The Grand Plan of Election in the Old Testament

So from previous posts we saw that God had this grand plan to give birth to a people that He could call His own. He chose the bloodlines through several generations to make it happen the way that He wanted.

But what happened after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? How did God continue to choose? Did He make specific choices? How did you become a “chosen” person?

God had made a number of covenants (or promises) to Israel through Abraham and Moses that applied to the nation of Israel. Anyone born as an Israelite would automatically fall under those covenant promises (or consequences for national disobedience). Through the establishment of the Old Testament Law of Moses, outsiders could also come under these covenant promises by subjecting themselves to these Laws.

After Jacob, we no longer see God making specific choices of individuals to form this nation. A plan had been out into place and God chose to work through natural events to organically develop the nation.

Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, the focus of attention is around the chosen nation of Israel. At different points in their history God chooses individuals to fulfill specific roles, both good and bad, in regards to the national posture of Israel. God chose king David and specific prophets to lead and speak to the people at critical junctions in their history. God also chose Pharaoh through whom the plagues would come and chose the Babylonians that exerted punishment on Israel for their disobedience.

But all of these individual choices that God made were not about their eternal fate but the role they played in relation to Israel.

Also of critical importance is to note that God had foreseen this nation, loved this nation, and planned for it before it ever existed. The Apostle Paul mentions that Israel was foreknown by God as a people God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. (Romans 11:2 NIV)

Moses recounts the story of Abraham , Isaac, and Jacob:Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, (Deuteronomy 4:37 NIV)

The Old Testament is replete with examples of God’s love, affection, and care for the nation of Israel. Even staunch proponents of individual election to salvation in the New Testsment do not deny that in the Old Testament, God’s primary program of election was corporate and the selection of individuals were to serve a purpose in relation to His corporate people.

Choosing the bloodlines Part 2

Previously we discovered that God, in bringing about the nation of Israel made specific choices as to whom the bloodlines should flow through to create this country.

This next entry is critical to as a foundation to understanding God’s program of election in the New Testament.

We have already covered Abraham but some unique circumstances arise when it comes to choosing Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob.

God promised Abraham and his wife Sarah an heir to fulfill His promise but nothing was happening. So when they essentially give up, Sarah takes a cue from the surrounding culture and tells Abraham to have a son through their maid. Well, a son does come but God appears to them again and tells them that this is not the one through whom God promise would be fulfilled. Eventually, Sarah gets pregnant and gives birth to Isaac even though she is long past child bearing age.

When Isaac is later married, his wife Rebekah gets pregnant with twinsthat seemed to be wrestling in her womb. The Lord appears to Rebecca and tells her:
The Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23 NIV)

Already, before either of these boys had done anything, God had already decide that they both will grow into nations and the younger of the two will be the one that He has chosen for the unique bloodline to form the nation of Israel.

The younger son turns out to be Jacob who had twelve sons. God changes Jacob’s name to Israel and each one of Jacob’s sons becomes a tribe in Israel.

So God made specific, individual choices as to who would be involved to birth a nation but these choices were not about their eternal fate but the role that they would play.

Choosing the bloodlines Part 1

In an earlier blog I suggested the assumption that election to salvation is individual is not rooted in Old Tesament theology and is also the reason why Scripture seems to take contradicting positions.

So what was God’s program of election in the Old Testament?

God’s chosen people in the Old Testament were the Israelites. We know that God first chose Abraham, then his son Issac, and then Isaac’s son Jacob as the blood line through which Israel would be formed.

We also know that they were chosen irrespective of their faith. For example, God first act of election was when He first revealed His promise to Abraham (then known as Abram) was in Genesis 12:
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2 NIV)

Yet it wasn’t until years later when God spoke to Abraham about having a child that he believed God and God credited him with righteousness:
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6 NIV)

The Apostle Paul also mentions this moment as the moment that Abraham came to faith.

So God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as those would would form a unique bloodline to create the nation of Israel. And He chose them irrespective of their faith.

Resolving contradictions

Calvanism’s view on election is that God has chosen certain individuals for salvation, for reasons only known to Him, before the world began. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love (Ephesians 1:4 NIV)

Arminiasm claims that God chose individuals based on who He knows would become saved.
To God’s elect…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father… (1 Peter 1:1, 2 NIV)

These verses seem to support both views because both Calvanism and Aminiasm approach election using the same assumption – that It is primarily individual. And that stance causes the apparent contradiction.

But what if that assumption is not correct? What if God established a pattern of election in the Old Testament and that was the position that the New Testament writers started with?

Would that change the nature of the debate? Absolutely!

Would it resolve these apparent contradictions? Yes.

Do I have proof? Keep reading.

A different view on election

Starting any conversation on this subject of who and how God chooses people for salvation can be fraught with peril as it has been fought over, debated, and separated Christians through the ages. Unfortunately, most people think that they have only two camps to choose from and that’s where the topic starts and ends.

But what if there was another option? What if there was an option that didn’t try to compromise between the two camps? What if there was an alternative Biblical view that has a striking parallel between the Old and New Testaments?

And what if this position eliminated some of the unintended paradoxes and uneasy tension that as a Calvanist you struggle with God being the author of sin or as an Arminian you never quite have the assurance of faith.

If you’re brave and willing to take a walk with me you might discover a very liberating yet solidly Biblical approach to election.