What is it?
The doctrine of Unconditional Election states that there is a people chosen by God unto salvation (the “elect”) and their election is based on no condition that they meet in and of themselves. I know, I know. That’s a lot to say at once. So let’s break it down a bit further.
Throughout the Bible, there are numerous references to God’s elect or electing of persons. Ephesians 1 tells us that we were chosen in Him “before the foundation of the world” and that we were chosen (or predestined) “according to the purpose of His will”. Peter begins his first epistle by addressing it to the “elect exiles”. Paul writes his letter to Titus in part “for the sake of God’s elect”. In short, the biblical authors had no qualms with election.
By “unconditional”, as said above, this is to say that there is no condition required or met by the elect prior to election. For one, as we saw in Ephesians 1 this is before the foundation of the world. This is further illustrated in Romans 9, where Paul uses the illustration of Jacob and Esau. Rebekah was told that the older would serve the younger “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad – in order that God’s purpose of election might continue” (v. 11). All this to say that there is no goodness within us by which we are chosen. There is no faith that God foresaw in us before He created the world and caused His electing us.
Another way I like to approach the doctrines of grace as a whole is as a logical progression. As we saw in part one, man is dead in his sins apart from the regenerating work of God. So by extension, those in whom that work is done have not merited such grace in themselves. Indeed, they could not. Their election is solely of God, as is their entire salvation.
It’s not fair. God wouldn’t choose just a few for salvation. To this objection, the first thing I would like to point out is that it tends to include an assumption that the elect are few in number, or at least fewer than those among the reprobate. This is a faulty assumption, since no human is made known the number of souls to be saved. To the charge of naming God unfair for not making salvation to all, we must be willing to acknowledge that God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.
So if God chooses some for Heaven, you think He chooses people for Hell? Short answer, yes. While that can be a tough pill to swallow, think about the implications of election. God, who is sovereign over all of creation, has chosen a people for Himself before the foundation of the world. He created EVERYone, including those who were not among the elect. By logical deduction, since He has created people with full knowledge that He will not save them. Thus He has chosen, or predestined, some for reprobation.
This doctrine makes God to be a moral monster. Whereas the previous objection focuses on God’s action, this focuses on God’s character – specifically His goodness. If God only elects some for salvation, then His decision to condemn others is taken to mean that His love or the offer of the Gospel was never genuine. The first response to this objection is made clear in Romans 9 when the questions are raised “Is there injustice in God?” and “Why does He still find fault?”, and in both instances the answer lies in God’s sovereignty over His creation. But also, consider the alternatives proposed in this type of objection. If salvation is ultimately dependent on the individual, then salvation is not wholly of God. If God alone saves and His desire to save all is in His decree, then He is powerless to save those in Hell. If God knows from eternity past who will “freely” not choose God and He creates them anyway, the objector is in no way resolving the issue. And finally, if God didn’t know who would choose Him then He is not omniscient or at the very least is dependent upon creation for His knowledge.
Applications In Apologetics
Walk in humility. While we may proclaim that God alone saves, and He has chosen whom He will bestow this saving grace upon, He has not revealed to us who the elect are. More specifically, He has not revealed that we are to use our assurance as a means of being a jerk. So when engaging others, whether they are unbelievers or fellow church members remember that because our salvation is not our own we are to approach them not as conquerors who are relishing the spoils of victory but as sinners saved by grace alone. Act like it.
Be patient. I cannot stress this enough, and this is just as much to myself as it is to you. Think of everything you know about God. How did you come to these convictions? Was it all of yourself? Of course not. We know what we know about God because in His grace He has revealed to us these things. Sanctification is progressive, and not everyone progresses at the same rate. Not everyone will hold fast to this or any other doctrine immediately. Be willing to take a step back and give room for the Holy Spirit to work in them just as He has in you. Not every conversation about the Gospel has to involve election.
Preach the Gospel to all. Since God has ordained the means of drawing the elect (the preaching of the Gospel) and He has not revealed to us who are among the elect, that means our task is to bring the Gospel to everyone. When Rowland Hill was told he should only preach to the elect, his response was spot on – “Very well,” he said, “next Sunday morning, chalk them all on the back; and when you have done that, I will preach to them”. But of course, we cannot do that. Thus, we are left to preach the Gospel to all, Likewise, we are to give a defense to anyone who asks us for the hope that is within us – not just the elect.