A Concise Summary of the Corporate View of Election and Predestination

, posted by SEA

Here is an excellent concise summary of the doctrines of conditional election and predestination from the corporate election perpective, which differs from the traditional Arminian view of individual election based on foreseen faith. Both the traditional view and the corporate election view are allowed in SEA, for both conceive of election and predestination as conditional on faith in Christ. This material comes from Zondervan’s NIV Life in the Spirit Study Bible (now available only in the KJV under that name but still with the NIV or other translations from other publishers as The Fire Bible). The description of the doctrines of election and predestination is followed by some comments quoted from the study Bible’s notes on 1 Peter 1:2 and Romans 8:29 to show how the corporate election perspective might view the place of foreknowledge in election, also quite different from the traditional Arminian view, though completely consonant with Arminian theology, figured as it is within a conditional view of election and predestination.

Election. God’s choice of those who believe in Christ is an important teaching of the apostle Paul (see Ro 8:29-33; 9:6-26; 11:5, 7, 28; Col 3:12; 1 Th 1:4; 2 Th 2:13; Tit 1:1). Election (Gk eklego) refers to God choosing in Christ a people whom he destines to be holy and blameless in his sight (cf. 2 Th 2:13). Paul sees this election as expressing God’s initiative as the God of infinite love in giving us as finite creation every spiritual blessing through the redemptive work of his Son (1:3-5). Paul’s teaching about election involves the following truths:

(1) Election is Christocentric, i.e., election of humans occurs only in union with Jesus Christ. “He chose us in him” (Eph. 1:4; see 1:1, note). Jesus himself is first of all the elect of God. Concerning Jesus, God states, “Here is my servant whom I have chosen” (Mt 12:18; cf. Isa 42:1, 6; 1 Pet 2:4). Christ, as the elect, is the foundation of our election. Only in union with Christ do we become members of the elect (Eph 1:4, 6-7, 9-10, 12-13). No one is elect apart from union with Christ through faith.

(2) Election is “in him…through his blood” (Eph 1:7). God purposed before creation (Eph. 1:4) to form a people through Christ’s redemptive death on the cross. Thus election is grounded on Christ’s sacrificial death to save us from our sins (Ac 20:28; Ro 3:24-26).

(3) Election in Christ is primarily corporate, i.e., an election of a people (Eph 1:4-5, 7, 9). The elect are called “the body of Christ” (4:12), “my church” (Mt 16:18), “a people belonging to God” (1 Pe 2:9), and the “bride” of Christ (Rev 19:7). Therefore, election is corporate and embraces individual persons only as they identify and associate themselves with the body of Christ, the true church (Eph 1:22-23; see Robert Shank, Elect in the Son, [Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers]). This was true already of Israel in the OT (see Dt 29:18-21, note; 2Ki 21:14, note; see article on God’s Covenant with the Israelites, p. 298).

(4) The election to salvation and holiness of the body of Christ is always certain. But the certainty of election for individuals remains conditional on their personal living faith in Jesus Christ and perseverance in union with him. Paul demonstrates this as follows. (a) God’s eternal purpose for the church is that we should “be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1:4). This refers both to forgiveness of sins (1:7) and to the church’s purity as the bride of Christ. God’s elect people are being led by the Holy Spirit toward sanctification and holiness (see Ro 8:14; Gal. 5:16-25). The apostle repeatedly emphasizes this paramount purpose of God (see Eph 2:10; 3:14-19; 4:1-3, 13-24; 5:1-18). (b) Fulfillment of this purpose for the corporate church is certain: Christ will “present her to himself as a radiant church…holy and blameless” (Eph 5:27). (c) Fulfillment of this purpose for individuals in the church is conditional. Christ will present us “holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1:4) only if we continue in the faith. Paul states this clearly: Christ will “present you holy in his sight without blemish…if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel” (Col 1:22-23).

(5) Election to salvation in Christ is offered to all (Jn 3:16-17; 1Ti 2:4-6; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9) but becomes actual for particular persons contingent on their repentance and faith as they accept God’s gift of salvation in Christ (Eph 2:8; 3:17; cf. Ac 20:21; Ro 1:16; 4:16). At the point of faith, the believer is incorporated into Christ’s elect body (the church) by the Holy Spirit (1 Co 12:13), thereby becoming one of the elect. Thus, there is both God’s initiative and our response in election (see Ro 8:29, note; 2 Pet 1:1-11).

Predestination. Predestination (Gk prooizo) means “to decide beforehand” and applies to God’s purposes comprehended in election. Election is God’s choice “in Christ” of a people (the true church) for himself. Predestination comprehends what will happen to God’s people (all genuine believers in Christ).

(1) God predestines his elect to be: (a) called (Rom. 8:30); (b) justified (Ro 3:24, 8:30); (c) glorified (Ro 8:30); (d) conformed to the likeness of his Son (Ro 8:29); (e) holy and blameless (Eph 1:4); (f) adopted as God’s children (1:5); (g) redeemed (1:7); (h) recipients of an inheritance (1:14); (i) for the praise of his glory (Eph 1:2; 1 Pe 2:9); (j) recipients of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13; Gal 3:14); and (k) created to do good works (Eph 2:10).

(2) Predestination, like election, refers to the corporate body of Christ (i.e., the true spiritual church), and comprehends individuals only in association with that body through a living faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:5, 7, 13; cf. Ac 2:38-41; 16:31).

