How Then Can Man Be Saved?
If man cannot and will not choose to be saved and if he is totally undeserving of salvation, then how can he be saved? With men this is impossible, but with God nothing shall be impossible. The doctrine of unconditional election provides the first step to answer that question. If man is to be saved, it must come as a work of God.
The word “election” means to “choose” or “call out.” For example, God calls Israel his chosen or elect people because, of all the nations of the earth, God chose only Israel to be His covenant people in the Old Testament. “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples 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 other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deut. 7:6-8) This explains clearly that it was not because Israel was bigger or better than any other nation, but they were chosen simply because of God’s sovereign love. He had made a covenant already with their forefathers and He is carrying this out to their descendants.
The same may be said of Christians in the Church today. The root word for “church” in the Greek language (“ekklesia”) means “the called-out-ones.” The Greek root for the word “church” is related to the word which we translate “elect” (in Greek, “Eklectos”).
Election is Unconditional
The term “unconditional” comes from the fact that there are no actions of man or conditions in man which obligate God to save him or to choose him to be saved. God alone sovereignly chooses who will be saved and who will not.
Arminianism does not debate the fact that God has “elected” people. Rather, they claim that God’s election was based on the “condition” that man would first believe. It is the error of the Arminians here which ultimately leaves election unto salvation in the hands of men. God only provides the possibility of salvation to all, in hopes that it will be accepted by some. According to Arminian doctrine, some people, by their own free will, did choose salvation in Christ. God was able, before the foundation of the world to foresee which men would make that choice and therefore He elected them based on that condition – man’s work of faith.
One of the clearest passages that teaches the “unconditional” character of God’s election is found in Romans 9:10 – 14, “And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, The older shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!” Here, Paul is speaking about the election of Jacob over Esau. Before they were born or could possibly have done any works that merited God’s choice, God chose Jacob and rejected Esau. The reason is stated, “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls” (v. 10). Does this make God unfair or unrighteous because He chose one over the other? Certainly not! See Romans 9:14, 16, 20, and 21. Unfairness would be a valid charge if man was deserving of salvation and didn’t receive it, but that is not the case.
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism, available for purchase. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author.
If you’d like to read the blog series from the beginning, start here.