Election and Holiness?
Bill Mounce is the founder and president of BiblicalTraining.org. He is also a strange mix of blessing and bane to anyone who has studied koine Greek. Dr. Mounce is a brilliant Greek scholar and teacher, and any student will live within his many publications as they acquire the skill of reading the Greek New Testament. I am deeply grateful for him (even though Morphology of Biblical Greek continues to give me nightmares).
Is there a relationship between the two? Ordinarily, we think of election (predestination) only in terms of what happens and is relevant to conversion. So, the Larger Catechism (13) says, “God, by an eternal and immutable decree, out of his mere love, for the praise of his glorious grace, to be manifested in due time, has elected some angels to glory; and in Christ has chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof: and also according to his sovereign power, and the unsearchable counsel of his own will …”
Again, election is about God’s application of salvation, but what about the value of this doctrine to our holiness?
Bill Mounce takes us to 2 Timothy 2.19 which, in the ESV (English Standard Version), says this:
“But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’”
The same verse in the NIV says this:
“Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’”
Mounce is a part of the editorial committee for both the ESV and NIV, so he has thought deeply about this verse. It is clear that, to Paul, the first phrase in this verse (The Lord knows those who are His) is related to the second phrase (Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity).
Mounce suggests that the first phrase should actually be translated as, The Lord knew who are His. He asserts that this matters because, practically speaking, our holiness ought to be motivated not only by our confession of faith (the second phrase), but God’s electing power (the first phrase). We are to live holy lives not merely as an extension of our confession of faith, but because we are really and truly sealed by God. He has put His “inscription” on us, from before the foundations of the world. In many ways, this verse echoes with Ephesians 1.4:
“… even as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
We may perhaps make light of the importance of living a holy life. Because holiness happens by degrees (we have good days and bad days), we are quick to think of holiness as desirable, but optional. Paul tells us that, from the perspective of the one who elects, holiness is a bit more than, optional. Holiness is mysteriously connected to God’s electing power.