Romans Bible Study Lesson 34

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Romans 9:11

The word election can cause the strongest Christian to cringe and run. The word conjures up an image of a God who heartlessly chooses some to eternal life and some to eternal damnation. At best, He chooses who will go to heaven leaving the rest to continue on their journey to hell.

Is this what election is all about or do we have an incomplete picture because some of the puzzle pieces are missing? First we’ll examine the word, then see how it is used in Scripture and finally (hopefully) explain the concept of election.


Election comes from the Greek word eklego ( Strongs 1586) and literally means to speak (lego) out (ek). A form of this word (ekloge, Strongs 1589) is the most commonly used form of this word.

The word simply means to choose or select. We are specifically interested in how this word is connected to a work of God. When God elects, He chooses. Who are the chosen and to what are they chosen? If we can answer these two questions we will have a good grasp on the actual meaning of the work election.

Biblical examples of election

• Israel

Israel is called a chosen nation or God’s chosen people. This is not a man-made concept but a description that was given to Israel by God.

Deuteronomy 7:6—8a 6″For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.7″The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,8but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers,…

Psalm 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.

Isaiah 45:4 “For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor Though you have not known Me.

This election of Israel was not about salvation because we know that not everyone in Israel was saved. Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians (740 BC) and Babylonians (600 BC) because they had turned away from God. In the Tribulation to come, 2/3rds of unsaved Israel will be killed leaving only those who will be saved at the end of the Tribulation when, finally, all Israel will be saved.

Zechariah 13:8 “It will come about in all the land,” Declares the LORD, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it.

Amos 5:3 For thus says the Lord GOD, “The city which goes forth a thousand strong Will have a hundred left, And the one which goes forth a hundred strong Will have ten left to the house of Israel.”


• 12 Disciples

Jesus, I believe through the power of the Holy Spirit and by the will of the Father, chose 12 Disciples to work with Him and take over the ministry after He had been resurrected. There was absolutely no mistake in choosing any of them even though one of them turned out to betray Jesus. Jesus, addressing the 12 Disciples in John 13:18, says He knows the ones He chose and He knows one of them is a devil. This choosing was not a choosing unto salvation. Judas was among the chosen Disciples but yet ended up betraying the Lord demonstrating his rejection of Jesus as Messiah.

John 6:70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?”

John 13:18 “I do not speak of all of you I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’

John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you

John 15:16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

• Body of Christ

The Body of Christ is an elect group made up of believers. Like Israel, all in this particular group have been elected. Unlike Israel, they are all believers.

According to Romans 8:33 those in the Body of Christ are called the elect. From this verse it’s impossible to see if this election is focused on our salvation. We will examine our own election in just a few moments.

• Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul was chosen (elected) for a very special purpose—to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Scripture never connects being chosen with Paul’s salvation but it does connect it with his calling to be an apostle to the Gentiles.

Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;

Acts 22:13—14 14″And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth.15’For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

• Jesus Christ

Even Jesus Christ was elected or chosen. We read about this in Isaiah 42:1 and is verified in Matthew 12:18 that the person talked about in Isaiah is Jesus Christ. It’s pretty obvious that He was not elected so that He would become saved.

Isaiah 42:1 Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.


Election as a special position of service

At least four out of five of the above-mentioned elections clearly have nothing to do with salvation. Israel was elect to be the nation God would work through. It’s through Israel that God gave the Law. It’s through Israel that God gave us Scripture. It’s through Israel that God sent His Son. God never revealed Himself through the Gentile nations. Israel was elect as a nation to be in a special position of serving God.

Romans 9:4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

Peter understood Israel’s special position when he called them a chosen people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation. This election wasn’t about salvation but for them to proclaim Christ’s excellencies. They were elect so they could be a light and a witness to the world.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

The 12 Disciples were also elect for a special work of service. Their job was to go out and bear fruit. Even Judas, an unbeliever, was chosen for the task of serving Jesus in His earthly ministry. I’m sure there were people in Israel who were saved by the message Judas preached because the message was right even though Judas’ heart was not. This is reminiscent of preachers in Philippi who were preaching the gospel with the wrong motive but retained the correct message. Paul said to let them continue (Philippians 1:15—18).

