Election: Conditional or Unconditional

Johannes Calvin

Dear hijas,

How is one chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), predestined to adoption as daughters and sons through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5)? Conditionally or unconditionally?

This brings us to the U in TULIP: Unconditional Election. TULIP Calvin

Why did the Synod of Dort think it was important to clarify this? It was because the Arminian Remonstrants thought that ‘election is a result of God looking down through the corridors of time, and forseeing that a sinner will accept Christ. Therefore, God elects those who first elect Him.’ Scripture does not support this view.

Unconditional Election seeks to answer the question raised by Nicodemus in John 3: “How is the sinner ‘born again’, so that he can (ability) have faith?” Nicodemus didn’t ask it just that way, but if you remember, he said, “…He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he” (John 3:4)?

Remember in an earlier post I said that being ‘born again’, or ‘born from above’ is not something you contribute to. Just like your physical birth in which you didn’t participate, your spiritual birth works in the same way. God is the one who wills unconditionally for you to be ‘born from above’ enabling you to have faith in Christ. This is something you can never do while ‘dead’ in trespass and sin. Being ‘born from above’ must of necessity precede faith, and this happened before God put His creative work in motion back in Genesis 1. It is the first act of God’s grace.

Mark 13:27 speaks to this:

And then He will send forth the angels, and WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect FROM THE FOUR WINDS, FROM THE FARTHEST END of the earth, TO THE FARTHEST END OF HEAVEN.

Luke 18:7:

now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?

and convincingly, John 15:16:

You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.

See also Romans 9:21-24, Ezk. 36:26, Matt. 22:14.

The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (www.reformed.org) puts the Arminian view into focus:

2. Conditional Election

God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world was based upon His foreseeing that they would respond to His call. He selected only those whom He knew would of themselves freely believe the gospel. Election therefore was determined by or conditioned upon what man would do. The faith which God foresaw and upon which He based His choice was not given to the sinner by God (it was not created by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit) but resulted solely from man’s will. It was left entirely up to man as to who would believe and therefore as to who would be elected unto salvation. God chose those whom He knew would, of their own free will, choose Christ. Thus the sinner’s choice of Christ, not God’s choice of the sinner, is the ultimate cause of salvation. (http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/trf/index.html?mainframe=/calvinism/trf/part_6.html)

They also put the Calvinist view into focus:

2. Unconditional Election

God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response of obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause of God’s choice. Election therefore was not determined by or conditioned upon any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus God’s choice of the sinner, not the sinner’s choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad


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