The doctrine of election is not very popular in some circles of Christianity. If mentioned at all, it’s usually in a negative, critical way. Nevertheless, you can’t escape its presence. There are too many illustrations of God’s choosing (e.g. Abraham, Jacob over Isaac, David, Peter, Andrew, James, John, Paul…). And there are too many clear references to it, including 1 Thessalonians 1:4 – “…knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.”
One of the most frequent questions that arise concerning election is, “How can anyone know if they’re elect?”
It’s a good question and one that has troubled souls for centuries. After all, if I’m not “elect” then I’m doomed! Yet one need not be overly troubled. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul provides in the first chapter three simple pieces of evidence that give him confidence in their election. He summarizes the evidence in v. 3 and elaborates on them in the rest of the chapter.
The first evidence is a “work of faith,” which simply refers to the receiving of the Gospel. “Our Gospel came not unto you in word only,” Paul explains in v. 5, “but in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance.” In other words, as Paul shared the Gospel, the Holy Spirit so worked in their hearts that they truly believed it and put all of their trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The second evidence is their “labor of love.” In other words, as a result of what they came to believe, what the elect came to love was different, and their lives showed that difference. They “became followers of us” (v. 6), voluntarily submitting to spiritual leadership and especially to the Lord. Their love for the Lord was demonstrated by a turning away from idolatry to serve Him alone (v. 9), even though that meant suffering persecution for their loyalty to Christ (v. 6). So clear was the change in their lives that they became examples to other believers as their testimony for Christ became known (vv. 7-8).
The third evidence of election has to do with one’s anticipation, their “patience of hope.” Those who are elect continue patiently in the faith because they’re looking to the future with anticipation. Specifically, Paul refers to their waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven, who has already delivered them from the wrath that will eventually come. In other words, the elect look forward to the culmination of their salvation; the lost don’t know what to expect—they just nebulously hope for something better while fearing the worst.
I trust this brief chapter has given you clear, sufficient evidence of your election: faith in Christ, life-transforming love for Christ, and patient anticipation of Christ.