OUR GREAT SALVATION (1) – THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION/ THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
During this Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled “Our Great Salvation” (The doctrine of election/ The parable of the Sower). Her main text was taken from the Book of Luke 8:1-15.
Election is a choice. It is the work of the will. The word ‘election’ is mostly used in politics. It is the process by which people vote for a particular person to hold an official position. Biblically, the doctrine of election says that God, in His sovereign will, from eternity, choses some people for Himself. He manifests His Grace to save them. Election is not a secret, but the decree revealed in Christ alone. He does not choose all people in this way. The rest are left as they are. They will continue in their sinful rebellion against God unto their destruction. Simply put, the doctrine of election says that God chooses/determines/elects/predestines those who will be saved. This is the truth: we are all born sinners and enemies to God. We all ‘merit’ to die and go to hell. From the foundation of the world, God, who created all people, decided in His sovereign will, to save some people from sin and death. He chose to bring them to Christ, to be saved by faith in His sacrifice for them. It is God who works in them the desire to have faith and to be saved. Without this sovereign election, no man will come to Christ to be saved. There are many people who hate this doctrine. They object to the fact that God choses some people to be saved and He leaves the rest to go unto destruction. But we cannot judge God! Be careful that you do not use your little mind to judge the great God!
THE ELECT ARE DRAWN TO CHRIST AND TO HIS WORD
Our Lord spoke about the elect. “For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be. And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days. “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand” (Mk 13:19-23). This election is totally by God’s Grace. There is nothing special in the elect that attracts God towards them. It is God’s sovereign choice. That is why their salvation never fails. Jesus said that even during the times of tribulation, when evil seem to prevail, when the true believers are persecuted unto death, even then, the elect shall remain faithful to God to the end. The religious demonic deception will deceive all people. But the elect cannot be totally deceived. Their eyes cannot be totally blind. The elect may be deceived for a while, but not to the end. They alone will have the strength to stand and stay faithful to the end. Truth always prevails in their lives!
God the Father knows the elect even before they become saved on earth. Thru the Holy Spirit, God ‘draws’ these people towards Jesus. God creates in them new desires: to hate the devil, the world and sin; they now love the Word, prayer, worshipping God, and attending a local church. This spiritual ‘drawing’ ends in their salvation. This is what our Lord said: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore, everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (Jn 6:44, 45). The elect sense this internal drawing towards the Lord, towards the Bible.
THE ELECTION IS DONE BY GOD, BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, AND FOR HIS PURPOSE
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph 1:3-6). God choses the elect ‘according to the good pleasure of His will’. He predestined them according to His purpose. This choice is done ‘before the foundation of the world’. These people are ‘blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’. They are saved by grace and thru faith in Christ. They become adopted by God as His children. This election will manifest the glorious grace of God, and all creation will praise it! Apostle Paul suffered much persecution because he preached the Gospel of Christ crucified. But he was not discouraged by these sufferings. “I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2Tim 2:10).
“When Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Rom 9:10-13). God gave the Apostle Paul a special revelation concerning the elect. God chooses the people He wants to save. This choice is not based on their family godliness or their own good works. For example, God chose Isaac and not Ishmael. God chose Jacob and not Esau. God’s choice is done before the foundation of the world. In the case of Esau and Jacob, they were twins. They had the same parents. But God loved Jacob and hated (loved less) Esau. God’s choice was done before the boys were born. This is the mystery of God. We need to accept it by faith!
