How To Test Your Gospel Part 1: The Doctrine of Election
It does not take an avid Church historian to observe that every generation of believers since the birth of the Church has contended with false gospels. Today, we contend with many variations of the gospel that are not gospel at all. It seems as though everyone has their own version of God, the Bible, and inevitably, the gospel. Because of this, the question of whether or not we have the right gospel should take pre-eminence in our minds.
Perhaps you wish to escape this question for the sake of ease and pay no mind to your gospel. Perhaps you wish not to be confronted, debated, slandered, or insulted in like manner as others. So, your gospel becomes the one which most people accept. However, you still concern yourself with having the right gospel.
Although there are many nuanced routes those of the Christian community walk concerning the gospel, two categories emerge as common pathways to an accepted gospel. The first, mentioned above, is based upon popular opinion, most likely within the Church. The second is based upon Scriptural authority. With the first category, ideas from outside the Church are likely to weave their way into the Christian gospel sooner or later. Various gospels are a result. The second is less likely to accommodate the outside world's ideas, yet they are not immune to it.
The Bible makes the claim that there can be no other gospel than what was handed down by the apostles (Gal. 1:6-9). This is birthed out of the exclusive claims Christ made of Himself (John 14:6). Such claims inevitably mean there is a certain standard to which our gospel must meet if we wish to honestly make the claim that ours is the true gospel among the countless gospels in the world today.
Is there some sort of test we can conduct to see if our gospel is the biblical gospel? I think so. In fact, I think there are four primary tests for the biblical fidelity of our gospel. In this article, I will only cover one of them; I will expound on the others in following articles.
The first test of our gospel, and probably the most conclusive test, is our idea of the doctrine of election. I understand I am at a disadvantage from the start since many disregard every instance in Scripture where this doctrine is found (see Deut. 7:6-8; Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 9:6-29). However, regardless of whether or not you believe the Scriptures to be true at this point, the idea of election still tests your gospel.
To quickly clarify two things, first, the test is not if the doctrine of election is part of your gospel, but rather it is a test in the sense that a ruler tests the length or the width of an object regardless of its size. The doctrine of election tests your gospel regardless of your acceptance or denial of it.
Second, the doctrine of election is not usually included in the gospel message, and it is unnecessary to believe it in order to be saved from sin. Many Christians have gone their entire lives never believing, or even rejecting the doctrine of election, all the while remaining believers in Christ. The test of election is not about whether you believe it, but that the subject itself has the capability to bring every aspect of your gospel to the surface to be inspected.
If you deny the doctrine of election, your denial proves your understanding of the gospel. Perhaps you deny it because of your understanding of God's love, your understanding of man's will, your understanding of sin, of grace, or of Christ's atoning work. However, if you accept the doctrine of election, each of these aspects of Christian doctrine will play a part as well. The point I am making is that the doctrine of election shows you what you believe about everything else in the gospel. It acts as the measuring tape of your gospel. It is like a mirror held up so you can see just what it is that you believe about the gospel.
Not only does the doctrine of election display your gospel, but it also corrects your gospel. From what I've already mentioned, this point is inevitable. Think about it, if all the aspects of your gospel are suddenly brought to light at the same time to be inspected, you are in a prime position to observe the biblical fidelity of your entire gospel. It is one thing to have your gospel compartmentalized, and another to have it systematized. Compartmentalization leads to confusion when the parts don't work together smoothly, for it is difficult to pinpoint which compartment houses the problem in your gospel. Systematization allows all the parts to be seen in connection with one another, making it easy to see where you go wrong with your gospel. The doctrine of election forces the compartmentalized gospel to show itself as a system.
For instance, the character and nature of God, and the unconditional nature of the gospel are revealed in the doctrine of election. When God, in eternity past, by His own free will, chose, according to unmerited mercy, sinners for salvation, He did not do so apart from His character and nature, nor without the means of faith in Christ, the preaching of the gospel, and every other means by which we are saved. In this doctrine,
1. We see God's holiness in requiring righteousness.
2. We see our natural inability to be righteous.
3. We see that the wrath of God is our just punishment.
4. We see God's sovereign rule and reign over all things, including salvation.
5. We see God's wisdom and power in governing the universe.
6. We see God is the one who gives faith through the preaching of His word.
7. We see that grace and mercy cannot be demanded, bought, or earned.
8. We see Christ as God's display of love.
9. We see faith in Christ as our only means of escaping the wrath of God.
How you think of the doctrine of election is caused by how you think about these points. Each point plays a part in your gospel, whether you reject it or accept it. If you agree with them, it is quite easy to accept God's election of sinners for salvation. If you reject them, you will inevitably reject the doctrine of election, or at least have an unbiblical idea of election.
That said, God’s election of sinners will test your gospel. It will ask your gospel to produce its ideas about God, man, grace, Christ’s atoning death, and the importance of faith all at the same time. Have you tested your gospel with this doctrine? If you have, did it agree with the whole of Scripture concerning those points? If you have not, test it today.