Four, Arminian Corporate Election (CE) falls short in its understanding of the connection between Old Testament Israel and New Testament Israel, which results in an erroneous position on CE.
First let me say that I am a strong proponent of Fulfillment Theology, which is a central teaching of Covenant Theology and New Covenant Theology. This is New Testament interpretation that Israel has its fulfillment and continuation in Christ and His Church. This is a major focus of my website. God’s plan for His people is completed in Christ and His Church, and that includes the nation of Israel.
Dispensationalism, on the other hand, makes a distinction between Israel and the Church. Dispensationalists believe that God still has a plan for that nation, yet to be fulfilled. They view Israel through the eyes of the Old Testament (OT), rather than through the eyes of the New Testament (NT), which unlocks our understanding of the OT.
This will be by far the most lengthy discussion of this series. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but I’ll try to make this as concise as possible. Everything we’ve been studying up to this point, will be brought together here. The OT pattern of election is the primary basis for Arminian Corporate Election (CE). While I agree with its basic interpretation regarding Israel and the Church, I believe it misses the mark on one major point (followed by other points), which leads to a misapplication as it relates to CE. Sorting all this out is the purpose of this part of the series.
Jesus is perfect Israel, a nation of One. He lived a perfect, sinless life. He completely and perfectly fulfilled the will of God. He completely and perfectly fulfilled the covenant promises and prophecies relating to Israel (Ga 3:16). He accomplished what ethnic Israel could not. He lived as the perfect Jew and died as the perfect Jew and rose from the grave as the perfect Jew. He alone had the right to be called Israel, to be Israel. He alone held the honor of that title. He was literally a nation of One. Ethnic Israel ended with the perfect ethnic Israelite, who came through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
When Christ ascended He left behind Him – in His place – the spiritual version of Israel, which is the Church (in Christ) — the New Israel of the New Covenant (1 Pe 2:4-10). For all practical and theological purposes, the ethnic nation of Israel ended with Christ. God’s purpose for that nation was and is fulfilled in Him. The nation of Israel today, and the Jews in the world today – since the time of Christ – remain as the imperfect version of Israel. They find their completion and perfection in the perfect Christ, who is the perfect Israel. Christian Jews today refer to themselves as “completed Jews,” and that is exactly what they are. They are complete in Christ. In their union with Him they are now citizens of spiritual Israel, which is the Church. Furthermore, everyone (both Jew and Gentile) who place their faith in Christ become citizens or members of spiritual Israel. We are all one in Christ. All ethnic distinctions are done away with in Christ. Together, we are a new creation in Christ, a whole new entity, a whole new people (Eph 2:13-16). When we place our faith in Christ, we become not only children of God (Ro 9:8; Ga 3:26) – as members of His family – but also spiritual offspring of of Abraham (Ro 9:6-8; Ga 3:7,29), as spiritual Israel (both corporately and individually).
What we must understand is that there is a difference between Christ as fulfilled-Israel, and spiritual Israel (the Church) in Him. Jesus was the perfect and true ethnic Israel, a nation of One. He is, thus, Israel-fulfilled. However, in our union with Him, through faith in Him, we are spiritual Israel — both corporately and individually. Although all ethnic distinctions of this world are done away with in Christ, we as citizens (members) of spiritual Israel, can be rightly called spiritual Jews (Ro 2:28-29). I’m of the opinion that the distinction between Jesus as true ethnic Israel (fulfilled-Israel) and we as spiritual Israel in Him, is not recognized by many proponents of Fulfillment Theology. This distinction is a significant key to understanding God’s plan for Israel in the New Covenant. But it’s also a significant key to understanding corporate election. I believe this is where the Arminian concept of CE misses the mark, which results in an erroneous conclusion.
