Of Being Elected

Election. It’s one of the more challenging topics in the Bible, by both those inside Christianity and outside looking in. It brings up many questions regarding God’s love, freewill, and the need for evangelism, just to name a few.

So what does it mean to be elected?

First, let’s define election. Wayne Grudem, in his book Systematic Theology, defines election as “an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure.”

There are several passages in the New Testament that indicate God ordained from the beginning those who would be saved. Here are a couple of these verses:

Acts 13:48 ESV
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

Ephesians 1:4–6 ESV
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

2 Timothy 1:9 ESV
9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

For the believer, the one who calls on Jesus Christ to be his Savior and Lord, these verses should bring comfort—but they often bring confusion as well.

When we read Paul’s message in Romans 8:29-30 we see that this calling from the beginning is our beginning on the road to receiving justification through Christ’s blood, sanctification through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, and ultimately glorification by the Father as our eternal reward.

So if God already chose us, what say do we have? Doesn’t this go against freewill?

There certainly are mysteries in play here that we may not understand on this side of Heaven, but it’s safe to say we aren’t forced to make choices contrary to our own will. Making choices is part of what it means to be a human being in God’s image, for we imitate God’s own activity of deciding to do things that are consistent with his character. God works through our choices to carry out His will—this is the foundation of His sovereignty.

We also need to recognize that if election were based on our decision alone, it would put us in a dangerous position of being saved by our own doing, which would then lessen His role in the matter and diminish the meaning of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Further, it is not God’s choice for anyone to reject Him (1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). The rejection and unbelief rest squarely on the shoulders of the individual (John 8:43-44; John 5:39-40; Romans 1:20).

So does election mean God is not fair? Certainly not. Remember, it is perfectly just for God not to save any sinful human being, considering his response to the rebellious angels (2 Peter 2:4-5) and considering the words of Paul in Romans 6:23.

God’s will is for all to be saved; we see it in the sorrows of our Lord recorded in Scripture (Luke 19:41; Matthew 23:37).

Finally, if the saved are already chosen, then why do we need to evangelize?

In 2 Timothy 2:10, Paul writes that his missionary journeys are for the elect and it was a source of encouragement to him to preach the Gospel, notwithstanding the great suffering he endured. The only role election had was that Paul knew that throughout his ministry, he would have some success in saving some souls through their acceptance of what he was saying. This is the argument behind Romans 10:17 that even the elect must hear the Word of God.

Our appropriate response to God for being predestined is to give Him praise for all eternity. Our appropriate response to others is humility since individually we have no claim on any portion of God’s grace—it’s all a gift from Him.