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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

e-lek'-shun (ekloge, "choice," "selection"):









1. Antinomies 2. Fatalism Another Thing 3. The Moral Aspects 4. "We know in Part" 5. The Unknown Future

I. The Word in Scripture.

The word is absent from the Old Testament, where the related Hebrew verb (bachar) is frequent. In the New Testament it occurs 6 times (Romans 9:11; Romans 11:5, 7, 28 1 Thessalonians 1:4 2 Peter 1:10). In all these places it appears to denote an act of Divine selection taking effect upon human objects so as to bring them into special and saving relations with God: a selection such as to be at once a mysterious thing, transcending human analysis of its motives (so eminently in Romans 9:11), and such as to be knowable by its objects, who are (2 Pet) exhorted to "make it sure," certain, a fact to consciousness. It is always (with one exception, Romans 9:11; see below) related to a community, and thus has close affinity with the Old Testament teachings upon the privileged position of Israel as the chosen, selected race (see under ELECT). The objects of election in the New Testament are, in effect, the Israel of God, the new, regenerate race called to special privilege and special service. From one point of view, that of the external marks of Christianity, they may thus be described as the Christian community in its widest sense, the sense in which the sacramental position and the real are prima facie assumed to coincide. But from 2 Peter it is manifest that much more than this has to be said if the incidence of the word present to the writer's mind is to be rightly felt. It is assumed there that the Christian, baptized and a worshipper, may yet need to make "sure" his "calling and election" as a fact to his consciousness. This implies conditions in the "election" which far transcend the tests of sacred rite and external fellowship.

II. The Mysterious Element.

Such impressions of depth and mystery in the word are confirmed by the other, passages. In Romans 9:11 the context is charged with the most urgent and even staggering challenges to submission and silence in the presence of the inscrutable. To illustrate large assertions as to the liberty and sovereignty of the Divine dealings with man, the apostle brings in Esau and Jacob, individuals, twins as yet unborn, and points to the inscrutable difference of the Divine action toward them as such. Somehow, as a matter of fact, the Eternal appears as appointing to unborn Esau a future of comparative disfavor and to Jacob of favor; a future announced to the still pregnant mother. Such discrimination was made and announced, says the apostle, "that the purpose of God according to election might stand." In the whole passage the gravest stress is laid upon the isolation of the "election" from the merit or demerit of its objects.

III. Incidence upon Community and Individual.

It is observable that the same characteristic, the inscrutable, the sovereign, is attached in the Old Testament to the "election" of a favored and privileged nation. Israel is repeatedly reminded (see eg. Deuteronomy 7) that the Divine call and choice of them to be the people of God has no relation to their virtues, or to their strength. The reason lies out of sight, in the Divine mind. So too "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16) in the New Testament, the Christian community, "the new, peculiar race," holds its great privileges by quite unmerited favor (eg. Titus 3:5). And the nature of the case here leads, as it does not in the case of the natural Israel, to the thought of a Divine election of the individual, similarly inscrutable and sovereign. For the idea of the New Israel involves the thought that in every genuine member of it the provisions of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31 f) are being fulfilled: the sins are remembered no more, and the law is written in the heart. The bearer of the Christian name, but not of the Christian spiritual standing and character, having "not the Spirit of Christ, is none of his" (Romans 8:9). The chosen community accordingly, not as it seems ab extra, but as it is in its essence, is a fellowship of individuals each of whom is an object of unmerited Divine favor, taking effect in the new life. And this involves the exercise of electing mercy. Compare eg. 1 Peter 1:3. And consider Romans 11:4-7 (where observe the exceptional use of "the election," meaning "the company of the elect").

IV. Cognate and Illustrative Biblical Language.

It is obvious that the aspects of mystery which gather round the word "election" are not confined to it alone. An important class of words, such as "calling," "predestination" "foreknowledge," "purpose," "gift," bears this same character; asserting or connoting, in appropriate contexts, the element of the inscrutable and sovereign in the action of the Divine will upon man, and particularly upon man's will and affection toward God. And it will be felt by careful students of the Bible in its larger and more general teachings that one deep characteristic of the Book, which with all its boundless multiplicity is yet one, is to emphasize on the side of man everything that can humble, convict, reduce to worshipping silence (see for typical passages Job 40:3, 1 Romans 3:19), and on the side of God everything which can bring home to man the transcendence and sovereign claims of his almighty Maker. Not as unrelated utterances, but as part of a vast whole of view and teaching, occur such passages as Ephesians 2:8, 9 and Romans 11:33-36, and even the stern, or rather awestruck, phrases of Romans 9:20, 21, where the potter and the clay are used in illustration.

