Election: No. 1

Romans 9:11
It is not for the sake of controversy, or to examine or defend human opinions on this deeply interesting subject, that we take it up; but with a sincere desire to help perplexed souls. A few days ago we received a letter from such an one, and as it is a fair sample of the effect of mere doctrinal teaching, we will give extracts. The writer says, " I have been greatly distressed about 'election.'' I know I am a sinner, and as such quite undone and lost, and that there is nothing in me to recommend me to God.....I want to be saved. I am often in great fear lest the Lord should come for His people, and leave me behind. I know that the Bible says, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, but I have heard it said, that it is not scriptural to say that Christ died for the sins of all men; and if He did not die for all, how can I believe He died for me? Because it is no use to believe—I could not believe without a firm foundation for faith to rest upon; I mean, if He did not die for me, how could I believe it? If you knew how very anxious I am, I think you would feel for me, and try to answer me.....What I want to know is this—how can persons know that the Lord Jesus Christ died for them personally, when there is nothing in them to make it likely?.... As I write, I feel how hopeless it is to try any more. I cannot help feeling in despair about it, because I have gone on so long, and have years ago professed to be a Christian.....I fear I am like the ground spoken of in Heb. 6, that only bears ' thorns and briars.' If you think there is any hope for me, do try and help me."
Is it not most sad for a person to go on in this state of perplexity year after year? It is not often we meet with the same depth of anxiety, but this letter truly expresses the perplexity of great numbers. We are convinced that the root of all this confusion of mind and distress of soul, is occupancy with self. Here is evidently a quickened soul, finding nothing but thorns and briars in the flesh, or old self. Not one bit of good in self that could have been a motive for Christ to die for. However painful it may be, this lesson must be learnt; sooner or later the quickened soul must be brought to say, " I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not." And there is no help found for the flesh in scripture; so we cannot help the writer of the letter; it is not, Who shall help me? but, " Ο wretched man that I am! who shall deliver he from the body of this death?" The Lord Jesus is not revealed as the helper of the flesh, but as the complete Deliverer, bringing us into a new creation, giving us eternal life, a new nature, and the Holy Ghost. (Compare Rom. 7:18-2418For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:18‑24) with chapter viii. 1-4.)
Before we look at the important subject of "Election/5 we feel it would be well to examine the difficulties of the writer. We believe it is a sure mark of the work of the Holy Spirit to be able truly to say, "I am a sinner, undone and lost." Can the reader say this, whether of sinful self or religious self? Have you tried, until you are undone, lost? This is a fearful word, yet it was for such alone that Jesus died. He " came to seek and to save that which was lost." " For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." The joy of Jesus is this, "I have found my sheep which was lost." If, then, the writer of the letter, or the reader of this paper, has discovered that he is lost, ungodly, without strength, then it is clear from scripture that Jesus died for you; He came to seek and to save you.
We will pass over for the moment" other things, such as strong Calvinists hold," which had always been such an hindrance. More of this by-and-by. Most assuredly the Lord Jesus is coming to take His people, and no pen can describe how terrible it will be to be left behind. With such a certainty, believing the scriptures which announce the coming of the Lord, we do not wonder at those words "I want to be saved." These are not the words of the self-righteous, or of the careless professor, or the language of the infidel; clearly not. But, reader, can you say they are your words? The Lord is certainly coming quickly to take His people—He says so. Can you say, with the writer of the letter, " I want to be saved. I am often in great fear lest the Lord should come for His people, and leave me behind"? If you know you are saved, you cannot say so: your privilege is to wait for Him from heaven. Do you say, I do not know I am saved, and I do not want to be, and I am not afraid to be left behind? Then really you are self-righteous, careless, or an infidel. But to return to the letter.
The writer says, " I know that the Bible says,. ' Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved." " The scripture says this, " Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." (Acts 16:3737But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out. (Acts 16:37).) It is not enough to know that the Bible says so; the devils know that well enough, and the infidel knows that. But does the writer know that God says so—that it is God speaking to us in the Bible? Now, if God says so, is it not true? Then if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as a lost sinner, God speaks to you; He says you shall be saved. Do you doubt Him? The jailer understood it to mean just what God said, and he was baptized at once. He raised no questions; "he rejoiced, believing in God with all his house." If he believed and rejoiced, why should you doubt?
" But," says the writer, " I have heard it said that it is not scriptural to say that Christ died for the sins of all men, and if He did not die for all, how can I believe He died for me?" &c. It is perfectly true the scriptures never speak of the death of Christ as the substitute, or for the sins of all men. Yet this was no hindrance to the apostles proclaiming the gospel of forgiveness of sins unto all, with the assurance of God that all who believe are justified from all things. There can be no question that this was the character of the gospel Paul preached. He so preached to the multitude at Antioch. " Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things." (Acts 13:3838Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: (Acts 13:38).) Here, then, is a distinct message, direct from God, of forgiveness of sins to all men, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And the question is simply this—Do you believe God? If so, it is most certain that you are justified from all things—you are accounted righteous before God. And you know it is so, for God says it.
