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Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO 2/1/04

"As indeed he says in Hosea, "Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'my beloved.'" "And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God'"" (Rom. 9:25,26, RSV).

When I asked the Lord about this week's topic, I heard "Primary Election," and of course, it's a very timely subject in light of the recent New Hampshire Primary and next week's "Super Tuesday." Looking for a graphic, I went to the on-line graphic vendor I use, and typed in the word "election." The graphic which came up shows a church building, with a slot in the roof, and a hand depositing a ballot into the slot. The title of it is "Annual Church Election." That wasn't what I thought I wanted, but as I pondered it, I knew it was the one for this writing. With the political primaries upon us, Americans are very aware of how we select our leaders. We go to the voting place and cast our ballot for whomever we think will do the best job. Sadly, churches use the same process; even conservative Fundamentalist churches vote people into leadership. That is the democratic way, but it most certainly is NOT God's way, which is our subject today.

The kingdom of heaven is not run like a democracy. It is a theocracy, "a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme ruler" (Webster's Dictionary). Israel took her first steps down the slippery slope of ruin and condemnation, when, in spite of the prophet Samuel's admonitions to the contrary, they demanded a king like the nations round about them. When Samuel sought the Lord's counsel, he was told, "Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them" (I Sam. 8:7, RSV). In the kingdom of heaven, God alone sits on the throne; He alone calls whom He wills. The premier treatise on this topic is Romans, chapters nine through eleven, in which Paul passionately declares that our relationship with God is all about election, not our qualifications or our works.

Before we get into that, we need to look at the foundation for God's sovereign election. In his letter to the saints at Colossae, Paul tells us WHO won God's Primary Election. In his description of Christ, the first born of many brethren, Paul gives us this thrilling summation: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" (Col. 1:15).

Greek scholar Jonathan Mitchell expands and fleshes out for us the meaning inherent in the Greek. As a college language major, I find his translation fascinating. Here's a description of Christ that I've never seen before, "Who drags us out of danger (or: rescued us) forth from out of the midst of the authority of the Darkness (Darkness's jurisdiction and right), and changes [our] position (transports {or: transferred} [us]; gave [us] a change of standing) into the kingdom of the Son of His love (of the Son Who has the characteristics and qualities of His love; the Son Whose origin is His love)" (Col. 1:13 13, Jonathan Mitchell). The expression "He drags us out of danger," reminds me that one translation of John 12:32 is, "If I am lifted up from the earth, I will DRAG all men to myself." Christ is the subject of the active verb "drag" and man is the object, not the other way round as many churches teach. The Son's origin, like ours is in the LOVE of the Father, which tells us what election is and how it operates in our lives.

God's Primary Election winner has these qualifications and attributes: "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (Col. 1:15-20, NIV). By His love and within His love, everything flows through us out into the world, for that is the purpose of election.

God never chooses anyone for that person's sake alone. The elect, also known as "the remnant," is always chosen for the non-elect, for the rest of humanity. Noah is a limited type of the elect, for out of all the people on earth, God chose him and his family to start again, to rebuild what He had so swiftly and utterly destroyed.

Of Noah's progeny, for everyone in the world would have been descended from him, Abraham is the next classic example of election. By all accounts, he was your ordinary idol worshipping Bedouin, neither better nor worse than his peers, and yet God did not worry about his qualifications or lack of same the way we do about our political and church candidates for election. The reason for that is so obvious but so overlooked that most Christians never understand the significance of it. God was not concerned about Abraham's many character flaws, because His promise did not depend upon Abraham, but upon Himself alone! Paul said of this process of divine selection, "So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Rom. 9:16, Recovery Version).

The Hebrew writer affirms a cardinal truth of the New Covenant, "For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself" (Heb. 6:13, RSV). The powerful truth that God does not depend on man's actions, but upon Himself, is completely foreign to most Christians because they are still living under law. If you tell a man who has spent his life working his way to heaven that all will be saved, he may stone you on the spot because you have just disqualified all his works, burning them on the altar of grace. Grief stricken and afraid, he watches the ashes blowing away in the wind.

A fellow traveler on The Glory Road named Tim Knappenbeger e-mailed us this week about how he overcame the difficulty of coming out of law and into grace. He said the Lord gave this word to him recently, "I am responsible for you, Tim." He continued, "That word came to me amidst numerous (and lifelong) strugglings to 'do it right,' to pour myself into avoiding error, to never disappoint, to always be responsible, etc., etc.. Maybe it was my finally coming to a more complete understanding of the Sovereignty of God, that EVERYTHING is under His domain, including my mistakes, errors, and dare I say, sins! It is hard to fully express how freeing and releasing that word was, but I know you've had your words as well, and can relate. Anyway, moving from a place of 'dancing' before God in order to manipulate Him into blessing me (or not burning me) to one of 'abiding' in His all encompassing responsibility was a major shift of perception and living for me." End Quote. (He gave me permission to share his name and e-mail address with you. I put his e-mail address at the end of this article.)

What Tim has experienced is what the Hebrew writer calls "entering into rest." After saying that they (Israel) entered not into rest because of unbelief, the text continues, "for whoever enters God's rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his" (Heb. 4:10, RSV). That's the key to New Covenant living, but no one, least of all the Hebrew writer said it would be easy: "Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience" (Heb. 4:11, RSV). I have chuckled at the King James Version, "Let us LABOR therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 4:11). Like a good many excellent goals, this one IS attainable, only by seeing that God alone is in charge. My personal conviction is that when we see Him as He is, we shall be like Him. I'm speaking of a revelation from the Father, though dedicated men and women teaching this truth to the babes in Christ would certainly be an improvement over the present church system which admonishes them to be better, try harder, give, repent, pray, work, work and work some more, adding threats of hell to make it more binding.