Summary. Concerning election and predestination, we might use the analogy of a great ship on its way to heaven. The ship (the church) is chosen by God to be his very own vessel. Christ is the Captain and Pilot of this ship. All who desire to be a part of this elect ship and its Captain can do so through a living faith in Christ, by which they come on board the ship. As long as they are on the ship, in company with the ship’s Captain, they are among the elect. If they choose to abandon the ship and Captain, they cease to be part of the elect. Election is always only in union with the Captain and his ship. Predestination tells us about the ship’s destination and what God has prepared for those remaining on it. God invites everyone to come aboard the elect ship through faith in Jesus Christ. [Life in the Spirit Study Bible, pp. 1854-1855]

Life in the Spirit Study Bible note on 1 Peter 1:2 –

the foreknowledge of God We are “chosen” to be God’s people according to his foreknowledge, i.e., according to God’s own comprehensive knowledge of his plan of redemption in Christ for the church, even before creation and human history began (see Rom. 8:29 note). Foreknowledge is virtually a synonym of God’s sovereign and far-seeing purpose to redeem according to his eternal love. The “chosen” are the company of true believers, chosen in harmony with God’s determined plan to redeem the church by the blood of Jesus Christ through the Spirit’s sanctifying work (see article on Election and Predestination, p. 1845). All believers must participate in their election by their response of faith and by being eager to make their calling and election sure (see 2 Pe 1:5, 10, notes).

Life in the Spirit Study Bible note on Romans 8:29 –

those God foreknew “Foreknew” in this verse is equivalent to “foreloved” and is used in the sense of “to set loving regard on,” “to choose to bestow love on from eternity” (cf. Ex 2:25; Ps 1:6 Hos 13:5; Mt 7:23; 1 Cor 8:3; Gal 4:9; 1 Jn 3:1).

(1) Foreknowledge means that God purposed from eternity to love and redeem the human race through Christ (5:8; Jn 3:16). The recipient of God’s foreknowledge or forelove is stated in plural and refers to the church. That is, God’s forelove is primarily for the corporate body of Christ (Eph 1:4; 2:4; 1 Jn 4:19) and includes individuals only as they identify themselves with this corporate body through abiding faith in and union with Christ (Jn 15:1-6; see article on Election and Predestination, p. 1854)

(2) The corporate body of Christ will attain to glorification (v. 30). Individual believers will fall short of glorification if they separate themselves from that foreloved body and fail to maintain their faith in Christ (vv. 12-14, 17; Col 1:21-23).

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Another corporate interpretation of foreknowledge in relation to election beyond those mentioned by the study Bible is that it refers to the prior acknowledgment of the corporate people of God as his covenant partner (see Brian Abasciano, “Clearing Up Misconceptions about Corporate Election”, Ashland Theological Journal 41 [2009] 67-102).

At the risk of oversimplification, all these corporate views of foreknowledge in election can be boiled down to saying that in the corporate election view, election according to foreknowledge refers to election based on the prior election of Christ and the corporate people of God in him.

For more on corporate election, see these items at our site:

Brian J. Abasciano, “Corporate Election in Romans 9: A Reply to Thomas Schreiner” http://evangelicalarminians.org/brian-j-abasciano-corporate-election-in-romans-9-a-reply-to-thomas-schreiner

Brian J. Abasciano, “Clearing Up Misconceptions about Corporate Election” http://evangelicalarminians.org/brian-abasciano-clearing-up-misconceptions-about-corporate-election/

Brian Abasciano, “On the Corporate Perspective of Paul and His Culture, the Translation of Rom 9:6b, and Corporate Election in Romans 9″ http://evangelicalarminians.org/brian-abasciano-on-the-corporate-perspective-of-paul-and-his-culture-the-translation-of-rom-96b-and-corporate-election-in-romans-9/

Brian Abasciano, “Dr. Brian Abasciano Responds To Dr. Dan Wallace On The Issue Of Corporate Election” http://evangelicalarminians.org/glynn.Dr.Brian-Abasciano-Responds-To-Dr.Dan-Wallace-On-The-Issue-Of-Corporate-Election

William W. Klein, “Is Corporate Election Merely Virtual Election?” http://evangelicalarminians.org/Klein-Is-Corporate-Election-Merely-Virtual-Election

B.J. Oropeza, “Some Great Comments on Corporate Election, Apostasy/Perseverance, and Rom 8:28-39″ http://evangelicalarminians.org/Perseverance-Oropeza-on-Romans-8.28-39

A. Philip Brown, II, “ELECTION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT” http://evangelicalarminians.org/Brown-ELECTION-IN-THE-OLD-TESTAMENT

Joshua Ratliff, “Ephesians 1:3-4: An Explanation of the Corporate and Christocentric Nature of Election” http://evangelicalarminians.org/joshua-ratliff-ephesians-13-4-an-explanation-of-the-corporate-and-christocentric-nature-of-election/

Corporate Election Quotes http://evangelicalarminians.org/corporate-election-quotes/ — a series of important excerpts from some of the best scholarly works espousing the corporate view of election; taken together, these quoted sections give a very detailed description of the fundamental elements of the corporate election view, answering many common questions related to the view as well as addressing and correcting common misconceptions