But you say, " How am I to know personally that Christ was the Substitute for my sins? If He were not the Substitute of all men, how am I to know that He was so for my sins?" We will tell you shortly; only mark first, if the scriptures did teach that He was the Substitute of all men, you would be far more uncertain; for it is evident many are not saved, and therefore, if He had been the Substitute of all, and yet many of these were for ever lost, then His dying for your sins would have been no security of your salvation, for after all you might be lost. Surely the scripture truth is better, that " Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many"—" having obtained eternal redemption for us." And that " by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." God says, " And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." (Heb. 9; 10) Thus the scripture doctrine of the one sacrifice of Christ for the sins of many has secured for them eternal redemption, whilst the human doctrine that Christ was the substitute [or sacrifice] for the sins of all, secures nothing! And hence all the make-weights of sacramental and ritualistic religion of men.
Much of this doctrinal confusion arises from not seeing the order and distinction of propitiation and substitution. On the day of atonement the order was this; first, the blood sprinkled on the golden mercy-seat; then, afterwards, the sins of the people put upon the substitute. Propitiation first, then substitution; both, doubtless, pointing to the one sacrifice of Christ. But the first thing to be secured was the righteousness of God in showing mercy. How could He be a just God and a Saviour? Now, as the victim must be killed, and its blood brought into the most holy, and sprinkled on the mercy-seat before God, so Jesus glorified God by His death. His blood was thus brought before God—sprinkled before Him.
" Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [or mercy-seat], through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God: to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Rom. 3:25, 2625Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:25‑26).) Now in this aspect Christ died for all; so that mercy and forgiveness is proclaimed to all. It is of immense importance to see this, " even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all, them that believe, for there is no difference." (Rom. 3:2222Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:22).) This is important foundation truth. Such is the value of the atoning death of the Lord Jesus, that the mercy-seat is open to all, without any difference; and God is just, and the Justifier of all that believe. The efficacy of that atonement, even the righteousness of God, is upon all who believe. God is righteous, is just, is glorified in meeting all, for there is no difference, at that propitiatory mercy-seat. There is no uncertainty about this as to the propitiation. " He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." (1 John 2:22And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2).)
Before, then, we go on to the death of the Lord Jesus as our Substitute, do we own the deep need of that atoning death, to maintain the glory and righteousness of God, in proclaiming mercy to all? And, further, this mercy-seat is open to all, without any difference—the propitiation for the whole world. These are the very words of Jesus: " Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." So far, then, all is clear: the righteousness of God is revealed in the glad tidings of God to every sinner on earth, for also as to them there is no difference, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Is the writer of the letter a sinner? Then clearly the righteousness of God proclaims forgiveness of sins to you. Do you believe God? Has this amazing love of God in the gift of His Son, that death on the cross as the propitiation for the whole world, and pardon through that precious blood—oh, has this goodness of God led you to repentance? Have you come, as a lost, undone sinner, to that mercy-seat open to all? Do you believe God? Then God says you are "justified from all things." How simple! Are you a sinner? Then forgiveness is proclaimed to you. Do you believe it? If you believe God, you may now go on to the second aspect of the death of Christ, and there see Him, the Substitute of His people, bearing their sins in His body on the cross.
This was typified by the people's goat, the people's substitute. Read Lev. 16:20-2220And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: 21And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: 22And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:20‑22). The sins of the people are transferred to the goat—all the iniquities of the children of Israel are laid on Lint—and the goat bears them away, to be remembered no more. Now it is clear that if the Lord Jesus thus bore the sins of all men; or, if all the sins of all men were laid upon Him, and borne away, to be remembered no more, then all men would be saved. But the scripture never says so. As in the type the substitute bearing away sins was limited to the children of Israel, so the true substitution of Jesus is limited to those who believe and are saved. " He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities." His " blood was shed for many" 66 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many" Thus, whilst the death of Christ, as the propitiation, is for the whole world, and God is infinitely glorified in proclaiming mercy to all, and there are no bounds to His love in the gift of His Son, that whosoever believeth should be saved; yet, as Substitute, the sins of all men were not laid on Him, and therefore it does not follow that all will be saved. In our next we hope to take up the writer's inquiry, "If Christ did not die for the sins of all men, how am I to know He died for me—that He was my Substitute? And how am I to know that my very sins are forgiven, to be remembered no more?" This being settled, the way will be clear for the full consideration of the important subject of Election.