This faulty system for growing men and women into responsible Christian adults is based upon fear and the law. God gave us the law in the first place to demonstrate that we can't cut it by ourselves. It is impossible to do right, be righteous, and get close to God on our own steam, as the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob found out to their sorrow. When they were circling the drain, worshipping idols, burning their children in the fire to appease Molech and Baal, God sent Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others to tell them that His patience had run out; the end was near; the sky was about to fall upon them, and their sins would cause them to be carried away to Babylon. Talk about Armageddon. It first happened when the Babylonian monarch King Nebuchadnezzar stormed into Jerusalem and reduced it to rubble, carrying off the best and brightest for the 70 year captivity that Jeremiah had prophesied. It was the time of Jacob's troubles, to the power of ten! A latter day occurrence of Armageddon came in AD 70, when Titus destroyed Jerusalem.

Yet even in the midst of their horrific punishment and seeming abandonment by God, He had told Israel through the prophets that all was not lost: "Alas! that day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it" (Jer. 30:7, RSV). How Israel could be saved out of this catastrophic event is as beyond the human mind to comprehend as is Paul's statement, "and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob" (Rom. 11:26, RSV). To the natural mind, this seems absolutely impossible, but to the sons of God, the elect, all things are discerned by the Spirit (I Cor. 2:14) and revealed in His time.

God told Ezekiel, himself in exile, that His wrath was poured out on Israel because they had "shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols" (Ezek 36:18, NIV). He scattered them among the nations because they had profaned His holy name. Here's a wonderful statement of New Covenant promise found in the Old Testament: "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone" (Vs. 22). It was not fulfilled until Christ came, but what a promise it is: "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God" (Ezek 36:25-28, NIV). If you read the entire chapter, you'll notice that Israel is the doer of evil deeds, never getting it right, but never mind, the One who will restore them to right standing with God, and enable them to keep the law is God Himself!

That God will help us keep his laws by living in our hearts through the Holy Spirit is as far from most church teaching as the Mars Rovers Spirit and Independence are from Main St., USA. It seemingly never occurs to pastors, priests, ministers, teachers, elders, deacons, and everyone else charged with tending the flock to tell them the incredibly good news that God is the One who will protect and preserve His Holy name among the nations. For sure, as Israel found to her sorrow, we cannot do it, no matter if we try for millenniums, as we surely have.

Paul used the familiar story of Jacob and Esau to illustrate the point that God chooses whom He will, "It came before the children were born or had done anything good or bad, plainly showing that God's act of choice has nothing to do with achievements, but is entirely a matter of his will. She was told: The elder shall serve the younger" (Rom. 9:11,12, Phillips). "Not by works but by him who calls" (RSV). What glorious words they are. God called the Jews to be His chosen people, but then set them aside for a season that the Gentiles might come in. When asked if that makes God unfair and unjust, Paul said that the potter has the right to make the clay into vessels of honor or vessels of dishonor (Rom 9:20-26). Now, if Paul had said that the Jews were to be cast out in favor of the Gentiles for all eternity, we would all have cause to tremble and fear, but no, He maintains that "ALL ISRAEL WILL BE SAVED" (9:36). What this means is that all the vessels of dishonor we know and love, will be saved along with those cracked pots in ancient Israel.

Reading on in Romans, we get to Chapter eleven, the high-water mark of Paul's delineation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of God's promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is fulfilled in Christ. We are heirs to that promise, and Paul shows how Ezekiel 36 will be fulfilled: "For God encloses, shuts up and locks all men (everyone; the all [pl.]) into uncompliance (disobedience; stubbornness), to the end that He may mercy all men (may make everyone, the all, recipients of mercy)!" (Rom. 11:32, Jonathan Mitchell) (See link to his work at end). The idea of being shut up in disobedience by God is a foreign idea to most Christians, who cling to the teaching that their right standing with God in Christ is due to their good works and refraining from sin on their part. Paul echoes Ezekiel here in saying that GOD is the One who will sprinkle us with water, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, giving us a new heart and a new Spirit by which we can walk in His ways, speak His words, and deliver His Good News to the Creation. How glorious that "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (Rom. 9:16, NIV).

Political pundits and church prophets have not figured out yet, that ALL depends on God. In the day when the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, we will ALL KNOW HIM FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST (Heb. 8:11). In man's political elections or church related elections, only one person can win. In God's election Christ is the winner, making all of us winners as well because we are ALL in Christ, and through Him, we are ALL in our Father as well. The short road to glory is knowing that there is "one God and Father of ALL, who is the one over ALL, the one working through ALL and the one living in ALL" (Eph. 4:6, Phillips).

Father, open our eyes that we may see You in all Your glory, high and lifted up, filling Your temple which we are. We await the day when the world may know the glory and majesty and honor and blessing of Your holy name, displayed in us, sons of the living God, now and forever. Amen. Jan Antonsson

Jan and Lenny Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)

Jonathan Mitchell's Translations (a work in progress)

The Glory Road

We always enjoy hearing from you!

jantonsson@aol.com

This page was uploaded to the web on 1/28/04

by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,

and last edited on 10/16/08.