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An Examination of the Five Points of Calvinism – Part II: Unconditional Election by Brian Schwertley

By April 3, 2011June 24th, 2019Five Points of Calvinism, Unconditional Election

The Bible clearly teaches that God chose a people for Himself before the foundation of the world. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:3-5). When the Bible discusses the predestination of those who are in Christ it speaks of the doctrine of election. The “elect” are those chosen by God. The verb “to elect” simply means to choose. The doctrine of election refers to “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.”28 In order to emphasize the fact that God’s election or choice of certain sinners to be saved is not based upon anything that the sinner himself does, Reformed theologians refer to election to eternal life as unconditional election.

The Arminian Idea of Election

Virtually all modern evangelicals and fundamentalists emphatically reject the biblical doctrine of unconditional election. They teach that election is based not solely upon God’s choice or good pleasure but upon God’s foreknowledge of man’s exercise of faith. In other words, before God created the world, He looked down the corridors of time and observed all those who exercised faith in Christ and then chose them. “Arminians, broadly speaking, hold that election is based upon God’s foreknowledge of who will actively co-operate with God in the saving of his own soul. Lutherans hold that it is based upon God’s foreknowledge of who will not resist his invitation to accept salvation as an outright gift. Wesleyans believe that it is based upon God’s foreknowledge of who will persevere to the end.”29

The view that God only chooses those who first elect Him by making a decision for Christ is based on Romans 8:29: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The Arminian or semi-Pelagian understands the word foreknow simply to mean an intellectual knowledge of something before it happens. Thus they argue that God knew beforehand who would believe and repent and then elected them. There are a number of reasons why the Arminian understanding of Romans 8:29 is unscriptural and impossible.

1. The first reason that the Arminian understanding of Romans 8:29 is unscriptural is the fact that “foreknow” in this passage does not simply mean to know an event before it happens. Paul uses “foreknow” in the Old Testament Hebraistic sense of to love beforehand. John Murray writes: “Although the term ‘foreknow’ is used seldom in the New Testament, it is altogether indefensible to ignore the meaning so frequently given to the word ‘know’ in the usage of Scripture; ‘foreknow’ merely adds the thought of ‘beforehand’ to the word ‘know.’ Many times in Scripture ‘know’ has a pregnant meaning which goes beyond that of mere cognition. It is used in a sense practically synonymous with ‘love,’ to set regard upon, to know with peculiar interest, delight, affection, and action (cf. Gen. 18:19; Exod. 2:25; Psalm 1:6; 144:3; Jer. 1:5; Amos 3:2; Hosea 13:5; Matt. 7:23; 1 Cor. 8:3; Gal. 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:19; 1 John 3:1)…. It means ‘whom he set regard upon’ or ‘whom he knew from eternity with distinguishing affection and delight’ and is virtually equivalent to ‘whom he foreloved.’”30 God’s electing love originates from Himself and not out of a foreseen faith or repentance. Therefore, when the Bible discusses election, it always grounds it in God and not sinful, depraved humanity. Election is “according to His good pleasure“ (Eph. 1:9). It is “after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11).

2. The Arminian interpolation receives its death blow from the immediate context of Romans 8:29. Arminians argue that predestination is based on a foreseen faith and thus that man is ultimately sovereign in salvation. God decides what He will do on the basis of what man first decides to do. Since, according to the Arminian, man is sovereign over his own salvation, the Arminian logically concludes that man can also reject God at any time and lose his salvation. But Romans 8:30 ff. shows that God’s love is not a passive, waiting, helpless love but a sovereign, active love—a love that nothing can impede, stop, or override. “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:30-39

The interpretation that foreknowledge is merely a recognition that certain people will exercise faith some time in the future; a faith that is solely dependent on man and that can fail at any time simply contradicts Paul’s emphasis on God’s determinative action in salvation. Paul presents a chain of events, all of which are dependent solely upon God. Paul is teaching a monergistic doctrine of salvation. That salvation depends solely upon divine choice and action. Paul emphasizes that God is the one who predestinates, calls, justifies, and then glorifies. Furthermore, it is Christ who achieved an objective, perfect redemption; who intercedes at the right hand of God for His people (v. 34). The three actions (called, justified, and glorified) which inevitably flow from God’s eternal counsel cannot be separated. “The future glorification of the believer is designated by the aorist, as his justification, calling, predestination, and election have been; because all these divine acts are eternal, and therefore simultaneous for the divine mind. All are equally certain.”31 Paul emphasizes that salvation is certain for the elect because “God is for us” (v. 31).

