What is the Christian doctrine of election? Election is God’s choice of particular persons for salvation on the basis of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. That God chooses particular persons for salvation is undeniable from Scripture. “You are the LORD, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham” (Nehemiah 9:7). “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2). On what basis does God make this salvific choice? There are primarily two views to this question held by Christians.
On what basis does God make this salvific choice? There are primarily two views to this question held by Christians.
First, there is the Arminian view. Arminians hold to the doctrine of conditional election, that God, with his perfect and all-encompassing foresight, looks down the “corridor” of time and sees all those individuals who will respond to him in faith. In this view, it is on the condition of man’s faith that God elects. It is man that drives God’s action. It is man’s faith that causes choice. Man is in the driver’s seat of election. This view fails to understand the Scriptural basis of God’s complete, “down the corridor of time”, knowledge. God knows all things, from eternity past to eternity future, because he has purposed all things according to his perfectly wise will. Is this not what we read in Isaiah 46:8-11?
“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”
And so, fatal to the Arminian position, the faith of men in the future, seen by God before he had created light, was known by God because he had decreed it to be so. Those who have faith have faith by the will of God. Those who do not have faith do not have faith by the will of God.
Second, there is the Calvinist, or rather, the Biblical view. Scripture teaches that God’s election of man for salvation is unconditional, not due to any condition or quality in man, whether that be faith or physique, but simply due to his purpose. He chooses according to his choice. He sets his love upon a people because he loves. He wills because he wills, a will that has perfectly been for as long as the Divine himself has been.
“And not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring…And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 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 him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (Romans 9:7-13).
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12).
What significance does the doctrine of unconditional election have for a church member doubting whether she is truly a Christian?
It is a common tactic of the Devil to tempt Christians to despair of salvation. And it is a right understanding of unconditional election that God intends his people to use to stand firm in the faith and rejoice.
“Christian sister, do you have faith in Christ alone as your perfect Savior and King? If you say yes, do you know why you have faith in Christ? It is because you are a sheep of the Good Shepherd, elected to be so by God himself.”
“Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one’” (John 10:25-30).
“Do you see this good news, sister? Why does one not believe? She is not a sheep. Why does one believe? She is a sheep. What does Jesus give to all his sheep? He gives them eternal life. Will they ever perish? No, not ever. Can anyone, even the Devil himself, snatch a sheep away from the Shepherd? No one will snatch a sheep, given to Christ by the Father, out of the hand of the Lord. So keep trusting Christ. Keep following him. Rejoice in this good news! Live in its liberation!”