Marks of the Elect
How does one know if he or she is one of God's elect? I have heard this question asked several times over the years by those who were struggling with the doctrine of election. Hopefully the following message will answer this question for those who are in doubt of their election and calling of God. If you are truly saved, may this message establish your confidence in God and your Savior Jesus Christ, and give you assurance that you are His child and that you are one of the elect.
If, however, this message leaves you in greater doubt of your salvation or of God's electing love for you, then we encourage you to examine yourselves whether you are truly saved. It is not good to live in doubt and fear of your soul's standing before God. Where there is doubt there is also a reason for the doubt. Be sure you are saved and that you are one of His elect. Don't be satisfied with some past emotional or religious experience that you may have had, or something you were led to do or say by some religious worker, which you were told would save your soul. Be sure from your personal experience with the Lord that you are His, and then draw confidence from those evidences in your life that you are a born again believer in Jesus Christ.
1. The marks of the elect in general.
In general there are three essential characteristics of the elect of God, which are given in our text in John 10:26-29.
1. Jesus' sheep (or the elect) hear His voice (vs. 27).
They hear Jesus' call in salvation. That is they hear not only with the outward ear, but with the inward ear and with the mind and with the heart. This inward call causes them to repent and believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This hearing doesn't stop with salvation, but rather begins with saving faith in Christ. They continue to listen to His voice- that is to say they listen to His Word. They listen to the Word taught and preached from God's true preachers and teachers, and receive His Word as it is in truth, the Word God. They listen to His voice as they study the Scripture on their own. They listen to the Holy Spirit speak as He reveals the things of God to their hearts. They receive the Word with open hearts. They hunger and thirst for God and for Him to reveal His truth to their souls. They not only hear and receive the Word of God, but they believe it with all their hearts and minds. The Word takes residence in their very being as they hide it deep in their hearts. Thus the Word is engrafted into their very person. It becomes a part of them. It affects the way they think, the way they talk, and the way they live. In other words, the Word of God affects a real change in their lives. Yes, they hear His voice. This is one of the marks of the elect.
2. Jesus' sheep follow Him (vs. 27).
They put the Word into practice by living it. They obey His commandments. They follow His leadership in all the paths wherein He leads them on their journey through life. He leads them away from the treacherous waters of this world and its corruptions and temptations, into the green pastures and still waters of separation and sanctification. He leads them in paths of righteousness for His name's sake! He leads them into the fold, which is the church, where they are fed spiritual food, and where they fellowship with other sheep. He leads them into the ways of Christian service and of leading other souls to Jesus. Yes He leads them, and they follow. This is one of the marks of the elect.
3. Jesus' sheep persevere and are preserved to the end (vs. 28).
True sheep never perish. They don't leave the Lord and His people to go back into the world or into false religion. They never quit believing in Jesus a their personal Savior. They overcome the world by the confidence and power of the Lord. They are preserved in the Lord's hand, Who in turn is in the Father's hand. Though they may stray afar, they never stray beyond the reach of the Good Shepherd's rod and staff. He loves them and died for them, and will not allow any of them to be eternally lost or perish. This is a mark of God's elect, that they persevere and are preserved forever.
2. The marks of the elect in particular.
Now we want to see from the book of 1 John some of the particular characteristics and qualities of the elect of God. All of the elect should bear these marks, at least in some measure. Keep in mind that all believers are in different stages of their Christian growth. We will probably find ourselves wanting in some areas that we will mention. But we should at least recognize and acknowledge the truth of each of these characteristics, and desire to possess a greater portion of the characteristics in which we find ourselves lacking.
1. The elect have a strong moral character and godly lifestyle (1 John 1:6-7; 3:3-10; 5:18).
God's people desire to live godly. They desire to be like God and His Son, Who are infinitely holy. God's people are to hate sin, and the sinful bent of their old sinful natures. They desire to walk in the light of God's holiness. Their new nature cannot sin because they were created in the likeness of God. They do not habitually practice sin, but rather righteousness and holiness. Those who still love sin and immorality would do well to examine themselves to see if they are truly saved.
2. The elect recognize their own sinful nature and capability of sinning, and their need for cleansing (1 John 1:8-10).
They know that they are not sinlessly perfect, but that they still have the old sinful nature. They know that they still sin, far more than they want to. But they also know that they have an Advocate, even Jesus Christ, Who sits at the right hand of God making intercession for them. Thus they understand their need for perpetual cleansing by the blood of Jesus. Those who say they are sinless and are above sin, need to examine whether or not they are saved.
3. The elect desire to keep the Lord's commandments (1 John 2:3-6; 5:3).
They do not keep the commandments to be saved, but because they are saved they desire to obey the Lord's commandments so that they might glorify Him, and that they might be more like Jesus, both inwardly in their hearts, as well as outwardly in their lives. Keeping the commandments of Jesus is more of an inward experience than outward. This is where many get confused. First, the commandments of Christ take affect in the heart and mind of the saved person, bringing these inward faculties into subjection to the commandments of Christ. After their hearts have been affected by these commandments, then they express these outwardly in the motions of their lives. Thus the commandments of Christ make a change in the whole person, beginning on the inside. This of course is a process, which is part of the believer's sanctification. If there is no keeping of the Lord's commandments in a persons heart and life, then that person ought to examine their heart to see whether they are truly saved.
4. The elect love the Brethren (1 John 2:9-11; 3:14-15).
Loving the brethren is one of the commands of Christ. There are many reasons why believers should love the brethren, which some of these are covered in these texts. But the essential point to be made here is that believers do love the Brethren. The fact that the Holy Spirit has shed the love of God abroad in the hearts of God's people in salvation, is evidenced in their love for one another. There are no plausible excuses for why believers don't love one another. If they do not love the brethren, then they are not saved. These verses make this very plain.
