From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

1. Definition .-Election, in the teaching of the apostles, is the method by which God gives effect to His eternal purpose to redeem and save mankind; so that the elect are those who are marked out in God’s purpose of grace from eternity as heirs of salvation.

2. Election in the OT .-The doctrine of a Divine election lies at the very heart of revelation and redemption. Abraham was chosen that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed ( Genesis 12:3). It was through the chosen people, the seed of Abraham, that God was pleased to make the clearest and fullest revelation of Himself to man and to prepare the way in the fullness of the time for the world’s redemption. Through their patriarchs and their Divinely guided history, through the laws and institutions of the Mosaic economy, through tabernacle and temple, through prophets and psalmists, through their sacred Scriptures, and at length through the Incarnate Word, born of the chosen people, the world has received the knowledge of the being and spirituality of God, of the love and mercy and grace of our Father in heaven. To Israel their great legislator said: ‘Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all peoples: but because the Lord loveth you’ ( Deuteronomy 7:6 f.). Israel was chosen to spread abroad the Divine glory, and God designates them by His prophet ‘My chosen, the people which I formed for myself, that they might set forth my praise’ ( Isaiah 43:20-21). They were taught, also, to realize how great were their privileges: ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance’ ( Psalms 33:12; cf.  Psalms 135:4). Their very position on the face of the earth, placed in the midst; of the nations, was chosen with a view to their discipline and sanctification, for thus the Maccabaean annalist puts it: ‘Howbeit the Lord did not choose the nation for the place’s sake, but the place for the nation’s sake’ ( 2 Maccabees 5:19). And the destiny of the elect people was to culminate in the Elect Servant of the Lord: ‘Behold my servant whom I uphold; my chosen (בְּחָירִי, ὁ ἐκλεκτός μον) in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgement to the Gentiles’ ( Isaiah 42:1 Revised Version; ‘the Elect one’ appears as a Messianic designation in the Book of Enoch  ; xl. 5, xlv. 3, 4, 5, xlix. 2, 4, and is found applied to Christ in  Luke 9:35;  Luke 23:35). This conception of Israel as the people of God’s election colours the whole of the teaching of the apostles and forms the subject of St. Paul’s great discussion in the chapters where he deals with the problem of their rejection (Romans 9-11). That the Jewish people had come to attribute to it an exaggerated and erroneous value is clear not only from St. Paul’s argument but also from the Rabbinical literature of the time (see Sanday-Headlam, Romans 5 , p. 248ff.).

3. Biblical use of the word .-In biblical Greek the word ἐκλεκτοί (ἐκλέγεσθαι, ἐκλογή) is of frequent occurrence. In the OT we find ἐκλεκτός used in the sense of picked men [ Judges 20:18,  1 Samuel 24:2); of individuals chosen by God for special service (Moses,  Psalms 106:23 [Septuagint105]; David,  Psalms 89:20-21 [Septuagint88]); of the nation Israel ( Psalms 106:5 [Septuagint105],  Isaiah 45:4;  Isaiah 65:9;  Isaiah 65:15); of the Servant of the Lord ( Isaiah 42:1; cf.  Isaiah 52:13). In the NT we find the verb used, always in the middle voice, of our Lord’s choice of the Twelve from the company of the disciples ( Luke 6:13,  John 6:70;  John 13:18;  John 15:19,  Acts 1:2); of the choice of an apostle in the place of Judas ( Acts 1:24); of Stephen and his colleagues ( Acts 6:5); of God’s choice of the patriarchs ( Acts 13:17); and of the choice of delegates to carry the decisions of the Apostolic Council to the Gentile churches ( Acts 15:22;  Acts 15:25). It is used of God’s choice of the foolish things of the world to put to shame them that are wise, and the weak things to put to shame the things which are strong ( 1 Corinthians 1:27); and of His choice of the poor to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom promised to them that love Him ( James 2:5).

In the Gospels ἐκλεκτοί and κλητοί are distinguished: κλητοί, as Lightfoot puts it ( Colossians 3, 1879, p. 220), ‘being those summoned to the privileges of the Gospel, and ἐκλεκτοί those appointed to final salvation ( Matthew 24:22;  Matthew 24:24;  Matthew 24:31,  Mark 13:20;  Mark 13:22;  Mark 13:27,  Luke 18:7). But in St. Paul no such distinction can be traced. With him the two terms seem to be co-extensive, as two aspects of the same process, κλητοί having special reference to the goal, and ἐκλεκτοί to the starting-point. The same persons are “called” to Christ and “chosen out” from the world.’ It is to be noticed in the Epistles that while ὁ καλῶν is used of God or Christ in the present tense ( 1 Thessalonians 2:12;  1 Thessalonians 5:24,  Galatians 5:8), ὁ ἐκλεγόμενος is never used, nor the present tense of any part, the aorist being employed to describe what depended upon God’s eternal purpose ( Ephesians 1:14,  2 Thessalonians 2:13). In St. Peter’s Epistles κλητός is not found, nor ἐκλέγεσθαι, but the verbal adjective ἐκλεκτός is found four times, once of ‘elect’ people ( 1 Peter 1:1), once of Christians as an ‘elect race’ ( 1 Peter 2:9), and twice, following the OT, of Christ as the Living Stone, choice and ‘chosen’ to be the corner-stone ( 1 Peter 2:4;  1 Peter 2:6). ἐκλολή is found of the Divine act ( Acts 9:15,  Romans 9:11;  Romans 11:5;  Romans 11:28,  1 Thessalonians 1:4,  2 Peter 1:10), and once as the abstract for the concrete ἐκλεκτοί ( Romans 11:7).

4. St. Paul’s doctrine .-It is St. Paul who most fully develops the doctrine in its strictly theological aspects. His teaching, however, only expands that of our Lord on the same subject, as when He speaks of those whom the Father had given Him ( John 6:37;  John 6:39;  John 17:2;  John 17:24), to whom He should give life eternal, and whom He should keep so that they would never perish ( John 10:28). St. Paul from an early period of his missionary labours saw results which were recognized in his circle to be due to an influence higher than man’s-to the predestinating counsel of God. For the historian tells how, on St. Paul’s preaching for the first time to Gentiles at Antioch of Pisidia, ‘as many as were ordained to eternal life believed’ ( Acts 13:48). This was on his first missionary journey. On his second he preached to the Thessalonians among others, and in the two Epistles written to them on that extended journey there is the clear recognition of the same influence. Giving thanks to God for them, St. Paul in the opening words of the First Epistle discerns in their experience, and sets forth for their comfort, the proofs of their ‘election’ ( 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10). From their response to the gospel call, their acceptance of the gospel message, their patient endurance of affliction, and the joy they had in their new spiritual life, a joy begotten in them of the Holy Spirit, St. Paul inferred and knew their election. And not long after, when he wrote the Second Epistle to correct misapprehensions produced by the First, he set before the Thessalonian Christians, in language still loftier and more explicit, this profound and encouraging truth of a Divine election ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15). God is here represented as taking them for His own (the verb is εἵλατο, not ἐξελέξατο), and it is ‘from the beginning,’ from eternity (there is a reading ἀπαρχήν, ‘firstfruits,’ instead of ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς), that the transaction dates. It is not to religious privileges merely, nor even to a possible or contingent salvation, that they have been chosen, but to an actual and present experience of its blessings, felt in holiness of life and assurance of the truth. This was, indeed, what they were called to enjoy through the gospel preached by St. Paul and his colleagues, so as at length to obtain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. In his Epistle to the Romans, written not long after, St. Paul, in ch. 8, rising to the loftiest heights of Divine inspiration, and penetrating, as it might seem, to the secret place of the counsels of the Most High, apprehends or himself, and makes known for the encouragement of faith, the links of the great chain of the Divine election by which the Church of believers is bound about the feet of God-‘foreknown,’ ‘foreordained,’ ‘called,’ ‘justified,’ ‘glorified’ ( Romans 8:28-30). Here ‘they that love God’ are co-extensive and identical with ‘them that are called according to his purpose.’ They are ‘foreordained,’ so that they may attain the likeness of God’s Son, and, further, that He may be glorified in them and see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. God’s elect ( Romans 8:33) may have the assaults of temptation and trial to face, and tribulation, anguish, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword to endure; but nothing can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.

