Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Yes, Virginia, God Keeps His Church Without Consulting Our Free Will

Almost any professing Christian knows the story of the Prophet Elijah, especially of his altar battle with the priests of Baal (I Kings 18:20-40). However, I have noticed something about the use of his story: while plenty of attention is given to that element, others are overlooked. Conveniently? I suspect so.

One in particular is I Kings 19:18 (see also Romans 11:4), just after the exciting part. Elijah complains to god that there is no one faithful in all of Israel, except himself (verse 10): "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." This is a place many Christians have been, when it seems that the whole world has only abuse to heap upon us. However, God says otherwise: "I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."

Elijah cannot see all of his fellow countrymen. In particular, he cannot see their hearts. He bewails what appears to him to be the complete failure of God among His covenant people. "Couldn't you hold on to anyone other than me?" he cries.God quickly rebukes him. "Not only have I kept you, Elijah," He says, "but I have kept seven thousand others, too, to be faithful to Me."

Notice what He doesn't say. God doesn't express hope that there are others. He knows so. Nor does He leave it as some vague assertion, as if there were some, somewhere. No, He knows that there are seven thousand, and that is in Israel, the rebellious northern kingdom. And, most startlingly of all, He doesn't refer to anyone who has remained faithful because of some inherent superiority, but because He has retained them!

These words of God Himself say nothing of free will, but rather of His own actions to produce a definite event, the retention of a faithful church in a rebellious and paganistic culture. This is unconditional election and perseverance of the saints, not any antinomian concept of "once saved, always saved." We don't hear this verse preached because it so thoroughly casts down human pride and sufficiency and lifts up God's sovereign grace. And it is such a shame that the people of God are denied the assurance of faith that this kind of God engenders.

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