The first individual “element” of salvation is election. Election can be a controversial topic, one that is often misconstrued. The purpose of exploring election here is to let Scripture speak for itself and have it teach us how salvation begins in the mind and will of God.
The passage we will use as an outline for this multi-part study is Ephesians 1:3-6:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
In this passage, Paul tells the Ephesians that “He chose us.” There is some choosing for us to do in the Christian life- but it pertains to other things. When it comes to the question of who initiated this relationship and who made salvation possible for us- that is all God’s choice. He chose us.
The word is ἐκλέγομαι , and it means “to select out of.” When my children press their faces to the glass at the ice cream counter, and one of them says “chocolate chip cookie dough, please” – that is selecting out of. God selected us out.
In verse 4, Paul also says He chose us “before the foundation of the world” That certainly means before we were ever created. So He made His selection before we had ever done anything good or bad, or displayed our character in any way. At the end of v5, Paul says that all of this is done according to the purpose of His will.
This is why Paul wrote in Romans 9:10-13: “When Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, (11) though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— (12) she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” (13) As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Some object to this unconditional election for salvation. They argue that this passage from Romans 9 is talking about the election of Israel. That is certainly true! Paul is arguing that God sovereignly chose which descendant the promises would follow. In this case, they would follow Jacob and not Esau.
But the argument doesn’t end there, with Jacob and Esau. Why would Paul tell the Romans any of this if it didn’t also apply to them? Paul continues his argument (in v23-24), stating that God’s purpose was to prepare a people for His glory, adding the words “even us.” In other words, God selected from among the Jews and the Gentiles to redeem a people for His glory.
Another objection I often hear about election is that God chose us for something other than salvation. Those who raise this objection argue that God chose us for a certain role or a particular ministry. Turning back to Ephesians 1, we see that the end of verse 4 precludes that possibility. God chose us to be “holy and blameless” before Him.
Holy means set apart or peculiar. God chose Israel to be holy in Deuteronomy 7:6 and 14:2. Their call to holiness made them different. And just as He chose Israel to be made holy, set apart, and peculiar… He has chosen us to be made holy, peculiar, set apart. While not its only purpose, holiness is a distinctive of those in relationship with God. It is an outward marker that we belong to Him. So election is tied to our sanctification.
We are also chosen by God to be blameless. The word used here means “without blemish.” While all have sinned, and no one could claim to be blameless on their own, we are made blameless by God in salvation. So election is also tied to our justification- the part of salvation in which we are declared righteous or blameless before God in Christ.
If you are a Christian, you did not become one simply because you chose God. Rather, He chose you to be an instrument of His glory and grace. What a mystery! Election raises a lot of questions, but the answers offered by the scripture are remarkably beautiful. We will see more of them next time, as we continue with verse 5 and predestination.