First the OT pattern: The fathers of Israel and the nation of Israel are a type of Christ and His Church. God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (more directly, Jacob, from whom came the twelve tribes of Israel) to be the corporate head and vehicle through which would come His elect people, ethnic Israel, and through whom would come Christ, the Savior of His people (Eph 5:22-25). From Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through their line of descent, came the people of Israel. They were born as elect Israelites via their relationship with the elect corporate head. It’s important to note that neither the fathers of Israel or the people of Israel had any control over their birth as corporate head or as elect ethnic Jews. The existence of ethnic Israel and those born into that nation, was totally a matter of God’s sovereign will.
Applying the OT pattern: What’s described above serves as a pattern of election for the New Covenant. The New Covenant fulfills the Old Covenant, so it’s necessary to recognize the connection between the two. We first see the election of the corporate head, which is Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Then we see the election of the people who would come through their line. Corporately, they were the elect nation of Israel. Individually, they were regarded as elect because they were born into that elect nation.
Likewise, in the New Covenant we see Christ chosen as the Corporate Head of the Church. Upon faith in Christ, individuals are born (born again) into the spiritual line of Abraham (Ro 9:6-8; Ga 3:7,29) and enter into union with Christ, who is the chosen of God (Lu 9:35). The corporate spiritual offspring of Abraham is the Church, which is spiritual Israel of the New Covenant. Individually, just as the natural offspring of Abraham were ethnic Jews in him, so are the spiritual offspring of Abraham spiritual Jews in him, through faith in Christ (Ga 3:26-29). Jesus is the Corporate Head of spiritual Israel (the Church), just as Abraham (through Isaac and Jacob) was the corporate head of ethnic Israel. Thus we see that Abraham and Israel served as a type of Christ and the Church — the New Israel of the New Covenant. But they were more than a type, they actually have (had) their fulfillment and continuation in Christ and His Church as a spiritual nation (1 Pe 2:5,9).
Here’s where we begin to answer the question of how Arminian CE misses the mark. Christ’s election was two-fold: to be both Savior and Head of His corporate people, which is the Church. We covered this two-fold purpose in “part two.” In order for Jesus to accomplish this two-fold elective purpose, He had to fulfill God’s plan for ethnic Israel.
By perfectly fulfilling the will of God and the covenant promises and prophecies relating to Israel, He Himself became (revealed to be) true ethnic Israel. He embodied all that Israel was meant to be. He is, thus, fulfilled-Israel. Therefore, God’s purpose for the nation of Israel is totally completed in Him. When Christ ascended, He left in His place, the spiritual version of Israel, which is the Church. He is now the Corporate Head of spiritual Israel, just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the corporate head of national Israel.
The point of all this is to answer the question of “why a distinction needs to be made between Jesus as true ethnic Israel (fulfilled-Israel) and we as spiritual Israel in Him.” Jesus is not and cannot be the group, as Arminian CE teaches (we covered this in “part three”). Jesus cannot be the group, because He is not spiritual Israel. It is we as believers who are the spiritual offspring of Abraham (Ga 3:7,29; Ro 4:11-12,16-18; Ro 9:6-8). Jesus is not the spiritual offspring of Abraham, but is the natural offspring of Abraham — the perfect, fulfilled, natural (ethnic) Israel. We are the spiritual offspring of Abraham in Him. As spiritual offspring of Abraham, we are spiritual Israel. The distinction and recognition between these two types of Israel must be made, or we’ll come to an erroneous understanding of CE. Indeed, this disproves the Arminian concept of CE, that He is the elect group (the Church) and that we can share in His election via union with Him. Again, Jesus cannot be the group, because the group (the Church) is spiritual Israel, and He is not spiritual Israel. He is the Corporate Head of spiritual Israel, but He is not Himself spiritual Israel. This is a critical distinction that must be made if we’re to come out on the right side of CE.
Furthermore, as we’ve discussed before, Christ was elected to be the Savior of spiritual Israel (the Church), while we were elected to be saved by the Savior. He cannot be both Savior of the Church and be the Church too. Our election is not and cannot be the same as His. Therefore, we cannot share in His election, either corporately or individually.
