Because of humanity's total depravity, God of necessity, in eternity past, chose certain people to be saved. There was nothing inherently better or different about the chosen people which caused God to choose them. God was totally free in His decision to show grace and mercy to some sinners who deserved nothing but His wrath. This is, in essence, the doctrine of Unconditional Election.
The basis of God's election is a mystery only known to God. We may not understand how it can be that He is able to elect some while passing by others. But rest assured, everything that God has decided to do is perfect and righteous because He makes no mistakes. Some say that this paints a picture of a God that is capricious and unjust. But this view overlooks the fact that if all humanity received what is just from God, then all would be condemned to eternal death in hell. God is under no obligation to save anyone. His shows mercy by choosing to save some condemned to death.
God's election is necessary because of the total depravity of human nature. Every son and daughter of Adam is an ungodly sinner; an enemy of God. None of us have within our nature the desire to choose good and reject evil. All stand guilty before God, deserving of His wrath.
But God, in His infinite wisdom and grace chose to elect certain rebellious sinners to be saved. Once He elected these sinners to be saved, He then predestined them to be saved. To elect means to choose; to predestine means to decide the outcome beforehand. The difference between election and predestination is similar to the difference between choice and power. A man could elect another to be saved, but he would not have the power to carry out the results of his choice. In contrast, not only has God made the choice, but He has the power to carry out that choice.
Election and predestination are two different activities of God, but they are inseparable activities. When God elects, He also predestines; when He decides something should happen, He sees to it that it will happen.
Election is God's sovereign choice unto salvation. The sinner is chosen to be saved but is not yet saved. The elect person remains an ungodly sinner until the Father draws him to the Son through regeneration. So the choice of the person's salvation is made in eternity past, but the actual salvation occurs within the lifetime of the person. This is important because it reminds us that we cannot sit back and allow election to run its course. Sinners must still be evangelized and witnessed to, and the Holy Spirit must still convert them.
God has not only determined those who will be saved, but has also chosen the means. Regenerate men are saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8) "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17) The gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16-17) The gospel must be preached, first of all, because God commanded believers to do so (Matthew 28:19-20), and secondly, because it is the means by which God saves His elect.
Some people say that God elected people to salvation on the basis of His foreknowledge. They define God's foreknowledge as His ability to read, or predict, the future. In this view God, using His foreknowledge, knew who would choose to place their faith in Jesus Christ, and elected these people to salvation. Faith is the cause of election, rather than the result.
This view assumes that human beings have within themselves the ability to have faith in Jesus Christ without God causing that faith. But due to the total depravity of humanity we know that no one is capable of any good thought or action, including faith. Faith is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8) If God had not foreordained to give the gift of faith to a person, that person would never come to faith in God.
There is an important problem with this view of God's foreknowledge:
The Bible does not teach that God foresees faith. Romans 8:29 says, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." "Those whom He foreknew " indicates that God foreknows people, not their actions.
Ephesians 1:3-14 is perhaps the best place in that describes the nature of election. Verse four says: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him." God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world. He chose us before we were created, before Adam was created. In fact, He chose us before the world was created. We were elected to be saved before we ever had done anything good or bad, before we had the opportunity to choose or reject God.
He chose us to be holy and blameless in His sight. Some people say that He chose us because He knew that we would be holy and blameless. But this verse tells us that our being holy and blameless is a result of His choice, not the cause of His choice.
Verses five and six say: "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." Having chosen us, He also predestined us. His choice and predestination are in accordance with His pleasure and will.
John 1:13 says that the saved are "born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." The source of election is God's good pleasure. Salvation is determined by God's will, not man's will. The realization of our election by God should humble us. It excludes all self-accreditation, since we had absolutely nothing to do with determining our own salvation. It should lead us to praise His glorious grace.
Grace is the unmerited favor of God. The doctrines of election and predestination should drive home the point that God's favor is totally unearned by us. It is solely God's free choice to elect or not elect, not ours. God's grace emphasizes the fact that salvation is not the result of human endeavor.
Verse eleven says that "we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." We are made heirs in Christ because God made it so. We have been predestined to this by God. God's plan is not determined by our will, but by God's will. It is very clear from Ephesians 1 that God has freely chosen certain sinners to be saved; and that He made this choice before the foundation of the world. But Ephesians 1 is not the only place that teaches this truth. It is taught in many other passages as well. Here are some examples:
Election is a free and gracious gift of the Lord. A person is saved only because God chose that person to be His child. You are born again to newness of life, not according to your will, but according to God's will. Your heart should be overflowing with humility, praise, and thanksgiving to God for your salvation. Not even in the least bit can you claim any credit for your salvation. Apart from the elective and regenerative intervention of God, salvation would be impossible. We would be justly and eternally condemned for our sins.
Total Depravity |
Unconditional Election |
Limited Atonement |
Irresistible Grace |
Perseverance of the Saints