Unconditional Election

by Al Maxey


According to the Canons of Dordt (1st Head of Doctrine -- Article 7), "Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, He has out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom He from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect and the foundation of salvation. This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God has decreed to give to Christ to be saved by Him, and effectually to call and draw them to His communion by His Word and Spirit; to bestow upon them true faith, justification, and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of His Son, finally to glorify them for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of the riches of His glorious grace."

In Article 11 it is further stated -- "And as God Himself is the most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by Him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled, or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished."

Article 15 -- "It is the express testimony of Scripture that not all, but only some, are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible, and unchangeable good pleasure, has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion."

John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, writes, "All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and accordingly, as each has been created for one or the other of these ends, we say that we have been predestinated to life or to death" (3:21:5).

Calvin further writes, "We say, then, that the Scriptures clearly prove this much, that God by His eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was His good pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was His good pleasure to doom to destruction" (3:21:7).

"God has previously planned the final destinies of all His rational creatures, including both angels and human beings. God planned from eternity to save some of the human race ..... choosing the specific individuals that are to be saved." It is also "God's plan not to save certain members of the human race" (Anthony A. Hoekema, Predestination as Taught by the Christian Reformed Church, Tract #196, p. 3-4).

"The Westminster Assembly (1643 - 47) was called for the purpose of reforming the English church along Presbyterian lines; i.e.: setting up a Calvinist state church" (Harold J. Grimm, The Reformation Era: 1500 - 1650 A.D., p. 563). From out of this assembly came the famous Westminster Confession of Faith. It states, in part, "By the decree of God for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. These men and angels, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it can not be either increased or diminished."

"Calvinism would say that salvation is not a decision man would make. God will elect to salvation whom He will, and that decision will depend on man in no way. Man has no free will and no choice in the matter, and if one desired to be saved that would not enter into it in the least degree" (Jerry Moffitt, Calvinism: Let It Argue With The Bible, "Firm Foundation," December 9, 1986).


Is Calvinism's doctrine of Unconditional Election a valid teaching in light of God's Word? Again, let's ask several important questions, and seek their answer from the inspired Scriptures.

Does the Word of God teach that God is a respecter of persons? Does it teach that He is not impartial, but rather makes arbitrary distinctions between people; choosing some to be saved and others to be lost?

  1. Romans 2:11 ..... "There is no partiality with God." "Neither is there respect of persons with Him" (Ephesians 6:9).

  2. Colossians 3:25 ..... "For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality."

  3. I Peter 1:17 ..... "And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth."

  4. Romans 10:12 ..... "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him."

  5. Acts 10:34-35 ..... "And opening his mouth, Peter said, 'I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him."

What does the Word of God teach one must do to be numbered among the elect? Is "election" something imposed upon us against our will, or do we choose to be numbered among the elect?

  1. Romans 10:13 ..... "For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved."

  2. John 1:12 ..... "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."

  3. Galatians 3:26-27 ..... "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."

  4. II Thessalonians 2:13-14 ..... "But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." We are indeed called and chosen; the Spirit does indeed perform His work within us; but it is NOT an unconditional election. We become His chosen ones by choosing to respond to His call.

  5. Hebrews 5:9 ..... "He (Jesus) became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation." "And He (Jesus) said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned'" (Mark 16:15-16).

  6. John 6:40 ..... "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."

Is it actually God's will that men be lost eternally? Does God actually desire that some perish, while only an elect few are called to salvation?

  1. II Peter 3:9 ..... "The Lord ... is patient toward you, not wishing for ANY to perish, but for all to come to repentance."

  2. Matthew 23:37 ..... "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ... How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and YOU were unwilling." "YOU are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life" (John 5:40).

  3. Ezekiel 18:32 ..... "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord God. "Therefore, repent and live." Verse 23 of this same chapter reads, "'Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?' says the Lord God. 'Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?'"

  4. If God's election were unconditional, and if it were true that men had no freedom to choose life over death, then Revelation 22:17 is a meaningless invitation -- "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost."

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