John 15:16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

The Apostle Paul was also elect to serve Christ. He was elect to bear Christ’s name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel (Acts 9:15). As the 12 Disciples were elect to serve Jesus and His earthly ministry related to Israel, Paul was elect to serve the risen, glorified Jesus Christ and His heavenly plan for the Church, the Body of Christ.

Jesus Christ was elect to serve the Father. The Father even called Him a Servant indicating the position Jesus allowed Himself to be put under. Jesus Christ was given a special position of service, which He carried out perfectly and humbly.

Election and the Body of Christ

There are a couple of verses that seem to clearly indicate that we in the Church, the Body of Christ are elect unto salvation. If this were the case then it goes against the above usages of the term. Let’s carefully examine the Word in relation to the Church.

Almost all fundamental Christians would agree that we were elect by God before the foundation of the world and that salvation is the focus of this election. Those who are of a Calvinistic nature see God choosing some to heaven and choosing the rest to go to hell. God is completely sovereign and he can treat the lump of clay as He wishes. Those who follow Arminian, on the other hand, believe God looked down the corridor of time to see who would accept Christ and who would reject Him. The person whom God observed coming to Him by faith, as He looked into the future,  was then elect to be saved. The Calvinists focuses on God’s sovereignty while the Arminians stressed man’s free will.

The following verses are used to connect election with salvation:

Ephesians 1:4—6 4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

If the word election has nothing to do with salvation in the above usages, there must be another way of looking at this concept concerning the Church. Let’s take a closer look at the Ephesians passage.

Most people read this verse to say He chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless (a reference to our salvation) leaving out the phrase “in Him.” By leaving out this phrase you leave out the most important key to correctly understand this verse. We were chosen (elect) in Him. We were not chosen to be in Him, we were chosen while in Him. In other words, we were elect when we were saved. Our salvation was not a result of being elected but our election was because we were found “in Him.”

How could this be? Remember that if we have been baptized in Christ (Romans 6:3—4) then we are fully identified with Him. Our identification is so close that as Christ died, we are seen as having died. As Christ was buried, we are seen as having been buried. As Christ was raised, we are also seen as having been raised.

Colossians 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Colossians 3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

This identification is also extended to us in election. As Christ was elected (Isaiah 42:1) (for a special work of service to the Father) we are elected (for works of service) because we are in Christ and are identified with Him.

We can also see in the context of Ephesians 1 that Paul is enumerating the blessings we have by being found in Christ. The first one mentioned is our election.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 is another verse often used to show we are elected unto salvation. An understanding of the context and a little bit of Greek will help us understand this verse’s true meaning.

First, the Greek word used for chosen is different than in the other passages we looked at. It is haireo instead of ekloge. Both words can mean to choose but haireo means “taking for yourself”. One of the root words (anaireo) means to take up or away. We would then understand this verse to mean God is going to save us by taking us up or away for Himself. This hints at the Rapture.

Now, let’s look at the context. The Thessalonians were worried that they had missed the Rapture so Paul tells them about all the things that will transpire just after the Rapture. Paul then assures them that they will not go through the Tribulation because God has chosen those who are in the Body of Christ to be saved from this event. In context, being chosen for salvation means salvation from going through the Tribulation. This salvation is based on their sanctification and faith in the truth.


It appears that election is not about salvation but is one of our spiritual blessings because we are in Christ and are identified with Him by being baptized into Him. Election focuses on service, not salvation. To be elect means we are given a special position to serve God. As members of the Body of Christ we are ambassadors with the message of reconciliation. God is not going directly to mankind to reveal Himself but chooses to use us as believers to show the world His love. We are clay pots containing the surpassing greatness of the power of God.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

See the book The Power of God unto Salvation by Joel Finck for an expansion of this topic.