Unconditional Election

by Matt Slick

Video Presentation of this topic is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3b_ZlSDllKU

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These notes were used by me in my defense of Total Depravity on the radio show.  I did not use everything listed here.  Nevertheless, they should help should you desire to follow along.


Unconditional Election - First, what is election?  Election is the act of God’s sovereign will where before the creation of the world he chooses an individual or group of people to accomplish a purpose.  Therefore, election designates being chosen for a purpose.

  1. Quote: "This understanding of election has traditionally been called "unconditional election." It is "unconditional" because it is not conditioned upon anything that God sees in us that makes us worthy of his choosing us." (Grudem, Wayne A. (2009-05-18). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Entender) (p. 679). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. In the context of the term “unconditional election”, this election is the sovereign act of God where, from before the foundation of the world, he chose those whom he would save (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). This election to save is not conditioned upon any foreseen faith (Rom. 9:16) or any foreseen good works of any individual (Rom. 9:11; 2 Tim. 1:9).  This election is based completely on God's sovereign choice according to the kind intention of his will (Eph. 1:11). God chose the elect because he decided to bestow his love upon them (John 3:16; Eph. 2:4), based solely on his sovereign grace (Gal. 1:15), and for his glory (Isaiah 43:7).
    1. Eph. 1:4, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love.”
    2. 2 Thessalonians 2:13, "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth."
    3. Rom. 9:16, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
    4. Rom. 9:11, “for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.”
    5. 2 Tim. 1:9, “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”
    6. Eph. 1:11, “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”
    7. John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
    8. Eph. 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.”
    9. Gal. 1:15, “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased.”
    10. Isaiah 43:7, “Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”
  3. Partiality
    1. Some will object to the idea that God unconditionally chooses people for salvation. They say this means God is showing partiality where he favors one person over another and the Bible says God does not show partiality.
      1. Romans 2:11, “For there is no partiality with God.”
      2. Acts 10:34, “Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.”
    2. But this is not the proper understanding of the biblical definition of partiality. For that we turn to Scripture.
      1. James 2:1–4, "My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool, 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?"
    3. The partiality that God condemns is the partiality of looking to an individual in finding some quality in or about that person and then showing favoritism to the person based on that quality. That is what God condemns.
    4. Unconditional election means that God out of the sovereignty of his own will, God chooses people for salvation, not based on any quality in themselves and not based on anything foreseen in regard to that individual.
  4. Foreknowledge of God
    1. One of the responses to God’s unconditional election is the idea that God has foreknowledge, that he knows the future and knows what different people will pick under different circumstances. He then elects people based on what he sees they will do.
    2. This is wrong for several reasons.
      1. First, it is a violation of God’s statement that he does not show partiality. If God looked into the future to see who would pick him under different circumstances, then he is showing favoritism to them based on the foreseen good quality in them; namely, the good-quality that they will choose him under different circumstances.
        1. But God already tells us he does not do that
        2. Romans 9:9–11, " For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,"
      2. Second, this idea foreknowledge implies that God is learning by looking into the future to see what would believe under different circumstances. This violates the doctrine of his omniscience.
      3. Third, it contradicts the Scriptures tell us that no one seeks for God (Romans 3:10-12), that they cannot understand spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14), that they are slaves of sin (Romans 6:20), that their hearts are desperately wicked deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), that the righteous deeds are filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). In short, offering “foreknowledge” as an answer to unconditional election violates scriptural revelation about the sinful condition of man. The choices of the unregenerate will always be self-serving, ungodly, and cannot glorify God. In short, there is no condition in which the unregenerate will of their own sinful free wills, choose to pick God.  This entire issue is addressed under the teaching total depravity.
      4. Fourth, foreknowledge is often misunderstood by many Christians.  As I’ve already mentioned many Christians think that God’s foreknowledge means he looks into the future and bases his decisions on what he foresees will occur. But there is a sense in which the word foreknow deals only with believers and nonbelievers in  asaving way. Let me explain.
        1. God only “knows” believers. He does not know unbelievers
          1. John 10:27–28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand."
          2. Matthew 7:22–23, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’"
          3. Galatians 4:8–9, "However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?"
            1. John 5:42, “but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.”
        2. The word for “know, is “ginosko”.  The word for foreknow is “proginosko”.
          1. Romans 8:29, "For those whom He foreknew [proginosko, G4267], He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
          2. 1 Peter 1:20, "For He [Christ] was foreknown [proginosko, G4267] before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you."
          3. The word implies a relationship, not just knowing something in the future.
        3. Also, notice, in Romans 8:29–30 that those who are foreknown are also the ones predestined.  They are the same group.
          1. Rom. 8:29-30, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified."
      5. Back to Unconditional Election
        1. In the context of Reformed Theology and Unconditional Election, election is the teaching that God, before the creation of the world, elected some people to be saved and not others.  His election was not based on any foreseen decision or quality in these people.  Instead, it was based solely on the sovereign will of God.  Election is based on what is in God, not what is in man. God chose us for salvation because he decided to bestow his love and grace upon us, not because we are worthy of being saved.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.