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10/22/2005 Ken Nisewanger

Divine Election
Introduction:
The purpose of this paper is not to provide the only interpretation of the scriptures, but rather to provide a basis for
further investigation. Simply taking someone else’s view does not replace proper research, questions and prayer. If you
choose to use this document, use this only as part of further research. Fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking
understanding), Anselm of Canterbury (1033 – 1109).

Divine Election
There are several issues pertaining to Divine Election. These include whether it is conditional or
unconditional, whether it is irresistible or not and several more. We will limit this discussion to
God’s sovereignty, the election and whether it is conditional. The question of Divine Election has
caused many discussions and some jokes. The thought that God does not give everyone a chance for
salvation is sometimes hard to accept or understand. It has been said ‘how can a God condemn
people without a chance for salvation’. We will examine some of these questions from a Calvinist
point of view.

Assumptions
Our assumption and faith is that our God is Divine. As such, He is infallible, omnipresent and
omnipotent. Our God is our Sovereign Lord. The bible is the divinely inspired word of God. The
bible is not just a reference given to a specific culture or time; rather it is for all people and is the
word of God for all times.

What is ‘Unconditional Divine Election’?


The belief of divine election is that (1) our God’s election is His sovereign act. (2) Our Lord God in
prehistory chose some to believe and thus allowed them reach salvation. (3) He chose those that He
foreknew and predestined them according to His purpose. (4) Our actions, even our future actions
have nothing to do with this.

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Doesn’t God say he wants all men to be saved?
(1 Timothy 2:3-4) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
(KJV)
(2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count
slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that
all should come to repentance. (KJV)
Yes God does. The question is what does that mean. The word ‘will’ can be interpreted several
ways. One is that God willed something to happen. God here would be exerting Divine influence; if
that were the case, all men would be saved. Looking at another interpretation we see in the New
Testament the word ‘will’ (yelw thelo, thel'-o) used here means to desire or wish. As a parent
wishes well for their children, God wishes that all men should be saved. It should be noted here that
this in no way implies that our God could not save us (all men) if he chose. Certainly, our God has
the power. Our God knows (and ordains) only some will reach salvation, and He also said that not
all will be saved.

Did God know we would believe and chose (elected) us because of that?
A commonly held view is that God’s election is conditional and based on the foreknowledge of God
as to who will (and will not) believe. Some people will choose and some will not, those that will
believe, God choose (elected). Two verses that seem to support this argument are:
(1 Peter 1:2) Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through
sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:
Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (KJV).
(2 Thessalonians 2:13) But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you,
brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to
salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: (KJV)
God clearly has foreknowledge; however it does not state that the foreknowledge is that we will
choose. Rather the foreknowledge is that we will be sanctified through the Spirit. The verse in 2
Thessalonians 2:13 also states that from the beginning God chose you for salvation through
sanctification.
Cf (Romans 9:11) (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good
or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but
of Him that calleth;) (KJV)
Cf (Romans 9:16) So then it is not of Him that willeth, nor of Him that runneth, but of
God that sheweth mercy. (KJV)
(Ephesians 2:8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it
is the gift of God: (KJV)
Our actions’, including the act of faith or future faith is not part of the discussion. “The bible never
speaks of salvation because of faith. This would require the Greek construction “dia pistin” (on
account of faith) which does not occur. Faith is the means of salvation, but never the basis”1. To
infer that God choose us because He had foreknowledge that we would believe is to say God choose
us because of our future actions. However God chose us before we were born v Romans 9:11, so
our actions including faith did not play a role. Paul goes on to say v Romans 9:16, we are not

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chosen because of works or even our will, but solely of our God’s mercy. Finally Ephesians states
that we are saved not of ourselves, but rather it is a gift from God. cf Romans 6:23, Galatians 4:9.
The foreknowledge of God does not depend on us, but rather we depend upon Him. God did not
choose us because we would believe.

Doesn’t the bible say those that believe will be saved?


Another common interpretation is that anyone who believes will reach salvation. This seems to
imply that salvation is open to all. All one needs to do is believe. Verses that seem to support this
idea are:
(Matthew 23:37) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, […], how often would I have gathered thy
children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would
not! (KJV).
(John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV).
(Romans 10:13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
(KJV).
(1 John 2:2) And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for
the sins of the whole world. (KJV)
Mat 23:37 was spoken during Passion Week in Jerusalem, cf. Luke 13:34-35 which may have been
spoken in Perea. It is likely, if this is true, that He was not speaking to Jerusalem directly. This may
have been more of a story or parable.
Regarding John 3:16 cf. John 3:18 “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but He that
believeth not is condemned already” (KJV). Two verses after v. 16 the text states that the non-
believers have already been condemned (krinw krino, kree'-no: to judge). The question has to be
asked; if there is a chance they will come to believe, why have they already been judged?
Romans 10:13 clearly says to call upon the Lord and be saved. Again, this verse is often used, as
proof that all who calls will believe. However the next verse cf Romans 10:14 How then shall they
call on Him in whom they have not believed? (KJV). The ones that are not lead to believe will not
call upon the Lord.
1 John 2:2 has been interpreted more than one way. A common interpretation of Arminianism is, as
above, the invitation is open to all, the whole world, stating this is for everyone (inclusive). Another
interpretation is that this is not just for us (the apostles) it is peri olou tou kosmou, ‘for the whole
world’. This would mean that the message is not just for the Jews, but Gentiles and other nations.
None of these cases excludes Election. Arminianism states that the believer will come to Him.
Calvinism states the elect will believe and come to Him (cf Acts 13:48). Unconditional Election
also states that only the elect will believe (v. Romans 10:14). Those that believe are saved.