These disclosures regarding God’s eternal purpose of grace are continued and extended by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where the spiritual blessings enjoyed in such abundance by them are traced up to their election by God-‘even as he chose us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace’ ( Ephesians 1:4-6). It is a further development of this when St. Paul says again in the same Epistle: ‘We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them’ ( Ephesians 2:10). The unconditional character of the Divine choice, emphasized in these statements of the Apostle, is affirmed again when, writing to Timothy, he bids him suffer for the gospel ‘according to the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose of grace which was given in Christ Jesus before times eternal’ ( 2 Timothy 1:9).

In a separate passage of the Epistle to the Romans (chs. 9-11) St. Paul deals with the mystery of the call of the Gentiles to take the place of gainsaying and disobedient Israel. In so doing he first vindicates God from the reproach of having departed from His ancient covenant-a reproach which would be well-founded if the covenant people were rejected and the Gentiles put in their place. Such a rejection, he contends, would not be altogether out of keeping with God’s treatment of His people in the course of their history.

‘There was from the first an element of inscrutable selectiveness in God’s dealings within the race of Abraham. Ishmael was rejected, Isaac chosen: Esau was rejected and Jacob chosen, antecedently to all moral conduct, though both were of the same father and mother. Such selectiveness ought at least to have prevented the Jews from renting their claims simply on having “Abraham to their father” ’ (Gore, ‘Argument of Romans ix.-xi.’ in Studia Biblica . iii. 40; cf. A. B. Bruce, St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity , p. 312ff.).

‘The election within the election’ here, St. Paul argues, is the Christian Church-the Israel after the Spirit; and the reproach of the objector falls to the ground ( Romans 9:6-9). Besides, the Apostle further maintains, God, in His electing purpose, is sovereign, as is seen in the difference between the two sons of Rebecca; in the Divine word to Moses: ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy’; and in the hardening of the heart of Pharaoh ( Romans 9:10-24). And after all, if the election were cancelled, the blame would be Israel’s own, because of unbelief and disobedience, such as Moses denounced, and Isaiah bewailed when he said: ‘All the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people’ ( Romans 10:21).

But, despite appearances, Israel was not cast off. Their rejection was not final. There were believing Israelites, like St. Paul himself, in all the churches; and he could say: ‘At this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace’ ( Romans 11:5). Meanwhile the problem of Israel’s unbelief and of the passing over of spiritual privilege to the Gentiles ( Romans 11:11) is to be solved by the Gentiles provoking Israel to jealousy-appreciating and embracing and profiting by the blessings of the Christian salvation to such an extent that Israel will be moved to desire find to possess those blessings for their own. When Jews in numbers come to seek as their own the righteousness and goodness which they see thus manifested in the lives of Christians, and are stirred up to envy and emulation by the contemplation of them, the time will be at hand when all Israel-Israel as a nation-shall be saved. Of that issue St. Paul has no doubt, for ‘the gifts and calling of God are without repentance’ ( Romans 11:29).

To sum up St. Paul’s teaching, election (1) is the outcome of a gracious purpose of the heart of God as it contemplates fallen humanity from all eternity ( Romans 8:28-29; cf.  Romans 5:8-10); (2) is a display of Divine grace calculated to redound to the glory of God by setting forth His love and mercy towards sinful men ( Ephesians 1:3-14); (3) is not conditioned upon any good foreseen in the elect, nor in any faith or merit which they may exhibit in time ( Romans 9:11-13), but is ‘according to the good pleasure of his will’ ( Ephesians 1:5), ‘according to his own purpose of grace’ ( 2 Timothy 1:9), of God’s sovereign purpose and grace ( Romans 9:15;  Romans 11:5-7); (4) is carried out ‘in Christ’ ( Ephesians 1:4;  Ephesians 2:10) through the elect being brought into union with Him by faith, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places ( Ephesians 1:3;  Ephesians 1:5); (5) issues in sanctification by the Spirit and assurance of the truth ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13 f.) and heavenly glory ( Romans 8:30); and (6) is proved by acceptance of the gospel call and by the trust and peace and joy of believing and obedient hearts ( 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6).

5. St. Peter’s doctrine .-If St. Peter’s allusions to the subject of election are few they fully support the teaching of St. Paul. In his addresses at Jerusalem after Pentecost, he speaks of ‘the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God’ ( Acts 2:23) with reference to Jesus. It is fitting that the Apostle of the Circumcision should speak of Him as ‘a living stone, rejected indeed of man, but with God elect, precious’ ( 1 Peter 2:4; cf. ἀποδεδειγμένον, ‘approved,’  1 Peter 2:22), and even quote concerning Him the prophetic Scripture: ‘Behold I lay in Zion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious’ (1Pe:6; cf.  Isaiah 28:16). Of Christ he speaks, too, as ‘foreknown’ ( 1 Peter 1:20; Hort, ad loc. , ‘designated afore’) before the foundation of the world.

St. Peter gives manifest prominence to the doctrine of election when, in the opening words of his First Epistle, he addresses the Jewish Christians of Pontus and other Asiatic provinces as ‘the elect who are sojourners’ there (ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς Πόντου, κτλ.). ‘Elect’ they are because their lot is cast in favoured lands where the messengers of the gospel have proclaimed the good tidings-still more because they have obeyed and believed the message, and have had experience of the blood of sprinkling and of the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit-yea, because they have been ‘designated afore,’ not to service as Christ was from the foundation of the world ( 1 Peter 1:20), but to blessing, even all the blessings of the Christian salvation by God the Father Himself ( 1 Peter 1:1-2). Conceived of as the Christian Israel, the Israel after the Spirit, these Jewish believers are, as St. Peter elsewhere calls them, ‘an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession’ ( 1 Peter 2:9, where election is seen to be not simply to privilege, but to character and service, to holy living and the setting forth of the Divine glory). Although they are an ‘elect race’ they are also in the same context described as ‘living stones’ (1Pe2:5), and Hort is right when he says ‘the whole spirit of the Epistle excludes any swallowing up of the individual relation to God in the corporate relation to Him; and the individual relation to God implies the individual election’ ( First Epistle of St. Peter, I. 1-II. 17 , 1898, p. 14).

Few as are St. Peter’s utterances regarding the doctrine, they entirely support St. Paul, even when, emphasizing the urgency of the matter as a part of practical religion, he bids his readers give diligence to make their ‘calling and election sure’ ( 2 Peter 1:10).

6. St. John’s doctrine .-It is from St. John that we have the record of our Lord’s most impressive teaching on the subject of those whom the Father had given Him ( John 6:37;  John 6:39;  John 17:2;  John 17:24). In his Gospel he uses ἐκλέγεσθαι, always, however, as employed in His discourses by the Lord Himself and with a definite reference to the Twelve, or to the company of the disciples. In his Second Epistle ( 2 John 1:1;  2 John 1:13) he has ἐκλεκτή. Whether the word describes an individual or a society it is not easy to say, but at least it has the same theological signification as in St. Paul and St. Peter. In the Apocalypse ( Revelation 17:14) ἐκλεκτοί is used in a very significant connexion, where they that are with the Lamb in His warfare against the powers of evil, and in His victory over them, are ‘called and chosen and faithful,’ They are ‘called’ (κλητοί) in having heard and accepted the gospel message; ‘chosen’ (ἐκλεκτοί) as thus having given evidence of their Divine election; ‘faithful’ (πιστοί) as having yielded the loyal devotion of their lives to their Divine Leader, and persevered therein to the end. That ‘the elect’ are the same as ‘the sealed’ ( Revelation 7:4) may be inferred from the manner in which the 144,000 pass unscathed through the conflicts and terrors let loose upon them ( Revelation 14:1).

From this passage apparently comes the thought of the ‘number’ of the elect an in the Book of Common Prayer (‘Order for the Burial of the Dead’): ‘that it may please Thee to accomplish the number of Thine elect.’ The thought appears early in the sub-Apostolic Church, For in Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians he urges them to ‘pray with earnest supplication and intercession that the Creator of all would preserve unharmed the constituted number of His elect in all the world through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through whom He called us from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge of the glory of His name’ (lix. 2; cf. ii. 4, lviii. 2; Apostol. Const . v. 15, viii. 22). No countenance is given in the Early Church to the idea that ‘the elect’ may live as they list and at last be saved, ‘Let us cleave to the innocent and the righteous,’ says Clement of Rome, ‘for such are the elect of God’ ( op. cit. xlvi. 4). ‘It is through faith,’ says Hermas ( Vis . III. viii. 3), ‘that the elect of God are saved.’ ‘In love all the elect of God were made perfect,’ says Clement again (xlix. 5), ‘for without love nothing is wellpleasing unto God.’