Continuing to follow the OT pattern: As with the nation of Israel, the existence of spiritual Israel (the Church) is according to the predetermined plan of God — likewise, its members. Just as the people who were born into ethnic Israel had no control over their birth, so those who are born (born again) into spiritual Israel have no control over their new birth. The redeemed have no more control over their spiritual birth as they do over their physical birth, but is according to the providence of God. Redemptive election is according to the sovereign will of God. What’s true of the corporate Body of Christ, is true of its individual members. The unconditional election of the Body, is the unconditional election of each member. Thus we see that the unconditional birth of ethnic Israel and its members, is a type of the unconditional spiritual birth of the Church (spiritual Israel) and its members. This follows the OT pattern, and this is another example of where Arminian CE falls short.
Note: To be clear, the ethnic nation of Israel was rebirthed as a spiritual nation (1 Pe 2:4-10; Ga 3:7,29) in Christ. Neither the corporate Body or its members have any control over that. This is totally according to the sovereign will of God, from beginning to end.
The fact that Christ, as fulfilled-Israel (perfect ethnic Israel), is different than spiritual Israel (the Church), is enough to disprove the Arminian concept of CE. The whole theology of their position relies on the idea that we can share in His election, thereby becoming elect as we join ourselves to Him (through faith), the Corporate Head and representative. However, there’s more that can be added to this discussion that will help to confirm the flaws of that position:
Authority Figures: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are referred to as “our fathers” by the Jews (Acts 3:13). They were authority figures, leaders. In this way, they were a type of Christ, who is our King. Thus their election was not the same as those who would be born to them. The twelve sons of Israel were under the authority of Jacob, their father. While Jacob was named by God as “Israel,” he was not Israel himself — at least not directly. Technically, it was the twelve sons (tribes) of Israel were born to him who served as the foundation of that nation. Together, they made up the nation of Israel. It’s true that Jacob was referred to as a “nation” while in his mother’s womb (Ge 25:23), but that does not mean that he was the nation himself. It just means that the nation came into being directly from him, through the twelve sons who were birthed to him. They were identified with their father, of course, but they were the ones who actually formed the nation of Israel, while Jacob was the corporate head and representative of that nation. We have to make that distinction.
The point is, the fathers served as a type of Christ. Although Israel was in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (proceeded from), they were not themselves Israel. There’s an undeniable distinction between the corporate fathers and Israel, which is representative of the distinction we see between Christ as fulfilled-Israel and we as spiritual Israel in Him. The fathers were the originators and authority of Israel, although they themselves were not Israel. Likewise, Jesus is the originator and authority of spiritual Israel (the Church), although He Himself is not spiritual Israel. That’s the distinction and that’s the application that must be made. Christ is the Head and we are His Body. Although connected (in union with), a person’s head is not the same as their body. If we don’t distinguish between the two, we’re going to get this wrong.
Twelve Tribes, Twelve Apostles: The twelve sons of Jacob combined to form the nation of Israel; they were the foundation as the twelve tribes of Israel. Likewise, the twelve Apostles, as Christ’s chosen representatives, formed the foundation of the Church (1 Cor 3:10; Eph 2:20) — the New Israel of the New Covenant. The point is, there’s a clear distinction between Christ and His Apostles. Likewise, we have to recognize the distinction between the twelve tribes and the three fathers, because we have to remember that Arminian CE is based on the OT pattern of election. Therefore, this distinction between the twelve tribes and the fathers (corporate head) demonstrates that they did not share in the same election — at least not exactly. The two had different callings and different roles. Israel had its existence in the fathers, but the fathers were not Israel themselves. Likewise, the Church (represented by the Apostles) has its existence in Christ, but He is not Himself the Church.