Salvation is guaranteed by God’s electing love and predestinating power. Such a doctrine is totally incompatible with the idea that everything boils down to the “free” choice of people who are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1); who could lose their faith and salvation at any moment. Since it is God alone who saves, Paul can affirm that nothing created can separate the elect from God’s love (v. 39). Nothing created—not even man’s will—has veto power over the elect’s final salvation. “He has shown how the present pilgrimage of the people of God falls into its place in that determinate and undefeatable plan of God that is bounded by two foci, the sovereign love of God in his eternal counsel and glorification with Christ in the age to come.”32 Girardeau writes: “Whatsoever, then, may be, according to the Arminian view, the love of God towards his saints, it is a love which does not secure their salvation: it is not a saving love. It is not equal to the love which a mother cherishes for her child. She would save him if she could. This reputed divine love may be called a special love, but it is not the love for his saints which the Scriptures assign to God. The idea of it was not born of inspiration: God never claimed such love as his own.”33 “What God is assuring his children in Romans 8:29 is not that He has foreseen our favourable response to his call when the time comes and has therefore decided that we shall duly be conformed to the image of his Son. It is rather that he loved us in anticipation and determined, for reasons entirely hidden from us, that we should be conformed to the image of his Son by an act of his sovereign grace.”34 Therefore, Christians can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

3. The Arminian interpretation of Romans 8:29 would place a blatant contradiction within Scripture. It would contradict the biblical teaching with regard to man’s state after the fall. The Bible teaches that unsaved, unregenerate men hate both Christ and the truth (Jn. 3:19-21). Unregenerate fallen man: dwells in darkness (Jn. 1:4-5); is dead spiritually (Eph. 2:1-5); has a heart of stone which is unable to respond to divine truth (Ezek. 11:19); is helpless (Ezek. 16:4-6); is unable to repent (Jer. 13:23); is enslaved to Satan (Ac. 26:17-18); and is unable to see or comprehend divine truth (1 Cor. 2:14). Unconditional election is the logical corollary to total depravity. Thus Jesus Christ taught: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…. No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (Jn.. 6:44, 65). An unregenerate man can no more choose Christ as Savior than can a rotting corpse.

Since the Bible teaches that the fall has rendered man incapable of believing in Christ and repenting, the idea that God looked through time and chose those who first chose him is absurd and impossible. That is why the Bible teaches that faith and repentance are gifts from God (cf. Jn. 3:3-8; 6:44-45, 65; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 2 Pet. 1:2). “For unless God by sovereign, operative grace had turned our enmity to love and our disbelief to faith we would never yield the response of faith and love.”35 Furthermore, the biblical passages which teach unconditional election are clear and abundant.

The Biblical Evidence for Unconditional Election

Acts 13:48. “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Here is the explicit statement of the doctrine of election by Luke. The Greek word tetagmenoi, which is translated as ordained (KJV, ASV, RSV), appointed (NKJV, NASB, Berkeley) and destined (JB) is the passive form of the verb tasso which (as might be expected) means to ordain, or to appoint. The fact that the verb is passive indicates that these people did not ordain themselves but were chosen by an outside agent—God the Father. These people believed in Christ because God first appointed them to eternal life. Luke, by the Holy Spirit, is stating in unambiguous terms why some people believe and others disbelieve. The difference is not that some people are smarter, wiser, or more holy than others, but that God has chosen or ordained some to life and passed by the rest. “[A] Divine ordination to eternal life is the cause, not the effect, of any man’s believing.”36 “Those believed to whom God gave grace to believe, whom by a secret and mighty operation he brought in subjection to the gospel of Christ…. Those came to Christ whom the Father drew, and to whom the Spirit made the gospel call effectual.”37

