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What is the Doctrine of Election?

Election is 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. To understand the doctrine of election, as defined above, we have to understand that God is sovereign, that he is free, and that he does whatsoever he pleases. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3) God makes decisions based solely on who he is, not out of constraint, nor influence of anyone or anything outside of himself, but simply of the good pleasure of his will. Not only that, but everything does, is good and right and just, because he is the standard for everything that is good and right and just. So we have to settle that in our mind at the very outset. Election is simply God’s right to choose. It’s another way of saying he is God. He is God, so therefore he does whatever he wants. If you want to be God, you go create your own world. But until then, this world is his.

We could almost say that we see the first glimpses of election with the forming of Adam and Eve, then the calling of Abraham, and very clearly in the forming of the nation of Israel.

Out of all the nations of the world, he formed, and chose the nation of Israel for himself. “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers…” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

He didn’t have to create an oath with them. He didn’t have to make promises to them. So why did he? Well, it tells us why he didn’t. It was not because they were better or more desirable than any other people. And then tells us why he did choose, and make an oath with them, filled with promises. It is because he decided to love them. And that is the way election works.

The nation of Israel was not the only recipient in Scripture of God’s electing choice. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called Christ, “My Chosen One” (Luke 9:35). The holy angels also are “chosen angels” (1 Timothy 5:21). And New Testament believers are those who were “chosen of God” (Colossians 3:12). When Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose Me but I chose you” (John 15:16), He was underscoring this very truth. And the New Testament reiterates it in passage after passage. Acts 13:48 describes salvation in these words, “As many as have been appointed to eternal life believed.” Ephesians 1:4–6 notes that, God “chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul reminds his readers that he knew God’s choice of them (1 Thessalonians 1:4), and that he was thankful for them “because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). In Romans 8: 28 – 30, we read: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” In Romans 9, when talking about God’s chosing Jacob and not Esau, Paul says it was not because of anything that Jacob or Esau had done, but simply in order that God’s purpose of election might continue. “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, she was told, “The elder will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Rom. 9: 11 – 13) Taking election deeper, the fact that some of the people of Israel were saved, but others were not, Paul says: “Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened” (Rom. 11: 7) Paul indicates two distinct groups within the people of Israel. Those who were “the elect” obtained the salvation that they sought, while those who were not the elect simply “were hardened.” Yes, the nation Israel was elect (chosen), but even with the chosen nation of Israel there was even a more distinct election, and that is elect unto salvation. When Paul talks about the reason why God saved us and called us to himself, he explicitly denies that it was because of our works, but points rather to God’s own purpose and his unmerited grace in eternity past. He says God is the one “who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago” (2 Tim. 1: 9). When Peter writes an epistle to hundreds of Christians in many churches in Asia Minor, he writes, “To God’s elect . . . scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). He later calls them “a chosen race” (1 Peter 2: 9). In John’s vision in Revelation, those who do not give in to persecution and begin to worship the beast are persons whose names have been written in the book of life before the foundation of the world: “And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain” (Rev. 13:7 –8) In a similar way, we read of the beast from the bottomless pit in Revelation 17: “The dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will marvel to behold the beast, because it was and is not and is to come” (Rev. 17:8). There is much, much more scripture that could be added to this brief overview, yet as straightforward as scripture is, many deny and refuse to accept this doctrine. Men naturally seem to hate this doctrine. Besides the doctrine of hell, it is probably one of the hardest doctrines to accept. The thing is, we don't believe this doctrine because it is a man made doctrine. We believe it, because it is explicitly, as well as implicitly taught in scripture. The Word of God is clear: believers are those whom God chose for salvation from before the beginning. We don’t become of the elect by believing. We believe because we are one of the elect. The Bible says in Romans 10:13 says, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved". Election is just saying, guaranteeing, in fact, that there will be some people, vast multitudes perhaps, from throughout all of history, and from throughout all the world, who will call upon the Lord to be saved. They are the elect. God’s choice is the undergirding of all of salvation. In fact God’s choice is the undergirding of all things. Until we realize that, the Bible is not so much a book about God and what he is doing in the world, but more a book about man, and what he may or may not do.

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