What Is Predestination (Election),

and Is it Fair?

Election (eklegomae) is the sovereign act of God in choosing to salvation in Christ Jesus those whom He has predestinated according to His own purpose. In eternity past, God formed a plan, the decrees of God. He made decisions according to this plan He foreordained, and He called the name of each individual who would be born again. Election is pre-temporal.

In order to understand the doctrine of election, we must consider the following definitions of related terms:
  • Called (kletos) -to choose (1 Peter 1:1-2)
  • Foreordained (proorizo) - to predestinate, to mark out as a boundary beforehand, to the goal of salvation (Romans 8:29-30)
  • Knowledge/foreknowledge (OT = yada) - This refers to the intimate relationship due to the personal choice and selection beforehand. This is not simply knowing beforehand. This word is used for sexual (intimate) relations (Amos 3:2, Galatians 4:9).
  • Purpose (prothesis) - planned by God (Romans 8:28)
Election is the sovereign divine purpose formed independently of human merit or human cooperation. It is God's will to choose (Exodus 5:16). God chooses those for salvation (John 15:19). He chooses those for service (Acts 9:15). He chooses individuals (1 Peter 1:2), nations (Isaiah 45:4), and the church (Ephesians 1:4). For example, He chose Paul (Acts 9:15). The point is that God is the one who chooses (Romans 9:17ff, Philippians 2:12ff).

God CHOSE some, but not all. The Bible says "whosoever will may come," but God MOVES us to WILL to be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). However, He does not elect any to be lost. The lost are eternally doomed due to their negative volition (which God has not willed to change).

Election was accomplished by the Trinity in eternity past through eternal decrees (Ephesians 1:4, 2 Timothy 1:9, Acts 15:18, Acts 2:23). Election did not occur in time. (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

Divine election is immutable (2 Tim. 2:18-19, Rom. 8:30).

The relationship between divine election and man's freewill is not revealed in scripture.

In free agency, it seems to us like we are the ones making the decisions. However, election is decided by God. It is not simply a matter of God looking down the corridors of time to see who believed. This would mean that God is not omniscient and that He had to learn something (like a shell game).

This concept bothers some people because it suggests that we can have certainty and freedom at the same time. This implies that our freewill is only a limited freewill, which it is. Consider the following examples:
  • A toddler wonders away from his mother and walks toward a dangerous cliff. The mother has complete freedom to decide what to do. Yet, can we not say with certainty that she will stop the child?
  • A flight instructor gives the student the controls of the airplane, and it goes into a spin from which the student cannot recover. Although the instructor is free to choose what to do, we can say with certainty that he will take over the controls.
Furthermore, these examples deal with the "certainty" of imperfect men, while God is absolute. Where we might argue that the flight instructor might choose to die in a crash, God's certainty is absolute.

Also, we can make decisions which we are unable to execute. A man can decide to jump from the top of a tall building. Then, when he is halfway down, he can decide that this was a mistake. Yet, he has no power to either fly back up to the top, or to ensure a soft landing.

Furthermore, there is much that our freewill cannot determine, since it is restricted. We can't determine our family, race, IQ, or natural looks. It is easy to see that some things are restricted by divine laws.

We can decide things by our free wills, but God persuades our wills.

Yes, free agency goes with election. Free agency does not imply anarchy. It does have restrictions. Election is consistent with human responsibilities (sin). Election does not relieve man of the responsibility for their own state.

Another natural argument against election is that it is unjust. Consider a man who doesn't want to be drafted by the military, so he cuts off his own hand, and the military rejects him due to his physical impairment. Later, he decides he would like to be in the military, but he is still rejected. Then, the military decides that they will admit some men with physical handicaps. They CHOOSE other men who have lost their hands in accidents, but they still reject the man who intentionally cut off his own hand. Now, is this unjust? Didn't the military maintain the right to CHOOSE who they wanted?

It is God who saves! Furthermore, sin is the reason for someone not going to heaven. However, God, in His mercy, ELECTS some to salvation, but not all. God is not unjust, unrighteous, or unfair. Election is not a matter of justice--it is a matter of grace. Thank goodness that this is true, because if election were a matter of justice, we would all be doomed to hell because that is what we all deserve, due to our sin. If a man has 10 creditors, and he CHOOSES to cancel the debt of one of those creditors, this is not unjust to the other 9. Election is not a matter of justice, but a matter of sovereign action.

It is important to reiterate that non-elect people are not chosen to be non-elect, but they are simply non-elect by default, because what we all deserve is hell.

The blessings of election include:
  • Praise for God because of His sovereign election of us.
  • Comfort, knowing that we are a part of God's plan, and He is in control.
  • Preparation for suffering, knowing that God is in control.
  • Dependence upon God, understanding that we are not self-sufficient.
Make no mistake about it. Salvation (and election) is God's doing, not ours. We can only thank him for it, even if we don't fully understand his actions.

Owen Weber 2008