“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
1 Thessalonians 1:4 is a brief passage that undoubtedly served to reassure the original recipients of this letter. Nevertheless, this verse also presents us with a doctrine that has arguably led to more discussion and debate than any other throughout the centuries: the doctrine of election.
The issue arises from the apparent conflict that exists between God’s sovereignty in choosing (or electing) individual human beings for salvation and human responsibility in accepting or rejecting His offer of salvation. We can turn to the following sources for some helpful insight into this topic beginning with a definition of the term “election”…
“The doctrine of election teaches that God chose certain people in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph_1:4). It does not teach that He chose some to be damned. If men are finally lost, it is because of their own sin and unbelief. The same Bible that teaches election also teaches human responsibility or man’s free choice. God makes a bona fide offer of salvation to all people everywhere. Whoever comes to Christ will find a warm welcome.
These two doctrines, election and freedom of choice, create an irreconcilable conflict in the human mind. But the Bible teaches both and so we should believe both even if we can’t harmonize them.” (1)
Another commentary provides us with Biblical references that support the doctrines of divine election and human responsibility while acknowledging the difficulty in reconciling them…
“The proof of God’s love for the Thessalonians was His choice of them unto salvation. From the word translated chosen (ekloge) comes the English ‘election.’ That God has chosen to bless some individuals with eternal life is clearly taught in many places in both the Old and New Testaments (e.g., Deu_4:37; Deu_7:6-7; Isa_44:1-2; Rom_9:1-33; Eph_1:4-6, Eph_1:11; Col_3:12; 2Th_2:13).
Equally clear is the fact that God holds each individual personally responsible for his decision to trust or not to trust in Jesus Christ (cf. Joh_3:1-36; Rom_5:1-21). The difficulty in putting divine election and human responsibility together is understanding how both can be true. That both are true is taught in the Bible. How both can be true is apparently incomprehensible to finite human minds; no one has ever been able to explain this antinomy satisfactorily.” (2)
We’ll continue our look at this important subject with a focus upon the tension that exists between divine sovereignty and human responsibility next.
Portions of this message originally appeared here
(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (p.2024) Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers
(2) Bible Knowledge Commentary, note on 1 Thessalonians 1:4 pg. 691