For the first post of this Doctrine of Salvation series, please see the first post: Summary of the Doctrine of Salvation
A good definition can be as follows: God’s sovereign selection of certain sinners for salvation before the foundation of the world that is not based on any human merit.
Before we get into the details concerning the doctrine of election, it is important for us to define some important terms that come up in many discussions concerning this topic. The first word is foreknowledge (prognosis). Foreknowledge is in regards to a predetermined relationship of certain people before the foundation of the world; and is distinct from mere knowledge and facts. In Romans 8:29 the use of foreknowledge is linked to predestination and in 1 Peter 1:2, foreknowledge is linked to election. What is important to note that only twice does the term of foreknowledge in the New Testament is referring to knowledge and facts beforehand (Acts 26:5; 2 Peter 3:17). The other references to the word foreknowledge signify foreordination and predetermination (Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:2, 20).
Another important term is “predestine” (proorizo). This term means to determine things beforehand (Acts 4:27-28; Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:5, 11). According to Reformed theology, the term “predestination” a term that is related to election is not only a term included for believers, but also unbelievers (reprobation).
The next term is election. The Hebrew term for election is bahar (“elect” or “choose”) and its derivatives occur 198 times in the Old Testament. With this term, God chooses a people for Himself (Psalm 135:4), certain tribes (Psalm 78:68), specific individuals (1 Kings 8:16; 1 Chron. 28:5). In the New Testament, the Greek verb “to elect” is eklegomai and the Greek noun for election is eklektos, which is found around 22 times. The primary meanings of those two words refer to salvation, not service. Let us now move into the categories of election.
The first category is election to service. Concerning election to service, God chose Moses for leadership (Num. 16:5-7), Eli’s father for priestly functions (1 Sam. 2:28), David’s appointment to be Israel’s king (1 Sam. 10:24), Solomon appointed to be king and to build the temple (1 Chron. 28:4-6; 29:1), Jeremiah appointed for prophetic ministry (Jer. 1:10), Zerubbabel for leadership (Haggai 2:23), the Levitical priesthood for ministry (Deut. 18:5; 21:5); and He chose kings to govern (Deut. 17:15). Moreover, Jesus chose his apostles and followers to preach the gospel of the kingdom (Mark 3:13-15; John 15:16). Next category is corporate election.
For corporate election, we can refer to Israel as a primary example. Deut. 7:6 says, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” What is interesting is that Israel was chosen and given the privilege to serve God (1 Kings 3:8; Psalm 132:13); and were chosen not based on their merits, but solely on God’s sovereignty and love (Exod. 32:9; Deut. 4:37; 9:6; 10:15; Psalm 47:4). On another note, God’s election of the Israel is also irrevocable (Rom. 11:28-29). Corporate election is not only seen with Israel (not all Israel is saved), but with the church too. The church is the community that is sovereignly chosen by God to serve Him. They are called out from the power of sin and called to worship Him. In 1 Peter 2:9-10, the church is mentioned and the church is described with language language that was used in the Old Testament. For example, Peter uses, “chosen generation,” “a royal priesthood,” “an holy nation,” “a peculiar people,” and “a people of God” in juxtaposition to the church. When the church is used in the New Testament regarding election of the church, it is referring to salvation, but when election is used to refer to Israel in the Old Testament, it emphasizes the difference concerning the nation Israel as “chosen, blessed, and commissioned” from the pagan nations that surround Israel.
Besides the corporate election of Israel and the church, there is also personal election that is mentioned in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God is seen as seeking Adam and Eve after their sin. He did not destroy them, but he covered them with animal skins (Gen. 3:21). God also sought Noah because “Noah found favors in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). God’s personal election is clearly seen with Abraham. God chose Abraham to be the father of Israel so that he would bring blessings to all the nations of the earth (Gen. 12:1-3). In Gen. 18:19, Moses the write notes that Abraham is chosen also so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD; and they are to do that by doing righteousness and justice. What is fascinating about the word “chosen” (ידע; yada) means “to know.” So in this context, it paints the picture that God sovereignly chose Abraham for salvation. Yada is also used in Exodus 33:17 to refer to God knowing Moses. Yada is used in Isaac Gen. 17:19-21 to refer to God choosing Isaac rather than Ishmael. It is also used in Psalm 65:4 concerning God to bring people near to Him and is used in Jeremiah 1:5 to refer God’s election of Jeremiah before He was formed. The idea of personal election is clear in Jeremiah. God chose Him and knew Him personally and lovingly.
For verses in the New Testament concerning election, please see Matthew 11:25-27; John 5:21; John 6:44; John 13:18; John 15:16a; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28-30; Romans 9:11-13; Romans 11:7; Ephesians 1:4-6; Ephesians 1:4-6; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 1:1-2a; and Revelation 13:8.
Another category that needs to be pursued is the concept called “foreknowledge.” Understanding this term will help one see clearly the doctrine of election. When it comes to this view, some believe that the word “foreknowledge” means foresight. Hence, God looks through the corridors of heaven and down into the tunnel of time to see who will believe in His Son. As a result, it perceives God’s election being conditioned upon whether a person believes or not. Others see the concept as referring to a predetermined love relationship that has nothing to do whether man believes or not. Thus, I believe foreknowing means foreloving in this context.
In conclusion, although there are passages where there are occurrences of the word foreknowledge referring to foresight and not forelove, but each verse must be examine the context of each verse and passage to determine what it means. For example, the use of the word “foreknew” in Romans 11:2 means a predetermined love relationship. God has not rejected the people whom He chose. It would be odd if the word foreknew means foresight. In Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:2, the word “foresight” is best understood in the sense of “forelove.” Another example would be Romans 8:29, which states an important phrase: “those whom He foreknew.
The word “foreknew” is not a reference simply to foreknowledge. Hence, it cannot simply be tied directly to God’s omniscience in the sense that from eternity past, He chose some because He knew who would place their faith in Him. According to Granville Sharp Rule, the word “forelove” equates with predeterminism. Hence, God, set His love on His people and established an intimate relationship with His elect.
Another thing to take into consideration are the perspectives on the doctrine of election. Besides the notion that Christ chose His people before the foundation of the world without being condition upon man’s choice, it is important to remember that election in Christ (Eph. 1:3-7), is presented as a comfort (Rom. 8:28-30), is a reason to praise God (Eph. 1:5-6, 12), is an encouragement for evangelism (2 Tim. 2:10); and election is a reason for us to not take it too hard on ourselves when people consistently refuse the Gospel.
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