Soteriolology, the Study of Salvation

by WordExplain

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight...." Ephesians 1:3-4

God’s Part in Salvation – Election

Part I, The Proof of Election


Man is in a horrible dilemma:

MAN IS GUILTY because of Imputed Sin (Romans 5:12), Inherited Sin (Ephesians 2:3; 1 John 1:8), and Personal Sin (1 John 1:10).

MAN IS ENSLAVED and DOMINATED by the World (Eph. 2:2; 1 John 2:15-17), the Flesh (Eph. 2:3), and the Devil (Eph. 2:2).

MAN IS DEAD IN HIS TRESPASSES AND SINS (Eph. 2:1).  Man is Spiritually Dead (separated from God) - Genesis 3:8, Physically Dying (his spirit eventually will be separated from his body) (Gen. 5:1-32), and Doomed to Second Death (eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire and Sulfur) (Revelation 20:11-15).

Furthermore, because man is DEAD, he is incapable of taking any initiative toward God.  There is not one  who is righteous, not one who understands his lost condition, not one who seeks for God, and not a single one who does good (Romans 3:10-12).

Since man is totally incapable of saving himself, his only hope is in God reaching down, taking the initiative to save him.  The Scriptures reveal that God does, indeed CHOOSE some to save.  He makes Salvation AVAILABLE to all, but He CHOOSES to save SOME.  Following are instances of God’s ELECTION.

A.    God Chose the Nation of Israel to be His Own

1.    He Chose Individuals that Would Make Up the Nation.

a.    God Chose Abraham Genesis 12:1-7.

b.    God Chose Isaac, not Ishmael.

1)    Gen 17:18-21

2)    Gen 21:12  

3)    Gen 26:1-5

c.    God Chose Jacob, Not Esau.  

1)    Gen 25:21-23  

2)    Gen 28:10-14  

3)    Rom 9:10-13

2.    God Chose The Nation of Jacob (Israel) as a Whole.       

a.   Exodus 19:1-6

b.    Deuteronomy 7:1-8

c.    Psalm 147:19-20

d.    Isaiah 43:

B.    A New Testament Definition of Election  

1.   Election is that eternal act of God by which, in His sovereign pleasure and on account of no foreseen merit in them, He chooses certain, out of a number of sinful men, to be the recipients of the special grace of His Spirit and so to be made voluntary partakers of Christ's salvation. (Emery H. Bancroft, D. D., Christian Theology:  Systematic and Biblical, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1964, p. 219)

2.    Election is “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.”  (L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, as quoted by Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 359.)

3.    Election is God’s sovereign work of choosing some to believe (cf. Rom. 8:30; Ephesians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 1:1). (Harold W. Hoehner, Comments on Ephesians 1:4, The Bible Knowledge Commentary.)

C.    God Chose Some from Among the Gentiles to be His Own.

1.   Jesus stated that His followers did not choose him, but He had chosen them.  John 15:16

2.    Jesus said that all whom the Father gives Him will certainly come to Him:  John 6:37

3.    God gave Jesus authority over all mankind to give eternal life to those whom the Father has given Him.  John 17:1-2

4.    God chose the saints.  Eph. 1:1-6

a.    He chose believers from eternity past. Eph 1:3-4

b.    His choice involved predestination.  Eph. 1:5

c.    The purpose of His choice was to praise His glorious grace in Jesus!  Eph. 1:6

D.   Biblical Reactions to Election

1.    We should know God chose us!  1 Thess 1:4

2.    We should thank God for His choice!  2 Thess 2:13

a.   God chose us through the sanctification of the Spirit (God’s part)

b.    Our responsibility: Faith.

3.   We should praise God for His choice!  Eph 1:5-6
4.    We should be humbled at God’s choice!  Even our faith is a gift from Him!  Eph 2:8-10

    Part II, Defending Election

A.    Is Election Ethical?

1.   Is God Unethical for Choosing to Have Mercy on Some?  Rom 9:14-16

a.    It is preposterous and unthinkable to charge God with injustice.

b.    God is not obligated to extend mercy or compassion to anyone; He has the moral right to extend mercy and compassion to whomever He wills.

2.    Is God Unethical for Choosing to Harden Some?  Rom 9:15-24

a.    Exodus 9:12-17

1)    Yahweh did indeed harden Pharaoh's heart.  Exodus 9:12

2)    Yahweh elected to send his plagues on Pharaoh and his people so they would know there is no one like Him in all the earth. Exodus 9:14

3)    Yahweh had the power and the moral right to destroy Pharaoh and the Egyptian people completely.  Exodus 9:15

4)    Yahweh chose to allow Pharaoh and the Egyptians to remain to display to them His power and to publicize His name to the entire earth.  Exodus 9:16

5)    Pharaoh deliberately chose to disobey God.  Exodus 9:17

b.    Rom 9:17-18

1)    Rom. 9:17 quotes Exodus 9:16, stipulating that God chose to allow Pharaoh and the Egyptians to remain to display to them His power and to publicize His name to the entire earth. 

2)    God in fact extends mercy to whomever He wishes and He hardens whomever He wishes. Rom. 9:18.

c.    Rom 9:19-24

1)    Some raise the question, "How can God judge anyone if no one can resist His will?" Rom. 9:19

2)    It is pure audacity for man to think he can talk back to God!  Rom. 9:20

3)    Clay cannot protest to the potter about how the potter is making him, can it?  Rom. 9:20

4)    A potter has every right to take a lump of clay and fashion from part of it a beautiful vase and from another part of it a commode!   Rom. 9:21

5)    God is the Supreme Sovereign.  He created man.  He has every right to demonstrate His wrath against man's disobedience.  He shows patient mercy in withholding for a time His judgment against men who are vessels of wrath, destined to destruction.  Rom. 9:22

6)    God, in the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, demonstrated His patience with rebels in order to demonstrate His glory on behalf of vessels of mercy, destined for glory among both Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 9:23-24).   If God had not publicized His name through Pharaoh and the Egyptians to the entire earth, how many millions are there who never would have responded positively to God?

