“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (II Peter 1:10).
The doctrine of election is admittedly one of the most difficult doctrines in the entire Bible to understand. That being the case, many have simply chosen to ignore it entirely, pretending that it doesn’t exist. Others have gone the route of minimizing it by giving it less weight than Scripture does. Nevertheless, it appears in one form or another in almost every book of the Bible.
One of the reasons for the avoidance of this doctrine is the fear that if this doctrine is given its proper place, it produces laziness and spiritual apathy. People are always ready to point out some who began to emphasize this doctrine in their teaching, which led to their spiritual ruin—they lost any desire for holy living and became unbalanced. The culprit (it seems) is the doctrine of election—once people begin to believe they are chosen, spiritual pride takes over and with it a lessening of desire to be holy.
While some have certainly abused this doctrine, if properly understood, it in no way promotes laziness and ungodliness. Indeed, it actually encourages the very opposite! Nowhere is this more evident than in Second Peter 1:3-11. The apostle Peter wants to remind his readers that since they have been chosen by God, they have a duty and a responsibility to ‘confirm their calling and election’ by making sure they are adding to their faith certain virtues which he carefully lists in the passage (II Peter 1:5-7).
Living this way confirms that one is called. On the other hand, those who ignore these qualities, refusing to build them in their lives, are deceived and can have no assurance of their calling. They are blind (vs. 9) and have forgotten that they have been cleansed from their former sins. This corresponds with several other passages where the doctrine of election is tied to godly living.
Paul, in the first chapter of Ephesians, reminds his readers they have been chosen so that they might be “holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). And in his second letter to his young son Timothy, Paul reminds him that “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” (II Timothy 2:19). We are not privy to whom God is calling (the Lord knows those who are his); our job is to make sure that we are departing from iniquity (let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity).
Apparently, Peter is writing to those who were abusing the doctrine of election, teaching that it didn’t matter how they lived since God had chosen them. The apostle Peter says quite the opposite; you prove that you belong to Jesus Christ by the way you live. Perhaps the ultimate statement regarding this is found in Ephesians 4:1. Paul had labored for the first three chapters to tell the Ephesian church what it meant to be chosen in Christ. Beginning in chapter four, he tells them they must “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” To illustrate this, imagine a boy who was fathered by a king. While he is an infant and a young child, he does not differ from any other child. But when he reaches a certain age, the father sits him down to tell him that, even though he didn’t choose it for himself, he has been born into royalty and therefore can’t walk as other young men. He is a son of a king and must act differently.
That is what the apostle Peter and the other apostles are doing when they call us to holy living. Such living doesn’t earn us favor with God; we are favored by his choosing us and now must live in such a way that all can see that we belong to Him.
Are you diligent to confirm your calling and election?