Help me understand the doctrine of election.

To try to answer that question in this short format would almost do more damage than good. I could put in a commercial here that Tyndale House published a book I wrote titled Chosen by God, which devotes itself entirely to a study of this very difficult biblical doctrine of election.

When we discuss the question of election, better known as predestination, so often that word is associated with Presbyterian theology or Calvinism. The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians that we have been predestined in Christ to be his craftsmanship and also follows that theme very closely in the book of Romans. So as Christians we have to struggle with the concept of divine sovereign election.

I think, again, that we have to understand the basic point of election—that God considers the human race in its fallenness and he sees all of us in a state of rebellion against him. If he were to exercise his justice totally and completely toward the whole world, then all of us would certainly perish. The Scriptures tell us that in our natural, fallen state, we are in a state of moral bondage. We still have the ability to make choices, but those choices follow the desires of our hearts, and what we lack as fallen creatures is a built-in desire for God. So Jesus said, for example, “No man can come to me unless it is given to him by the Father.” I think that what election is all about is that God sovereignly and graciously gives the desire for Christ to those whom he calls out of the world. The difficulty and the great mystery is that apparently he doesn’t do that for everyone. He reserves the right, as he told Moses and as Paul reiterates in the New Testament, to have mercy upon whom he will have mercy—just as he chose Abraham and not Hammurabi, just as Christ appeared on the road to Damascus to Paul in a way that he didn’t appear to Pontius Pilate. That is to say, God doesn’t treat everyone the same. He never treats anyone unjustly. Some receive justice and some receive mercy, and God reserves the right eternally to give his executive clemency, if you will, to those whom he chooses. There’s a great debate on this, as you know, but I believe that the choice God makes is not based on my righteousness or on your righteousness but is based on his grace.

© 1996 by R.C. Sproul. Used by permission of Tyndale.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.