God’s Electing Love

  • Brian Overholtzer
graphic of the word LOVE

About two years ago, a young man named Botham Jean gave a victim impact statement concerning a police officer who was convicted of killing his brother. Botham’s statement was unforgettable as he told the police officer that he forgave her and wanted her to know Jesus. Immediately following Botham’s statement, social media was flooded with Christians celebrating such a powerful display of the gospel. In response to Botham’s statement and the overwhelming support of Botham’s display of the gospel, the major evangelical newspaper, Christianity Today responded with an article titled “Let’s not distort the gospel by elevating one family member’s words over the other.” In the article, the author argues that Botham’s statement is an incomplete picture of the gospel. To fill in this apparent hole in the gospel, the article insists that there needs to be an even greater focus on the officer’s guilt. Botham’s loving act of forgiveness and the demand for justice by this Christian newspaper brings out a major divide among Christians today which struggles to relate the injustices done in the world to the gospel. The big question that is behind this issue is “how can a guilty person stand in the right before a holy God?” 

The answer is found in the doctrine of salvation which is taught through the entirety of the Bible. The doctrine of salvation answers this question by pointing to God’s Electing Love.

Forgiveness of sins is only found in God’s Electing Love

The Book of Micah draws our attention to God’s Electing Love in chapter 7 verses 18 through twenty. If you would turn to Micah 7:18 we will see how Micah not only knew of God’s salvation but intimately trusted in God’s Electing Love.

“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”

Micah was a prophet to the land of Judah, which was the southern kingdom of Israel. He ministered under the prosperous reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. During these reigns, the people of Israel experienced an incredible amount of comfort, peace, and security. They were blessed with health, wealth, and freedom as gracious gifts from God. Throughout Micah’s book, the prophet calls out the people of Israel for oppressing and neglecting the poor driving them to starvation. Micah condemned such lifestyles as heinous sin and rebellion against their God who had commanded them to take care of the poor and to love them. Their ruthlessness reflected their disdain for God’s Word. God had commanded Israel to love and provide for the poor just as God had loved Israel by delivering them from slavery to Pharoah. While Micah certainly condemned the people of Israel for offending the helpless, the prophet spoke of an even greater reality: they had offended God. Throughout the book, Micah spoke of the dire reality of offending God which is the looming judgment of facing the full weight of God’s holy wrath. Micah ends his prophetic book by highlighting that forgiveness can only be found in God’s Electing Love.

God’s Electing Love is the Foundation of Our Forgiveness

Micah teaches us that forgiveness of our sins is based on God’s decision to love certain people. This teaching saturates Scripture and is helpfully summarized in the Book Biblical Doctrine in that “Election is the free and sovereign choice of God, made in eternity past, to set His love on certain individuals, and, on the basis of nothing in themselves but solely because of the good pleasure of His will, to choose them to be saved from sin and damnation and to inherit the blessings of eternal life through the mediatorial work of Christ.” Two verses stand out as championing this teaching. One is in Deuteronomy 7:7–8 where God explains to His people that the reason He set His love on them is, “because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” This is echoed by Paul in his passionate prayer for the believers in Ephesus. Paul prays that “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will (Eph. 1:4–5 NASB).

God’s Electing Love Forgives All Our Sins

Sandwiched between a declaration of God’s otherness and His love are three descriptions of God’s Electing Love: the pardoning of iniquity, the passing over of transgression, and the turning away of His holy wrath. To explain the saving power of God’s Electing Love, Micah draws our attention to Exodus 32:11–13 where Moses pleads for God to forgive His people and to turn His holy wrath away from them. God’s promise to forgive in such a way is then confirmed two chapters later when Yahweh proclaims His name to Moses. Here, Yahweh describes His Electing Love,

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation (Exodus 34:6–7)

Turning again to Paul’s prayer in Ephesians, we see that God’s Electing Love is inseparable from the forgiveness we have in Christ.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (Eph 1:7).

God’s Electing Love is Found only in Christ

While we cannot find an explicit reference to Christ in Micah 7:18, we can see that his confidence for redemption was found in the coming Messiah (Micah 5:2). The Bible progressively makes this teaching more and more clear and culminates in the New Testament where Christ comes to save the people He loves by sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross. Truly in Christ alone, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). Christ is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). He is the true Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7). While we were dead in our trespasses and sins, we were made alive together in Christ (Eph 2:5).

Botham’s forgiveness of the police officer is a picture of God’s Electing Love for His people. Botham emotionally expressed to the police officer that he loved her so much that he wishes she didn’t even go to jail. Botham knew there was a bigger issue than how many years this woman would face in prison. His concern was that she would know of God’s Electing Love. Just as Botham ended his statement by hugging her. For those who trust in Christ, we know that one day we will stand face to face before Him and be embraced by His arms of Electing Love.