Who are God’s elect?

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By BibleAsk Team


The concept of God’s elect is deeply rooted in Christian theology, particularly in discussions surrounding predestination and God’s sovereignty. This study will explore the biblical understanding of who God’s elect are, how the term is used in Scripture, and address theological perspectives. References will primarily be drawn from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible.

Biblical Understanding of God’s Elect

Old Testament References

In the Old Testament, the term “elect” often refers to Israel as God’s chosen people:

  • Deuteronomy 7:6:
    • “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.”

Here, God addresses Israel as His chosen or elect people, emphasizing His sovereign choice of them to be a special people unto Himself.

  • Isaiah 45:4:
    • “For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.”

Isaiah reaffirms Israel’s status as God’s elect, chosen by Him for His purposes, despite their historical and spiritual shortcomings.

New Testament Usage

In the New Testament, the concept of God’s elect expands to include believers in Jesus Christ, both Jews and Gentiles:

  • Romans 8:33:
    • “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, uses the term “God’s elect” to refer to those whom God has justified, emphasizing God’s role in declaring them righteous. The Bible teaches that God’s elect are those who respond to His call. Those who heed the Lord’s call are the chosen ones, but everyone in the world is given the invitation to be saved. God’s message is to go “to every nation tribe, tongue and  people” (Revelation 14:6). But not everyone will accept this invitation, some will even turn at first to God but later on will turn away from Him (1 Timothy 4:1).

  • Colossians 3:12:
    • “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.”

Paul addresses believers in Colossae as “the elect of God,” highlighting their chosen status and calling them to live in accordance with their identity in Christ.

Predestination and the Doctrine of Election

Calvinistic Perspective

In Calvinistic theology, the doctrine of election emphasizes God’s sovereign choice of certain individuals for salvation before the foundation of the world. This view holds that God’s election is unconditional and based solely on His will, not on any response from individuals. Calvin uses the following verse to teach his view:

  • Ephesians 1:4-5:
    • “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”

The Calvinistic view of election, teaches God’s initiative in choosing believers before creation and predestining them to be saved.

Is Calvinism Biblical?

The phrase God’s elect, as taught by Calvin, is a dangerous doctrine because it gives us a false sense of security and cancels our free will decisions regarding faith. Paul explained that ongoing faith and free will are conditions for our salvation. He warned,

  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-2:
    • “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”

The word “if” suggests that if we don’t hold fast, we are believing in vain. Therefore, it is unbiblical to teach that we continue to be among God’s elect when we go off and do our own thing.

  • 1 John 2:3-6:
    • “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”

The apostle John also stresses that the free will decision of faith is a condition for salvation.

Arminian Perspective

Arminian theology, in contrast to Calvisim, teaches that God’s election is based on His foreknowledge of individuals’ faith and response to the gospel. According to this view, God predestines individuals to salvation based on their free will decision to believe in Christ. This perspective is in harmony with the teachings of the Bible.

  • 1 Peter 1:1-2:
    • Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion… elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”

Peter’s greeting suggests that believers are elect according to God’s foreknowledge, indicating a conditional aspect based on their response to God’s call.

  • 2 Peter 1:10:
    • “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.”

Peter encourages believers to confirm their calling and election through a life of faithfulness and obedience, suggesting that assurance comes through active participation in God’s purposes. Scripture consistently emphasizes the responsibility of individuals to respond to God’s call:

  • Acts 2:38-39:
    • “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.'”

Peter’s exhortation at Pentecost underscores the universal invitation to respond to God’s call through repentance and faith in Christ.

God’s Sovereignty and Human Freedom

The tension between God’s sovereignty and human freedom is a recurring theme in discussions of election. While Scripture affirms God’s sovereign choice (Romans 9:15-16), it also recognizes the genuine response of individuals to God’s offer of salvation (John 3:16).

  • John 3:16:
    • “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

This famous verse highlights God’s universal love and desire for all to be saved, emphasizing the role of personal faith in receiving God’s gift of salvation. We can have the assurance of salvation, if we keep our eyes on Christ and hold fast to His Word and continue to walk in His path by faith (John 15:4). But if we believe that once we accept Jesus we can turn away from Him and still be saved, then we are deceiving ourselves (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

When we have an abiding connection to Jesus, we can know that we are the children of God – His elect – and that He will finish what He had begun in our lives. “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, NKJV).

Conclusion

The concept of God’s elect encompasses both Israel as God’s chosen people in the Old Testament and believers in Jesus Christ, both Jews and Gentiles, in the New Testament. The biblical perspective on God’s elect invites believers to affirm God’s initiative in salvation while recognizing the importance of personal response and faith.

According to the Calvinist view, God’s election is unconditional and is based solely on His will, not on any response from individuals. By contrast the Arminian view teaches that God predestines individuals to salvation based on their free will decision to believe in Christ. The Arminian view is in harmony with the teachings of the Bible, that teaches God desires all people to be saved and calls them to respond in faith to His gracious offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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