Signs of Divine Election
“We know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”- 1 Thessalonians 1:4–5
“Am I one of God’s elect, one of those chosen by the Lord to inherit eternal life?” Many of us have asked that question at one time or another. Some of us have even agonized for months or years to answer the question. Some of us may even be asking this question as we read this daily study.
Without denying the real struggle that many people experience with this question, discovering the answer is not as hard as one might think. We know that we are among God’s elect if we believe the gospel and see that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives.
Consider today’s passage, which continues Paul’s expression of thanks to God for the Thessalonian Christians. The Apostle says that he knows God has chosen them “because [his] gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:4–5). First, Paul identifies the Thessalonians as elect because they showed conviction by believing the gospel. They placed their faith in Christ when the good news was preached to them. Paul’s observation regarding belief and election confirms Jesus’ own words, when He said that all whom the Father has given to Him will certainly come to Him and will never be cast out (John 6:37). Our faith is the instrument or means by which we cling to Christ for salvation, but it also reveals our eternal election.
Paul says he knows the Thessalonians have been chosen by God also because the gospel came to them “in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:5). It is possible that Paul is speaking of miracles that accompanied his preaching, but the account of the Thessalonians’ conversion in Acts 17:1–9 does not talk about any supernatural signs or wonders when Paul preached in Thessalonica. More likely, then, the work of power and the Holy Spirit of which Paul speaks is the power of the Spirit to release men and women from bondage to sin and generate in them a new pattern of living in obedience to Jesus. Certainly, this is how Paul expects the Spirit to work in the lives of believers—not primarily in extraordinary signs but in the putting to death of sin and the creation and cultivation of spiritual fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22–24). If we believe in the biblical Christ and have a measure of fruit, no matter how meager it may seem, then we can be sure we are among God’s elect.
John Calvin comments, “The election of God, which is in itself hid, is manifested by its marks—when he gathers to himself the lost sheep and joins them to his flock, and holds out his hand to those that were wandering and estranged from him.” All those who believe the gospel and show evidence of spiritual life can be assured that they have been chosen for salvation and will inherit eternal life.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 2:1–5