Those who strongly disagree with predestination have approached this passage in different ways in order to avoid its plain meaning. One method is to simply twist the meaning of the Greek language to fit one’s own unbiblical presuppositions regarding election. Thus the Living Bible translates Acts 13:48b as follows: “…and as many as wanted eternal life, believed.” Likewise, the old heretic Socinius invented his own Greek grammar to have the passage say, “…as many as believed, were ordained to eternal life.” A more sophisticated method is to argue that the verb is not passive but middle: “…as many as were disposed were ordained to eternal life.” Such a translation, however, ignores the teaching of the entire New Testament that God ordains or predestinates and not man (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; 9:11; Eph. 1:4; 1 Tim. 1:9; 1 Cor. 1:26-29, etc.). “Moreover, the phrase of being disposed unto, or for eternal life, is a very unusual, if not a very improper, and an inaccurate one; men are said to be disposed to an habit, or to an act, as to vice or virtue, but not to reward or punishment.”38 “[W]henever this verb occurs elsewhere, it invariably expresses the exertion of power or authority, divine or human, and being in the passive voice, cannot denote mere disposition, much less self-determination, any more than the form used in 2, 40 above….”39 Thus it is no wonder that all the ancient versions (including the Latin Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic) as well as virtually all modern translations (Living Bible excepted) translate tetamenoi as the passive: “were ordained, or appointed.” Spurgeon writes, “Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I shall not waste time in answering them. I read, ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed’ and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man. Is it not God who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, does not He—in every case—dispose them? Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it be right for Him to give it—is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would you have Him give it by accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give grace to-day, it was right for Him to purpose it before today—and, since He changes not—from eternity.”40

Romans 9:11, 13-15. “For the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls…. As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’ What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”

If one has ever wondered why some people become Christians and others continue in darkness, he need only read Romans 9:6-24. Paul argues that the reason some are saved and others are damned is that God so willed it. Paul says that God ultimately decides who receives mercy. Election reflects God’s will and purpose: “it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:16).

In order to emphasize God’s sovereignty over salvation (out of the whole Old Testament), Paul chooses the twin brothers Jacob and Esau as a case study in divine election. Paul sets out to prove that election to salvation flows solely from God’s will and purpose; that one’s blood line, parentage, upbringing, actions, or human choice have nothing to do with election. Note that Jacob and Esau were twins. They were conceived at the same moment and born only minutes apart. Unlike the case of Isaac and Ishmael who had different mothers, one being an Egyptian slave (Hagar), Jacob and Esau had the same mother, Rebekah. Both were covenant children born of the patriarch Isaac. Their conception was a miraculous answer to prayer (Gen. 25:21). From a human standpoint, if anyone had the advantage it was Esau who was the first born (Gen. 25:25) and favored by Isaac his father (Gen. 25:28). Furthermore, in order to make it absolutely clear that election has nothing to do with human merit or choice, Paul says that God chose one to salvation (Jacob) and one to reprobation (Esau) before they were even born; before either had done good or evil. Why is it that some people believe in Christ and others do not? Because God has mercy on some and others He hardens (Rom. 9:18). Ultimately God makes the difference. Paul reasons as “plainly as language can express the idea, the ground of the choice is not in those chosen, but in God who chooses.”41

