Unconditional Election: Salvation Is Unmeritorious

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Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him… we are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith, for example, in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith. [1]

Probably the most commonly used word in Ghana, among Christians and non-Christians alike is the word grace. Ask someone “how are you?” and you are likely to hear a response “By the grace of God I am fine”. No doubt, it is a word we love to use. A Christian going for a job interview will believe that “by the grace of God, he will get the job rather than the other candidates. A business woman bidding for a contract, will believe that by the grace of God she will win the bid. And a young Christian who has just applied for admission to a university will believe that by the grace of God he or she will gain admission. Clearly, in our everyday use of grace, we do acknowledge we get something from God we do not deserve. If you ask any Christian what grace is, you are sure to get an answer “God’s unmerited favour”. And indeed that is what grace is. It is God’s favour and mercy we contributed nothing towards.

Now far more important than favour over another candidate in a job interview or contract bid or admission to an institution; grace is the determining factor in the salvation of sinners. Without grace, no soul will be saved. Paul says, in a very popular scripture that “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Paul tells us we are saved by grace and this grace is accessed through faith. Also grace is a gift of God. To know what we are saved from, it would be helpful to take Paul’s words in its full context. Beginning from the opening verses of Eph 2, Paul describes the state of the Ephesian believers prior to their regeneration. They were dead in trespasses and sin (v.1). Not only them, but this is true of every believer today. We were previously dead in sin. Furthermore, this is also true of every unbeliever. The former state of the believer is the present reality of the unbeliever; they are dead in sin. 

This throws us back to the previous article in this series—Total Depravity: We Are All Sinners. If naturally, the unbeliever is dead in sin, it simply means they will remain dead in sin. Corpse don’t have life, neither can they give themselves life. So for a sinner to come to salvation which is life, a power beyond them will have to intervene. This power, so to speak, is the Holy Spirit who convicts sinners to come to salvation. Without this conviction of sin unto repentance, no sinner will be saved. As Paul says in 1Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned”. The natural person here is anyone who has not come to the knowledge of salvation. And before any one will come to the appreciation of spiritual things, that is, things pertaining to God and salvation, they have to be first regenerated –be born again.

Regeneration is solely a work of God which He does on a sinner. God makes a sinner’s heart come alive and then He gives them the gift of faith to believe. Reformed Theology affirms from Scripture that those the Lord regenerates are those He has chosen and predestined unto eternal life. These chosen and predestined ones are called God’s elect: “Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace” (WCF 1.5).

Unconditional election is biblical. Surprisingly, some Christians do ignore the fact that there are a group of people called God’s elect. Speaking about election, Paul says of Jacob and Esau; “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— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written , “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:11-13). The only reason to explain the choosing of Jacob over Esau as Paul says is “that God’s purpose of election might continue”. God’s elect were chosen before the foundation of the world and that’s what unconditional election is about (Ephesians 1:3-6).

1. Five Points Towards A Deeper Experience Of God’s Grace, by John Piper (Christian Focus Publications, 2013, kindle edition).

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