TULIP Part 3a

Unconditional Election


Two people, let's call them Bill and Sally, are invited to church. Both of them are unbelievers, and have been so all of their lives. Bill and Sally hear the same sermon preached and hear the same presentation of the gospel, yet Sally decides to give her life over to Christ while Bill remains in unbelief. Why? Why do some people hear the gospel and submit their lives to Christ and others hear the same gospel and harden their hearts further? Add to that, if what was said in the last article about Total Depravity (or Radical Corruption) is true, how does anybody come to God in faith and repentance?

The Apostle Paul answers this question in the opening chapter of his letter to the Romans when he writes, "for [the gospel] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). The biblical answer as to why some believe and the others do not is that those who believe were unconditionally elected to salvation while the others were not. Unconditional Election is the second petal in TULIP, or the second plank in the Doctrines of Grace.

Unconditional Election is a tough doctrine for a human being to swallow for it teaches that in order for man to be saved, God must first elect him to salvation. This election is not conditioned on anything man has done, but is solely a gift of God's divine grace. Again citing the Canons of Dort, Unconditional Election is defined as follows:
Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, [God] chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ's fellowship through his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them.
The followers of Jacob Arminius objected to this doctrine and they taught that God elects, or predestines based on foreseen faith. In other words, God, who knows the beginning from the end, knows those of his creatures who will believe in Christ and place their faith in him; he knows this before creating them. Therefore, God elects all those whom he knows will have faith in Jesus Christ. In short, election is conditional, not unconditional, with the condition being faith. This is the majority report in the evangelical church today.

The biblical passage that best demonstrates Unconditional Election is Ephesians 1:3-6, which reads as follows:
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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Please note when God chose (elected) us. The bible says it was "before the foundation of the world." In this, both Calvinists and Arminians agree. However, if you ask the question upon what basis was God's election made, the Arminian answers, "foreseen faith," but the bible says, "according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace." In other words, election was unconditional; i.e., not conditioned upon our foreseen faith, but based on God's gracious will.

The obvious objection that is raised at this point is this: If God unconditionally elects who is saved and who isn't, then how can the unbeliever be responsible? Alternatively, what if I believe in Christ and trust him for my salvation, but I'm not one of the elect? These are serious questions that deserve serious answers, and we will discuss them in the next article.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Next: Unconditional Election Part 2

Image Credit: Thomas Totz, Germany; "5 tulips"; Creative Commons

The Series:
Introduction: What are the Doctrines of Grace and what is their historic importance?
Total Depravity: Are we all as evil as we can be? What about the good that people do?
Unconditional Election Part 1  |  Part 2: Does God choose those who are going to be saved ahead of time?
Limited Atonement Part 1  |  Part 2: Did Jesus die for the sins of the whole world or only for the elect?
Irresistible Grace Part 1  |  Part 2: How does God draw people to himself? Can we resist?
Perseverance of the Saints: What does it mean to persevere in faith? What about apostasy?

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Republished 5-20-2013