V. Limitations of Inquiry Here. Scope of Election.

We have sought thus in the simplest outline to note first the word "election" and then some related Scriptural words and principles, weighing the witness they bear to a profound mystery in the action of the Divine will upon man, in the spiritual sphere. What we have thus seen leaves still unstated what, according to Scripture, is the goal and issue of the elective act. In this article, remembering that it is part of a Bible Encyclopedia, we attempt no account of the history of thought upon election, in the successive Christian centuries, nor again any discussion of the relation of election in Scripture to extra-Scriptural philosophies, to theories of necessity, determination, fatalism. We attempt only to see the matter as it lies before us in the Bible. Studying it so, we find that this mysterious action of God on man has relation, in the Christian revelation, to nothing short of the salvation of the individual (and of the community of such individuals) from sin and condemnation, and the preservation of the saved to life eternal. We find this not so much in any single passage as in the main stream of Biblical language and tone on the subject of the Divine selective action. But it is remarkable that in the recorded thought of our Lord Himself we find assertions in this direction which could hardly be more explicit. SeeJohn 6:37, 44, 45; John 10:27-29. To the writer the best summary of the Scriptural evidence, at once definite and restrained, is the language of the 17th Anglican art.: "They which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity."

VI. Perseverance.

The anxious problem of PERSEVERANCE will be treated under that word. It may be enough here to say that alike what we are permitted to read as revealed, and what we may humbly apprehend as the reason of the case, tend to the reverent belief that a perseverance (rather of the Lord than of the saints) is both taught and implied. But when we ponder the nature of the subject we are amply prepared for the large range of Scriptures which on the other hand condemn and preclude, for the humble disciple, so gross a misuse of the doctrine as would let it justify one moment's presumption upon Divine mercy in the heart which is at the same time sinning against the Divine love and holiness.

VII. Considerations in Relief of Thought.

We close, in view of this last remark, with some detached notes in relief, well remembering the unspeakable trial which to many devout minds the word before us has always brought.

1. Antinomies:

First in place and importance is the thought that a spiritual fact like election, which belongs to the innermost purpose and work of the Eternal, necessarily leads us to a region where comprehension is impossible, and where we can only reverently apprehend. The doctrine passes upward to the sphere where antinomies live and move, where we must be content to hear what sound to us contradictions, but which are really various aspects of infinite truth. Let us be content to know that the Divine choice is sovereign; and also that "his tender mercies are over all his works," that `He willeth not the death of a sinner,' that "God is love." Let us relieve the tension of such submissive reliance by reverently noting how the supreme antinomy meets one type of human need with its one side, and with its other another. To the "fearful saint" the Divine sovereignty of love is a sacred cordial. To the seeking penitent the Divine comprehensiveness of love opens the door of peace. To the deluded theorist who does not love and obey, the warnings of a fall and ruin which are possible, humanly, from any spiritual height, are a merciful beacon on the rocks.

2. Fatalism Another Thing:

Further, we remember that election, in Scripture, is as different as possible from the fatal necessity of, eg. the Stoics. It never appears as mechanical, or as a blind destiny. It has to do with the will of a God who has given us otherwise supreme proofs that He is all-good and all-kind. And it is related to man not as a helpless and innocent being but as a sinner. It is never presented as an arbitrary force majeure. Even in Romans 9 the "silence" called for is not as if to say, "You are hopelessly passive in the grasp of infinite power," but, "You, the creature, cannot judge your Maker, who must know infinitely more of cause and reason than his handiwork can know." The mystery, we may be sure, had behind it supreme right and reason, but in a region which at present at least we cannot penetrate. Again, election never appears as a violation of human will. For never in the Bible is man treated as irresponsible. In the Bible the relation of the human and Divine wills is inscrutable; the reality of both is assured.

