Perhaps no other truth of God is more misconstrued, misrepresented, and misinterpreted than election. Some hate the idea that God would choose to save some and not others. Some love the idea that God chose them. Some are just confused about election all together!

Election simply means a choice.

A basic definition of biblical election is: God from eternity past chose certain sinners to be the objects of his saving grace, based on his choosing alone, not by our will, works, or worthiness. The scriptures teach us that election is an act of God that is blessed (Ps. 65:4).

The following essay is meant to be simple and basic. At the end of the article I will provide the references for a couple of good books about election which will explain this biblical doctrine in more depth and detail. But for now here are five things that we I want to you to know about election:

1. The meaning of election.

First, let’s look at what election is not:

  •  Election is not God looking down the corridors of time and foreseeing who would believe on Christ, and therefore choosing to save them because of their own decision.
  •  Election is not conditional. That is to say, there is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace.
  •  Election is not to be equated with God choosing people for a particular area of service, nor is election focused on groups. Election is concerned with God’s choice of individuals unto salvation

Election is by God’s choice (Jn. 1:13). Election is the unconditional act of God in which He sovereignly chose from the foundation of the world to reserve for himself a people who would believe on his Son and bear his glory into eternity (Rom. 9:11-28, 11:4-6; Acts 13:48). Election itself is not salvation, but is unto salvation.

2. The origin of election.

Election originated in the mind and heart of God before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 1:1,2). If I understand the Bible, God is not presently choosing individuals unto salvation. God has chosen to save a finished number known only to himself (Rom. 11:33-34).

3. The cause of election.

The cause of God’s choice to save us has nothing whatsoever to do with anything found in us, as far as we know. We cannot earn salvation by religion, by morality, by good deeds, or by our decisions. The cause of God’s election, simply, is His love for us in Christ (Eph. 2:4-7; Rom. 8:29-39; Rom. 9:11-13; 1 Jn. 4:19).

4. The purpose of election.

The purpose of God’s election, as is all things, is the glory of Himself (Rom. 9:14-23; Eph. 1:5-6; 1:14; 1:18-19; Jn. 17:6-10).

5. Our response to election.

How can we live out election? The Bible portrays the following responses Christians should have to election:

1. Humility (Rom. 9:20). We should be humbled that God would choose to save us when he really didn’t have to.

2. Praise (Acts 13:48). We should praise and glorify God because of His great love in Christ for us, which we did not deserve.

3. Assurance (Eph. 1:14; Phil. 1:6). We must realize that the purposes and decrees of God cannot fail. If He chose to save us, He will not go back on His promise. Those whom he has cosen to save will be saved forever (if not, how can it be called “salvation”?).

4. Holiness (1 Pet. 2:9; 2 Thess. 2:13). God has purposed that we should be holy and blameless in Christ before Him (Eph. 1:4). Experientially, we still sin in our flesh, but the knowlege of God’s grace which has been bestowed upon us should motivate us to live a life of holiness and godliness (Titus 2:11-12).

5. Evangelistic zeal (Acts 18:9-11; Rom. 11:4-5; 2 Pet. 2:9-10). Contrary to  uninformed opinions, the doctrine of election is the basis for our evangelism, not a hinderance to it. Election insures that our evangelism is not in vain, not an arbitrary “shot in the dark”. Election assures us that all whom the Father has given the Son will hear his word and come to him (Jn. 6:37; Acts 13:48).

Suggested reading:

White, James R. The Potter’s Freedom. Amityville, NY: Calvary Press Publishing, 2000, pp. 121-228. (Note: This book was written as a response to another book [Chosen But Free by Dr. Norman L. Geisler], but is one of the most thorough, non-technical explanation/defenses of election, and Reformed Theology in general, that I’ve read.

Sproul, R.C. Chosen By God. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1986.

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