A sobering wake-up call it is to remember how unpopular and despised the doctrine of election has been, from the time of Esau and Jacob, to the time of our Lord’s incarnation, to our own days. For where there is any shred of self; self esteem, self congratulation, self righteousness, this doctrine will repel. To many things were the early followers of Christ open, but when that doctrine was clearly spelled out by the God-man himself, from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him (Jn 6:66).
There is no improving upon one’s human nature, ie. the old man (Eph 4:22). There is no hope in your ‘self’, either pre or post conversion. To think so is to be foolish, to try to add to God’s salvation, endeavouring to be made perfect by the flesh (Gal 3:3). Perhaps it was this grievous error that the Holy Spirit is magnifying with Remember Lot’s wife (Lu 17:32). It was maybe not so much the evil love of a wicked, condemned city which sealed God’s judgement of her, so much as the love of her natural, customary, old life that remained in her. She hadn’t let go of her ‘self’, so that whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it (v.33).
It is this urgent truth which so zealously spurred on the apostle Paul. This is no secondary doctrine or denominational tradition but the very essence of salvation, the litmus test of faith. It is either a) Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9), or b) Salvation is of the Lord but also of self. It cannot be both. The apostle warns us, too, that our freedom from the ‘self’ (or ‘flesh’ or ‘old man’ or ‘human nature’) ought to make us less self indulgent and more spiritually alive to others, so that by love we might serve one another (Gal 5:13), freed now from that fierce, incessant, human battle, be it in the realm of the workplace, the home or even the church.