THE MEANS GOD USES TO SAVE THE ELECT
What is the means God uses to save the elect? It is The Word! It is the hearing of the Gospel, the preaching of God’s Word. The Word affects them powerfully. They develop a personal, intimate relationship with the Bible. To others, to listen to the preaching of God’s Word is seen as a duty, or it is entertainment. But to the elect is like eating spiritual food. They mature as they listen to God’s Word. We do not know who among the people are the elect and who are not. This is Paul’s command to young Timothy: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:1-5). We must preach the Word to all men, everywhere. A preacher shall be judged not by men, but by God! What do we preach? The Word! Not stories or fables. We preach the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected. These last days are dangerous times. Many will abandon the faith and the sound doctrine. They will ‘heap up’ for themselves false teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. But God commands all believers to preach His Word. Not men’s opinions! We are commanded to ‘fulfill our ministries!’ The general call to repentance goes to all men. Some will ignore it. But others, will respond to this call. God works faith in their hearts. They will come and surrender to Christ.
The Bible does not tell us to be worried about who is among the elect and who is not! Just throw ‘the net’ of the Gospel! The good fish will remain. The bad fish will leave. This is the experience of true Christianity over the ages. Of course, this doctrine is not something we preach at an evangelistic crusade. Men will be offended and over-react. We preach the Gospel. We allow the Holy Spirit to separate the elect from the others. This doctrine is not meant to bring division. It is to encourage the believers, to help them appreciate God’s grace in their lives.
BE DILIGENT TO MAKE YOUR CALL AND ELECTION SURE
“Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ… But also, for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:1-11)
Apostle Peter commands the believers to ‘make their call and election sure’. This does not mean that they can save themselves, by their own efforts. What then does it mean? See how the Apostle Peter says about our saving faith. We have ‘obtained like precious faith’. God started the work of our believing. We did not produce faith by our efforts. Our faith was ‘obtained’ (or received) from God the Father and God the Son. We were dead in sin. A dead man cannot make himself alive. It is God that gives life to the dead. Election and calling are God’s sovereign works. This doctrine is a mystery. Man could not have invented it. Man cannot understand it totally. But this is faith: to believe what I cannot understand just because I find it in God’s Word!!! Faith has peace. Faith depends on God’s Word. Anything that it is not revealed in God’s Word, faith is content to rest in peaceful ‘ignorance’. Fake faith is always restless, has ‘itching ears’, and looks for new ‘revelations’ outside the Bible.
We are to be ‘diligent’ in our Christian life. In Greek, the word means to put effort (body and soul), to be fast, to have enthusiasm, and to be zealous. The opposite is to be passive, dull, and idle. It also means to work persistently until to achieve your purpose. What is our purpose? To Glorify God and to become like Jesus!
These are deep truths! I accept them by faith! I declare that I am a child of God! My mind is too small to understand all God’s mysteries. I am satisfied with what the Holy Spirit reveals to me from God’s Word. Apostle Peter commands the believers to practice the Christian life, to become fruitful. In this way, they will become spiritually mature and gain the assurance of salvation. May God help us all!
REPENTANCE – A GENUINE SIGN OF THE ELECT
What are the signs that you are among the elect? The major sign is genuine repentance from sin with fruits to prove the new life! It is God’s work to grant repentance from sin, and with fruits to prove that it is genuine. A true repentance is ‘unto life’. “When they heard these things, they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Ac 11:18). Are you sure that you have received forgiveness of sins? Any man who has come to Jesus, in humility and in faith, has received forgiveness for sins, peace with God and eternal life. The unbelievers are spiritually dead and blind. They cannot ‘see’ the beauty of Christ. The devil keeps them in bondage thru spiritual blindness. “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Cor 4:3,4). A man who says that he wants to repent, and he wants to be saved, but he cannot, that case is totally foreign to the Bible. This is God’s Word: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Ac 2:21). Thru the study of God’s Word, prayer, church attendance and doing good deeds in the name of Jesus, your faith will become mature and fruitful. This will lead to the assurance of salvation. In your heart you will know that you are among the elect, a child of God indeed! This leads to a deeper worship of God! Lastly, a word of encouragement to you: If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, trusting Him alone for salvation, believing that His sacrifice is the full payment for your sins, congratulations! You are one of the elect! God bless you!
