“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began…” (Titus 1:1–2 (ESV)
Titus 1:1-2 is rich in theology. It is Scripture. This is especially ironic in that it is Paul’s greeting or introduction. The apostle did not waste any words; neither did the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). It should not be skipped over but carefully examined.
One of the biblical truths that generates the most controversy is the doctrine of election. Discussion between believers regarding this topic often becomes contentious. This prompts some to advocate ignoring the subject completely. This will not do because the word elect is found in today’s text. It is a biblical word representing a biblical doctrine or teaching.
Since the doctrine of election is so controversial, it must be handled skillfully, gently and graciously. Some try, few succeed. I’m continuing to make an effort to succeed in explaining the doctrine of election.
The word translated “elect” is generally found in the plural form and refers to the members of God’s people as a whole (Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1–2; 2 Peter 1:10; Rev. 17:14). Romans 16:13 and 2 John 1:13 have the singular form referring to a local church. The use of the plural may partly be explained by the fact that most of the New Testament letters are addressed to groups of people rather than to individuals.
“The word “election” emphasizes that membership of God’s people is due to God’s initiative, prior to all human response, made before time began (Eph. 1:4; cf. John 15:16, 19). It is God who has called men and women to be his people, and those who respond are elect. God’s call does not depend on any virtues or merits of humankind. Indeed, he chooses the foolish things by worldly standards to shame the wise, the weak to confound the strong, and the lowly and insignificant to bring to nothing those who think that they are something (1 Cor. 1:27–28). The effect of election is to leave no grounds whatever for human boasting in achievement and position. Whatever the elect are, they owe it entirely to God, and they cannot boast or compare themselves with other people,” explains the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.
Historically, Augustine and John Calvin emphasized the doctrine of election. To both it was critically important. They taught, from Scripture, that God chose to save a number of individuals from sin and judgment and give them eternal life (Acts 13:48; Rom. 9-11; Eph. 1:3-6). These are they who did nothing to deserve it; their merits are no better than the rest of humankind who will be judged for their sins. Even their faith is a gracious gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29; 2 Peter 1:1).
In his mercy God decided to save some. Therefore, he chose them and sent Jesus to be their Savior. The Holy Spirit regenerates and brings to faith through an “effectual calling” those God elected (John 3:1-8; 6:35-65). Regeneration precedes faith. The Holy Spirit changes the disposition and nature of the fallen sinner from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:22-32). He effectively persuades each one to willingly submit to the gospel, so they receive justification by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
This choice by God to save some, and not all, may appear unjust or unfair. But God is not obliged to show mercy to anybody; he is free to show mercy as he pleases. With regard to election being unfair, sinners do not want fair. Fairness is the sinner receiving the judgment they deserve, which Jesus Christ received on the cross in their place (2 Cor. 5:21).
People cannot protest that because they were not the elect, they never had a chance of being saved. They never deserved that chance anyway. Anyone who hears the gospel and responds to it with God-given faith can know that they are one of the elect. Whoever rejects the gospel has only his own sinfulness to blame.
Take time today to thank God for saving your soul by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!