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Unconditional Election in Scripture


As we have seen. all of mankind is born dead in sin (Romans 5:12). Sinful human beings are both unwilling and unable to believe and follow Christ. This is not merely due to ambivalence; we are, by nature “hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). “It is in this context that the Bible sets forth the doctrine of election.

God would have been perfectly just to leave it at that—he is in no way obligated to show mercy to anyone—but he did not. According to his eternal purpose, he chose a people for himself and foreordained their salvation.

This choosing took place “before the foundation of the world.”

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

—Ephesians 1:4

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

—2 Thessalonians 2:13

who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity

—2 Timothy 1:9

Contrary to Arminian dogma, God’s choice was not based on his foreknowledge of our response to the gospel (an explanation of “foreknew” in Romans 8:29 will be forthcoming in a future post).

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Romans 9:11–13

Lest we be tempted to protest the injustice of such an apparently arbitrary choice,

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. . . .

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

—Romans 9:14–16, 19–21

God’s choice is not unjust, nor is it arbitrary. He has a purpose:

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

. . . What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

—Romans 9:17–18, 22–24

Election is part of salvation, but it is not, by itself, salvation. The elect surely will be saved, but until the moment of rebirth (John 3:3), they are not yet “in Christ.” As Paul indicates in the following verse, all are not saved simultaneously, though they were so chosen “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

—Romans 16:7

Election was based solely on the sovereign choice of God, but sovereign election is only a part of the theme of God’s sovereignty over all creation.

Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, “My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure”;
Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man of My purpose from a far country.
Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.
I have planned it, surely I will do it.

—Isaiah 46:9–11

This post is a brief summary of The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 27–39.

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Posted 2018·01·15 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Monergism · Sovereignty · The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented · Unconditional Election

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