Skip to content ↓

The Essential: Election

Resources Collection cover image

This is the tenth installment in an occasional series on theological terms. See previous posts on the terms theology, Trinity, creation, man, Fall, common grace, sin, righteousness, faith, and pride.

Election is the term the Bible uses to refer to God’s act of choosing people to salvation. Paul unpacks this meaning most clearly in Romans 9:10-13, where he sees God announcing and then carrying out his plans in the lives of Jacob and Esau. He writes,

When Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 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—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Election is a demonstration of the sovereign love of God in knowing, choosing, saving, and safeguarding particular people to be members of his family forever, apart from any merit or credentials on the part of those chosen (see Romans 8:29-30, where “predestination” is used as a synonym for election). People who are loved and chosen by God in this way, like Jacob was, are fittingly called “the elect” (cf. Matthew 24:22; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1).

There is a great deal to be said about what election means and what it does not mean, and church history has certainly seen more than its fair share of writing and interpretation on this matter. The main purpose and effect of the doctrine is not to confuse or to divide, but to generate worship. Wayne Grudem captures this well in his Systematic Theology:

The doctrine of election tells us that I am a Christian simply because God in eternity past decided to set his love on me. But why did he decide to set his love on me? Not for anything good in me, but simply because he decided to love me. There is no more ultimate reason than that.

It humbles us before God to think in this way. It makes us realize that we have no claim on God’s grace whatsoever. Our salvation is totally due to grace alone. Our only appropriate response is to give God eternal praise. (687)


  • Free Stuff Fridays (MBTS)

    This week Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For the Church Institute is a free online platform from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary designed to provide free and accessible theological training to equip, encourage, and edify local churches. Courses may be taken as a self-paced individual or as a group within your…

  • A Field Guide on Gender and Sexuality

    A Field Guide on Gender and Sexuality

    God’s design for gender and sexuality is fixed and unchanging. The way he created us is the way he means for us to live. The instruction he provides in the Bible is all we need to understand his purpose and live it out in a way that honors and pleases him. The wisdom he provides…

  • A La Carte Friday 2

    A La Carte (July 19)

    A La Carte: When you can’t forgive yourself after an abortion / Ancient Corinth, Judge Judy, and litigious Christians / Trusting the giver of good / The renovation of a soul / Life after Doom (by Brian McLaren) / and more.

  • A La Carte Thursday 1

    A La Carte (July 18)

    A La Carte: Does Christian sex need rescuing? / 15 resolves for interpersonal conflicts / How senior pastors can help associate pastors / it’s okay to be okay / Don’t be proud of what you had no say in / How sweet! / Kindle deals / and more.

  • Protecting the Family Name

    Protecting the Family Name

    It is a conversation I had with my son-in-law while he was pursuing my daughter and expressing his interest in marrying her. It is a conversation I will need to have with a second son-in-law if the day comes when he expresses his interest in marrying my other daughter. It is a conversation about the…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (July 17)

    A La Carte: Every place is a place to talk about Jehovah / A precious mystery / How marriage shows the beauty and poetry of the gospel / What should we learn from the immensity of the heavens? / Should we call church a family? / Commentary sale / and more.