Literature.-C. Hodge, Systematic Theology 1874, ii. 333ff.; H. C. G. Moule, Outlines of Christian Doctrine , 1889, p. 37ff.; C. Gore, in Studia Biblica , iii. [1891] 37ff.; Sanday-Headlam, Romans 5 ( International Critical Commentary , 1902), 248ff.; A. B. Brace, St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity , 1894, p. 310ff.; Commentaries on passages noticed above, especially Lightfoot and Hort, ad locc .

Thomas Nicol.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

ELECTION . The idea of election, as expressive of God’s method of accomplishing His purpose for the world in both providence and grace, though (as befits the character of the Bible as peculiarly ‘the history of redemption’) especially in grace, goes to the heart of Scripture teaching. The word ‘election’ itself occurs but a few times (  Acts 9:15 ‘vessel of election,’   Romans 9:11;   Romans 11:5;   Romans 11:7;   Romans 11:28 ,   1 Thessalonians 1:4 ,   2 Peter 1:10 ); ‘elect’ in NT much oftener (see below); but equivalent words in OT and NT, as ‘choose,’ ‘chosen,’ ‘foreknow’ (in sense of ‘fore-designate’), etc., considerably extend the range of usage. In the OT, as will be seen, the special object of the Divine election is Israel ( e.g.   Deuteronomy 4:37;   Deuteronomy 7:7 etc.); but within Israel are special elections, as of the tribe of Levi, the house of Aaron, Judah, David and his house, etc.; while, in a broader sense, the idea, if not the expression, is present wherever individuals are raised up, or separated, for special service (thus of Cyrus,   Isaiah 44:28;   Isaiah 45:1-6 ). In the NT the term ‘elect’ is frequently used, both by Christ and by the Apostles, for those who are heirs of salvation ( e.g.   Matthew 24:22;   Matthew 24:24;   Matthew 24:31 ||,   Luke 18:7 ,   Romans 8:33 ,   Colossians 3:12 ,   2 Timothy 2:10 ,   Titus 1:1 ,   1 Peter 1:2 ), and the Church, as the new Israel, is described as ‘an elect race’ (  1 Peter 2:9 ). Jesus Himself is called, with reference to   Isaiah 42:1 , God’s ‘chosen’ or ‘elect’ One (  Matthew 12:18 ,   Luke 9:35 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ,   Luke 23:35 ); and mention is once made of ‘elect’ angels (  1 Timothy 5:21 ). In St. Paul’s Epistles the idea has great prominence (  Romans 9:1-33 ,   Ephesians 1:4 etc.). It is now necessary to investigate the implications of this idea more carefully.

Election, etymologically, is the choice of one, or of some, out of many . In the usage we are investigating, election is always, and only, of God. It is the method by which, in the exercise of His holy freedom, He carries out His purpose (‘the purpose of God according to election,’   Romans 9:11 ). The ‘call’ which brings the election to light, as in the call of Abraham, Israel, believers, is in time, but the call rests on God’s prior, eternal determination (  Romans 8:28-29 ). Israel was chosen of God’s free love (  Deuteronomy 7:6 ff.); believers are declared to be blessed in Christ, ‘even as he chose’ them ‘in him’ the One in whom is the ground of all salvation ‘before the foundation of the world’ (  Ephesians 1:4 ). It is strongly insisted on, therefore, that the reason of election is not anything in the object itself (  Romans 9:11;   Romans 9:16 ); the ground of the election of believers is not in their holiness or good works, or even in fides prÅ“visa , but solely in God’s free grace and mercy (  Ephesians 1:1-4; holiness a result, not a cause). They are ‘made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will’ (  Ephesians 1:11 ); or, as in an earlier verse, ‘according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace’ (  Ephesians 1:6 ). Yet, as it is axiomatic that there is no unrighteousness with God (  Romans 9:14 ); that His loving will embraces the whole world (  John 3:16 ,   1 Timothy 2:4 ); that He can never, in even the slightest degree, act partially or capriciously (  Acts 10:34 ,   2 Timothy 2:13 ); and that, as salvation in the case of none is compulsory, but is always in accordance with the saved person’s own free choice, so none perishes but by his own fault or unbelief it is obvious that difficult problems arise on this subject which can be solved, so far as solution is possible, only by close attention to all Scripture indications.

1. In the OT . Valuable help is afforded, first, by observing how this idea shapes itself, and is developed, in the OT. From the first, then, we see that God’s purpose advances by a method of election, but observe also that, while sovereign and free, this election is never an end in itself, but is subordinated as a means to a wider end. It is obvious also that it was only by an election that is, by beginning with some individual or people, at some time, in some place that such ends as God had in view in His Kingdom could be realized. Abraham, accordingly, is chosen, and God calls him, and makes His covenant with him, and with his seed; not, however, as a private, personal transaction, but that in him and in his seed all families of the earth should be blessed (  Genesis 12:2-3 etc.). Further elections narrow down this line of promise Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau (cf.   Romans 9:7-13 ) till Israel is grown, and prepared for the national covenant at Sinai. Israel, again, is chosen from among the families of the earth (  Exodus 19:3-6 ,   Deuteronomy 4:34 ,   Amos 3:2 ); not, however, for its own sake, but that it may be a means of blessing to the Gentiles. This is the ideal calling of Israel which peculiarly comes out in the prophecies of the Servant of Jehovah (  Isaiah 41:1-29;   Isaiah 42:1-25;   Isaiah 43:1-28;   Isaiah 44:1-28;   Isaiah 45:1-25;   Isaiah 46:1-13;   Isaiah 47:1-15;   Isaiah 48:1-22;   Isaiah 49:1-26 ) a calling of which the nation as a whole so fatally fell short (  Isaiah 42:19-20 ). So far as these prophecies of the Servant point to Christ the Elect One in the supreme sense, as both Augustine and Calvin emphasize His mission also was one of salvation to the world.

Here, however, it will naturally be asked Is there not, after all, a reason for these and similar elections in the greater congruity of the object with the purpose for which it was designed? If God chose Abraham, was it not because Abraham was the best fitted among existing men for such a vocation? Was Isaac not better fitted than Ishmael, and Jacob than Esau, to be the transmitters of the promise? This leads to a remark which carries us much deeper into the nature of election. We err grievously if we think of God’s relation to the objects of His choice as that of a workman to a set of tools provided for him, from which he selects that most suited to his end. It is a shallow view of the Divine election which regards it as simply availing itself of happy varieties of character spontaneously presenting themselves in the course of natural development. Election goes deeper than grace even into the sphere of nature. It presides, to use a happy phrase of Lange’s, at the making of its object (Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, etc.), as well as uses it when made. The question is not simply how, a man of the gifts and qualifications of Abraham, or Moses, or Paul, being given, God should use him in the way He did, but rather how a man of this spiritual build, and these gifts and qualifications, came at that precise juncture to be there at all. The answer to that question can be found only in the Divine ordering; election working in the natural sphere prior to its being revealed in the spiritual, God does not simply find His instruments He creates them: He has had them, in a true sense, in view, and has been preparing them from the foundation of things. Hence St. Paul’s saying of himself that he was separated from his mother’s womb (  Galatians 1:15; cf. of Jeremiah,   Jeremiah 1:5; of Cyrus,   Isaiah 45:5 etc.).

Here comes in another consideration. Israel was the elect nation, but as a nation it miserably failed in its vocation (so sometimes with the outward Church). It would seem, then, as if, on the external side, election had failed of its result; but it did not do so really. This is the next step in the OT development the realization of an election within the election, of a true and spiritual Israel within the natural, of individual election as distinct from national. This idea is seen shaping itself in the greater prophets in the doctrine of the ‘remnant’ (cf.  Isaiah 1:9;   Isaiah 6:13;   Isaiah 8:16-18 etc.); in the idea of a godly kernel in Israel in distinction from the unbelieving mass (involved in prophecies of the Servant); and is laid hold of, and effectively used, by St. Paul in his rebutting of the supposition that the word of God had failed (  Romans 9:6 ‘for they are not all Israel that are of Israel,’   Romans 11:5;   Romans 11:7 etc.). This yields us the natural transition to the NT conception.