B.    Misconceptions about Election (adapted from Timothy George, Holman Bible Dictionary)

1.    Is not election the same thing as fatalism?  

Answer:  Election does not eliminate the need for human response, such as repentance and faith; rather it provides for the possibility of a positive human response.  

2.    If salvation is based on election, then why preach the gospel?

Answer:  Because God has chosen human speech as the method by which the Good News of Jesus is proclaimed (1 Corinthians 1:21).  If we do not proclaim the message, untold millions will not hear.

3.    Does the Bible teach “double predestination,” that God has selected some for damnation as well as some for salvation?

a.    Response:  There are passages (Rom. 9:11-22; 2 Cor. 2:15-16) which portray God as a potter who has molded both vessels of mercy and vessels of destruction.

b.    Yet the Bible also teaches that God does not wish any one to perish but for all to be saved (John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9).

c.     Furthermore, passages which contain the word "predestine" (prooridzō, 4309) do not use the word with reference to the eternal destiny of nonbelievers. Rather, they speak of the blessed destiny of the elect. So in every occurrence except one, something positive, beneficial is in view. The one time where evil is present occurs in Acts 4:28, in which the early church acknowledged that, while evil people had crucified Jesus, it was something that God had predetermined should occur. It was evil perpetrated by evil people, but Jesus' crucifixion brought about the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

d.    George’s Conclusion – Election is not logical but it is true.  There are things about God we just can’t understand.)  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.

e.    My conclusion:  Election is logical, even if it is difficult to understand.  It is justifiable, first of all, in that God, as the Sovereign Creator, has the moral right to do whatever He wishes.  It is justifiable, second, in that man as a created being, has deliberately rebelled against God and deserves no mercy.  It is justifiable, third, in that God is not required to extend mercy or grace to anyone.  In that He does so, He as the perfect right to extend mercy and grace to those whom He chooses in the amount He desires.  Our human concepts of justice are often skewed by our own self-centered, skewed moral natures.  This can be  illustrated, for example, in various nations' ever-expanding "entitlement" programs.  We humans are often guilty of thinking we are entitled to benefits concerning which God says we are not entitled.  Forgiveness and eternal life are not entitlements.  They are gifts.  We are entitled to hell, not heaven.

4.    Does not belief in election result in moral laxity and pride?

a.    Paul says that God chose us “to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit” (2 Thess. 2:13).

b.    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 (Phil. 2:12-13).

c.    The proper response to election is not pride but gratitude for God’s amazing grace which saves eternally.

d.    Election, then, is neither 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.

C.    Closing Questions and Comments

1.    Closing Questions

a.    Is God morally obligated to save anyone?

b.     Is God morally required to be generous toward anyone?

c.   If God took no initiative whatever with regard to lost people, would any seek Him, or would all choose against Him?

d.    Is God unfair to be more generous toward some than He is toward others? (Matthew 20:1-16)

2.    Closing Comments

a.    Comments from Emory Bancroft, Christian Theology, p. 219:

1)    "God has a sovereign right to bestow more grace upon one subject than upon another, -- grace being unmerited favor to sinners:  Matt. 20:12-15; Rom. 9:20-21."

2)    “God has some other reason than that of saving as many as possible for the way in which He distributes His grace:  Matt. 11:21; Rom. 9:22, 23."

b.    Election does not deal with innocent creatures, but with men who by representation (Rom. 5:12), birth (Eph. 2:3), and practice (Rom. 3:9-19; Eph. 2:2), have rebelled against God and are His enemies (Rom. 5:10).

c.    We should thank God for election (2 Thess. 2:13).  If God did not choose some to salvation, none would be saved, for no one is righteous (Rom. 3:10);  no one seeks Him (Rom. 3:11);  all have turned aside (Rom. 3:12); and not a single person does good (Rom. 3:12).  If God chooses no one, no one will choose Him!

d.    God is "not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

e.    God loves the entire world, and has provided salvation for all.  John 3:16; 1 John 2:1-2.

f.    None of us deserve salvation; it is a gracious gift.  Eph. 2:8-9

g.    If God paid us what we deserve, all of us would spend eternity in the Lake of Fire.  Psalm 130:3

h.    God offers salvation to all.  Rev. 22:17

i.    God holds everyone responsible for his choices in life. Matt. 12:36; Rev. 20:12

j.    People do what they want to do.  Proverbs 14:12

k.    Unfortunately, most people choose the wide gate and broad way that lead to destruction.   Matt. 7:13-14

l.    Will you be one of those few who choose the small gate and the narrow way that lead to life?  (Matt. 7:13-14).  Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to God (John 14:6).  God loves you and has provided Jesus to pay for your sins (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8).  If you trust in Jesus (John 3:16), choosing to receive Him (John 1:12-13), you will be forgiven of your sins (Colossians 1:13-14), have eternal life, and be born into God's family!  If you don't choose Jesus, sadly, God's wrath remains upon you (John 3:36)!  Jesus stands waiting to enter your life (Rev. 3:20).  Will you open the door and permit Him to enter?

m.    The decision is yours!  Which will you choose?

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB 1995.)

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Published November 5, 2010

Updated February 22, 2022