3. The Moral Aspects:

Never is the doctrine presented apart from a moral context. It is intended manifestly to deepen man's submission to-not force, but-mystery, where such submission means faith. In the practical experience of the soul its designed effect is to emphasize in the believer the consciousness (itself native to the true state of grace) that the whole of his salvation is due to the Divine mercy, no part of it to his merit, to his virtue, to his wisdom. In the sanctified soul, which alone, assuredly, can make full use of the mysterious truth, is it designed to generate, together and in harmony, awe, thanksgiving and repose.

4. "We Know in Part":

A necessary caution in view of the whole subject is that here, if anywhere in the regions of spiritual study, we inevitably "know in part," and in a very limited part. The treatment of election has at times in Christian history been carried on as if, less by the light of revelation than by logical processes, we could tabulate or map the whole subject. Where this has been done, and where at the same time, under a sort of mental rather than spiritual fascination, election has been placed in the foreground of the system of religious thought, and allowed to dominate the rest, the truth has (to say the least) too often been distorted into an error. The Divine character has been beclouded in its beauty. Sovereignty has been divorced from love, and so defaced into an arbitrary fiat, which has for its only reason the assertion of omnipotence. Thus, the grievous wrong has been done of aischron ti legein peri tou Theiou, "defamation of God." For example, the revelation of a positive Divine selection has been made by inference to teach a corresponding rejection ruthless and terrible, as if the Eternal Love could ever by any possibility reject or crush even the faintest aspiration of the created spirit toward God. For such a thought not even the dark words of Romans 9:18 give Scriptural excuse. The case there in hand, Pharaoh's, is anything but one of arbitrary power trampling on a human will looking toward God and right. Once more, the subject is one as to which we must on principle be content with knowledge so fragmentary that its parts may seem contradictory in our present imperfect light. The one thing we may be sure of behind the veil is, that nothing can be hidden there which will really contradict the supreme and ruling truth that God is love.

5. The Unknown Future:

Finally, let us from another side remember that here, as always in the things of the Spirit, "we know in part." The chosen multitude are sovereignly "called,. justified,. glorified" (Romans 8:29, 30). But for what purposes? Certainly not for an end terminating in themselves. They are saved, and kept, and raised to the perfect state, for the service of their Lord. And not till the cloud is lifted from the unseen life can we possibly know what that service under eternal conditions will include, what ministries of love and good in the whole universe of being.

Handley Dunelm

1589. ekloge -- a (divine) selection
... chosen, election. From eklegomai; (divine) selection (abstractly or concretely) --
chosen, election. see GREEK eklegomai. (ekloge) -- 1 Occurrence. ...
//strongsnumbers.com/greek2/1589.htm - 7k

... ELECTION. ... That they may know what the object is for which He chose them, and find,
in their faith in His election, the certainty of fulfilling their destiny. ...
/.../murray/the true vine meditations for a month on john 151-16/election.htm

... Election. A Sermon (No.41-42). Delivered on Sabbath Morning, September 2, 1855,
by the. REV. CH SPURGEON. At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark. ...
//christianbookshelf.org/spurgeon/spurgeons sermons volume 1 1855/election.htm

Particular Election
... Particular Election. A Sermon (No.123). Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 22,
1857, by the. REV. CH SPURGEON. at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens. ...
/.../spurgeon/spurgeons sermons volume 3 1857/particular election.htm

Election and Holiness
... Election and Holiness. A Sermon ... Now, two things this morning. First, I shall attempt
to set forth God's Election; secondly, to show in practical bearings. ...
/.../spurgeon/spurgeons sermons volume 6 1860/election and holiness.htm

Who Teach: that in the Election unto Faith this Condition is ...
... Divine Election and Reprobation Paragraph 4 Who teach: That in the election
unto faith this condition is beforehand demanded that man� ...
/.../various/the canons of dordt/paragraph 4 who teach that.htm

Which is First, Election, or Faith Truly Foreseen, So that God ...
... I. Which is first, Election, or Faith Truly Foreseen, so that God elected
his people according to faith foreseen? I. Is the decree ...
/.../arminius/the works of james arminius vol 1/i which is first election.htm

