For our first installment we will be looking at Ephesians 1: 1-4. I will allow you to read it yourself and simply refer to it by verse as we take a look at this very important yet misunderstood doctrine (teaching) of the bible. In particular we will refer to verse 4.
This doctrine is much debated and very misunderstood. I want to say at the outset that every teaching in God's Word sits side by side with every other in HARMONY. The discord comes from our lack of understanding, NOT a problem with God's Word.
People are made to feel as though they must choose sides regarding the doctrine of Election. Some theologians teach that God made a choice and man has no choice. Others take an opposing view and believe that man has a choice and God doesn't want a choice. These positions are generally taught under the headings: Calvinism and Arminianism respectively. Both of these positions will have problems with the bible in different places. Calvinists, for example, have problems with certain words like: "ALL," and "World" when passages refer to God's desire to save ALL people or God's love for this WORLD of sinners such as John 3:16.
These opposing views generally stem from a lack of understanding how these biblical truths can sit side by side. The Bible clearly teaches that God has chosen (elected) and likewise that man has a choice to make in response to what God has done through Jesus Christ. Man is not a robot. God made man with the capacity of choice (free will) and he interacts with man and holds man responsible based on that capacity for choice.
When God seeks man and confronts man with his lost condition and the means of salvation, man is expected to respond with a choice. Man, by nature, does not seek after God, but God does seek after man. Man is not overriding God's will by responding to God's seeking, rather he is fulfilling it. Responding to God's seeking is not a "work of righteousness" and it does not fulfill The Law of God (as though we were saved by works)...let's remember these things as we look at ELECTION.
The bible clearly teaches that God elected (Chose) two groups of people for different purposes in his overall plan. First, God chose an Earthly nation of people, known as Israel. This nation would be used by God to glorify His name in the Earth, to pen the scriptures and make them available to the world and to bring the promises of salvation and the Messiah into the world. It must be mentioned that God chose them as a group--one that you were either born into or, as in the O.T. provisions, you joined the nation and were accepted. This election of the nation and individuals among that lineage were for these purposes as seen in the misunderstood Romans chapter 9. God electing this nation DID NOT CHANGE THEIR NATURE or cause them to be BORN AGAIN! In fact it can be seen that Israel were continually rebellious toward God...why? Because electing them did not change their nature. Salvation has always been a matter of Faith in God.
The second group that God elected (chose) is Believers in Jesus Christ. Now, to begin with, the bible NEVER states that God ever randomly picked individuals from among human history and overrode their will, forcing them to be born again into the family of God. However, as we find in Ephesians 1:4, God did choose. Whom did he choose? Paul says he chose "us." Now, go back to Eph 1:1 and notice Paul's greeting. He is writing this epistle (letter) to the "saints." Saints are those who believe in Christ for salvation. So, Paul is stating that God chose "believers in Christ" and when he chose "believers in Christ" -- before the foundation of the world.
So, now we find that God chose a group. This group is "In Him," (In Christ) according to Eph 1:4. This is absolutely the truth: every saved person is "In Christ," and all lost people are "Not In Christ."
So, we have two groups in human history: IN CHRIST and NOT IN CHRIST. God's bible declares emphatically that the IN CHRIST group has been elected (chosen) by God to be "accepted" by Him, cleansed of sins (justified), made a new creature, placed into his family and be his people for all eternity to come.
God has not elected (chosen) the NOT IN CHRIST group. These remain as they are--in their own sins and subject to the judgment of God for breaking his Holy Law. This is where God's choice plays into the doctrine of Election...
How does man's choice come into this doctrine? It would be a monumental task to ignore the many, many scriptures where God holds man responsible for a choice in the matter of obeying the gospel and being born again by faith in Jesus Christ. Subsequently, this is exactly how a sinner becomes a part of the ELECT group. God seeks sinners and by the use of the law, he shows sinners that they are guilty and in danger of judgment. God also shows us that he loves mankind and sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to fulfill the requirements of God's law (which we never could) by his death upon the cross and his resurrection.
When a sinner understands and believes he is lost, then he may respond to God's charge to be saved. God has given man a choice, by grace (undeserved favor) and we must make it. When a sinner turns from their old sinful nature to put genuine faith in Jesus Christ, they are "Born Again" and become part of that elect group, IN CHRIST.
So, we see easily that God has chosen and Man is also given a choice by God. And God expects man to make that choice wisely. Here's the clincher though: God has already informed mankind of His choice. So, we can know beforehand that if we choose Christ, then we are going to be part of that elect and accepted group, but if we reject Christ then we are likewise rejected by God, left in our sins and subject to His judgment.
To finish up let me give you a quick example of Election: In our government, we have essentially a two party system (Democrats and Republicans). We know the independents don't have a chance, so the example works :)
As a voter you are essentially choosing one group or another and the current figurehead of the group. God has chosen (elected) the group He will accept.
The members of each party, Democrat or Republican, were not chosen by the voters. You join each group based upon your beliefs, just as individuals choose to become either "In Christ" or to remain "Not in Christ."
The voters have a choice and the individual has a choice--just as God has a choice and has given man a choice. Both of these facts sit side by side in harmony in the word of God.