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER, THE SEED AND THE SOILS (Luke 8:1-15)
We shall study the Parable of the Sower, soils, and seeds. Here we see that most people do not get saved, even when the hear the Word of God. This revelation can bring sadness and disappointment to us, especially to the pastors and preachers. Truth is painful. At least initially. But we also see, that against all odds, some people receive the grace to believe and retain the Word of God. They become saved. These are the elect, the chosen people of God.
The Lord was going from place to place preaching the Gospel, teaching the Word of God, and healing people who had spiritual or physical illnesses. He had a group of men and women who followed Him faithfully. The twelve disciples were with Him always. He mentored them in a particular way. There were some women disciples who followed Him faithfully. Jesus saved their souls and delivered them from their bondages. These women “provided for Him from their substance” (Lk 8:3). Some were married and some were single. Jesus and His disciples had almost no money with them. They ate what they could find along the way. These women may have been wealthy and carried money with them, to support the ministry of Jesus. This ministry of helps was blessed by the Lord. As you read the Bible, you discover that no woman spoke against the Lord. No woman was ever hostile to Jesus the way the Pharisees were. The women faithfully served Jesus to the end of His life on earth. They worshipped Him with humility and passion. Except for John, all the male disciples ran away when Jesus was arrested. But Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the other women stayed with Him, at the foot of the Cross, until He died. They followed His body to the place where He was buried. They prepared spices to anoint His Body. At that time, the women were greatly discriminated by the men. They were treated more like property, not like persons. But Jesus treated them with respect and kindness. He saved their souls and healed their diseases. His attitude towards the women was revolutionary. These women followed Jesus and use their money ‘to support’ Him. What a privilege! This is a good lesson for all, but for the Christian women in particular: worship God with prayer, with praise, with preaching, and with your purse. Paying the bills to a Christian in need is a form of worship that King Grace notices and always blesses.
The Parable of the Sower is called by some as The Mother of all parables. A parable is defined as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The parable is the same as God’s secret or God’s mystery. The Holy Spirit is the only One who can interpret parables to men. Therefore, the parable is a point of spiritual intimacy between the believers and God. The unbelievers do not understand the secret code of the parables. But to the believers, it is an ‘open secret’ for them. Therefore, only the children of God benefit from the study of the parable. In the parable of the Sower our Lord tells His disciples the reason why He uses parables when teaching people. He says that His purpose is not to over-simplify His teaching. Like a Shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, so He uses parables to spiritually separate the people who listen to Him. He quotes the Prophet Isaiah (Is 6:9, 10). God sent Isaiah to preach His Word. But the people were rebellious and refused to believe it. Then God placed a judgment upon the rebellious people. This judgment manifest itself as a hard heart and stubborn will. They will hear the Word, but because of their hardened hearts, they will not be able to understand and believe God’s word. The Word does not produce saving faith in them. They cannot repent of sins. They cannot be saved. They cannot be healed. In the parable of the Sower, we see men’s different responses to the Word of God. When we read a parable in the Bible, we need two things: interpretation and application. Both these functions are done only by God the Holy Spirit and only to a believer in Christ. The unbelievers cannot understand, interpret, or apply the wisdom hidden in the parables.
In the Parable of the Sower, we see that God is the Sower. He uses His servants to preach His Word. The seed is God’s Word that is preached to all people. Our Lord said that this parable describes the Kingdom of God, the spiritual community where Jesus is recognized as the Lord, which is the visible church. There are four types of responses to the arrival of the seed; there are four types of soils. The soils represent men’s hearts. Three of these soils are not good. In them, the seed remains unfruitful. Only one type of soil is good and fruitful. Let us study them one by one…
*The first kind of heart is hard. It is like a path in the field. Men walk on it. Some seeds fall on this path. These people are hardened and bitter by disappointing experiences of life. Their minds are closed to the truth. They have a grudge against God and His servants. They hear the word, but they forget it quickly. The demons steal the word from their hearts. They feel sleepy during the preaching of God’s word. They feel tired to attend weekly activities. They grumble against pastors and other Christians. They have trouble trying to remember the sermon preached. The problem is that they forget there is a devil, who the enemy of their souls! They need to humble themselves, repent, and do spiritual warfare!
