John CalvinThe question of election and predestination is a difficult one for many Bible students. Since it is a topic discussed in the Bible, some seem to feel that modern interpretations of it must be true. As one gentleman put it to me, “The Bible talks about predestination, so I have to believe in it.” Yet just that something is in the Bible proves nothing, for we need to figure out not just what is in the Bible but also what the Bible says about it.

Some choose to accept the Calvinistic viewpoint that God determines everyone who will be saved far in advance of their birth. Some reject this and claim that we are completely free to choose whether or not to accept or reject Christ. Others hold that somehow there is a strange dichotomy whereby God chooses us and yet we still choose to believe by our own will. But all these viewpoints must somehow come to terms with the words “election” and “predestination.” In this study, we will begin examining this topic by studying the word “elect.”

The word “elect” in Greek is “eklektos.” This word is defined as “chosen, elect” in Strong’s Greek dictionary. It occurs in passages such as Christ’s message on the tribulation, Paul’s epistles, the epistles of Peter, and the epistles of John. Examining all the occurrences of all forms of this word, noun, adjective, and verb, would involve examining 51 passages in the New Testament. This would be too long a study for us now, but let us examine at least the most relevant passages together.

As we examine this word “eklektos,” we can notice that it has the same beginning as the far more well-known word “ekklesia,” which is usually translated “church.” That prefix “ek” is a preposition that means “out.” “Lektos” is a Greek word that means, “gathered, chosen, picked out.” (Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon) Therefore, these elect are literally “chosen out.” The question then arises, “Chosen out of what?” Those who hold that we are elected to be saved before we are ever born would assume that this means elected out of all people on the earth to be saved. Yet is there really any evidence for this?

The fact is that the verses in question don’t really tell us any such thing. Here, for example, is its first occurrence in Matthew.

Matthew 24:22. “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s (eklektos) sake those days shall be shortened.”

This verse, as well as the others in Matthew (Matthew 24:24, and 24:31,) all refer to the elect in the tribulation, and therefore have little to do with believers today. Mark 13:20, 13:22, and 13:27 correspond to these verses and likewise speak of the elect in the tribulation and what happens to them. Luke 18:7 appears to have a similar topic in mind. I would point out again that we are not the elect of the tribulation, nor do any of these verses have anything to do with how one is saved.

Moving on to the occurrences in Paul’s writings.

Romans 8:33. “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.”

This verse does not really tell us how people are elected, just that God justifies them.

Romans 9:11 speaks of God electing Jacob rather than Esau to be the heir before these two children were born. I would point out that this election had nothing to do with the salvation or faith of either, however.

Romans 11:5 speaks of the “election of grace.” How does grace elect someone? We find out that it is through faith in Ephesians 2:8. When one shows faith, then he is elected by grace. This has nothing to do with him being chosen to be saved long before he was born.

Romans 11:7. “What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were hardened.”

Again, there is no evidence here that these people were elected to obtain salvation. What Israel sought was freedom from the Roman government under God’s government. At that time the elect were part of God’s rule and authority. This has nothing to do with salvation.

Romans 11:28. “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.”

Although these Israelites were enemies of the gospel, they are still beloved simply because they are Israelites. This is because of the election of the entire nation of Israel. This does not mean that these people will be saved, just that they are a part of the nation that God loves.

Colossians 3:12 urges the elect to have a right attitude, but does not talk about their actual election. I Thessalonians says of Paul and his company that they were “knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.” Yet this is speaking to men who are already believers. They did not know their election before they were saved because they had not yet been elected. It is now that they were beloved brethren that Paul and company could know their election.

I Timothy 5:21 speaks of elect angels, and says nothing to us as men.

In II Timothy 2:10 Paul speaks of what he endures for the elect’s sake. Let us examine it more closely.

“Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”

Some would argue that this proves the Calvinistic viewpoint. They would say that Paul was enduring all things so that the elect could be saved. But may I point out that this would hardly seem necessary if they were already elect and their fate decided? Why would Paul have to endure all these things if these people were going to be saved anyway? Moreover, this viewpoint ignores the final phrase, “with eternal glory.” Was it really salvation Paul desired for the elect? Or was it to attain with their salvation an eternal glory? I believe that Paul was expressing his desire that, when these elect receive their future salvation through the resurrection and the granting of eternal life, they would also receive eternal glory at that time. This “glory” is their reward for faithful service. If we examine the context, we will see that Paul through the Holy Spirit goes on in the next verse to quote a “faithful saying,” which says, “For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him.” This promises eternal security. But then there is still a question, “If we endure, We shall also reign with Him.” This is the same as the “eternal glory” he talked about in the previous verse. The elect will live with Christ regardless, but only through endurance will they reign with Him. Only through remaining faithful will they obtain their salvation along with eternal glory. That is the teaching of this verse.

The last passage we will examine in Paul’s writings is Titus 1:1, which speaks of the faith of God’s elect, but not how they came to have that faith. There is no teaching here of election to salvation.

