Is Election Unconditional?
The apostle Paul referred to people, who have God’s forgiveness and are saved from past sins, as “the elect”
). Hence, “the elect”
are people who have salvation. Thus far, we have the biblical position on this subject. Some people, however, believe God chooses the elect unconditionally. That is, He chooses who is saved or lost without any respect to the desires or behavior of humans. Is this true? Is God so capricious, regarding salvation, that He does not require any conditions? Let’s notice several important points.
One passage often used to support this belief is Romans 9:14-18
. Initially, and superficially, this passage sounds like it teaches unconditional election. However, when one realizes that Paul is talking about the salvation of a class
(not individuals), the misunderstanding disappears. In these verses, Paul argues that God can choose whichever class
He wants for salvation. This is significant because many first-century Jews believed that all Jews (and only Jews) would be saved. Paul makes it known (9:6
) that there are really two Israels: physical and spiritual. Paul’s point is that God has chosen spiritual Israel
(rather than physical Israel) as the saved. So this passage does not teach that God unconditionally elects individuals for salvation.
Another relevant point to consider comes from common sense. If we supposed that this doctrine is true (that God arbitrarily chooses who is saved or lost), then what purpose does the Bible even serve? If humans cannot add to (or subtract from) their salvation, by their beliefs and behavior, what good is the Bible? From a common sense point of view, the doctrine of unconditional election makes the Bible useless.
Notice further that this doctrine does not harmonize with lots of other plain passages of Scripture. 2 Peter 3:9
says that God is “not willing that any should perish,”
and He wants all to repent. How, in the name of logic, could it be said that God wants all men to be saved, but that many are going to be lost (Mt. 7:14
), if He could arbitrarily choose to save them? Also, in Matthew 11:28
, Jesus invites all men to come to Him. Why would Jesus invite all men to come to Him, if all could not come? These verses, as well as many others, indicate that being one of “the elect”
does not happen without conditions being met (i.e., hear (Romans 10:17
), believe (John 8:24
), repent (Luke 13:3
), confess Jesus (Matthew 10:32
), be baptized (Acts 2:38