The Five Points of Calvinism – Unconditional Election
What Do the Five Points of Calvinism Have To Do With Election?
For Calvin and the Reformers, the salvation of man rested on God’s determination alone. This simply means that God did not base His decision to save us on anything we do or say. Instead, it is solely God’s sovereign choice to save whoever He wants.
Reformed theologians refer to this sovereign choice as “Unconditional Election.” This is the second point of the five points of Calvinism or the U in TULIP. Unconditional election is the doctrine that explains how God, before the foundation of time, elected some people to become His people.
What is Election?
The word “elect” just means to choose. So, simply put, just as God chose certain men to be Kings in Ancient Israel, He has chosen certain people to save. The Bible is clear that God made this choice “according to the good pleasure of His will” before the world was even created (Ephesians 1:4, 2:5). The Westminster Confession further explains that God made this choice “for the manifestation of His glory” (WCF 3.3).
The confession goes on to tell us that God predetermined some people for everlasting life and some people for everlasting death. This seems harsh, but Scripture affirms the same idea. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans that God, wanting to make his power and glory known, created some people as “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” and some people as “vessels of mercy” fitted for eternal life with Him (Romans 9:22-23).
If this rubs you the wrong way, you are not alone. We will consider this in more depth below, but for now, remember that God is good, and whatever His Scriptures say is our standard for right, wrong, good, and evil.
What Does Unconditional Mean?
Unconditional here means that we don’t have anything in ourselves that makes God choose us. He does it out of His sheer grace. This does not mean that we are not responsible for putting our faith in Christ, for seeking to live a life of obedience to His commands, and for loving God and our neighbor. However, it does mean that God did not choose you or me because we were better than anyone else.
The Bible clearly states that God chooses people without considering any of the things we think, do, or feel. Rather, He loves us because He wanted to! Scripture tells us that while we were still sinners, God loved us (Romans 5:8). Over and over, God tells us that He did not choose us for anything we did or anything we are in ourselves (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Instead, He chose us for His own good purposes.
Does This Seem Unfair?
If God chooses some and not others and bases it merely on His own purposes and not anything man does or doesn’t do, isn’t that unfair?
As we said earlier, you are not alone if you were thinking this. Indeed, many people, when first learning about the five points of Calvinism, feel uncomfortable with this concept of election. The Bible anticipates this question in Romans, and the answer is worth quoting at length:
What shall we say, then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So, then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:14-15).
What the Bible is saying here is simple. How can a creature question the wisdom and goodness of the Creator? God is infinite, eternal, holy, and just. He knows exactly what He is doing. And consider this, if we were left to ourselves, we could never attain salvation. Remember what we said about Total Depravity, man is wicked without God. The Scriptures, then, would pose the question another way. How can an infinitely holy God show grace to ANY wicked people?
What if I Am Not Elected?
Knowing that God chooses people might sometimes make us fearful that He hasn’t chosen us. But our God is a God that keeps His promises. And He has promised that whoever believes in His son Jesus will be saved. So, if you are worried about not being chosen, cling to Jesus, knowing that you cannot do so without the grace of God working in you. Don’t let the five points of Calvinism freak you out. Remember, God will never cast out anyone who comes to Him, so come to Him every day for the rest of your life.