wars, discoveries, migrations, and even inventions, from thimbles to French toast to schoolbooks to plastic toys, have come about because of God’s plan to bring you, O Christian, to faith in him, and to everlasting life that will follow. This is God’s holy will, as Jesus says: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). So, while this election is sure for all who have faith in Christ, it can also be torn away by a former Christian as if he is cutting off his own arms and legs, or hurling himself into the sea with unbelief, for Christ also says: “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18). So election is sure for all who have faith, but it is not absolute, since a sinner can throw it away.
This doctrine is not meant to give anyone fear. You have faith in Christ. Rejoice! Your election and call to faith are already sure and certain. There isn’t anything we can do to make them any more firm now than they were when God chose you before the creation of the world to be his own child, or when you were baptized and first came to faith in him. But since there are things that a person can do to shipwreck his faith, the Apostle wants to point out the dangers so that we’re ready for them.
The first danger is regarding election itself. Do not wonder whether you were elected to faith and salvation by God; and do not—you must not!—wonder what the reason was for your election. Those questions lead to wrong answers, wrong attitudes about oneself, and wrong, terribly wrong, doctrine and theology.
There is no “why” about your election apart from the love and grace of God. He chose you because he loves you and that’s all there is to it. And there is no “whether or not” about your election. You have faith in Christ? You were chosen; you are among the elect of God. There are no Christians who are not among the elect. It is not as if there are special elect Christians on one level, and then below them there are ordinary Christians who might get to heaven on their own somehow. No. You have faith in Christ, and therefore you were chosen by God as one of his elect. The way to be certain about all of this is to do exactly what Peter instructs us to do: Be eager to do the things that show your faith. Like Peter’s own mother-in-law, rise up and serve and show your faith that way (Mark 1:31), don’t lay around and sulk and wonder whether you have what you already have. That’s the surest path to heresy, when a man picks up on one passage or saying from the Bible and sets it up above all the rest and never tries to consider that the whole word of God applies to him. Otherwise I’m afraid that a man might try to live out his whole life counting on having a “smoldering wick” that he hopes the Lord will not snuff out (Isaiah 42:3). Can such a man carry his smoldering wick around with him through every storm, every winter gale, every drought, and be sure that it will still be a smoldering wick every morning? Wouldn’t he be terrified to find that he himself had let the wick go out? It isn’t Jesus who puffed out his cheeks and blew out that candle. It was the man himself.
A Christian who is filled with faith and shows it at every turn is ready for death. For him the entrance to heaven is “a rich welcome” and a wide open door. The Christian who wants nothing but a smoldering wick has a more difficult path and a narrower door, very nearly shut. When Jesus quotes Isaiah about the smoldering wick, he does it to preach the gospel to believers who were worried about loved ones with a weak faith and to fan a weak faith into flames. He didn’t quote the prophet as if to say, “A smoking wick is all you need; never bother to do anything about your faith. Give up on church except for once or twice in a year, and don’t ever read the Bible as long as one drop of your baptism is still running down your forehead.” Rather, cherish your faith and tend it, think of every blossom of your trust as a victory garden, and keep the flame of your faith burning hot and bright. This is the way we respond to God’s love, and yes, it involves doing good things, good works, for the kingdom of God. We do these things out of love and thanks to Christ and for the good of God’s holy people, for our own families and friends, and to keep our own churches standing and thriving.
Peter says, “And you will never stumble.” He means that as you are fed with the gospel and live according to God’s word, you will not stumble into thinking wrongly about your election or your faith. You will not stumble or be tempted to think that your place in God’s kingdom is up to you, or all about you and your marvelous good works. You cannot pull yourself all the way up to heaven by your own bootstraps, even if some puffed up old toad wants you to think you do. It is through faith you are saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8), and not by any of your works at all (Ephesians 2:9).
Keep trusting in Jesus. Keep looking to him for forgiveness. And a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be given to you.
Pastor Timothy Smith