Divine election

M. C. Ramsay
01 August, 2010 4 min read

Divine election

M. C. Ramsay

The Christian who candidly examines the Scriptures in reference to election will surely perceive that this doctrine is one of the great basic truths of divine revelation. The doctrine is presented throughout the Old and New Testaments.

For example, God’s choice of Jacob in preference to Esau is declared. This choice or ‘election’ was not based on God’s foreknowledge of their characters and conduct. As the apostle Paul emphasised: ‘For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand’. The apostle added, ‘not of works, but of him who calleth’ (Romans 9:11).


Thus it is clearly asserted that election is not based on foreseen works. Some say that election is grounded on foreseen grace. This would involve a reversal of the divine order, for the Scriptures teach not only that grace is divinely given, but God bestows his saving grace upon those whom he chooses. In Romans 9:16 it is stated: ‘So then it is not of him who willeth, nor of him who runneth, but of God who showeth mercy’.

We know on the testimony of Scriptures that he who wills and he who runs obtains salvation; but it is likewise revealed that it is always God who gives the grace to will and the power to run – the will and the power to seek salvation.

Many promises of God are addressed to the seeker, and it is emphasised that the seeker will find salvation, but Scripture also declares that the individual seeks because God has moved him to do so. Likewise the Word of God states that God bestows the grace to seek upon those whom he chose. Therefore, in the words of the apostle, it is all ‘of God, who sheweth mercy’.

The question is raised, why did God choose some, and not all, to salvation? We do not know; God has not revealed it.

We may ask – why did God in olden days choose Israel and bless them richly, and did not choose and bless all nations? We might think that what was good for Israel, God would have bestowed on all nations. He chose not to do so. Why? We do not know. What we do know is that God acted according to his own holy will.


God chose his people from all eternity, and chose the means whereby they should be saved. Also God’s choice of his people is a choice of love. There is a wealth of instruction in Ephesians 2:4-5: ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened [given life to] us’.

Here the apostle stated that God had regenerated him and others, because he loved them even when they were in their sins and spiritually dead. The apostle Paul traced their salvation to the ‘mercy’ or undeserved kindness of God to them in their unsaved condition.

God had chosen them in love to be his own, and in pursuance of that choice, had sent the Lord Jesus to redeem them, and the Holy Spirit to apply effectually to them that redemption. Therefore, the apostle attributed the whole of their salvation to God’s electing love of them, as stated in Ephesians 1:4: ‘According as he [God] hath chosen us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world’.

It is true that they were not passive but active, for they sought God and rested upon Christ alone for their acceptance by God. But it was God who moved and enabled them to do these things. Similarly every person today who comes in faith to Christ does so because the Holy Spirit leads him to do so. Truly ‘salvation is of the Lord’ (Jonah 2:9).

From a multitude of scriptural statements relative to divine election, for the sake of brevity we quote but two. ‘But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation’ (2 Thessalonians 2:13); ‘who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began’ (2 Timothy 1:9).


Some professing Christians would take the choice out of God’s hands, and place it in man’s hands. Such persons are surely ignorant of the fact that men are naturally dead spiritually, and if the choice were left to men, none would turn to God. The testimony of Scripture is: ‘the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Corinthians 2:14). Man, left to himself, remains irrevocably dead and unsaved.

If we desire to please man, and especially man in his sinful state of nature, we will not teach this doctrine. But seeing that it is a truth clearly revealed and which has fortified the people of God in all ages, we have a dual reason for receiving it reverently and proclaiming it plainly.

Many a person has said, ‘I wish to believe on Christ, but cannot’. Such have spiritual difficulties, and should be directed to the God of all grace to ask him to send the Holy Spirit to give the needed light and power to receive Christ. To such, this is a message not of despair, but of hope and substantial encouragement.

As the Lord Jesus meets our needs as guilty sinners, so the Holy Spirit meets our needs as helpless sinners. The message of God in old time to Moses is as true and as applicable today as then. ‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy’ (Exodus 33:19). God is sovereign in all things, even in the bestowal of salvation on the individual.

By permission of Presbyterian Banner

Articles View All

Join the discussion

Read community guidelines
New: the ET podcast!