The Doctrine of Unconditional Election—is it Biblical?


The doctrine of Unconditional Election is a doctrine that holds that God chooses certain individuals for salvation prior to their conversion and independent of any foreseen faith or good works. It states that God’s election is based solely on His own sovereign will and grace and not on any merits of man.

This doctrine has been a significant part of Reformed Theology. It has been defended by several Protestant theologians, including John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Martyn Lloyd Jones, Paul Washer, John Piper, and many others.

Five Scripture passages that support Unconditional Election include:

  1. Romans 8:29-30 – “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
  2. Ephesians 1:3-5 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will”
  3. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 – “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”
  4. Acts 13:48 – “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
  5. John 6:37 – “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

Some well-known historical theologians who held to the doctrine of unconditional election include John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Jonathan Edwards.

John Calvin, in his “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” wrote, “We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which He covenanted with himself what He willed to happen with regard to every man. 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 other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or to death.”

Unconditional Election stands on the idea that all humanity hates God, has no interest in submitting to the Lordship of Christ, and is deserving of hell. But God, in His mercy, has decided to offer grace to some and leave the rest to justice. Therefore, there is no injustice in Unconditional Election, there is only grace and justice.

In Romans 9:14-21, Paul demonstrates the doctrine of Unconditional Election in play by using God’s choice to love Jacob and not Esau (Rom. 9:11). Paul anticipates his reader’s objection to God’s election and says, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” 

Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon “Freedom of the Will,” stated, “God has absolutely determined, from all eternity, what shall come to pass, with respect to every person and thing. This determination of God is what is properly called predestination.”

In conclusion, the doctrine of Unconditional Election is a biblical teaching that holds that God is the only one who truly has free will. He is the sovereign God who saves those who cannot and would not save themselves.

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