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Does God as sovereign decide who will believe?
In our assumptions, we have already stated that we believe and accept that our God is our Sovereign
Lord. As such, we have to accept that He has the right to do has He wills.
Here we can see an example of God’s sovereignty over us.
(Romans 9:17-18) For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose
have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be
declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have
mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. (KJV)
(Romans 9:21-23) Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make
one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew
His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the
vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make known the riches of
His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, (KJV)
Here you see that God is rich in mercy.
(Ephesians 2:4) But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He
loved us, (KJV)
(Exodus 33:19) And He said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will
proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be
gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. (KJV)
God decides to whom He will show mercy. He also decides whose heart to harden. God not only
has the right but also does so for His reasons, that His power ‘might be declared throughout all the
earth’. Romans 9:21 makes the comparison of a potter having power over his own clay. The potter
as our Lord makes us as He see fit according to His purposes. Paul even states previously that God
is right and just in this (vRomans 9:14).

Does God preordain who will believe?


Yes! God predestines some to believe. This He does on His own without any action from us or
because of any action or future action from us.
Paul writes here that none will seek God.
(John 15:16) Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you,
(KJV)
(Romans 3:11) There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
(KJV)
(1 Peter 2:8) And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which
stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. (KJV)
We saw above that God will harden the hearts of whom he chooses. John 15:16 and Romans 3:11
shows no one understands or seeks God. Paul writes here that none will seek God. Additionally, 1
Peter 2:8 states that the disobedient were destined to stumble.
(Matthew 22:14) For many are called, but few are chosen. (KJV).
(Acts 13:48) And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word
of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. (KJV)

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(Romans 8:30) Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom
He called, them he also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.
(KJV)
All of these point to the idea that man is preordained. Both Matthew and Acts speaks of many
hearing the message but only a ‘few are chosen’. It continues to say that ‘as many as were ordained
[…] believed’. The Elect, believe. God finding nothing in man that deserves mercy shows His
mercy according to His will and to whom He chooses. We believe because God elected us and
predestined us to believe.

Why does God choose?


We may never know in our life on this earth all the reasons why God chooses to do something or
not. How God chooses one over another is something ordained to Him and Him alone.
(Matthew 11:25-26) At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father,
Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and
prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in
thy sight. (KJV)
(Deuteronomy 29:29) The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those
things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, (KJV)
Vv. 1 Corinthians 2:7
The old saying ‘God moves in mysterious ways’ is clear. God does things according to His will and
plan. If we search the scripture though, we may find some of the reasons.
(Romans 8:28) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love
God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (KJV)
(Ephesians 1:4-6) According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of
the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having
predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to
the good pleasure of His will, To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath
made us accepted in the beloved. (KJV)
(Ephesians 1:11-13) In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being
predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the
counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted
in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of
your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy
Spirit of promise, (KJV)
We know these things are done so that ‘we should be holy and without blame’. We also know that
this is to ‘praise His glory’. Review Ephesians 1:11ff, our God predestines according to His purpose
and will, and that we would be to the praise of His glory. All this is ‘according to the good pleasure
of His will’.

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If we are predestined, why should we do anything?
We should live good Christian lives because our God tells us to. God’s word teaches us to live good
lives. The bible tells us to love our enemies (v. Matt 5:44), let our light shine (v. Matt 5:16) and
make disciples of nations (Matt 28:19). The bible does not stop there. It shows and teaches many
things concerning several issues regarding our daily lives. Additionally, 1 Corinthians 3 teaches that
we will be judged on our actions. Simply being elect is no reason for doing nothing.

Isn’t this harsh?


Actually, it is just the opposite. Arminianism often uses the argument that if God elects those that
will believe His message is open to all. While that sounds sympathetic, it has the effect of allowing
man and his actions to take part, but clearly, we are not saved by our actions. Some teach that since
man must come to believe by his choice, then he may also loose salvation. This does not address the
weak, the tempted or those that doubt. Calvinism teaches that by God’s election even the weakest
may be find salvation. Arminianism depends on a person’s strength; Calvinism depends on God’s
strength. Any of us may be elect by Gods good grace and will. Vv. Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8.
Through the Holy Spirit, we can stand strong and persevere.

What about free will?


Simply put, we still have free will. We are acting according to our nature. If one does not believe in
God then it is not in their nature to follow the word of God. If one does believe, they will follow
God. All of us have free will. A believer is exercising free will according to their new (regenerate)
nature.

Summary
Man cannot find salvation through any action of his own. God knew us. Finding nothing in man
that deserves mercy, He chose us for His purposes and glory. He did not choose us because we
would believe, rather He chose (elected) us and we were predestined to believe. We do not always
understand or know the reasons why God does things. We do know that it is to praise His glory.
This is according to His will and only by His grace are we saved. This does not stop us from
spreading the word, just the opposite. Additionally, this is not harsh but rather a generous gift from
our God. We will act according to our nature and the will of God.

Notes:
There are several issues not addressed here or covered in depth. Some of these include: free will;
how one comes to believe; the non-elect; the caution of pride or arrogance. Additionally, as I stated
previously do not use this as a basis of faith. Rather, if you choose to use this at all, use this as part
of further research and study.

Resources include:
King James Version of the Holy Bible; New American Standard Version of the Holy Bible; Geneva
Bible Notes; Adam Clarke’s Commentary; Albert Barnes’ New Testament Commentary; 1D.
Thomas’ Lecture #5A on Divine Election; Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible;
Robertson’s New Testament Word Pictures; The Westminster Confession of Faith.

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