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Doctrines of Grace - Unconditional Election

The Fact of Election

What do we mean by the doctrine of election? We mean that out of the ruined mass of fallen humanity God Almighty has chosen a people, a great innumerable company, which He intends to bring to salvation in and through Jesus Christ. It is one of the most prominent doctrines of scripture. The whole Old Testament is based upon the fact of election - God chose the nation of Israel for His own and passed by other nations. In the New Testament words indicating this doctrine are used continually (e.g. elect, chosen, ordained etc.)

The election taught in the Bible is seen to be:

a. Personal                   2 Thessalonians 2:13; Colossians 3:12; John 15:16; 2 Peter 1:10
b. Sovereign                Ephesians 1:5,11; Romans 9:15,16; Matthew 11:25,26
c. Unconditional         Acts 13:48; John 6:37; 10:26
d. Eternal                    Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Jeremiah 31:3
e. In Christ                  Ephesians 1:4

The Background to Election

It is vital that we see election against the background of the Fall. It is because this is overlooked or not understood that election is often thought of as "unfair". God is not now dealing with a race of innocents, but a race of rebels and sinners, all of whom deserve eternal damnation. God would be perfectly just to punish all with eternal damnation. He has however decided to save some out of the fallen race that His grace and mercy might be displayed in them. God is not obliged to save any. Rather than being criticized for not saving all, He is to be adored for saving any at all! To think that more people would be in heaven were it not for the decree of election is to totally misunderstand Biblical teaching. The fact is that none would be in heaven were it not for God's election.

Total Depravity (brought about by man's own sin) has rendered humanity in such a condition (see previous page) that when left to themselves men spurn the invitation of the gospel. Were it not for the intervention of sovereign grace all would perish, and all would deserve to perish.

When seen in this light election becomes a precious truth, a cause for praise. The root cause of a man's salvation is the electing grace of God (Romans 9:16). The root cause of a man's damnation is his own sin (Ezekiel 18:20).

The Results of Election

Sometimes human reaction is "if this is true then why preach the gospel; why exhort people to repent and believe?" This is seen to be invalid when we understand that God has not merely chosen people to salvation, but He has ordained that they should be saved through the gospel, through repentance, faith, obedience and holiness.

1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13,14; Ephesians 1:4.

No one has grounds for claiming to be saved unless they have exercised repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and have begun to walk in the path of discipleship. Paul said that he knew that the Thessalonians were elect (1 Thessalonians 1:4) but notice how he knew it, compare verses 5-10.

Observe that Romans 9 with its strong teaching on the sovereignty of Divine election is followed by Romans 10 with its free offer of the gospel, note verse 13. No one who has truly repented of their sins, trusted in Christ for salvation, and who is now endeavouring by God's grace to live a life of obedience to Him need fear that they are not elect. The fact that these fruits are in the life is the evidence that they are elect. On the other hand let no one boast that they are the Lord's and elect of God if these fruits are not evident in the life.

The Effects of Election

When a Christian rightly understands this truth it will produce:

Great brokenness and humility before God.A quickening of his love and adoration of God.Encouragement in the service of God (see Acts 10:9,10)

Is Election a Discouragement to Those Who Wish to Be Saved?

It should not be; it need not be.

This doctrine does not contradict or cancel the invitations of the gospel. God always keeps His promises - Acts 16:31; John 6:37; Matthew 11:28f; John 3:36.The warrant of faith is not a knowledge of our personal election, but the invitations and commands of God to come to Christ - Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 John 3:23The invitations of the gospel are expressed in such a way that no person need feel excluded - John 3:16; Romans 10:13.Where there is a desire to be saved, there is evidence that God is at work. But don't let it stop there!

Additional Note

Some feel that election must be explained by the word "foreknowledge" as used in Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2. The idea being that God elected those whom He knew would respond to the gospel when it was offered to them. A little thought however will reveal that we would then not have a doctrine of election but a doctrine of "ratification" i.e. God choosing those who chose themselves. Furthermore, the "foreknowledge" cannot be interpreted that way because:

It is contrary to the rest of scripture which clearly states that believing is a result of election - Acts 13:48; John 6:37.The two verses appealed to in Romans and 1 Peter do not speak of "what" He foreknew (i.e. something about them; what they did), but "whom" He foreknew. That is God does something with respect to them.Repentance and faith are spoken of in the scriptures as God's gift to His people - Ephesians 2:8; Acts 11:13.The word "know" is used in the Bible of loving (Genesis 4:1; Amos 3:2; Matthew 7:23). To foreknow therefore in these verses (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2) means to "love beforehand".