There are a number of objections that have been raised against the doctrine of unconditional election as taught by Paul in Romans 9. First, it is said that when the passage says God hated Esau, it really means that God loved him less than He loved Jacob. Although the word hate can sometimes be used in Scripture to mean to love less (e.g., Lk. 14:26), the context of the passage quoted by Paul (Mal. 1:2-3) and Romans 9 itself indicate that in this instance hate does not mean to love less. “The context of Mal. 1:2-3 is one of judgment, punishment, indignation: ‘…Esau have I hated, and made his mountains a desolation…. They will build, but I will throw down.’”42 If Paul meant to love less, then why compare Esau to Pharaoh, whom God destroyed? God killed Pharaoh’s firstborn son and then drowned Pharaoh in the Red Sea. If a person slit the throat of your firstborn son and then drowned you in the backyard swimming pool, would you regard that person as loving you less? Also, why would Paul explain what he meant by saying that those hated beforehand are “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (v. 22). They are lumps formed by God for dishonor (v. 21). It is obvious that hate in Rom. 9:13 does not mean and cannot mean to love less.

Another objection is that Paul is not really referring to individual election, but the election of nations. Were not Jacob and Esau both the father of nations? Indeed they were. But the context of the passage indicates that here Paul is not at all concerned with collective or national election, but is explaining why “they are not all Israel, who are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6). Paul is explaining the distinction between Israel and true Israel. He wants his reader to understand why so many within the elect nation do not believe. This brings Paul to a lengthy discussion of individual election so that all may understand: they are not all elect (individually), who are of elect Israel (nationally). Furthermore, according to the Arminian conception of justice and fairness “is it not equally unjust of God to choose one nation and leave another? The argument which they imagine overthrows us overthrows them also. There never was a more foolish subterfuge than that of trying to bring out national election. What is the election of a nation, but the election of so many units, of so many people?—and it is tantamount to the same thing as the particular election of individuals. In thinking, men cannot see clearly that if—which we do not for a moment believe—there be any injustice in God choosing one man and not another, how much more must there be injustice in choosing one nation and not another. No! The difficulty cannot be got rid of thus, but is greatly increased by this foolish wresting of God’s Word.”43

The most common objection is: “That’s not fair!” Paul himself anticipates such a response in verse 14: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?” Many people think that the doctrine of predestination, where God foreordains some to salvation and others to destruction before they are even born, is unjust. Although such a response may be natural for the unregenerate and those ignorant of theology, it should never be the response of a Christian. Paul, after posing the question, says, “Certainly not!” (v. 14). Furthermore: “It is not for their being passed by that they are punished, but for their sins. Their being passed by is a sovereign act: their condemnation is a judicial act of God in His capacity as a Judge. ‘Salvation is all of grace; damnation all of sin. Salvation [is] of God from first to last—the Alpha and the Omega; but damnation [is] of men not of God: and if you perish at your own hands must your blood be required’ (C. H. Spurgeon).”44

A fatal problem with the objection that predestination or unconditional election makes God unjust is the simple fact that all human beings because of the sin of Adam and their own sins deserve eternal damnation. “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-13). God could justly send every human being to hell. He is not obligated to save anyone. If God had not (because of His love) elected some to life and sent His only begotten Son to die, no one would go to heaven. “Shall we not fix it once for all in our minds that salvation is the right of no man; that a ‘chance’ to save himself is no ‘chance’ of salvation for any; and that, if any of the sinful race of man is saved, it must be by a miracle of almighty grace, on which he has no claim, and, contemplating which as a fact, he can only be filled with wondering adoration of the marvels of the inexplicable love of God? To demand that all criminals shall be given a ‘chance’ of escaping their penalties, and that all shall be given an ‘equal chance,’ is simply to mock at the very idea of justice, and no less, at the very idea of love.”45 This explains why election is always presented in Scripture as according to God’s will and purpose and not man’s merit.

