What about the election of believers?

What about the election of believers?

Currently we are working through a series of tough questions submitted by members of our congregation. We have chosen six topics to address on Sunday mornings. However, we received many more than six questions! We will be answering several additional questions here on the website in a blog format.

What about the election of believers?

Pastor George Davis

When you read the term “election,” your first thoughts may be about the current political season and what’s coming in November. However, “election” is actually an important theme in Scripture, and it’s a theme that has generated ongoing conversation and debate.

In the Bible, election can be used in describing God’s unique relationship with Israel (e.g., Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Furthermore, in the New Testament, election is part of God’s plan of salvation. Thus, Christians can be described as “those whom God has chosen” (Romans 8:33), or the “elect” (1 Peter 1:1).

As we seek to understand this theme, it raises all sorts of questions. For instance, how does God’s sovereignty relate to human responsibility? At first glance, it appears that you can’t have both. If God is sovereign, then humans can’t be responsible for their actions. Likewise, if we are responsible and free, God can’t be sovereign.

The Bible, however, challenges us to see that both themes are actually at work. For instance, as believers pray in the early church, they acknowledge that “Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4:27-28). In other words, Christ’s death was part of God’s plan, yet those who did this were held responsible.

In understanding sovereignty and responsibility, Christians disagree as to how these themes are at work in salvation. Historically, Calvinists (named after John Calvin) have placed greater emphasis on the issue of sovereignty. That is, God chooses or elects us, unconditionally. By contrast, Arminians (named after Jacob Arminius) have stressed the importance of human responsibility and freedom. In other words, God chooses us because he knew who would respond to him if given the opportunity to do so.

While I think the Calvinist approach may have a stronger case, this is a debate that will be ongoing. Nonetheless, while Christians understand this topic from different angles, there are certain things that should seem clear to all. Most importantly, we should see that salvation is God’s work that is enabled by his grace alone.

That’s something we can actually celebrate this election season!

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