U: Unconditional Election
The second installment of our discussion on the five “doctrines of grace” focuses on “unconditional election.” Now, before you start piling up the wood to burn me on the stake, let’s get one thing straight: election is taught in the Bible. God’s people are, time and again, called the “elect.” (Matt. 24:22, 24, 31; Mk. 13:20, 22, 27; Lk. 18:7; Rm. 8:33, 9:11, 11:7; 2 Tm. 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Pt. 1:1; 2 Pt. 1:10; 2 Jn. 1, 13.)
To note, there is discussion on whether this election is of individuals or of communities (for example, does God elect people to salvation or does He elect communities of people to special relationship with him). For the purposes of this post we’re not going to dive into that theological debate (though as an aside I believe both are biblical). Regardless of where you are on the divide, one thing is blatantly clear in Scripture: God’s election of individuals and/or communities is completely unconditional.
When we say that God’s choice of us as His people is unconditional this basically means that God doesn’t choose to love us or bless us because of anything inherently good in us. He didn’t look down on us and see something that made Him go, “Hmmm, I like that about them, I think I’ll love them.” He does it solely because it pleases Him to do so (Deut. 7:6-7). Jesus died in our behalf while we were still ungodly and in rebellion, not after we had cleaned our act up and deserved to be saved (Romans 5:6-8). That’s an incredibly important distinction to make.
If He chose to love and save us after we had cleaned ourselves up then our salvation would have not been a gift but rather earned because of the work we had done. That would lead us to have room to boast about our accomplishments which is the exact opposite of what Scripture tells us in Romans 3:27. Even if God looks into the future to see what we will do and then determines to save us, He is still saving us based on our actions. Instead “unconditional election” means, and Scripture uniformly teaches, that salvation is a free gift from God to us and that this gift is made available to us apart from any works we may do but solely based on our faith (Now saving faith is certainly accompanied by works but that’s a discussion for another day).
“Unconditional Election” shows us God’s grace by demonstrating to us a love that loved us when we were utterly un-lovable. God’s love is a love that was extended to us in spite of our rebellion and our sin. God’s love is a love shown to us even when we were sinners (Romans 5:8). Just as the other doctrines of grace, “Unconditional Election” shows us just how beautiful God’s grace really is.