Redemptive Election Pattern: We’ve already touched on this, but further discussion is helpful. Not only was Abraham, Isaac and Jacob chosen to be the corporate head of ethnic (natural) Israel, they were also chosen to be the corporate head of the believing remnant of Israel (Ro 9:27; Ro 11:5). Abraham and his two sons were not chosen just to be the head of Israel; they were also obviously chosen for salvation. Not only does Scripture tell us they were believers, but to be an accurate type of Christ, they had to be believers. It was no mere coincidence that they believed and were head of Israel. They were just as obviously chosen for salvation as they were chosen to be head of Israel. Therefore, their salvation was representative of the salvation of those who would follow in their faith, just as Christ is representative of our salvation as believers of the New Covenant. The unconditional sovereign election of the fathers, reveals the nature of election. It serves as an example of how election operates in the plan of God regarding salvation. Therefore, the sovereign election to salvation of the fathers, reveals the sovereign election of all those who would believe after them. This is confirmed by many other examples of Scripture, which we discuss below.
Other Examples: The unconditional sovereign election of the OT fathers is supported by many other examples. We have Melchizedek, who was a type of Christ as high priest and king (Ge 14:17-18; Ps 110:4; He 5-7); Moses who was also a type of Christ as deliverer and prophet (De 18:15-18); David and the Davidic Covenant (2 Sa 7:12-16; 1 Chr 17:11-14; 2 Chr 6:16), which refers to Christ and His kingdom; Jeremiah, whom God knew before He formed him in the womb, whom He chose to be a prophet before he was born (Jer 1:5); John the Baptist, who was prophesied about in both the OT and NT as the forerunner of Christ (Is 40:3; Mal 3:1; Mal 4:5-6; Ma 3:3: Mk 1:2-3; Lu 1:11-17,76); Mary and Elizabeth, who were the chosen vehicles to bring Jesus and John the Baptist into the world; the Apostles, who were chosen to establish the Church. All of these were obviously chosen for more than just service or types or vehicles. The election to salvation was most certainly involved in each of those callings. There’s an undeniable association between the two.
The Apostle Paul: Paul is the NT counterpart of Jeremiah. Both were chosen for salvation and set apart as prophets before they were born. (Jer 1:5; Gal 1:15-16). Here’s an example where Christ miraculously and visually and personally intervened in Paul’s life by revealing Himself to him and calling him to Himself for salvation and to ministry (Acts 9:1-8; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). I believe what we have with Paul is an outward revelation of how election works inwardly in people’s lives: At some point, God intervenes in a person’s life and regenerates them and gives them the gift of faith that is required for salvation. It’s totally God’s initiative. We who are dead in sins, while going through life in blindness and rebellion to God, Christ intervenes in our lives. Through the transforming and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, we’re made alive spiritually (regeneration), where we’re able to see and comprehend the gospel message, and given the gift of faith to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Salvation is a total work of God’s grace – from start to finish – which includes our election to salvation.
The calling of all these people are examples of unconditional sovereign election. These people and the role they had in regard to Christ, was no accident. They didn’t just happen to fit into God’s plan. They were obviously preordained by God as part of His sovereign plan regarding Christ and His people. They serve as examples of how election works in the plan of God. Their election serves as a revelation of the true nature of election.
Most significant example: Finally, we have Christ Himself as an example of the providence of God. While He did not need salvation, He was chosen to be our salvation. The certainty of His coming into the world was certain. His provision of salvation was certain. Therefore, our election to receive salvation as individuals was just as certain as His election to be our Savior. He was elected to be the Savior of His Church, which includes every member of His Church. We’re talking about actual and specific people – who make up the complete Church – and not just hopefuls, who just happen to receive Christ. God’s choosing of Christ as Savior was specific. Therefore, it’s reasonable that the choosing of those for salvation in Him is also specific. The specific choosing of the One is the specific choosing of all those in Him. The certainty of the one, ensures the certainty of the other. Just as His birth and election to save was certain, so was the birth and election of those to be saved certain. Jesus and His redeemed were chosen together. When God chose a people (group) out of this world for Himself, it was not a mere idea or mere possibilities that He chose. No, it was actual individuals that He chose, who make up the corporate people. Without the individuals, there is no Church. Without chosen individuals, there is no chosen corporate Body. God’s sovereign choosing of the One specific individual to provide salvation, is the sovereign choosing of specific individuals to receive salvation.