5. The elect do not love the world (2:15-16).
Although we are to love even our enemies in this world (Matt. 5:44), we are to hate the world. That is, we are to hate the world system and its king, who is Satan, the god of this world. God's people are to hate all the temptations and corruptions that are in the world, along with all the fads and fashions of it, which distract and allure the people of God away from serving the Lord. All the sins and vices, and all the pleasures of sin are to be hated and shunned, and even rebuked by God's people. These are all enemies of God and His work. They are enemies of God's people. They are enemies of the cross and of the preaching and hearing of the gospel. Any one who loves the world is an enemy of God. Again, all such who love this world should examine themselves to see if they are truly saved.
6. The elect continue with the Lord's true churches (vs. 2:19).
I will qualify this statement by saying that I believe that there are many of God's elect who are not associated with a true Baptist Church. These are ignorant of church truth, and no doubt they suffer spiritually as a result of not growing up under the teaching and preaching ministry of one of the Lord's true churches. But those who are members of a true church, who have learned the glorious truths of God's Word; who have been once enlightened as it were; they will not depart from these teachings, nor from the type of church from which they learned them. Those who go away from the truth by leaving a true Baptist Church, either to go back into the world, or to enjoin themselves to a false religious organization, are showing that they never were really taught of the Lord. These don't truly love the Brethren, nor do they obey the commandments of Christ. These should be considered as unregenerate sinners. If they are truly saved the Lord will chasten them, and bring them back in His time.
7. The elect have an unction from the Holy Spirit, and therefore receive and believe the truth of Christ and of His gift of eternal life (1 John 2:20-21, 27; 5:10).
The Holy Spirit leads His people into all truth, especially concerning Jesus Christ and the precious gospel. The unction bears witness to the truth as it is in Jesus. The unction reveals the truth as it is taught from the Word of God. All people don't believe the Scripture alike. Many come to different conclusions as to the way of salvation, even from reading the same Bible. This is because it takes the Holy Spirit to reveal truth. The natural mind cannot understand the things of God, and so natural men are ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits to the truths of God's Word, and also to our very regenerated state. Believers do not need to be convinced by men that they are or are not saved, they know by the indwelling witness of the Spirit of God. This unction of the indwelling Holy Spirit is perpetual. It is never lost and it never leaves a true believer, but lives and abides within the believer forever. We are sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.
8. The elect hear God's true preachers (1 John 4:4-6).
Sheep follow, goats butt! This is an old proverb, but its very true. The Lord told Peter three times to "feed my sheep" and "feed my lambs". Now Peter, we all (except the Catholics) know, wasn't perfect. He was fallible. He not only was often rebuked by the Lord, but even the apostle Paul had to rebuke him to his face. The apostle John, as fine a Christian as he was, even had to be rebuked by the Lord. None of God's preachers are perfect. We all sin and make mistakes; sometimes grievous mistakes. Yet with all of our imperfections, the Lord wants the members of His churches in particular, and all the saved by grace in general, to hear the voice of His true preachers. Many saved people do not have this privilege, but those who do certainly recognize God's men for the truth that they preach. Those who will not hear God's true preachers, but reject them and refuse their teachings, and rather follow after false prophets and teachers, cast doubt upon their Christian testimony and salvation experience.
9. The elect overcome the world (1 John 5:4-5).
As we have already mentioned, the elect are preserved and therefore they will persevere. They will overcome this world, and all that is in this world, and the god of this world. The reason is because greater is He that is in them, than He that is in the world. They don't overcome because of who or what they are, but because of God and His protective and preserving presence with His people. And they overcome by abiding faith in their God; a faith which was not of themselves, but was given to them of God in salvation. A sure mark of God's elect is that they will overcome, both continually and finally when they go home to be with the Lord. Those who appear to "fall from grace" only show that they never knew the grace of God in salvation.
10. The elect have confidence and assurance of their salvation (1 John 5:11-13, 19-20).
"Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste, of glory divine"! One of the most important evidences of God's saving grace in the hearts of His people is that sweet assurance that the Lord gives to His people. This is not to say that God's people never doubt their salvation, or His presence in their lives. Yes we may doubt from time to time. But these are rare and dark moments in our lives. The tenor of our lives is one of confidence, and assurance, and faith. Those who are never sure of there salvation, may very well not know the Lord in salvation. These people, more often than not, are those who are trusting in their own works for salvation, which will always leave them unsettled and doubting. This is because our works can never cleanse the soul of sin and guilt. The works of the unregenerate only testify against them because their works are miserably imperfect, and the holy God of Heaven demands nothing less than perfection.
Well, did you past the test, and do you bear the marks of the elect? Are you more convinced now that you are one of God's elect than you were before? We hope so. Or, perhaps now you are convinced that you never were truly saved. If so, this is a good thing. This may mean that the Lord is working with you to show you your lost condition, so that you might truly come to know Him as your Lord and Savior. If this is your case, then we entreat you to repent of your sins before a holy God, realizing you deserve His righteous judgment and wrath because of your wicked sins against Him; and come to Christ by faith believing that He paid your sin debt on the cross of Calvary, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day for your justification and eternal life. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. True saving faith, along with the witness of the Holy Spirit, is the greatest inward evidence that you will have that you are truly a born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Sermon preached by Pastor Burke at the Faith Baptist Church of Lawtey, Florida)