2. In the NT . The difference in the NT standpoint in regard to election may perhaps now be thus defined. (1) Whereas the election in the OT is primarily national, and only gradually works round to the idea of an inner, spiritual election, the opposite is the case in the NT election is there at first personal and individual, and the Church as an elect body is viewed as made up of these individual believers and all others professing faith in Christ (a distinction thus again arising between inward and outward). (2) Whereas the personal aspect of election in the OT is throughout subordinate to the idea of service, in the NT, on the other hand, stress is laid on the personal election to eternal salvation; and the aspect of election as a means to an end beyond itself falls into the background, without, however, being at all intended to be lost sight of. The believer, according to NT teaching, is called to nothing so much as to active service; he is to be a light of the world (  Matthew 5:13-16 ), a worker together with God (  1 Corinthians 3:9 ), a living epistle, known and read of all men (  2 Corinthians 3:2-3 ); the light has shined in his heart that he should give it forth to others (  2 Corinthians 4:6 ); he is elected to the end that he may show forth the excellencies of Him who called him (  1 Peter 2:9 ), etc. St. Paul is a ‘vessel of election’ to the definite end that he should bear Christ’s name to the Gentiles (  Acts 9:15 ). Believers are a kind of ‘first-fruits’ unto God (  Romans 16:5 ,   1 Corinthians 16:15 ,   James 1:18 ,   Revelation 14:4 ); there is a ‘fulness’ to be brought in (  Romans 11:25 ).

As carrying us, perhaps, most deeply into the comprehension of the NT doctrine of election, it is lastly to be observed that, apart from the inheritance of ideas from the OT, there is an experiential basis for this doctrine, from which, in the living consciousness of faith, it can never be divorced. In general it is to be remembered how God’s providence is everywhere in Scripture represented as extending over all persons and events nothing escaping His notice, or falling outside of His counsel (not even the great crime of the Crucifixion,  Acts 4:28 ) and how uniformly everything good and gracious is ascribed to His Spirit as its author ( e.g.   Acts 11:18 ,   Ephesians 2:8 ,   Philippians 2:13 ,   Hebrews 13:20-21 ). It cannot, therefore, be that in so great a matter as a soul’s regeneration (see Regeneration), and the translating of it out of the darkness of sin into the light and blessing of Christ’s Kingdom (  Acts 26:18 ,   Colossians 1:12-13 ,   1 Peter 2:9-10 ), the change should not be viewed as a supreme triumph of the grace of God in that soul, and should not be referred to an eternal act of God, choosing the individual, and in His love calling him in His own good time into this felicity. Thus also, in the experience of salvation, the soul, conscious of the part of God in bringing it to Himself, and hourly realizing its entire dependence on Him for everything good, will desire to regard it and will regard it; and will feel that in this thought of God’s everlasting choice of it lies its true ground of security and comfort (  Romans 8:28;   Romans 8:33;   Romans 8:38-39 ). It is not the soul that has chosen God, but God that has chosen it (cf.   John 15:16 ), and all the comforting and assuring promises which Christ gives to those whom He describes as ‘given’ Him by the Father (  John 6:37;   John 6:39 etc.) as His ‘sheep’ (  John 10:3-5 etc.) are humbly appropriated by it for its consolation and encouragement (cf.   John 6:39;   John 10:27-29 etc.).

On this experiential basis Calvinist and Arminian may be trusted to agree, though it leaves the speculative question still unsolved of how precisely God’s grace and human freedom work together in the production of this great change. That is a question which meets us wherever God’s purpose and man’s free will touch, and probably will be found to embrace unsolved element till the end. Start from the Divine side, and the work of salvation is all of grace; start from the human side, there is responsibility and choice. The elect, on any showing, must always be those in whom grace is regarded as effecting its result; the will, on the other hand, must be freely won; but this winning of the will may be viewed as itself the last triumph of grace God working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure ( Philippians 2:13 ,   Hebrews 13:20-21 ). From this highest point of view the antinomy disappears; the believer is ready to acknowledge that it is not anything in self, not his willing and running, that has brought him into the Kingdom (  Romans 9:16 ), but only God’s eternal mercy. See, further, Predestination, Regeneration, Reprobate.

James Orr.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [3]

God is a loving and merciful God, and in his grace chooses people for purposes that he has planned. This exercise of God’s sovereign will is called election.

In the Old Testament God’s election applied particularly to his choice of Abraham and, through Abraham, to his choice of Israel to be his people ( Genesis 12:1-3;  Nehemiah 9:7-8;  Isaiah 41:8-9). From this people he produced one man, Jesus the Messiah, chosen by him before the foundation of the world to be the Saviour of the world ( Luke 9:35;  Acts 2:23;  Acts 4:27-28;  Ephesians 1:9-10;  1 Peter 1:20;  1 Peter 2:4;  1 Peter 2:6). All who believe in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, are the true people of God, the true descendants of Abraham ( Romans 9:6-9;  Galatians 3:14;  Galatians 3:26-29). God has chosen them to receive his salvation, and together they form God’s people, the church ( John 6:37;  John 6:44;  John 15:19;  John 17:2;  John 17:6;  Ephesians 1:4-6;  2 Thessalonians 2:13-14;  1 Peter 2:9). ‘The elect’ is therefore another name for the people of God ( Matthew 24:22;  Luke 18:7;  2 Timothy 2:10).

God’s activity in determining beforehand what will happen, particularly in relation to people’s destiny, is sometimes called predestination. This predestination originates in God himself, who acts according to his own will and purpose ( Psalms 139:16;  Isaiah 14:24;  Isaiah 37:26;  Isaiah 46:9-10;  Matthew 25:34;  Acts 2:23;  Acts 4:27-28;  Ephesians 1:5;  Romans 8:28-30;  1 Thessalonians 5:9; see Predestination ).

The gracious work of God

Election has its source in the sovereign love of God. No one deserves to be chosen by God, but in his immeasurable mercy he has chosen to save some ( Romans 9:15;  Romans 11:5;  Ephesians 1:5). God’s choice of people does not depend on anything of merit in them. It depends entirely on his unmerited favour towards them ( Deuteronomy 7:6-8;  Deuteronomy 9:6;  Romans 11:6;  1 Corinthians 1:27-29;  2 Timothy 1:9;  James 2:5).

Neither does God choose people because he foresees their faith or their good intentions ( Romans 9:11;  Romans 9:16). Salvation is not a reward for faith. Faith is simply the means by which people receive the undeserved salvation that God, in his mercy, gives ( Romans 9:16;  Romans 9:30;  Ephesians 2:8-9; see Faith ). Or, to put it another way, faith is the means by which God’s eternal choice becomes a reality in their earthly experience ( Acts 13:48;  1 Thessalonians 1:4-9). By coming to believe in Jesus, they show that God has chosen them. Eternal life is not their achievement, but God’s ( John 6:37;  John 6:40).

All the merit for a person’s salvation is in Jesus Christ, whose work of atonement is the basis on which God can forgive repentant sinners ( Romans 3:23-26; see Justification ). They are chosen only because of their union with Christ, and they are to be changed into the likeness of Christ ( Ephesians 1:4;  2 Timothy 1:9; cf.  Romans 8:29;  2 Thessalonians 2:14).

No one can argue with God concerning his work of election, for the entire human race is guilty before him and in no position to demand mercy from him. God is the sovereign Creator; human beings are but his rebellious creatures. The amazing thing is not that God shows mercy on only some, but that he shows mercy on any at all ( Romans 9:14-23).

Election and calling

Sometimes the Bible speaks of God’s choosing as his calling ( Isaiah 41:8-9;  Isaiah 51:2;  Romans 9:11), but other times it makes a distinction ( Matthew 22:14; see Call ). God chose his people from eternity ( Ephesians 1:4;  2 Timothy 1:9) and determined to save those whom he had chosen ( Romans 8:28-29;  Ephesians 1:5;  Ephesians 1:11). The historical event when each chosen person repented, believed, and accepted God’s salvation is sometimes spoken of as the call of God to that person ( Romans 8:30;  Romans 9:23-24;  1 Thessalonians 2:12;  2 Thessalonians 2:13-14;  2 Timothy 1:9).

