First Things First: Unconditional Election


but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8


So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Romans 9:16


Mr. Matthew Pannkuk-Chaplain, Middle School Bible Teacher

In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I thought it would be helpful to follow up our survey of the Five Solae with another theological quintet: the Five Points of Calvinism, sometimes known as the Five Points of Reformed theology.  There is much more to Reformed theology than these five points, yet since they are widely discussed and talked about it seems fitting to investigate one of the most well known and divisive pieces of theology to come from this era.

The Five Points of Calvinism are summarized by the acronym TULIP: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints.  This week we will look into Unconditional Election.


but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.- Romans 5:8

even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—Ephesians 2:5

There is nothing in us that merited salvation.  Nothing that we did that earned redemption.  We were still sinners!  We were dead!  It is God who did the work.  There is no condition on our end that warranted God’s intervention.  Nothing we did caused him to save us.  Nothing we did could possibly cause him to save us, because we are sinners (see last week’s blog on Total Depravity).


Acts 4:28 – to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Romans 8:29 – 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.

Romans 8:30 – And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Ephesians 1:5 – he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Ephesians 1:11 – 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,

Predestination is perhaps the most well known point of Calvinist thinking, and yet the term only shows up five times in the Bible.  These verses come from an online Bible search for the words predestine/predestination/predestined/etc.

Reformed theology does not make as big a deal out of predestination or election as the stereotype of Calvinists suggest.  The reason it gets mentioned so often by non-Calvinists about Calvinism, I believe, is because it is so contrary to our human pride.  Especially in the centuries since the Enlightenment and the rise of freedom and human rights in America and around the world, the idea that we do not have choice seems unbelievable to many people.  Thus this doctrine of unconditional election is hard to handle.

Yet the Bible seems to be quite clear.  If we can’t earn our salvation, then what is the alternative?  God must give us salvation.  If God gives it, and is responsible for it, then he must have predestined it.  If he is eternal and omniscient, then he must have foreknown it.  If he is all powerful and almighty, he must have enacted it.


though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Romans 9:11, 16

It is good news that God chooses, that God plans, that God predestines, because if it is up to works no one would be saved!  If it depended on human will, which is totally depraved, then salvation would not exist.

God’s election is not something to fear, but something to praise.  God’s election is not some heavenly bouncer, keeping people out of heaven and only letting in the privileged.  God’s election is a rescue team that went deep into enemy territory to free people who had been captured and brainwashed.

God’s election does not keep people out of heaven.  God’s election is the only reason anyone ever goes to heaven.  Without God’s election, everyone would be in hell.

Praise God for his election, and his choice to save us!  Praise Jesus that it is not up to any condition on our part, because we would surely fail!


On a final note, one reason this doctrine is hard to accept is because we worry that maybe God has not chosen us for salvation, or perhaps has not chosen one of our loved ones.  We worry because if God did not choose us, we can’t do anything to change his mind, and we feel powerless and then we have no hope.

Yet that is not the proper way to look at it.  Looking at it this way assumes that we would choose heaven, want heaven, desire good and right.  Looking at it this way assumes God is not gracious, not merciful, not looking to save humanity.

The real truth, however, is that if God didn’t choose us, we would not choose him.  So if you worry if God has or has not chosen you or a loved one, think instead about what would happen if he left it up to you!  Then you nor your loved one nor anyone else on earth would ever be saved!

The LORD alone is responsible for salvation, and because of our wayward hearts and sinful nature, that is the greatest news we could ever hear.

Twin Oaks Christian School, a ministry of Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church



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