God’s Sovereign Choice of Some to Salvation

References to god’s sovereign choice of some to salvation can be found throughout the Bible. This short article cannot hope to do  justice to the fullness of the scriptural truth on this subject but rather will look at some key chapters and verses.

We can see the pattern of God’s election in the pages of the Old Testament, this perhaps can be seen most clearly in the book of Genesis. We see God’s grace in action forming a people for himself and the Bible emphasises again and again that Without God’s initiative no one will be saved.

Firstly lets look at Abraham, the one who is the father of the faithful, he was raised in a pagan culture but God calls Abraham from that background to be the Father of thousands (see Genesis 11-12),


12 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing. i
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.  (Ge 12:1–3).

Here we see god sovereignly changing the course of history through his choice of this one man, God calls Abraham out of the darkness of his pagan past into a covenant relationship with himself. As we see the book of Genesis progressing we see god’s sovereignty at work in the lives of Esau and Jacob. Obnoxious Jacob is the one who is chosen to be the channel of God’s grace and through him the nation of Israel is called to be the elect nation. Jacob on his return to the land of his birth has an amazing encounter with god which changes his name,

4 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, k because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”  (Ge 32:24–30).

Here again we God’s sovereign action in meeting with Jacob, he had first revealed himself to Jacob at Bethel but this encounter announces the arrival of the elect nation chosen by God. We could continue examining countless accounts in the Old Testament where god asserts his sovereign will but I want to turn now to the New Testament record.

Divine sovereignty is not only shown in some of the more obvious passages that we think of but in some other crucial passages. Lets look at some of these passages and then turn to some of the better known passages.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, t because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21).

Jesus has come to save “his people “, this implies that he knew who was coming to save, his people were known to him and he came to save them. Another important passage is found in John chapter 1,

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (Jn 1:12–13).

The new birth is ascribed to God’s sovereign will, this passage is very clear that the new birth is from God, it has nothing to do with human decisions but is clearly in God’s own will and power. The same teaching is found in John chapter 3 when Jesus talk about the new birth.

Jesus is very clear about his mission in chapter 6 of John’s gospel,

37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (Jn 6:37–40).

Jesus speaks of all those the Father has given him, and he is certain that will all come to him and he will give them eternal life. the Fathers will is that none of those who he has given to Christ shall be lost.

In Acts 13:48 we find a bold statement of God’s sovereign purpose,

48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. (Ac 13:48).

There can be no doubt from the wording here that God has sovereignly made his choice and that each one he has elected will come to him. ( on this subject see my earlier post Predestination an incentive to evangelism).

I need now to turn to the letters and we need to look at Romans 8,

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Ro 8:28–30).

The language here is very strong and god’s foreknowledge is not merely knowing someone ahead of time but rather loving them from all eternity. this interpretation is quite clearly right because of the way Paul develops his argument in chapter 9,

6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” g 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” j
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” n 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” o
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” r

16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” t 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” a 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:

“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” i

26 and,

“In the very place where it was said to them,
‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ ” j

27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:

“Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
only the remnant will be saved.
28 For the Lord will carry out
his sentence on earth with speed and finality.” m

29 It is just as Isaiah said previously:

“Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us descendants,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.” (Ro 9:6–29).

Here Paul shows the sovereignty of god in salvation in the clearest manner possible, here we see the sovereign will of god asserted with some strength and we need to heed his arguments. (John Piper has written a scholarly book on this subject which is very helpful)

Perhaps the pinnacle of God’s revelation of his sovereign choice is found in Ephesians chapter 1,

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship n through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:3–14).

This whole passage points to the glorious nature of God’s sovereign grace but particularly notice the verses I have put in bold print. If one only needed one passage of scripture to demonstrate God’s sovereign choice of some to eternal life, this passage would be sufficient, it links our belief in Christ in the present to God’s eternal plan. This passage and many other passages that speak of predestination and election are in the context of giving us assurance ( for more on this see my earlier post ,Predestination and the assurance of faith).

The apostle Peter also taught the doctrine of election,

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Pe 1:1–2).

Once again the emphasis is on God’s sovereign choice and the context shows that we can know that we are elect because we have come into a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

This subject has been one that has caused much perplexity and we will never fully understand how the sovereign God works out his plan in a way that treats us as responsible beings but he does so. Volumes have been written on this whole subject and therefore this short article is incomplete but it lays the foundations of the bibles teaching on this subject.

About pneumaandlogos

David Rollings was born in Luton in1949 and raised by my Christian parents in the Gospel Standard Strict Baptist denomination( Hyper-Calvinistic} in the sixties I rebelled against this background and got involved in left-wing politics. I became a Christian in 1969 and soon started reading Francis Schaeffer's books and came to embrace a Christian Worldview. I had the privilege of being on the staff of L'Abti Fellowship from1975 - 1979. After L'abri I studied at London School of Theology where I gained my BA.(1983) A few years later I studied for my MA by distance learning with The Nazarene Theological College Manchester (1999) For the last 25 years, I have been an elder of Shoreham-by-Sea Baptist Church. I also regularly attend the Christian Doctrine Study Group of the Tyndale Fellowship.
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