Side by side with the truth of the sovereign and divine will is the truth of human responsibility. The gospel is available to all, and those who refuse it have no one to blame but themselves ( Romans 10:13;  1 Timothy 2:3-4;  2 Peter 3:9).

The knowledge that God has chosen sinners to receive salvation is a great encouragement to those who preach the gospel. It urges them on in their preaching, so that people might hear the message of grace that is God’s means of bringing his chosen to himself ( John 10:14-16;  John 17:6-8;  Acts 13:48;  Acts 18:10;  Romans 10:13-14;  2 Timothy 2:10). And the salvation of those who respond in faith is eternally secure; for it depends not upon their efforts, but upon the sovereign choice of God ( John 6:37-40;  John 10:27-29;  Romans 8:33-39;  Romans 11:29; see Assurance ).

Responsibilities of the elect

Although believers may feel secure because their salvation is centred in God, they deceive themselves if they think their behaviour is unimportant ( 2 Peter 1:9-11). There is nothing mechanical about election. Human beings are not lifeless robots manipulated by some impersonal fate. They are creatures made in God’s image, whose lives reflect their relationship with him. Those who have truly been chosen by God will show it by lives of perseverance in the faith he professes. The Bible often links statements about election with warnings and commands concerning the necessity for steadfastness, watchfulness and perseverance ( Mark 13:13;  Mark 13:22-23;  Mark 13:27;  Mark 13:33;  Acts 13:48;  Acts 14:22;  1 Thessalonians 5:23-24;  2 Thessalonians 2:13-15;  1 Timothy 6:11-12; see Perseverance ).

Those whom God has chosen to be his people are, by that fact, chosen to be holy ( Deuteronomy 7:6;  Ephesians 1:4;  1 Peter 1:15). Since they belong to God, they are to be separate from sin and uncleanness, bringing praise to him ( Isaiah 43:21;  Ephesians 1:12;  2 Thessalonians 2:13; see Holiness ). They are to reflect the glory of Christ now, and will one day share in that glory fully ( Romans 8:29-30;  Romans 9:23;  1 Corinthians 2:7;  2 Thessalonians 2:14). Part of God’s purpose in choosing them is that their lives might bear fruit for God, as they develop Christian character and do good for others ( John 15:16;  Ephesians 2:10). God has chosen them to be his channel of blessing to an ever-increasing number of people ( 1 Peter 2:9-10; cf.  Genesis 12:1-3).

Awareness of their election should not lead Christians to complacency. Rather the opposite, for God requires a higher standard of conduct in those who are his chosen people ( Amos 3:2;  Micah 3:9-12;  1 Peter 4:17). The way people live is the proof or disproof of their election ( 2 Peter 1:9-11; cf.  Titus 1:1;  1 John 2:29;  1 John 3:10).

Holman Bible Dictionary [4]

 Matthew 22:14 Luke 18:7 Colossians 3:12 Revelation 17:14

Israel as the Object of God's Election The doctrine of election is rooted in the particularity of the Judeo-Christian tradition, that is, the conviction that out of all the peoples on earth God has chosen to reveal Himself in a special, unique way to one particular people. This conviction resonates through every layer of Old Testament literature from the early awareness of Israel as “the people of Yahweh” through the Psalms ( Psalm 147:19-20 , “He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation”; compare  Isaiah 14:1;  Ezekiel 20:5 ). Five major motifs in the Old Testament portray God's election of Israel.

(1) Election is the result of the sovereign initiative of God. At the very beginning of Israel's role in salvation history is the call of Abraham to leave his homeland for a new one which would be shown unto him ( Genesis 12:1-7 ). This directive came to Abraham from God who also promised to bless his descendants and all peoples on earth through them. While Abraham responded to this call in obedience and faith, his election was not the result of his own efforts, but solely of God's decision. (2) The central word in Israel's vocabulary for describing their special relationship with God was covenant . This covenant was not a contract between equal partners, but a bond established by God's unmerited favor and love. The gracious character of the covenant is a major theme in Deuteronomy. “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people” ( Deuteronomy 7:6-7 ). (3) Within the covenanted community God selected certain individuals to fulfill specific functions. The following persons are said to be elected in this sense: Abraham ( Nehemiah 9:7 ), Moses ( Psalm 106:23 ), Aaron ( Numbers 16:1-17:13 ), David ( Psalm 78:70 ), Solomon ( 1 Chronicles 28:10 ), and Zerubbabel ( Haggai 2:23 ). Kings, priests, and prophets are all chosen by God, though in different ways and for various purposes. Jeremiah believed that he had been elected and set apart as a prophet even before he was born ( Jeremiah 1:4-5 ). (4) Israel's election was never intended to be a pretext for pride, but rather an opportunity for service. “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, for a light of the Gentiles” ( Isaiah 42:6 ). From time to time the children of Israel were tempted to presume upon God's gracious favor, to assume, for example, that because the Lord had placed His temple at Jerusalem, they were exempt from judgment. Again and again the prophets tried to disabuse them of this false notion of security by pointing out the true meaning of the covenant and their mission among the nations ( Jeremiah 7:1-14;  Amos 3:2; Jonah). (5) In the later Old Testament writings, and especially during the intertestamental period, there is a tendency to identify the “elect ones” with the true, faithful “remnant” among the people of God. The birth of the Messiah is seen to mark the dawn of the age of salvation for the remnant ( Ezekiel 34:12-13 ,  Ezekiel 34:23-31;  Micah 5:1-2 ). The community of Essenes at Qumran saw themselves as an elect remnant whose purity and faithfulness presaged the Messianic Age.

Election and the New Covenant The early Christians saw themselves as heirs of Israel's election, “a chosen generation, a holy nation, a peculiar people” ( 1 Peter 2:9 ). Paul treats this theme most extensively, but we should not overlook its central importance for the entire New Testament. Again, certain individuals are singled out as chosen by God: the twelve apostles ( Luke 6:13 ), Peter ( Acts 15:7 ), Paul ( Acts 9:15 ), and Jesus Himself ( Luke 9:35;  Luke 23:35 ). In the Synoptic Gospels the term “elect ones” is always set in an eschatological context, that is, the days of tribulation will be shortened “for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen” ( Mark 13:20 ). Many of the parables of Jesus, such as that of the marriage feast ( Matthew 22:1-14 ) and that of the laborers in the vineyard ( Matthew 20:1-16 ), illustrate the sovereignty of God in salvation. In John, Jesus is the unmistakable Mediator of election: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” He reminded the disciples ( John 15:16 ). Again, His followers are those who have been given to Him by the Father “before the world was” and “none of them is lost” ( John 17:5 ,John 17:5, 17:12 ). Also in John the shadow side of election is posed in the person of Judas, “the son of perdition.” Though his status as one of the elect is called into question by his betrayal of Christ, not even this act was able to thwart the fulfillment of God's plan of salvation.

There are three passages where Paul deals at length with different aspects of the doctrine of election. In the first ( Romans 8:28-39 ) divine election is presented as the ground and assurance of the Christian's hope. Since those whom God has predestinated are also called, justified, and glorified, nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The second passage ( Romans 9-11 ) is preoccupied with the fact of Israel's rejection of Christ which, in the purpose of God, has become the occasion for the entrance of Gentile believers into the covenant. In the third passage ( Ephesians 1:1-12 ) Paul pointed to the Christocentric character of election: God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. We can refer to this statement as the evangelical center of the doctrine of election. Our election is strictly and solely in Christ. As the eternal Son, He is along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the electing God; as the incarnate Mediator between God and humankind, He is the elected One. We should never speak of predestination apart from this central truth.