I Peter 1:2. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”

In I Peter 1:2, we have people being elected “according to the foreknowledge of God,” and “through the sanctification of the Spirit.” Yet when does this occur? When does God elect? When does the Spirit sanctify? Are people elected and sanctified before salvation, or after? This question still needs to be answered.

The second occurrence of elect in Peter’s writings refers to Jesus Christ as elect (1 Peter 2:6,) and says nothing of believers or how they may be elected. That brings us to the occurrences in John’s books, both of which occur in II John.

II John 1:1. “The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;”

In II John 1:1, John proclaims that he is writing to the elect lady. When I took ancient Greek in college, I translated a letter addressed very similarly to this that was written from a man to his wife. This leads me to believe that this is actually a letter from John to his wife. However, we do not learn how she became elect here. And the second occurrence, in II John 1:13, refers to her elect sister, but again says nothing as to how she came to be elected.

So the question remains. How is one elected? How does one become elect? To answer this question we need to examine, not the nouns “elect” or “election,” but rather the verb form that corresponds with it, “elected.” When we see how those who are elect are elected, we can begin to understand how a person becomes elect and whether or not it has to do with being chosen for salvation.

The Greek word for “elected” is “eklegomai.” Strong’s Greek dictionary confirms this under its reference for “eklektos,” (Strong’s number 1588) where it says that this word comes from 1586, “eklegomai.” Yet in giving a definition for “eklegomai,” it does not use the word “elected,” but rather says, “make choice, choose (out), chosen.” Notice their use of the word “out.” Although they have put it in parenthesis, this is their acknowledgement of the presence of the prefix “ek,” which I have already explained means “out.” “Legomai” is a word in and of itself, and does not need “ek” in front of it to mean “to choose or pick out.” (“Legomai” comes from the Greek verb “lego,” so it’s definition in a Greek dictionary will be under “lego” or “eklego.”) Thus those who are elected are not simply chosen, but rather chosen out. Yet I find it interesting that in Strong’s concordance and in my Liddell and Scott Greek dictionary the word “elected” or “to elect” is not suggested for “eklegomai,” even though this is the verb from which the noun “eklektos” is derived. Could it be that “the chosen” would be a better translation for “eklektos” than “the elect”?

Yet whether or not this is true, a quick examination of the word “eklegomai” and its occurrences in the New Testament can reveal to us who exactly the elect are. In Luke 6:13, the word “eklegomai” is used. There we read, “And when it was day, He called unto Him His disciples: and of them He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles;”

Here we see “eklegomai” translated as “chose.” And here we see out of what exactly the “elect” are chosen. Christ had many disciples at this time. Yet out of these, he chose out or elected twelve men to be special disciples. These twelve were not chosen out of the masses of unsaved men to receive salvation. Rather they were chosen out of a large group of men who were already Christ’s disciples to be special, called-out “disciples” who were also named apostles. These men were already followers of Christ when they were elected. Their election had nothing to do with their salvation, but rather their being chosen for special service afterwards!

We can further see that election has nothing to do with salvation by looking at John 6:70, where the word “eklegomai” is again translated as “choose.” There, the Lord states, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” Thus we see that, even though the Lord had elected them, one of them, Judas Iscariot, was not saved! This is further confirmed in John 13:18, “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’” Could there be any greater proof that election has nothing to do with salvation, but rather with being chosen to perform a service? Like Judas, who was elected before expressing saving faith, any who are elected before they were born, such as Jacob, David, or Samson, could choose as they grew up not to have faith in God and could be elected but not saved. This is because election has nothing to do with salvation.

Otis Q. Sellers in his article on “Divine Election” wrote, “The word election in the Bible means exactly the same thing as when we speak of the election of a president, governor, or mayor. In electing we make choice of a man who is to serve in a special capacity or to perform a certain service…In this country, no man is elected to citizenship. He becomes a citizen by birth or naturalization. He cannot be elected to any office unless he is a citizen. The same is true in God’s realm. We do not become children of God, we are not saved by being elected. We must be the children of God, we must be saved before we can be elected.”

Thus we see that being “elected” has nothing to do with salvation. Those who are elected are chosen out of the masses of believers to some special service that God has in mind for them. Examples of this might be David, who was elected out of all Israel to be king. Another might be the judges, who were elected by God to lead Israel. The prophets are others who were elected to serve God in a special capacity. And, of course, the twelve disciples, who were elected above all other disciples at that time to serve Christ in a special way. But none of these were elected to be saved. Rather, most were already followers of Christ when they were elected. If they were elected before they were born, they still had to choose whether or not to serve God willingly as they grew. An excellent example of one who did not is Samson, who, though he was elected by God before birth, nevertheless had to be forced by God to serve Him quite against his will. His election did not result in him expressing faith later in life as he should have. Election has nothing to do with our faith or our salvation!

This completes our study of election. In the next message, we will move on to consider the word “predestination” and how it applies to our future and whether or not God chose us in advance.