God’s Word for You
Acts 13:47-49 Your election
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, June 24, 2020
47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And all who had been appointed for eternal life believed. 49 The word of the Lord was spreading through the whole region.
There are two doctrinal matters to notice in this delightful scene as more converts are brought to faith in Jesus. First, we have the curious phrase, “they glorified the word of the Lord.” We praise and honor the word of God because it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). As Paul teaches, if an unbeliever enters into our worship and hears everyone confessing that they believe what is being preached and taught, then this prophecy or proclamation of the law and gospel will work in his heart. “He will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all” (1 Corinthians 14:24). And the same word of God which in part proclaims the condemning law also in part proclaims the saving gospel, so that the crushed and broken heart is soothed and restored and turned by faith to Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. And by “eternal life” we mean both life in heaven and also the renewed life of faith here on earth, where in this lifetime we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to turn from sin and temptation and turn to God in faith, and give glory both to God and to his saving word.
Second, we have a reference to the doctrine of eternal election, where Luke states: “And all who had been appointed for eternal life believed.” Election is the act of God from eternity, before the creation of the world, in which God chose me and certain others to be his own and to have eternal life. He brought us, his elect, to faith and he keeps us in the faith to the very end. This teaching is distinct from God’s gracious will, whereby he says that he would have (that is, he would prefer to have) all men or mankind to be saved (2 Timothy 2:4; John 3:16). God’s will extends to all people, but his election applies only to a few specific persons. But as Jesus our Lord said, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last,” and as Paul said, “He chose us in him [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:4-5). And while our election is an act of God’s love, it is carried out in our lifetimes only through the means of grace, the Gospel in word and sacrament: “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ” (Ephesians 1:9).
Imagine God, in eternity, giving careful consideration to what he was about to do as he began the act of creation. Before he spoke the words, “Let there be…” (Genesis 1:3, etc.), God had chosen you and me to be his children and eternal companions in paradise. It was as if he put your name on a little card and pinned it up on a bulletin board next to his throne, and then after doing so, he planned out how all of history would come about so as to bring you personally home to him in heaven. In this way, even after the fall of Adam and Eve and the catastrophe of the Great Flood and the apostasy of your most distant ancestors into the various heathen tribes of Gentiles, God was weaving and guiding and manipulating the history of mankind so that you would be baptized on that momentous day, so that you would be taught your Bible and your catechism, and so that you would be brought all the way through sword, famine, and plague, right to the very grave, as his dear child, so that you will be raised on the last day to everlasting life.
This doctrine of election is never presented in the Holy Scriptures with an antithesis. That is to say, the Scriptures often talk about the elect and the act of God electing those who are saved, but there is never any mention of God choosing others to be damned. This doctrine does not speak to the lost at all. The act of rejecting God’s grace is an act against the gracious will of God—a sin, in each and every unbeliever, against John 3:16. But election is only an act of pure grace. God did not choose you because of anything he foresaw in you. This is an important point to remember:
God did not choose you in view of your (future) faith.
God chose you in order to give you faith.
The doctrine of election is God “making his face shine on you and being gracious to you.” It is the Lord “looking on you with favor, to give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). Cherish this beautiful blossom of God’s grace, and know that before the world began, God loved you.
Pastor Timothy Smith