Election

An Insight into the Life of Evangelical Counsels

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.” [Mt. 12:18]

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” [Mt 22:14]

[1] God’s election. The term election is synonymous with being chosen or set apart, but the election bears theological connotations of God’s specific act towards men. His election in the distant past of those (whether angels or human beings) who will form the eschatological community of the holy is God’s choice of those who will serve him.1 It is God who makes someone “special” or “consecrated”.

[2] God’s Choice of Individuals for Special Service. There are NT references showing God choosing an individual for a particular ministry that has a rich OT background; God would show his choice for leaders,2 priests,3 kings,4 and prophets.5 The apostle Paul had a firm sense of being chosen by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles.6 The ground of God’s selection of certain people is condescending love for men. He wants men, with little talents, to be his partner in the continuous unfolding of salvation history.

[3] Jesus as the Elect Servant. Jesus was elected by the Father from eternity to fulfill the divine plan, that the Messiah would suffer and die, rise again, and rule over creation.7 1 Peter 2:4 refers to Christ as the Stone rejected by men, but “in God’s sight chosen and precious.” Some manuscripts of the Gospels refer to Christ as the “Chosen One” (eklektos) in connection with God’s approval of him as the “beloved Son.”8 We remember the scene on the Calvary where Jesus’ taunters accused him of claiming to be “the Christ of God, his Chosen One.”9 Take note, God’s Elect means to be taunted, while political election means privileges and comforts. The divine election is contrary to the human one.

[4] The Election of Individuals to Salvation. The apocalyptic and Qumran literature depict individual election more than the OT; this was to distinguish the true saints from “false” Israel.10 The OT foreshadows the election of a new nation in the NT composed of Jews and Gentiles.11 However, “The Elect” in the Synoptic Tradition has a cluster of references in which Jesus speaks of “the elect” (from eklektos), usually in connection with the coming tribulation.12 Luke 18:7 claims God’s general protection of his chosen ones, yet he does not exempt them from tribulation, through the eschatological events uncover whether an individual is elected:13 although “many will fall away”14 yet the elect will not be deceived by anti-Christs and false prophets.15 Then at his coming, the Son of Man will “gather his elect.”16 The fact of being elect is eschatologically revealed: “For many are called, but few are chosen.”17 Inherent in the election is salvation. Let us take as an example John’s Gospel and see how he presents the idea of election.

[5] Election in the Gospel of John. He emphasizes Son’s role in the election. The Father is said to have “given” the elect to the Son,18 and Jesus states in John 6:44 that the Father “draws” them to eternal life. The latter concept seems to be equivalent to the Pauline idea of the “call” of God to a saving faith. Jesus, in John 15:16, contends: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”19 Being chosen implies too – the mission of fruitfulness. It might be read as the call to the apostleship, but the previous context indicates that he speaks of “bearing fruit with those who abide in the True Vine. Therefore, it is soteriological and makes the Son the chooser of the elect along with the Father.”20

[6] Conclusion. A good number of Christians have long felt the tension between calling on people to believe and the thought that only the elect will believe and be saved. Moreover, salvation happens in a particular state of life and in a community of believers. The doctrine of election might lead to idea of fatalism, but it seeks to describe the sovereign freedom of God to choose whom he wills. The theory of the conditional election suggests anthropocentrism since the divine choice rests on individual’s faith instead in God’s sovereignty of choice. Understanding the doctrine of election seeks to approach it pastorally, knowing that faith is necessary to salvation.21 The election is not a onetime event that took place in the past and stopped. It is, instead, a dynamic event of “now” and continuous intertwining between divine freedom to choose and man’s finite freedom to say yes or no. There are moments of election (e.g. priesthood, various offices or responsibilities, etc.) within God’s election of man to salvation in Christ.


1 Cf., Gary Shogren, “Election”, Anchor Bible Dictionary, 2382-2397, 2392

2 Cf., Num 16:5; Hag 2:23.

3 Cf., Deut 18:5; 21:15.

4 Cf., 1 Sam 15:28.

5 Cf., Jer 1:5.

6 Cf., Acts 9:15; 13:47.

7 See Acts 3:20; Eph 1:9–10; 1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8.

8 Cf., John 1:34 and Luke 9:35.

9 Ibid., 2393; cf., Luke 23:35.

10 Cf., TNDT 4: 170–71.

11 See: Amos 9:12. They called the “nations” by God’s name.

12 Cf., Matt 24:22, 24, 31; Mark 13:20, 22, 27; Luke 18:7.

13 Pannenberg, 1977: 55.

14 Matt 24:10.

15 Cf., Matt 24:24.

16 Cf., Matt 24:31.

17 Ibid., 2394.

18 Cf., John 6:37; 17:2, 6, 9.

19 See also 15:19.

20 Cf., ibid., 2396.

21 Cf., ibid., 2397.

Author

Fra Alfonsus D. Panaligan, OFMConv., SThD
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