God is a God of love, justice, planning, and purpose. He chooses what He wants to accomplish for His glory.
He chose the nation Israel (Deut. 7:6). He chose the Disciples (John 15:16). He chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:30). He chose Moses, Abraham, Noah, David, Job, excreta.
But God also chose us, and that, even before the creation of the world: Eph 1:4 “he chose us in him before the creation of the world…in love, he predestined us…in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
All over the New Testament, believers are called God’s chosen and elect – (Acts 13:48 “anointed for eternal life”; Col. 3:12 “God’s chosen people”; 1 Cor. 1:27; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13 “God chose you”; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1 “God’s elect”; 1 Peter 1:1 “God’s elect”; 2:9; 5:13; Rev. 17:14 “His called, chosen, and faithful followers”).
Not only does God choose us, but because we are spiritually dead, His power makes us alive. Eph 2:1-9 “…you were dead in your transgressions and sins…But God…made us alive…it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works.” This defines a Christian as one saved by grace and not works.
But, if He elects and saves some, doesn’t that mean those He doesn’t choose are not saved? Is this fair?
Paul answers this question in Romans 9:18-20 “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will? But who are you…to talk back to God?
The Bible, however, says those who are not chosen will “disobey the message” (1 Pet 2:8) and are themselves responsible for their decision to deny Christ.
This is the paradox of election and since God’s ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), we need to accept this.
But what about “free will”? Don’t I choose to be a Christian?
The Bible is clear that salvation is not initiated through our free will, as Romans 9:16 states “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” and John 1:13 “children born not of …human decision…but born of God.”
But…free will does come into effect after God’s miracle of justification. Remember salvation is instantaneous.
The story of Lazarus beautifully illustrates when free will comes into play. In John 11:38-44 “Jesus said ‘…you will see the glory of God…Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out…”
God chose to save Lazarus. Lazarus’ free will, however, could do nothing to overcome his dead condition. After Jesus’ power saved Lazarus, however, Lazarus’ through his free will got up and walked out of the tomb. We are not robots. We are simply unable, in our dead spiritual condition, to save ourselves through our free will and need the Holy Spirit.
Election is difficult because God is perceived as unfair in saving some and not others, and because salvation is not initiated by our free will. We need to understand and accept what the Bible teaches, and trust God because:
- It is the clearest meaning of scripture,
- It gives God the glory for salvation vs. man, and
- It gives us a proper perspective on our evangelistic efforts.