The accounts of individual sovereign election that we see in both OT and NT should be accepted as the norm and not as the exception. These accounts of unconditional election of individuals should be viewed as examples of how individual election operates in the plan of God regarding salvation. To view them as merely exceptions to the norm is presumptuous. We should accept it as a sovereign revelation of the nature of election. If Arminian proponents of CE will accept that Abraham and Israel serve as a type of Christ and the Church, what good reason is there for not accepting the examples of sovereign election given to us in the Bible, as being the actual nature of election? The pattern is there, and should be allowed to serve as our guide of understanding. Whenever such clear insight is given to us, it should not be relegated to the realm of least importance, but be given the highest place of consideration when studying the doctrines of the Bible. Examples in the Bible always serve as a reliable guide.
One part of this series may not be convincing enough, but when all four parts are considered together, it provides a reasonable argument against the Arminian concept of corporate election. However, as I mentioned in my introduction, anyone can write a rebuttal to any theological position. Someone may do so to this one. But what’s important to the reader is which position makes the most biblical sense? As a former Arminian who used to write a lot about CE, I’m now convinced that there’s too many details that don’t make sense biblically. It’s an inconsistent position. In fact, I think that Arminian CE is a misnomer. What Arminians label as “corporate election,” is not an accurate designation.
Arminian CE is a non-actual, inauthentic form of election. I believe a more accurate label would be, Single Election, as in the election of One. Or perhaps a better title would be Corporate Head Election. These are appropriate titles, because in this concept of corporate election, there’s only one person who is actually elected, and that is Christ. No one is elected to salvation, nor is anyone elected to be a part of the corporate Body of Christ. Rather, those who are in union with Christ (through faith) are merely in an elect “status.” They are elect only in the sense that they are in union with the elect Christ, both corporately and individually. There is no actual election of anyone, except the election of Christ to be the Savior and Head of the Church.
I think proponents of Arminian CE need to change the label, perhaps to one that I suggested. But then if they did that, it would leave everyone else out of the picture. There would be no real doctrine of election for the people of God. It would be no more than a study of the election of Christ, which would be a great study. However, they would have to deal with all the Scriptures that refer to those who are elect or chosen. Since Arminian CE presents an inauthentic version of the doctrine of election, and since it ends up as no more than the election of Christ, I think they’re left with no choice but to abandon their position on CE altogether. I believe the classical version of Arminain election is more in line with Arminian theology (where sinners are chosen according to God’s foreknowledge of who will receive Christ). At least in classical election, there’s an actual election of sinners to salvation.
True corporate election is the position that I’ve presented in this study, where the Church (spiritual Israel) is actually chosen by God, where each and every individual member of the Church is unconditionally chosen by God. Authentic CE views the election of the Body of Christ and it’s members as being chosen as one, where it has the completed Church of Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 19:6-9 in view. It views the election of Christ and His Church and each member of His Church, as all chosen together. We’re all part of the same plan. The choosing of Christ was the choosing of His Church. The choosing of His Church was the choosing of each member that comprises the Church. This is true CE. Those are the ones whom Christ actually died for and elected to save. Those are the ones who were elected to be saved. Those are the ones who were elected to be saved by the Savior. Jesus is Savior of the Church, of whom He is also the Head (Eph 5:23-25). This means every individual member of the Church is included. The election of the Body, is the election of the members. The election of the members, is the election of the Body. This is true corporate election, where actual people are actually chosen — and not just having the “status” of being elect, in name only.
I encourage you to read through this series again, because it will make more sense to you next time around. Now that you’re familiar with all the individual parts, the validity of the whole argument (for and against) will be more apparent.
Further Reading: I also encourage you to read the other articles and studies on this website under “Election” and “Atonement.” They may answer any remaining questions you have about these doctrines.