The doctrine of election is hard to grasp. In my human nature, I find it hard to understand. Even though my heart wants to find another way to explain away this particular doctrine, I have been humbled as I have studied the topic within Scripture. My heart fights but it must yield to the sovereignty of God and the authority of Scripture. I have come to believe that there is a Scriptural foundation for the doctrine of unconditional election. Since I have come to this conclusion about unconditional election, the implication renders a belief in reprobation as well.
First, Scripture makes plain the term “election” and its synonyms. I believe it is important to hear Jesus use the term first. In Mark 13:20-22, Jesus states that the days were shortened for the “sake of the elect, whom He chose…” Just a few verses later, he states in verse 27 that he will “send his angels to gather the elect.” The fact the Lord Jesus uses the term “elect” and then gives the clarifying clause that the “elect” are those “whom he chose” in which he will have gathered is fairly clear. There are some that Jesus has chosen and there are some that have not been chosen. Our Lord’s use of the term can also be seen in Matthew 22:14 and Luke 18:7.
The theme of God choosing some based on his purposes runs throughout the Old and New Testament. God chose Abraham and his descendants. Psalm 47:4 states, “He chose our heritage for us; the pride of Jacob whom he loves” (see also: Ps 105:6; 135:4). God chose the nation of Israel to be his people in Deut. 14:2; 1 Kgs 3:8. God chose individuals like Moses (Ps. 106:23), Saul (1 Sam 10:24), David (1 Kgs 8:16), and others. The theme of a people chosen by God in the Old Testament shifts to a people chosen by God in the New Testament. Peter uses the Old Testament imagery in 1 Peter 2:9 stating that believers are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own possession”. This is used for a people group that has moved on from the Jewish religion to the Christian faith. Again, Peter states in his second letter that they are to confirm their election in 2 Peter 1:10.
Paul would also come to understand that “election” is part of God’s purposes and plans. Ephesians 1:3-14 is a foundational passage for understanding the doctrine of election. He would state that we are chosen before the foundation of the world (v. 4). We were predestined for adoption and it was according to the purpose of his will (v.5) It was a “plan for the fullness of time” (v.9) This was all done in Christ (v.3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13) to the praise of his glory (v. 12) and grace (v. 6; 7). Paul lets his readers know “when” this decision was made (before the foundation of the world) and that it was done without merit (to the praise of his grace).
Election, therefore, cannot be brought about due to any foreseen faith on the part of the believer. This objection falls short of the Scriptural basis of election. If God chooses some because of foreknowledge then it cannot be based on unmerited grace but on merited faith because God sees that you decide therefore God must respond in election. This, of course, goes against any Scriptural understanding of the basis of “election”. We were dead in our sins ( Eph. 2:1; 5) and a dead person can’t do anything. It is by grace that we are saved (Eph. 2:5; 8) by the work of God (Eph. 2:4). This can’t be of our own doing or merit (Eph. 2:8).
Paul would state this fact as well in Romans 9:16, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Even more hard to read, though, is the understanding of reprobation. Paul states in Romans 9:17-18 that God raised Pharaoh up to harden his heart to show His power. “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”
Paul would understand that these are hard truths. They are hard to grasp. Yet, he would remind us that we, the creatures who all deserve death, don’t have the right to answer back to God. Instead, I am humbled, grateful, and sobered by these truths and I submit myself to the sovereignty of God and praise Him for his glorious grace.
The Scriptures used are just some of many that I have found convincing me of this beautifully difficult doctrine. I understand that there are some that do not believe the same as I and I am okay with that. This is not a post to prove anyone wrong but merely a post in giving my Scriptural understanding of this doctrine.