Dr. Russell D. Moore is the Senior Vice President for Academic Administration as well as the Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Preaching from Romans 8:26 through 9:6, Dr. Moore taught us on the doctrine of election.
Several years ago, I read a testimony of a Presbyterian woman who was drawn to a Baptist church. She was not sure if it was the kind of church that would believe what she was taught. She asked what they believed about the doctrine of election. After many non-answers, she was told that they believed that they could not vote until they joined the church.
Election is something we do not think about or talk about in our churches. I am told there is a great deal of controversy over this doctrine. I don’t believe it because on the one hand many of our churches testify to this doctrine. We may not agree on what this looks like and how it fits with other doctrines, but we sing the truths of this doctrine almost every Sunday. However, I think the doctrine of election is not nearly controversial enough for us.
Paul deals with the doctrine of election and predestination in a pastoral sense. He does not deal with it in a systematic fashion. He deals with those people who already believe in it. He challenges them not because they believe it, but because they act as if they do not believe it. They act as though they deserve it.
Yes, it is an election to glory, but it is an election to glory in Christ. They are elected so that they may be conformed to the image of Christ. When you look at the history of Israel, you see the ultimate purpose-Christ. The exact same thing is happening in the life of the New Testament church. You are called, justified, and glorified so that all things do work for your good so that you may be conformed to Christ. It is all pointing to Christ.
For Paul, this initiation of election is personal. “Those whom God foreknew” is not like paparazzi that watch from a distance and know what is going on in a celeb’s life. It is a personal knowledge. Christ is working toward something here intentionally. That is, the electing purpose of God.
Paul shows that you can know if you are elect by how Christ is conforming you to Himself. Paul lays out these conformities in this letter.
Conformity in Prayer
If the spirit is within you, then you will be provoked to prayer. He is interceding for us with groanings to deep for words. We do not know what God is doing in our lives, but we cry out knowing that He is working for our good. This kind of prayer has everything to do with your election.
If you are in Christ, then it is through the spirit of Christ that you are able to cry out Abba, Father. We understand that “Abba” is the first word a baby says. But, this is not the idea of what Paul is trying to give us. It is a crying out. It is personal. It is affectionate. It is the face of a son having his face ripped off by a pitbull. DADDY!!
You know this is not the way it is supposed to be. That is the why the Spirit moves you toward this kind of prayer. You are not able to do it, but the Spirit can.
The most horrifying aspect of walking into a Russian orphanage everyday is recognizing that I am standing in a room that is attached to other rooms full of babies…and it is silent. Their cries were never answered so they quit crying. We walked in and out in silence…everyday. I can remember “that little man over there” screaming out and falling on his face.
If you say that you believe in the doctrine of election and your life is prayerless, then you do not know what the doctrine of election is. Because we belong to Christ, we are crying out, “What is your will, your purpose? What are you doing?” This happens to us because God is conforming us to the image of Christ.
Even though Christ knew that He was to die, He still cried out to His Father all night long in the Garden. He even cried out to God on the cross.
Conformity in Peace
The end result of our conformity is that if God is for us, what can separate us from our conformity to Christ? God chooses you because He has a good pleasure and a good purpose. He is doing something for Jesus and will work it out all the way to glory. Who can stand against God? We know that God will glorify us! Why are we so fretful and anxious? We are more than conquerors because God loves us.
One of the reasons the doctrine of election is so difficult to believe because it casts doubt on whether or not you belong to God. It is not a sense of uncertainty. It gives assurance. If you are longing for Christ, that is God. There is no uncertainty. It is not if you have enough “sincerity in your heart” when you pray the “sinner’s prayer.” We need to recognize that God wants you here. He is bringing you here. It is part of His plan.
My question is, why do so many people who believe in this doctrine spend so much of their lives living in anxiety? Some of us in this room can pontificate on this doctrine, but you are in tumult over what is going to happen next and how “x” will be provided for you.
If God is beginning something in your life, He will complete it. If you are living a life of anxiety, then you are completely missing what Paul is saying.
Conformity in Mission
Paul is in sorrow and anguish in his heart for the sake of his brothers. He would rather be cut off from Christ for their well-being. What Paul wished he could do for his brothers, Jesus actually did. When you see in your own life what God has rescued you from, then you see what is at stake. If it weren’t for the mercy of God, Paul says, Israel would be like Sodom and Gomorrah.
One of the saddest things I have ever heard in my life is a preacher not given an invitation because, “God is not a beggar.” That is not true. God is sovereign, majestic and a king, but He is pleading that all may come to faith.
Paul is telling us that if you understand this doctrine, then there is not a kind of person who are likely to believe the gospel. However, in Romans 8 and 9, we see that the power of God comes through the gospel. Romans 9 is not about God keeping people out of the kingdom. Romans 9 is a missionary text! God’s power goes forward in the gospel. He will build for Christ a people.
There are some people in this room who have quit sharing the gospel with family members because you think you have said everything already. You do not share the gospel with the pierced and tattooed person because you are scared. If you are not more evangelistic now than before you came to understand the doctrine of election, then you have not understood the doctrine of election.
God created all things for Jesus. God created all nations for Jesus. It is all for Christ. That is the doctrine of election. There are always going to be some people who do not like this doctrine. What are they charging you with? Let them charge you with what they criticized Christ for. He was criticized for praying, for His peace, and for His mission. He ate and prayed with the sinful. Let it be that in your ministry, you can be charged with the same. I hope this is Ground Zero, as I am told, for the doctrine of election.