Paul goes on to quote Exodus 33:19 in response. The key to understanding election for Paul is God’s mercy. “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Rom. 9:15). What is mercy? Mercy is the unmerited or undeserved favor of God. “Compassion has to do with recognizing the poor or helpless state of a person and stooping to help that person. Mercy does the same, but its unique quality is that it is shown to people not only who do not deserve it, but who in fact deserve the opposite. In this case, mercy describes the giving of salvation to people who actually deserve to perish.”46

The Arminian thinks he is avoiding the common objection of unfairness by making the ultimate cause of election man’s choice of Christ. However, this supposed solution to the question of fairness does not really address the “problem.” The Bible clearly teaches that no one can be saved apart from Christ (Acts 4:12; Jn. 14:6; 15:5; 1 Jn. 5:12; Rom. 10:13). Yet throughout the history of mankind, very few people have had the opportunity to hear the gospel. If God was trying to meet this human, unscriptural standard of justice that undergirds Arminianism, would He not give every person in history an opportunity to hear the gospel? Yet, the biblical account shows that God in the Old Covenant era focused His attention on a tiny nation in Palestine while the rest of the world was left in complete ignorance and darkness. And even in the New Covenant era, when God is gathering His elect from every nation, the vast majority of people have not heard the gospel. Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel in Asia, but rather was directed in a vision to go to Europe (Macedonia; cf. Ac. 16:6). God excluded some and focused on others. “It was the sovereign choice of God which brought the Gospel to the people of Europe and later to America, while the people of the east, and north, and south were left in darkness.”47

Also consider that God is in total control of when and where each person is born, yet some individuals are born into households where they are taught false religions and philosophies while others are born into Christian households where they hear the gospel throughout childhood. One child is born in poverty to wicked parents who worship idols, and another is born into a middle-class Christian family where Christ is taught, honored, and worshipped daily. The Bible teaches that God has the power to open and close the womb (cf. Gen. 30:2-3). God could (if He wanted to meet the Arminian standard of fairness) only allow children to be born into godly Christian households. Furthermore, some are born more intelligent, trusting, kind, etc., than others. If God’s elective choice is dependent upon the foreseen faith of man, as the Arminian asserts, then election is unjust, because all men are not born into equal circumstances and all are not born with equal intellectual capabilities.

The doctrine of unconditional election is the only view of election which is just. The whole human race is dead in trespasses and sins, and under the just sentence of eternal damnation. But God, who is merciful, chooses “according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5) to save some. None are deserving. None are spiritually able. None have a spiritual advantage. They all are at the same point. Then apart from anything in them God saves some and passes by others. This is exactly what Paul is saying when sinful, guilty humanity is compared to the “same lump.” “Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Rom. 9:21) “This scripture evidences that there is ‘no difference,’ in themselves, between the elect and the non-elect: they are all clay of ‘the same lump,’ which agrees with Eph. 2:3, where we are told, that all are by nature children of wrath.”48 “The main idea Paul is putting across is this: if even a potter has the right out of the same lump or mass of clay to make one vessel for honor, and another for dishonor, then certainly God, our Maker, has the right, out of the same mass of human beings who by their own guilt have plunged themselves into the pit of misery, to elect some to everlasting life, and to allow others to remain in the abyss of wretchedness.”49

Another fatal problem for the Arminian view of election as taught in Romans 9 is that if Paul is teaching that election is based not on God’s will, but human choice, the hypothetical objections that Paul raises to the doctrine don’t make any sense. If Esau was not elected because he did not exercise faith, why would anyone accuse God of injustice? The Arminian teaches that ultimately God had nothing to do with it. The objection raised in verse 19 (“You say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’“) is obviously made against predestination. If (as Arminians erroneously assert) God cannot violate man’s free will, and salvation is merely a possibility which man sovereignly appropriates, why an objection against God’s absolute control of salvation and reprobation? Furthermore, the illustration developed above regarding the potter fashioning the clay solely as he pleases is also totally out of place. Unconditional election is a hated doctrine by most professing Christians today. Yet, the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, championed the doctrine and taught it with such clarity that one can only wonder how those who profess belief in the Bible can deny it.

