I want to start explaining unconditional election by explaining election. The reason I want to start at election/predestination is because that alone is a big hang up for some people. I know people that have axed the word election from their Biblical vocabulary entirely. I’m always astonished at people that hate on Calvinists because they use the word election. Election is a Biblical concept, taught from it’s pages which means God is its author. Therefore, since it is a Biblically based concept, everyone should have knowledge of it.
There’s two basic ideas when it comes to predestination/election. The most popular and widely accepted idea (based on my interaction with other humans )is this:
- Because God is all-knowing He simply looked down the corridors of time and choose the people that He saw would choose Him.
Well, obviously that cannot be reconciled that with the total depravity of man. I discussed here that man is not capable of choosing God while in his natural state. So, that throws idea number one out the window. So what is idea number two? Well it is a highly unpopular one that causes many people to break the second commandment. Here’s idea number two:
- God choose, for all eternity, who would and would not be saved. He chose who to save and who not to save.
I know, I know … I can hear it now (because I’ve heard lots), “Not my god, oh no my god would never do that.” That is creating an idol. We cannot define God outside of scripture and we certainly should not be in the business of telling God what He can and cannot do.
I understand that this concept can be a hard one to grasp, stomach, accept, etc. Even Christians struggle with it. This is a concept that our flesh rails against massively. As humans we love the idea of saving ourselves and taking the glory away from God. Sometimes it takes just that little bit to quiet our flesh — for example, claiming we chose God.
But, let’s just see what the Bible says about predestination/election (because, again, it is a Biblical concept and everyone ought to have some sort of belief on it).
I think we can see election/predestination being played out in this passage as we hear God say He is going to harden Pharaoh’s heart.
1 And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” Exodus 7:1-5
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,  for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30
It’s interesting to note here that in the last verse it says “those whom he called he also justified.” I’ve read a lot on this and tend to agree with Dr. John Piper when he talks about this verse. He basically says that all who are called are justified so not everyone can be called since, obviously, all people are not justified. Source.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us  for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known  to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee  of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,  to the praise of his glory. Eph. 1:3-14
I think those verses are pretty straight forward.
Other verses in this topic include Acts 13:48 and Romans 9:6-25.
The unconditional part of “unconditional election” is pretty straight forward. It means that man does not have to meet any certain criteria for God to choose to save him. The “unconditional” part really ties in to the “total depravity” part. As we work our way through T.U.L.I.P you will see that each piece works with the other pieces.
It’s important to note that unconditional election is not the same as unconditional salvation. Salvation may only be granted by a saving faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross. However, faith is not a prerequisite for election instead it’s the other way around, election is a prerequisite for faith.
I think that about sums it up for the “U” of T.U.L.I.P. Next will be the “L” for limited atonement.
There are many, many theologians who have said this much better than I. Here are some links to additional reading on the doctrine of unconditional election:
- Unconditional Election
- The Freedom and Justice of God in Unconditional Election
- Free Will vs. Free Will
- Unconditional Election (Long)