Election and the Christian Life Paul admonished the Thessalonians to give thanks because of their election ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ), while Peter said that we should make our “calling and election sure” ( 2 Peter 1:10 ). However, in the history of Christian thought few teachings have been more distorted or more misused. The following questions reveal common misperceptions. (1) Is not election the same thing as fatalism? Predestination does not negate the necessity for human repentance and faith; rather it establishes the possibility of both. God does not relate to human beings as sticks and stones but as free creatures made in His own image. (2) If salvation is based on election, then why preach the gospel? Because God has chosen preaching as the means to awaken faith in the elect ( 1 Corinthians 1:21 ). We should proclaim the gospel to everyone without exception, knowing that it is only the Holy Spirit who can convict, regenerate, and justify. (3) Does the Bible teach “double predestination,” that God has selected some for damnation as well as some for salvation? There are passages ( Romans 9:11-22;  2 Corinthians 2:15-16 ) which portray God as a potter who has molded both vessels of mercy and vessels of destruction. Yet the Bible also teaches that God does not wish any one to perish but for all to be saved ( John 3:16;  2 Peter 3:9 ). We are not able to understand how everything the Bible says about election fits into a neat logical system. Our business is not to pry into the secret counsel of God but to share the message of salvation with everyone and to be grateful that we have been delivered from darkness into light. (4) Does not belief in election result in moral laxity and pride? Paul says that God chose us “to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ). We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, even though to be sure, it is God who is at work within us both to will and do His good pleasure ( Philippians 2:12-13 ). The proper response to election is not pride but gratitude for God's amazing grace which saves eternally. Election, then, is neithr a steeple from which we look in judgment on others, nor a pillow to sleep on. It is rather a stronghold in time of trial and a confession of praise to God's grace and to His glory.

Timothy George

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

Of a divine election, a choosing and separating from others, we have three kinds mentioned in the Scriptures. The first is the election of individuals to perform some particular and special service. Cyrus was "elected" to rebuild the temple; the twelve Apostles were "chosen,"

elected, to their office by Christ; St. Paul was a "chosen," or elected "vessel," to be the Apostle of the Gentiles. The second kind of election which we find in Scripture, is the election of nations, or bodies of people, to eminent religious privileges, and in order to accomplish, by their superior illumination, the merciful purposes of God, in benefiting other nations or bodies of people. Thus the descendants of Abraham, the Jews, were chosen to receive special revelations of truth; and to be "the people of God," that is, his visible church, publicly to observe and uphold his worship. "The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth." "The Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you, above all people." It was especially on account of the application of the terms elect, chosen, and peculiar, to the Jewish people, that they were so familiarly used by the Apostles in their epistles addressed to the believing Jews and Gentiles, then constituting the church of Christ in various places. For Christians were the subjects, also, of this second kind of election; the election of bodies of men to be the visible people and church of God in the world, and to be endowed with peculiar privileges. Thus they became, though in a more special and exalted sense, the chosen people, the elect of God. We say "in a more special sense," because as the entrance into the Jewish church was by natural birth, and the entrance into the Christian church, properly so called, is by faith and a spiritual birth, these terms, although many became Christians by mere profession, and enjoyed various priviledges in consequence of their people or nation being chosen to receive the Gospel, have generally respect, in the New Testament, to bodies of true believers, or to the whole body of true believers as such. They are not, therefore, to be interpreted according to the scheme of Dr. Taylor of Norwich, by the constitution of the Jewish, but by the constitution of the Christian, church.

2. To understand the nature of this "election," as applied sometimes to particular bodies of Christians, as when St. Peter says, "The church which is at Babylon, elected together with you," and sometimes to the whole body of believers every where; and also the reason of the frequent use of the term election, and of the occurrence of allusions to the fact; it is to be remembered, that a great religious revolution, so to speak, had occurred in the age of the Apostles; with the full import of which we cannot, without calling in the aid of a little reflection, be adequately impressed. This change was no other than the abrogation of the church state of the Jews, which had continued for so many ages. They had been the only visibly acknowledged people of God in all the nations of the earth; for whatever pious people might have existed in other nations, they were not, in the sight of men, and collectively, acknowledged as "the people of Jehovah." They had no written revelations, no appointed ministry, no forms of authorized initiation into his church and covenant, no appointed holy days, or sanctioned ritual. All these were peculiar to the Jews, who were, therefore, an elected and peculiar people. This distinguished honour they were about to lose. They might have retained it as Christians, had they been willing to admit the believing Gentiles of all nations to share it with them; but the great reason of their peculiarity and election, as a nation, was terminated by the coming of the Messiah, who was to be "a light to lighten the Gentiles," as well as "the glory of his people Israel." Their pride and consequent unbelief resented this, which will explain their enmity to the believing part of the Gentiles, who, when that which St. Paul calls "the fellowship of the mystery" was fully explained, chiefly by the glorious ministry of that Apostle himself, were called into that church relation and visible acknowledgment as the people of God, which the Jews had formerly enjoyed, and that with even a higher degree of glory, in proportion to the superior spirituality of the new dispensation. It was this doctrine which excited that strong irritation in the minds of the unbelieving Jews, and in some partially Christianized ones, to which so many references are made in the New Testament. The were "provoked," were made "jealous;" and were often roused to the madness of persecuting opposition by it. There was then a new election of a new people of God, to be composed of Jews, not by virtue of their natural descent, but through their faith in Christ, and of Gentiles of all nations, also believing, and put as believers, on an equal ground with the believing Jews: and there was also a rejection, a reprobation, but not an absolute one; for the election was offered to the Jews first, in every place, by offering them the Gospel. Some embraced it, and submitted to be the elect people of God, on the new ground of faith, instead of the old one of natural descent; and therefore the Apostle,   Romans 11:7 , calls the believing part of the Jews, "the election," in opposition to those who opposed this "election of grace," and still clung to their former and now repealed election as Jews and the descendants of Abraham; "But the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." The offer had been made to the whole nation; all might have joined the one body of believing Jews and believing Gentiles; but the major part of them refused: they would not "come into the supper;" they made "light of it;" light of an election founded on faith, and which placed the relation of "the people of God" upon spiritual attainments, and offered to them only spiritual blessings. They were, therefore, deprived of election and church relationship of every kind: their temple was burned; their political state abolished; their genealogies confounded; their worship annihilated; and all visible acknowledgment of them by God as a church withdrawn, and transfer red to a church henceforward to be composed chiefly of Gentiles:

and thus, says St. Paul, "were fulfilled the words of Moses, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish," ignorant and idolatrous, "people I will anger you." It is easy, therefore, to see what is the import of the "calling" and "election" of the Christian church, as spoken of in the New Testament. It was not the calling and the electing of one nation in particular to succeed the Jews; but it was the calling and the electing of believers in all nations, wherever the Gospel should be preached, to be in reality what the Jews typically, and therefore in an inferior degree, had been,—the visible church of God, "his people," under Christ "the Head;" with an authenticated revelation; with an appointed ministry, never to be lost; with authorized worship; with holy days and festivals; with instituted forms of initiation; and with special protection and favour.

3. The third kind of election is personal election; or the election of individuals to be the children of God, and the heirs of eternal life. This is not a choosing to particular offices and service, which is the first kind of election we have mentioned; nor is it that collective election to religious privileges and a visible church state, of which we have spoken. For although "the elect" have an individual interest in such an election as parts of the collective body, thus placed in possession of the ordinances of Christianity; yet many others have the same advantages, who still remain under the guilt and condemnation of sin and practical unbelief. The individuals properly called "the elect," are they who have been made partakers of the grace and saving efficacy of the Gospel. "Many," says our Lord, "are called, but few chosen." What true personal election is, we shall find explained in two clear passages of Scripture. It is explained by our Lord, where he says to his disciples, "I have chosen you out of the world:" and by St. Peter, when he addresses his First Epistle to the "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus." To be elected, therefore, is to be separated from "the world," and to be sanctified by the Spirit, and by the blood of Christ, It follows, then, not only that election is an act of God done in time, but also that it is subsequent to the administration of the means of salvation. The "calling" goes before the "election;" the publication of the doctrine of "the Spirit," and the atonement, called by Peter "the sprinkling of the blood of Christ," before that "sanctification" through which they become "the elect" of God. In a word, "the elect" are the body of true believers; and personal election into the family of God is through personal faith. All who truly believe are elected; and all to whom the Gospel is sent have, through the grace that accompanies it, the power to believe placed within their reach; and all such might, therefore, attain to the grace of personal election.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

ἐκλογή, 'choice.' Spoken of :

1. the Lord Jesus: "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect ( bachir ) in whom my soul delighteth."  Isaiah 42:1;  1 Peter 2:6 . He was fore-ordained to be a mercy-seat through faith in His blood.  Romans 3:25 , margin  ;  1 Peter 1:20 .