It is truly sad that so many who profess the name of Christ hate the doctrine of unconditional election, for it is the heart of biblical religion and a God-glorifying doctrine. What is more fundamental to biblical truth than the fact that salvation is a gift from God? “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10). Those who hate the doctrine in reality hate God’s sovereign grace. They would ignore the doctrine if they could, but since it is taught so clearly and often in the New Testament, they have no choice but to attempt to explain it away. Their main attempt—the idea that election is based on a foreseen faith—turns election into its very opposite: God does not elect man, but rather man elects God. Furthermore, predestination in such a scheme is really a postdestination. The Arminian viewpoint is unbiblical and illogical for it makes the eternal counsel and choice of God contingent upon the choice of men who are spiritually dead and unable to choose Christ (apart from regeneration) and who do not even exist yet! The Arminian scheme has temporal events controlling and conditioning the eternal, unchanging will of God. In other words, the clay has control over the potter. The Arminian, by taking election out of God’s hands and placing it in the hands of depraved man, has destroyed salvation by grace alone and replaced it with a humanistic synergism. Christ testified against such Scripture twisting when He said to His disciples: “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (Jn. 15:16). Arminianism is unscriptural, irrational, and takes the glory due to God alone and bestows it upon sinful man.

Ephesians 1:3-6. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” The apostle Paul tells believers in verse 3 that God, the Father of our Lord, has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. The apostle then tells Christians why they receive such blessings. The ultimate reason, Paul says, is the choice of God the Father. The word “choice” is exelexato, which means God elected us. The starting point of all the blessings that Christians receive is the electing love of God. The choice that God makes is not based upon anything that takes place in time or on earth, for the choice was made in eternity—before the foundation of the world. The passage also clearly says that the choice of God has nothing to do with man’s choice, action, or merit, for God’s predestination is “according to the good pleasure of His will.” God’s act of predestination and election is to be found solely within Himself.50

Some attempt to avoid the plain meaning of this passage by asserting that God has elected all men. Such a view is mistaken for three reasons. First, the whole idea of election presupposes that some are chosen and others are not. If election applies to every human being, it is meaningless. Second, the eternal election of some by the Father is “in Christ.” Election cannot be separated from union with Christ. “[B]efore the foundation of the world, Christ was the Representative and Surety of all those who in time would be gathered into the fold.”51 Election is in Christ because those chosen were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), and deserving (apart from Christ) eternal damnation. Christ, the covenant head of the elect, promised the Father before the foundation of the world to fulfill the law and die a sacrificial death for His people, the elect. “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (Jn. 6:39). “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them” (Jn. 17:9-10). Third, the purpose of election is in order “that we should be holy and without blame” (v. 4). Girardeau writes: “The testimony in Eph. i. 4 is indisputable. Arminians are compelled to evade it. For example, Wesley says upon the text: ‘ “As he hath chosen us“—both Jews and Gentiles, whom he foreknew as believing in Christ.’ That is, he chose us because he foreknew that we would be holy. But Paul says just the opposite: he chose us that we should be holy. So clear is the affirmation that holiness is the effect of election, that even Meyer and Ellicott both acknowledge that the Greek infinitive rendered ‘that we should be’ is one of intention—in order that we should be holy.”52 Election does not open the possibility of salvation, but guarantees its actual accomplishment. As in Romans 8, election, justification and glorification cannot be separated. “[E]lection does not carry man half-way only; it carries him all the way. It does not merely bring him to conversion; it brings him to perfection. It purposes to make him holy—that is cleansed from all sin and separated entirely to God and to his service—and faultless—that is, without any blemish whatever (Phil. 2:15), like a perfect sacrifice.”53 Thus, if God elected all men in Christ, then one would have to argue that all men will actually be saved.


The doctrine of unconditional election is foundational to biblical Christianity for it places the salvation of men squarely in the hands of God. “Salvation is of the LORD” (Jon. 2:9). Men are saved solely by God’s grace. Calvin writes: “We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God’s free mercy until we come to know his eternal election, which illumines God’s grace by this contrast; that he does not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some what he denies to others. How much the ignorance of this principle detracts from God’s glory, how much it takes away from true humility, is well known…. If—to make it clear that our salvation comes about solely from God’s mere generosity—we must be called back to the course of election.

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