As we began our examination into election last week, we considered the meaning of election in the Old Testament; it is now time to turn to the New Testament and understand the nature of the election of the Christian.
When considering the nature of election in the New Testament many turn to Romans 9-11 and thus come away with the idea that God’s election is arbitrarily determined beforehand. We must keep context in mind: in Romans 9-11, Paul is speaking most specifically about the Israelites and how God is just in casting off unbelieving Israel while grafting in the believers among the nations.
Nevertheless, it is true that believers have been elected: believers are addressed as the elect (Titus 1:1, 1 Peter 1:1), and they should be certain of their election and should make their calling and election sure (1 Thessalonians 1:4, 2 Peter 1:10).
We should not believe that this election is particular or exclusive to any particular group of people. God wants all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9); in the ideal, everyone would be the elect. No one is elect because of their nationality, ethnicity, or by virtue of any righteousness, for God shows no partiality and all have sinned (Romans 2:11, 3:23).
But are individuals specifically elected? It is clear that there are times when God does choose particular people for particular purposes, as is evident in the case of Saul of Tarsus (cf. Acts 9:1-16, 22:7-10). Saul did not “deserve” this calling or election, but he still needed to prove obedient to the Lord.
If it may be that God does specifically and individually choose “the elect,” it would be on the same basis as those who are predestined: God’s foreknowledge of their obedience or disobedience, since those whom God predestined by His foreknowledge He called (cf. Romans 8:29-30). The good news of God in Jesus Christ must go out to all men (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, 1 Timothy 2:4), and so in that sense everyone is to hear the call of obedience to Jesus Christ. Many may be called, but only a few are chosen (Matthew 22:14); God already knows that many will prove disobedient and rebellious and will not obey His will. Those who obey in faith are God’s chosen people (cf. Colossians 3:12).
What does election grant the Christian? As with Israel, so with the Christian: he is granted access to God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:16), and may learn of the nature and revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ and the message of Scripture (John 1:18, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 1:3). Election, by itself, is no guarantee of salvation, just as it was with Israel; those who disobey, even if they were formerly obedient, will receive condemnation (cf. Hebrews 10:26-31, 2 Peter 2:20-22). Those who obey God in faith are the ones who are elect and chosen, regardless of their origins! God’s elect are expected to conform to the standard of conduct to which they have been entrusted, the Gospel of Christ (Romans 6:17, Colossians 3:12): to show love, compassion, and mercy upon others, and to abhor sin (Romans 12:9).
Whether chosen individually by God’s foreknowledge of obedience or directly through choosing God in Christ in obedient faith, the Christian should rejoice in their election, and, as Peter encourages, to make that election sure through their obedience (cf. 2 Peter 1:10). Believers must take care to not become haughty on account of their election, presuming that they are somehow superior to others because of their status in Christ, for no one was elected by their special virtue, since God does not show partiality. In reality, no one deserves God’s election, for we have all sinned; our election is by God’s grace and mercy, and it can be lost if we prove to be disobedient like Israel. Let us enjoy the privileges of election, access to God the Father, present salvation, and the knowledge of the truth, and exhort others to obedient faith so that they may also enjoy the fruits of election!
Ethan R. Longhenry