2. Cyrus, who was called by God to be His 'shepherd' to work out His will, saying to Jerusalem, "Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid."  Isaiah 44:28;  Isaiah 45:1-4 . It was Cyrus who released the captives to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.  Ezra 1:2,3 .

3. When Jacob and Esau were born, Jacob was elected for blessing, and his descendants as the only nation chosen by God for His special favour.  Romans 9:11-13;  Amos 3:2 .

4. When God again restores Israel into blessing it will be a remnant that will be chosen, whom He calls His 'elect.'  Isaiah 65:9,15,22;  Matthew 24:22,24,31;  Romans 11:28 .

5. Elect angels.  1 Timothy 5:21 .

6. Election of persons to eternal life.  Romans 8:29,30,33;  Romans 11:5,7;  Colossians 3:12;  1 Thessalonians 1:4;  2 Timothy 2:10;  Titus 1:1;  1 Peter 1:2;  1 Peter 5:13;  2 Peter 1:10;  2 John 1,13 .

The reason Christians feel a difficulty as to the doctrine of election to eternal life, is because they do not see the extent of the fall of man, and his utterly lost condition. Were it not for election, and the prevailing grace that follows it, not one would be saved. Christ died for all, and the gospel is proclaimed to all,  Romans 3:22;  Hebrews 2:9; but alas, except for the election and grace of God, none would respond.  Luke 14:18 . God must have all the glory.

Another error that has caused a difficulty as to 'election ' is the idea which some maintain that as some are ordained to eternal life, others likewise are fore-ordained by God to perdition, called 'reprobation.' But this is not taught in scripture — God desires that all men should be saved,  1 Timothy 2:4 , and His election to life ensures that some will be. It was not before Esau was born, nor until long after he was dead, that it was said he was hated of God.  Malachi 1:3 . Some even judge that it refers, not to Esau personally, but to his descendants after their deeds had been fully manifested. Cf.  Obadiah 10;  Ezekiel 35 .

King James Dictionary [7]

ELEC'TION, n. L. electio. The act of choosing choice the act of selecting one or more from others. Hence appropriately,

1. The act of choosing a person to fill an office or employment, by any manifestation of preference, as by ballot, uplifted hands or viva voce as the election of a king, of a president, or a mayor.

Corruption in elections is the great enemy of freedom.

2. Choice voluntary preference free will liberty to act or not. It is at his election to accept or refuse. 3. Power of choosing or selecting. 4. Discernment discrimination distinction.

To use men with much difference and election is good.

5. In theology, divine choice predetermination of God, by which persons are distinguished as objects of mercy, become subjects of grace, are sanctified and prepared for heaven.

There is a remnant according to the election of grace.

 Romans 11

6. The public choice of officers. 7. The day of a public choice of officers. 8. Those who are elected.

The election hath obtained it.  Romans 11

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [8]

This word has different meanings.

1. It signifies God's taking a whole nation, community, or body of men, into external covenant with himself, by giving them the advantage of revelation as the rule of their belief and practice, when other nations are without it,  Deuteronomy 7:6 .

2. A temporary designation of some person or station in the visible church, or office in civil life,  John 6:70 . 1 Sam.x. 24.

3. That gracious and almighty act of the Divine Spirit, whereby God actually and visibly separates his people from the world by effectual calling,  John 15:19 .

4. That eternal, sovereign, unconditional, particular, and immutable act of God, whereby he selected some from among all mankind, and of every nation under heaven, to be redeemed and everlastingly saved by Christ,  Ephesians 1:4 .  2 Thessalonians 2:13 .


Webster's Dictionary [9]

(1): ( a.) The act of choosing; choice; selection.

(2): ( a.) Divine choice; predestination of individuals as objects of mercy and salvation; - one of the "five points" of Calvinism.

(3): ( a.) The choice, made by a party, of two alternatives, by taking one of which, the chooser is excluded from the other.

(4): ( a.) Discriminating choice; discernment.

(5): ( a.) Power of choosing; free will; liberty to choose or act.

(6): ( a.) Those who are elected.

(7): ( a.) The act of choosing a person to fill an office, or to membership in a society, as by ballot, uplifted hands, or viva voce; as, the election of a president or a mayor.

Charles Spurgeon's Illustration Collection [10]

Andrew Fuller remarks, in a letter to two relatives:: ' I used to think that the doctrine of election was a reason why we need not pray, and I fear there are many who split upon this rock, who think it is to no purpose to pray, as things will be as they will be. But I now see that the doctrine of election is the greatest encouragement instead of a discouragement to prayer. He that decreed that any one should be finally saved, decreed that it should be in the way of prayer; as much as he that has decreed what we shall possess of the things of this life, has decreed that it shall be in the way of industry; and as we never think of being idle in common business, because God has decreed what we shall possess of this world's good, so neither should we be slothful in the business of our souls, because our final state is decreed.'

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [11]

(See Elect .)

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

ē̇ - lek´shun ( ἐκλογή , eklogḗ , "choice," "selection"):

I. The Word in Scripture

II. The Mysterious Element

III. Incidence Upon Community and Individual

IV. Cognate and Illustrative Biblical Languange

V. Limitations of Inquiry Here. Scope of Election

VI. Perseverance

VII. Considerations in Relief of Thought

1. Antinomies

2. Fatalism Another Thing

3. The Moral Aspects

4. "We know in Part"

5. The Unknown Future

I. The Word in Scripture

The word is absent from the Old Testament, where the related Hebrew verb (בּחר , bāḥar ) is frequent. In the New Testament it occurs 6 times ( Romans 9:11;  Romans 11:5 ,  Romans 11:7 ,  Romans 11:28;  1 Thessalonians 1:4;  2 Peter 1:10 ). In all these places it appears to denote an act of Divine selection taking effect upon human objects so as to bring them into special and saving relations with God: a selection such as to be at once a mysterious thing, transcending human analysis of its motives (so eminently in  Romans 9:11 ), and such as to be knowable by its objects, who are (2 Pet) exhorted to "make it sure," certain, a fact to consciousness. It is always (with one exception,  Romans 9:11; see below) related to a community, and Thus has close affinity with the Old Testament teachings upon the privileged position of Israel as the chosen, selected race (see under Elect ). The objects of election in the New Testament are, in effect, the Israel of God, the new, regenerate race called to special privilege and special service. From one point of view, that of the external marks of Christianity, they may Thus be described as the Christian community in its widest sense, the sense in which the sacramental position and the real are prima facie assumed to coincide. But from 2 Peter it is manifest that much more than this has to be said if the incidence of the word present to the writer's mind is to be rightly felt. It is assumed there that the Christian, baptized and a worshipper, may yet need to make "sure" his "calling and election" as a fact to his consciousness. This implies conditions in the "election" which far transcend the tests of sacred rite and external fellowship.

II. The Mysterious Element

Such impressions of depth and mystery in the word are confirmed by the other, passages. In  Romans 9:11 the context is charged with the most urgent and even staggering challenges to submission and silence in the presence of the inscrutable. To illustrate large assertions as to the liberty and sovereignty of the Divine dealings with man, the apostle brings in Esau and Jacob, individuals, twins as yet unborn, and points to the inscrutable difference of the Divine action toward them as such. Somehow, as a matter of fact, the Eternal appears as appointing to unborn Esau a future of comparative disfavor and to Jacob of favor; a future announced to the still pregnant mother. Such discrimination was made and announced, says the apostle, "that the purpose of God according to election might stand." In the whole passage the gravest stress is laid upon the isolation of the "election" from the merit or demerit of its objects.

