Divine Election: Summary & Conclusions

I posted a few times on divine election to demonstrate that there is no tension between this notion in Scripture and the love of God.  In this post I will draw this topic to a close, though we can continue discussion in the comments.

Israel was God’s chosen people, elect for the purpose of showing God’s love to the world.  The church, made up of Jews and gentiles in Christ, is God’s chosen people, elect for the same purpose.  Divine election, then, shapes the identity and mission of the people of God.  God sets his love upon a particular people from eternity past so that through them God might draw even more people into his love.

Divine election always has this outward focus.  It does not appear in Scripture to emphasize God’s preference for certain people over others.  This leads to an insular mindset that is inappropriate among God’s people.  It is ungodly since it does not reflect God’s love for the other.  Divine election flows from God’s salvation program which has a universal scope.  He chooses a particular people as the agents of his saving pursuit of the world.

Divine election appears in Scripture to emphasize that salvation flows from God’s mercy.  It is not anyone’s birthright.  No one has an inside track with God based on ethnicity or achievement.  Salvation flows from God’s grace and is available to anyone and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.

Double-predestination is not taught in Scripture.  It is not the case that in eternity past God chose some for salvation and others for damnation.  That is a theological move that Scripture does not make.  Double-predestination only makes sense once election is removed from its biblical context and set into some other context.  As I stated previously, the tension between election and God’s love emerges only when we make this unnatural move.  The tension is relieved once we understand divine election in its biblical context.

The alternative group to the elect in Romans 9-11 is unbelieving Israel.  They are not part of God’s saving righteousness because of their unfaithfulness.  It is not the case that they were predestined to reject the gospel.  God has hardened them in their rejection because they have become obstacles to God’s mission of saving the nations.  And God has done this in the hope of eventually restoring unbelieving Israel.

Paul’s point in Romans 9-11 is that God is so committed to saving the nations that he will set aside his chosen people for a time if they fail to be agents of his love to others.  Israel has failed to be a light to the nations (their identity and mission), so God is saving the nations in Christ with the hope of eventually saving Israel, too.

This becomes a warning to the church that it not become arrogant or complacent (Rom. 11:17-32).  The people of God must take seriously the universal scope of God’s redemptive mission.  If they do not, they run the risk of failing in their identity as God’s elect.  God remains passionately committed to saving people and transforming them into agents of his love to even more people.

There is no tension, then, between God’s love and God’s purposes in election.  Divine election flows from God’s love for all of God’s creation.

Further, divine election is completely compatible with the universal scope of salvation.  Anyone and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

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11 responses to “Divine Election: Summary & Conclusions

  • athanasius96

    Good overview! Leaning on the word “election” makes all the difference in resolving the many unnecessary conflicts.

  • greekUnorthodox

    Thanks for this, Tim. This has been a very helpful series for me…

  • Jon Mcgill

    This has been a helpful little musing on the biblical idea of election, Dr. Gombis (sorry, old habit). Would I be right in thinking that you view election within a corporate context rather than an individual context? Some of your language (i.e. “a particular people”) sounds like it and I was wondering what your thoughts were on that?

    • timgombis

      That’s a tough question to answer, Jon, just because the natural contexts for reading/hearing the texts in the NT and the Scriptures of Israel are all corporate. It’s a modern question that would be articulated in this way and I’m not sure that the contrast is helpful or legitimate, or even how to make sense of it. How can they be set against each other? Should they be? What’s the payoff either way?

      I guess I’m just trying to think along with the biblical texts first–they’re corporate in orientation. I’m tempted to say that we should then move theologically and think about the implications for individuals…, but how does this look? Or, should we say, “the biblical texts orient themselves in terms of the corporate people of God, and we should follow suit.” Is that enough?

      Not sure. Your thoughts?

      • Jon Mcgill

        Yeah, that’s great. I just wanted to hear your thoughts on the whole corporate/individual discussion in the context of election. I agree that it’s somewhat unhelpful to pose the question that way, though I feel it necessary given the fact that election is nowadays (in the particular crowds I tend to dwell in, at least) almost entirely relegated to the realm of one’s individual, personal salvation.

        Let me ask something else:
        “Israel was God’s chosen people, elect for the purpose of showing God’s love to the world. The church, made up of Jews and gentiles in Christ, is God’s chosen people, elect for the same purpose.”

        Could we see hints of this in Romans 8:29 where Paul is talking about those predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ?

      • timgombis

        I hear you, Jon–we have a seriously over-individualized vision of salvation. It seems in Scripture that the individual isn’t lost from view, but the scope is the corporate people of God. I just have to give election with the individual in view some more thought.

        What did you have in mind with Rom. 8:29?

  • Brandon Elbers

    Dr. Gombis,
    I want to start off saying that I love what you have to say. It completely changed my perspective. I am just a sophomore, and I almost undoubtedly know the least of anyone here. I was wondering what your thoughts were on the elect themselves. Forgive me if this is a dumb question, but do you think that the elect were just the Israelites? Do the elect still exist today, or are we all just saved through the elect that existed in the past? Or am I wrong altogether and you were saying that the election occurs when the Holy Spirit transfers God’s grace to a new believer? Again, I apologize. I am just trying to understand as much as I can and I thank you for all of your insight.

    • timgombis

      Hey Brandon, great questions — don’t apologize! This blog is my chance to think out loud and learn in conversation with others, so we’re partners in learning.

      The language of election in Scripture is God’s love language for his people. Anyone and everyone who is part of the people of God has the privilege to celebrate their identity as God’s elect. So, Israel was God’s chosen people, elect by God for the purpose of showing God’s love to the nations and in hopes that even more people would come to worship the one true God–the God of Israel.

      So, Israel was elect, but election wasn’t limited to them. If other people repented from idolatry and turned to worship the God of Israel, they would have the privilege of celebrating their identity as God’s beloved and God’s elect.

      In the new move that God is making in the people of Jesus today, the chosen are all those who are followers of Jesus by the Spirit. So, God’s elect do indeed exist today and they are all those whom God has grabbed hold of by the Spirit and saved.

      Does that make sense? Thanks for dropping in and contributing!

      • Brandon Elbers

        Yup! That helps. So everyone then does indeed have the opportunity to become an elect? (I’m from a Calvinist background, so I just want to see your view). Again, I thank you for taking the time out of your summer to answer these comments. Your CLT class literally completely changed my perspective and now I am a pre-seminary major. I just want to understand as much as possible. I think that your view of election is much more accurate.

      • timgombis

        Yes, becoming part of God’s elect people is open to anyone and everyone. The language of election is doing something in Scripture–it’s functioning in a very specific way.

        Any doctrinal system that takes election out of its biblical context(s) and puts it somewhere else and turns it into something else, perverts it in some way. It’s now doing something and functioning in a way that may go against its design. This is what happens in systems like Calvinism.

        Great to chat, Brandon!

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