*The second kind of heart is superficial. The word is planted on a rocky ground that has some soft soil on top. The seed enters quickly and germinates. But because the little plant has no root, it cannot survive the heat of the day. This man hears God’s Word and loves it at the beginning. These are emotional hearers. But without a root, it cannot survive. They lack depth of character and faith. They look ‘soft’ on the outside, but their hearts are hard bellow this ‘niceness’. When the trials of life come, this temporary believer, abandons the faith.
*The third kind of heart is busy. The weeds and the thorns grow faster than the seed planted and choke it. These are people easily distracted and always worried. Their mind is not focused. These thorns are the cares, the riches, and the pleasure of life. The farmer should uproot these weeds. If you allow the anxiety of daily living to dwell in your heart, it will eventually kill the Word of God in your heart. A comfortable happy life is not bad. But be careful with the lawful pleasures of life, like marriage, or taking care of the children. Exercise self-control. These can destroy your desire to sacrificially serve God and to mature spiritually.
*The fourth kind is a good, spiritual, noble, patient, and fruitful heart! This is the only heart that gets saved by the Word. This man hears the Word, understands it, retains it and thru perseverance, produces fruits. This man is different than all the others. By faith, this man holds unto the Word of God. He loves truth! He patiently applies it in all situations of life. He expects God’s Word to work in His life and circumstances. He sees results. Grace strengthens him. Faith helps him. Eventually, he manifests fruits of the Holy Spirit in his life. His testimony and ministry influence others. He becomes a teacher and a mentor to other Christians. This is an elect child of God! The Word proves him true!
When the Lord spoke about 30/60/100 fold, that was shocking to his disciples. In Israel, if the multiplication of seed planted is seven-fold, they call that a great harvest. Nobody heard of hundred-fold harvest. This tells us that as we preach God’s Word, the loss of the seed is much, but the gain is always much more than the losses.
What is the conclusion of this parable? The first three types of hearts represent temporary ‘believers’. These are people who say that they are born again and attend a local church. They are religious ‘unbelievers’. They are not saved. The true believer is represented by the good soil. He is the only one who is saved. Examine your faith! It must grow and become fruitful!
We are to spread the seed to all. “Preach the Word!” (2Tim 4:2). We do not know what type of heart each man has. The Word is given to all. Only God knows that hearts of men. We should not be discouraged when there is no fruit in the ministry. The work of a farmer is not easy. There are many factors that make it difficult. It is ‘up and down’. In this parable, the Sower loses three quarters of the seeds he has planted. But as you can see, not all is lost! Be like God, like Christ, who is never weary to work alone planting the seeds. The Holy Spirit is also the Sower. All Christians should be Sowers. A little child can be as effective as an old Christian because the seed is carried by the Holy Spirit wind. The work of the Sower is to scatter the seed. The Sower cannot make the seed grow. That is God’s Work! Christ is the Seed! Some will accept Him, and some will not! When the good soil receives the seed and produces a harvest, the gain is more than the losses. God is the Sower! He provides the Word, His Seed! We should scatter the seed to all! Let God judge the hearts! We should preach the Word and not fables. We should preach the Word when it is convenient and when it is not. We should preach the Word when men listen and when they do not. Preach the Word with anointing, faith, power, and joy! The harvest is sure! To the glory of God!
Only God changes man’s heart. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (PV 21:1). The problem is not with the Sower, and the problem is not with the Seed. Stop complaining against the Pastor and against the Bible. The problem is always with your heart! Pray that God will change your heart! In His mercy and Grace, He will answer your prayer! Hallelujah! Finally, knowing the doctrine of election should humble us seeing that we did not merit salvation or any good gift from God. We should spend our lives worshipping God and preaching His Word! Worship the Lord!