Election – Background Story

As a biblical term election refers to God’s choosing a particular people to receive his salvation from sin, guilt and condemnation. Classic Pauline passages teaching this doctrine are to be found in Ephesians 1 and Romans 9. The Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647, which expressed this doctrine for American Presbyterians, Congregationalists and the large number of Baptists who were represented by the Philadelphia Confession of 1707, declared in Chapter III, 5: “Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.”
This was in accord with the Calvinistic teaching of the sovereignty of God’s grace in unconditional election as set forth by the Synod of Dort in 1619 in answer to the five articles of the Arminian Remonstrance of 1610, which taught that God’s election was conditional, based on foreseen faith and perseverance.
Puritanism in both England and America wrestled with the question of how one can be assured of salvation since it is based alone on the grace of God in the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration, producing faith and repentance. In New England the majority of Puritan leaders favored a scheme of steps of preparation for grace, whereby an individual might gain assurance of salvation. “Preparationism,” by focusing on the subjective experience of salvation, helped open the way for increasing Arminianism in the eighteenth century. Such leaders of the Great Awakening as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, however, were Calvinists who reasserted the traditional understanding of God’s sovereignty in election.
In the nineteenth century the New School theologians like Congregationalist Nathaniel Taylor again accommodated orthodox Calvinism to meet the needs of the revivals of the Second Awakening. Baptists also were divided between Particular (Calvinistic) and General (Arminian) Baptists.
By the twentieth century, revivalism’s emphasis on freedom of the will and the individual’s role in making a decision for Christ had caused Arminianism to prevail in America over the Calvinistic understanding of unconditional election. The Pentecostal Movement, for example, was resistant to the doctrine of predestination.
G. M. Marsden, The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience, A Case Study of Thought and Theology in Nineteenth-Century America (1970).
P. Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 3 vols. (1877).
W. S. Barker


Election & Predestination – Salvation

Process of Salvation

God’s Side Work of the Father.

While there is human responsibility in salvation, there is first a divine side to salvation in which God sovereignly acts to secure the sinner’s salvation.

(1) Election. The question concerning election is not whether or not one understands it but whether or not the Bible teaches it. If, indeed, the Bible teaches election (or any other doctrine), then one is obligated to believe it.

The doctrine of election includes a number of areas: Israel is elect (Deut. 7:6); angels are elect (1 Tim. 5:21); the Levitical priests were elect (Deut. 18:5); Jeremiah the prophet was elect (Jer. 1:5); and believers are elect (Eph. 1:4). What is election?

Election may be defined as “that eternal act of God whereby He, in His sovereign good pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, chooses a certain number of men to be the recipients of special grace and of eternal salvation.” One of the principal passages concerning election is Ephesians 1:4 in the statement “He chose us.” The verb “chose” is the Greek eklego, which means “to call out” from among the people. The word means that God selected some individuals from out of the masses. Moreover, the word is always used in the middle voice meaning God chose for Himself. This describes the purpose of the choosing—God chose believers to be in fellowship with Him and to reflect His grace through their living a redeemed life.

Several characteristics are to be noted in election: it took place in eternity past (Eph. 1:4); it is an act of a sovereign God, and it is according to His sovereign will (Rom. 9:11; 2 Tim. 1:9); it is an expression of the love of God (Eph. 1:4); it is not conditioned on man in any way (2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 9:11); it reflects the justice of God; there can be no charge of injustice against God in election (Rom. 9:14, 20).

(2) Predestination. The word predestination comes from the Greek proorizo, which means “to mark out beforehand,” and occurs six times in the New Testament (Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29-30; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:5, 11). The English word horizon is derived from proorizo. God by His sovereign choice marked believers off in eternity past.

Several characteristics of predestination can be seen: it includes all events—not just individual salvation (Acts 4:28); it determined our status as adopted sons of God (Eph. 1:5); it assures our ultimate glorification (Rom. 8:29-30); it is for the purpose of extolling the grace of God (Eph. 1:6); it secures our eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:11); and it is according to the free choice of God and according to His will (Eph. 1:5, 11).

Election and predestination do not, however, take away man’s responsibility. Even though election and predestination are clearly taught in Scripture, man is still held accountable for his choices. Scripture never suggests that man is lost because he is not elect or has not been predestined; the emphasis of Scripture is that man is lost because he refuses to believe the gospel.

Copyright : Copyright © 1989 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997