The Five Points of Calvinism – Unconditional Election

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.

five points of calvinism unconditional election

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.

The Five Points of Calvinism – Total Depravity

The Five Points of Calvinism – Total Depravity

What are the Five Points of Calvinism?

Less than two generations after John Calvin died, there was an uproar throughout Europe over his theological teachings. At the crux of the battle was a dispute about man’s salvation. Did man have a way to earn his salvation? Or was God in complete control of man’s salvation? Do people choose God? Or does God choose people?

5 points of Calvinism. Total Depravity (TULIP)

In 1619, in response to those claiming that man could indeed work toward his own salvation, a council of churches met to solidify five essential issues surrounding salvation. These later became known as the “five points of Calvinism” or the “doctrines of grace.” Today, these five points are usually summarized by the acronym TULIP. The five points of TULIP, in order, are total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints.

In this article, we will kick off our series by looking at the five points of Calvinism by examining the first point, total depravity.

What is Total Depravity?

Total depravity is the Reformed teaching that every single person is totally estranged from God. It teaches that humans are all corrupted by sin; no one could ever hope to be in a right relationship with God on their own merit.

Total depravity is often connected to the doctrine of original sin. This doctrine does not refer to the first sin or to the origin of sin. Rather, it teaches that because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden of Eden, the entire human race fell. Since then, our nature as human beings has been corrupted by the power of evil.

This does not mean that all people are as evil as they can be. Instead, “total” refers to the “whole” person. Meaning that every part of our existence is affected by sin. Left to ourselves, we can never choose to do good; we can never choose God.

What is the Biblical Basis for Total Depravity?

Throughout the Scriptures, it is plain that apart from God, man is not good (Psalm 14:3, 53:3; Romans 3:12; Ephesians 2:1). The Bible teaches that this “not good” condition is inherited by everyone at birth. King David affirms this in the Psalms, saying, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:1).

The Apostle Paul picks up on this idea in his letters, teaching that in one man—Adam—sin and death entered into the world and spread to all men (Romans 5:12,19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-28). When we are born, we are born with Adam’s corrupted relationship with God.

What are the Implications of Total Depravity?

Before Adam sinned, he was given a world with no death, no sickness, and no estrangement from God. The result of his fall affected everything. It affects our physical health, causing illness and death. It affects our mental and cognitive abilities, making the mind darker and weaker.
Most importantly, it affects our moral willpower. No one is capable of initiating or contributing to their own salvation. People left to themselves are hostile to God and are unable to understand the truth of the Gospel.

This does not mean that apart from God people can’t do seemingly good things. After all, a non-Christian can help an old lady cross the street, but their inward hostility against God and their corrupted nature make even that “good” action depraved in the eyes of God. Because everything in us is affected by sin, we cannot escape sin in anything that we do.

Do the Five Points of Calvinism Teach That We Left in a State of Total Depravity Forever?

There is a way to escape this corruption of our nature. Paul says that in Adam all died, but in Christ, all shall be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). Jesus has become the new Adam. In Him, our relationship with God can be restored. In Him, we can be made good.

Some theologians talk about this in terms of “covenantal headship.” That is, under the headship of Adam, we are sinners. Under the headship of Christ, we are righteous. Think about it in terms of umbrellas. Sin and death are pouring down and the umbrella is meant to preserve us from them. Adam’s umbrella no longer has any fabric, only the metal frame. Jesus’s umbrella is perfect and without flaw. Humans, by nature, are beneath the umbrella of Adam, which means we are subject to sin. However, through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be transferred to the umbrella of Jesus, which protects us from our sin and grants us righteousness.

Through this transfer, we are no longer slaves to sin and death but have the opportunity to live a new life in Christ, characterized by a true love for God and a desire for righteousness. This is the essence of salvation, to be transferred from the headship of Adam (the umbrella of sin and death) to the headship of Christ (the umbrella of life).

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