James Leonard, “Election in 1 Thessalonians: Assurance for Persecuted Believers”

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Praise the Lord for his election! (1 Thes 1:4)

Paul’s preaching ministry in Thessalonica was cut short due to intense persecution. Indeed, when Paul fled Thessalonica, the new believers became the object of persecution. As a group, they were newly designated the scum of the earth, worthy of disdain and contempt.

In this context, Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians, assuring them of their election (“God has chosen you” τὴν ἐκλογὴν ὑμῶν). This term “election” (ἐκλογή) gets Calvinists all excited, and causes many-an- inadequately-theologized sermon to go awry.

Election is not about Calvinistic determinism, not about an arbitrary divine decision prior to the founding of the world, not input or irresistible stimulus provoking a mechanical response in automatons, not an impersonal process. No, none of this.

Election is about God conferring a special status to believers–and herein lies the glory and praiseworthiness of election. These believers whom society berated and designated them as scum, are reminded by Paul that to God, they were elect.

Paul could have chosen some other term of salvation in v. 4 (e.g., “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has redeemed/saved/rescued (etc.) you…”). But he purposefully chose the term “election” precisely to counter the opponents’ derision of the Thessalonian believers and to convey that, of all peoples on the earth, the Thessalonian believers were precious, beloved, and privileged by God.

Praise the Lord that, despite what the world thinks of us, God has bestowed upon us this privileged status of election. And this privilege is for all who believe.

[The original post and comments may be found at https://arminianbaptist.blogspot.com/2021/02/election-in-1-thessalonians-assurance.html.]