Despite what we sometimes think, we have no say in what God does or how He does it. He’s not swayed or influenced by our values, our interests, or our sense of justice. In fact, the psalmist tells us, “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).
Moreover, the Lord does not conform to our fallen, flawed standards. Everything He does is true and right because He does it. He would never do anything that’s inconsistent with His own holy character. He Himself is therefore the standard of what is holy and righteous. In other words, He embodies all that is truly holy.
That’s what we mean when we say God is holy. It is a principle that underlies everything Scripture teaches. It is certainly one of the fundamental precepts on which the doctrine of election is grounded.
Furthermore, the choosing of people for salvation cannot be isolated from every other thing God has chosen to do, because in the big picture God has ordained everything that comes to pass. Everything that God does He chooses to do, and His choices are free from any influence outside Himself. Therefore, the doctrine of election fits into this fuller comprehension of a sovereign God. That is election in its broadest sense, and it is evident on nearly every page of Scripture.
In the very act of creation, God created exactly what He wanted to create in exactly the way He wanted to create it, allowing for the very things that occurred in human history in order that He might accomplish the redemptive plan He had already designed. He chose a nation, Israel, not because they were better than any other people, or because they were more desirable than any other people, but simply because He chose them. Moses told Israel,
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. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you. (Deuteronomy 7:6–8)
Like all the elect, Israel was “predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).
In Psalm 105:43, He calls Israel “His chosen ones.” Psalm 135:4 says, “the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself.” In Deuteronomy 7 and again in Deuteronomy 14, we find these words: “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.” Scripture doesn’t attempt to defend or explain the choice—it simply asserts that God did the choosing.
In the same way, God has sovereignly chosen from the very beginning everything that fits into His master plan of redemption. From its opening verses, the New Testament is replete with examples of God’s sovereignty at work. He elected His Son as Redeemer, and appointed the time and means of His arrival on earth. It should be no surprise that He even chose the elect body who would be His Son’s bride—the church.
His glorious plan for each individual Christian is likewise consistent with the way He has always operated—sovereignly. He has not handed His sovereignty over to something as vacillating and arbitrary as human free will. Christ told His disciples, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain” (John 15:16). The apostle Paul says even the good works we do as believers were prepared by God “beforehand” (Ephesians 2:10).
Christians from the very outset have understood this. In Acts 13:48, Luke says, “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” And, of course, the ninth chapter of Romans contains a monumental passage on the elective purposes of God as manifested in the choices of Jacob and Esau, and how God chose whom He chose—not on the basis of anything they had done, but according to His own sovereign, free, and uninfluenced purpose. “Does not the potter have a right over the clay?” (Romans 9:21). And “who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?” (v. 20). We’re better off to keep silent than to question God’s sovereign purposes.
Election and the Church
Throughout the New Testament there are references to the church as the elect—chosen by God. Ephesians 1 says we were chosen in Him, by His love, before the foundation of the world, that we might be brought to faith in Christ. In 1 Thessalonians Paul addresses the congregation as “brethren beloved by God,” and told them, “[we know] His choice of you” (1 Thessalonians 1:4). In 2 Thessalonians 2:13 we read, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that: God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of hades will not overpower it.” This is a monumental statement: “I will build My church.” “I will build My church.” It’s a statement of certainty, and of intimacy—“My church.” It’s also a statement of invincibility—God’s church will stand against the gates of Hades, which is a Jewish euphemism for death. The implication here is important: If Hades is the abode of the dead, you get in by dying, so it’s simply a reference to death, which is Satan’s greatest weapon. Jesus was saying, I will build my church—and the worst that can be done to stop it, the death of My people, will not overpower it.
This is a very straightforward promise. The immutable, sovereign, faithful, gracious, omnipotent Lord of heaven—whose Word can never return void, but always accomplishes the purpose to which He sends it; whose plans always come to pass; whose will is ultimately fulfilled; whose plan is in the end invincible—He has spoken and said, “I will build My church.” Nothing can prevent that.
That’s the end result of God’s work in election. If you are among the elect—those who have repented of their sin and trusted in Christ—then you can be certain that your election was not based on your faith or actions. If it was, grace would no longer be grace. God chose you of His own free will for His own divine purposes. This reality is the foundation of praise and worship because it is what Paul meant when he said that all things—including salvation—are “from Him and through Him and to Him. . . . To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).