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Q&A: How do I know I am elected by God?

Why does God elect some and not others? How do I know that God chose me?

The doctrine of election is gospel. Period. A key to understanding the biblical teaching of election (a synonym for this doctrine is predestination) is understanding that it is a doctrine of comfort for the individual believer.

What is election?

Election means that, in eternity, God chose those who would believe the gospel. He rules all of history so that the elect will hear the gospel, believe it, die in saving faith, and go to heaven.

The question of “Why some and not others?” is one that theologians have tried to explain for centuries. The Bible gives us the answer, but it can trouble our human reason. It’s really two questions. Why are some saved? It is 100 percent by God’s grace. Why are some not saved? It is 100 percent human fault. You see the “reasonable” conundrum.

John Calvin, a French Protestant theologian in the 16th century, answered the question by teaching that the answer has to do with a difference in God. Calvin taught double predestination. In other words, all of humankind is born dead in sin. We can do nothing. However, God shows special grace to those he chose for heaven, while he offers only a common grace to those he chose for hell. God’s sovereignty directs the individual to heaven or hell. The elect cannot resist God’s grace. In fact, Calvin taught that Jesus died only for the elect. One could characterize this teaching by saying God wants some more than others. Again, the difference is in God.

Jacob Arminius, a Dutch Reformed theologian in the 16th and 17th centuries, answered the question by teaching that the difference is in humans. He taught that God wants all to be saved. However, some are more resistant than others and refuse to use their ability to respond to God’s grace. Arminius taught that humankind has a limited free will in conversion to choose to accept the gift of salvation. Again, the difference is in humankind.

The systems of Calvin and Arminius satisfy our human reason but do not teach what Scripture says. God wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). There is no difference in God toward humanity. Humans are born dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). There is no difference in humans. Dead people cannot do anything, including choosing to come to faith. The Bible’s answer is: If I’m saved, it’s by God’s grace. If I’m damned, it is my own fault. It’s not unreasonable, but rather supra-reasonable. God’s reason is above ours.

Interestingly, children seem to understand election better than adults: “God chose me to be saved. Okay!” It’s when we get older that we try to reason with questions: “But what about . . .?” Generally, those questions have to do with either the hidden will of God or the law. We need to remember that election is only a doctrine of good news!

How do I know if I am part of the elect?

Many people list their favorite passage as Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” What comfort! However, Romans 8:30 offers just as much comfort! “Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” This verse has been called the unbreakable golden chain of election.

The “he also” in verse 30 serves as an equal sign. I know this is theology and not math, but bear with me! The equation is: A = B = C = D. (A) Predestined = (B) Called = (C) Justified = (D) Glorified. You don’t need to be a mathematician to see that if you know one of the variables, you also know the others. A and D are unknown variables to us. However, B and C are known variables. God called you to faith (i.e., Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?), and you know that Jesus died on the cross to take away your sins (i.e., justified). Since those two are true, then the others are true as well! Since I see in my life the very things God promised to do in eternity for his elect, I have proof that I was predestined and I will be glorified! This is the unbreakable golden chain of election. God chose you!

Doesn’t the Bible teach that God chose some for hell?

The short answer is no. Some point to Romans chapter 9 and Malachi chapter 1 as evidence that God chose some for hell. Understanding the context and the point God makes with his analogy is key to understanding these portions of Scripture. In Romans, the apostle Paul is correcting the idea that God chose some because of some good thing in them. To make his point, he refers to God’s choice of Jacob instead of Esau to carry the line of the Savior. Note, the quote from Malachi 1:2,3 is not dealing with election but God’s choice of who would become his chosen nation.

Romans 9:11-13 reads: “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Paul then explains in verse 16 why he used the analogy: “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” In other words, your election is 100 percent by God’s grace and not because of something in you.

The Bible’s answer is: If I’m saved, it’s by God’s grace. If I’m damned, it is my own fault.

Did God hate Esau? In the Hebrew way of speaking, this expression emphasizes one choice over another. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Jesus does not mean “hate” in the way we use it in English. After all, we are told to love all of those people! Jesus’ point is that we must love him even more! The expression does not mean that God damned Esau to hell. Again, the context of the quote deals with the line of the Savior. In fact, later in Genesis, it seems Esau was repentant as he received his brother, Jacob, back home graciously.

What comfort does election give me?

As a closing encouragement and Bible study, please read Ephesians 1:3-14. There the apostle Paul talks about the beauty and comfort of the doctrine of election. Paul was so excited about it that this entire section is one run-on sentence in Greek! A good way to approach this section is to start with the phrase, “God loves me so much that he . . .” and then see all the different aspects of God’s love described throughout the verses. There is no law in this doctrine. There is no human effort. Instead, “God loves me so much that he . . . chose me . . . made me holy and blameless . . . (you keep going).”

Have a question, ask it here!

Author: David Scharf
Volume 111, Number 01
Issue: January 2024

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This entry is part 1 of 66 in the series question-answer

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