III. Incidence upon Community and Individual

It is observable that the same characteristic, the inscrutable, the sovereign, is attached in the Old Testament to the "election" of a favored and privileged nation . Israel is repeatedly reminded (see e.g. Dt 7) that the Divine call and choice of them to be the people of God has no relation to their virtues, or to their strength. The reason lies out of sight, in the Divine mind. So too "the Israel of God" ( Galatians 6:16 ) in the New Testament, the Christian community, "the new, peculiar race," holds its great privileges by quite unmerited favor (e.g.  Titus 3:5 ). And the nature of the case here leads, as it does not in the case of the natural Israel, to the thought of a Divine election of the individual, similarly inscrutable and sovereign. For the idea of the New Israel involves the thought that in every genuine member of it the provisions of the New Covenant (  Jeremiah 31:31 f) are being fulfilled: the sins are remembered no more, and the law is written in the heart. The bearer of the Christian name, but not of the Christian spiritual standing and character, having "not the Spirit of Christ, is none of his" (  Romans 8:9 ). The chosen community accordingly, not as it seems ab extra , but as it is in its essence, is a fellowship of individuals each of whom is an object of unmerited Divine favor, taking effect in the new life. And this involves the exercise of electing mercy. Compare e.g.  1 Peter 1:3 . And consider  Romans 11:4-7 (where observe the exceptional use of "the election," meaning "the company of the elect").

IV. Cognate and Illustrative Biblical Language

It is obvious that the aspects of mystery which gather round the word "election" are not confined to it alone. An important class of words, such as "calling," "predestination" "foreknowledge," "purpose," "gift," bears this same character; asserting or connoting, in appropriate contexts, the element of the inscrutable and sovereign in the action of the Divine will upon man, and particularly upon man's will and affection toward God. And it will be felt by careful students of the Bible in its larger and more general teachings that one deep characteristic of the Book, which with all its boundless multiplicity is yet one, is to emphasize on the side of man everything that can humble, convict, reduce to worshipping silence (see for typical passages  Job 40:3 ,  Job 40:1;  Romans 3:19 ), and on the side of God everything which can bring home to man the transcendence and sovereign claims of his almighty Maker. Not as unrelated utterances, but as part of a vast whole of view and teaching, occur such passages as  Ephesians 2:8 ,  Ephesians 2:9 and   Romans 11:33-36 , and even the stern, or rather awestruck, phrases of  Romans 9:20 ,  Romans 9:21 , where the potter and the clay are used in illustration.

V. Limitations of Inquiry Here. Scope of Election

We have sought Thus in the simplest outline to note first the word "election" and then some related Scriptural words and principles, weighing the witness they bear to a profound mystery in the action of the Divine will upon man, in the spiritual sphere. What we have Thus seen leaves still unstated what, according to Scripture, is the goal and issue of the elective act. In this article, remembering that it is part of a Bible Encyclopedia, we attempt no account of the history of thought upon election, in the successive Christian centuries, nor again any discussion of the relation of election in Scripture to extra-Scriptural philosophies, to theories of necessity, determination, fatalism. We attempt only to see the matter as it lies before us in the Bible. Studying it so, we find that this mysterious action of God on man has relation, in the Christian revelation, to nothing short of the salvation of the individual (and of the community of such individuals) from sin and condemnation, and the preservation of the saved to life eternal. We find this not so much in any single passage as in the main stream of Biblical language and tone on the subject of the Divine selective action. But it is remarkable that in the recorded thought of our Lord Himself we find assertions in this direction which could hardly be more explicit. See   John 6:37 ,  John 6:44 ,  John 6:45;  John 10:27-29 . To the writer the best summary of the Scriptural evidence, at once definite and restrained, is the language of the 17th Anglican art.: "They which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity."

VI. Perseverance

The anxious problem of Perseverance will be treated under that word. It may be enough here to say that alike what we are permitted to read as revealed, and what we may humbly apprehend as the reason of the case, tend to the reverent belief that a perseverance (rather of the Lord than of the saints) is both taught and implied. But when we ponder the nature of the subject we are amply prepared for the large range of Scriptures which on the other hand condemn and preclude, for the humble disciple, so gross a misuse of the doctrine as would let it justify one moment's presumption upon Divine mercy in the heart which is at the same time sinning against the Divine love and holiness.

VII. Considerations in Relief of Thought

We close, in view of this last remark, with some detached notes in relief, well remembering the unspeakable trial which to many devout minds the word before us has always brought.

1. Antinomies

First in place and importance is the thought that a spiritual fact like election, which belongs to the innermost purpose and work of the Eternal, necessarily leads us to a region where comprehension is impossible, and where we can only reverently apprehend . The doctrine passes upward to the sphere where antinomies live and move, where we must be content to hear what sound to us contradictions, but which are really various aspects of infinite truth. Let us be content to know that the Divine choice is sovereign; and also that "his tender mercies are over all his works," that 'He willeth not the death of a sinner,' that "God is love." Let us relieve the tension of such submissive reliance by reverently noting how the supreme antinomy meets one type of human need with its one side, and with its other another. To the "fearful saint" the Divine sovereignty of love is a sacred cordial. To the seeking penitent the Divine comprehensiveness of love opens the door of peace. To the deluded theorist who does not love and obey, the warnings of a fall and ruin which are possible, humanly, from any spiritual height, are a merciful beacon on the rocks.

2. Fatalism Another Thing

Further, we remember that election, in Scripture, is as different as possible from the fatal necessity of, e.g. the Stoics. It never appears as mechanical, or as a blind destiny. It has to do with the will of a God who has given us otherwise supreme proofs that He is all-good and all-kind. And it is related to man not as a helpless and innocent being but as a sinner. It is never presented as an arbitrary force majeure . Even in Rom 9 the "silence" called for is not as if to say, "You are hopelessly passive in the grasp of infinite power," but, "You, the creature, cannot judge your Maker , who must know infinitely more of cause and reason than his handiwork can know." The mystery, we may be sure, had behind it supreme right and reason, but in a region which at present at least we cannot penetrate. Again, election never appears as a violation of human will. For never in the Bible is man treated as irresponsible. In the Bible the relation of the human and Divine wills is inscrutable; the reality of both is assured.

3. The Moral Aspects

Never is the doctrine presented apart from a moral context. It is intended manifestly to deepen man's submission to - not force, but - mystery, where such submission means faith. In the practical experience of the soul its designed effect is to emphasize in the believer the consciousness (itself native to the true state of grace) that the whole of his salvation is due to the Divine mercy, no part of it to his merit, to his virtue, to his wisdom. In the sanctified soul, which alone, assuredly, can make full use of the mysterious truth, is it designed to generate, together and in harmony, awe, thanksgiving and repose.

4. "We Know in Part"

A necessary caution in view of the whole subject is that here, if anywhere in the regions of spiritual study, we inevitably "know in part," and in a very limited part. The treatment of election has at times in Christian history been carried on as if, less by the light of revelation than by logical processes, we could tabulate or map the whole subject. Where this has been done, and where at the same time, under a sort of mental rather than spiritual fascination, election has been placed in the foreground of the system of religious thought, and allowed to dominate the rest, the truth has (to say the least) too often been distorted into an error. The Divine character has been beclouded in its beauty. Sovereignty has been divorced from love, and so defaced into an arbitrary fiat, which has for its only reason the assertion of omnipotence. Thus, the grievous wrong has been done of αἰσχρόν τι λέγειν περὶ τοῦ Θείου , aischrón ti légein perı́ toú Theı́ou , "defamation of God." For example, the revelation of a positive Divine selection has been made by inference to teach a corresponding rejection ruthless and terrible, as if the Eternal Love could ever by any possibility reject or crush even the faintest aspiration of the created spirit toward God. For such a thought not even the dark words of  Romans 9:18 give Scriptural excuse. The case there in hand, Pharaoh's, is anything but one of arbitrary power trampling on a human will looking toward God and right. Once more, the subject is one as to which we must on principle be content with knowledge so fragmentary that its parts may seem contradictory in our present imperfect light. The one thing we may be sure of behind the veil is, that nothing can be hidden there which will really contradict the supreme and ruling truth that God is love.

5. The Unknown Future

Finally, let us from another side remember that here, as always in the things of the Spirit, "we know in part." The chosen multitude are sovereignly "called,... justified,... glorified" ( Romans 8:29 ,  Romans 8:30 ). But for what purposes? Certainly not for an end terminating in themselves. They are saved, and kept, and raised to the perfect state, for the service of their Lord. And not till the cloud is lifted from the unseen life can we possibly know what that service under eternal conditions will include, what ministries of love and good in the whole universe of being.