... LECTURE XLIII. ELECTION. In discussing this subject, I. I shall notice ... II. What
the Bible doctrine of election is not. 1. The Bible doctrine ...
//christianbookshelf.org/finney/systematic theology/lecture xliii election.htm

Election is the Unchangeable Purpose of God, Whereby, Before the ...
... First Head of Doctrine. Divine Election and Reprobation Article 7 Election is the
unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world� ...
/.../various/the canons of dordt/article 7 election is the.htm

Of the Election of Ambrosius, the Bishop of Milan.
... Book IV. Chapter VI."Of the election of Ambrosius, the Bishop of Milan.
Thus spoke the emperor, and then the council begged him ...
/.../the ecclesiastical history of theodoret/chapter vi of the election of.htm

Eternal Election...
... Article XVI Eternal Election� Eternal Election We believe that, all the
posterity of Adam being thus fallen into perdition and ...
/.../various/the belgic confession /article xvi eternal election.htm

Easton's Bible Dictionary
Election of Grace

The Scripture speaks (1) of the election of individuals to office or to honour and privilege, e.g., Abraham, Jacob, Saul, David, Solomon, were all chosen by God for the positions they held; so also were the apostles. (2) There is also an election of nations to special privileges, e.g., the Hebrews (Deuteronomy 7:6; Romans 9:4). (3) But in addition there is an election of individuals to eternal life (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2; John 13:18).

The ground of this election to salvation is the good pleasure of God (Ephesians 1:5, 11; Matthew 11:25, 26; John 15:16, 19). God claims the right so to do (Romans 9:16, 21).

It is not conditioned on faith or repentance, but is of soverign grace (Romans 11:4-6; Ephesians 1:3-6). All that pertain to salvation, the means (Ephesians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:13) as well as the end, are of God (Acts 5:31; 2 Timothy 2:25; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 2:5, 10). Faith and repentance and all other graces are the exercises of a regenerated soul; and regeneration is God's work, a "new creature."

Men are elected "to salvation," "to the adoption of sons," "to be holy and without blame before him in love" (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Galatians 4:4, 5; Ephesians 1:4). The ultimate end of election is the praise of God's grace (Ephesians 1:6, 12). (see PREDESTINATION.)

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
1. (n.) The act of choosing; choice; selection.

2. (n.) The act of choosing a person to fill an office, or to membership in a society, as by ballot, uplifted hands, or viva voce; as, the election of a president or a mayor.

3. (a.) Power of choosing; free will; liberty to choose or act.

4. (a.) Discriminating choice; discernment.

5. (a.) Divine choice; predestination of individuals as objects of mercy and salvation; -- one of the five points of Calvinism.

6. (n.) The choice, made by a party, of two alternatives, by taking one of which, the chooser is excluded from the other.

7. (a.) Those who are elected.

Election (6 Occurrences)
... Easton's Bible Dictionary Election of Grace. The Scripture speaks (1) of the
election of individuals to office or to honour and privilege ...
/e/election.htm - 26k

... events. This doctrine of predestination or election is beset with many
difficulties. It belongs to the "secret things" of God. But ...
/p/predestination.htm - 26k

Elect (32 Occurrences)
... See further under ELECTION. ... Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for;
but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. ...
/e/elect.htm - 21k

Return (499 Occurrences)
... account, to a superior; to report officially by a list or statement; as, to return
a list of stores, of killed or wounded; to return the result of an election. ...
/r/return.htm - 38k

Chosen (197 Occurrences)
... It is said with regard to those who do not profit by their opportunities that "many
are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 20:16). (see ELECTION.). ...
/c/chosen.htm - 53k

Choose (116 Occurrences)
... n (bachar, qabhal, bara', barah; ek-lego): I. IN THE OLD TESTAMENT 1. Human Choice
2. God Chooses King of Israel 3. God Chooses Jerusalem 4. Election of Israel ...
/c/choose.htm - 54k

Foreknow (1 Occurrence)
... in 1 Peter 1:2 those to whom the apostle is writing are characterized as "elect
according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God," where the election is based ...
/f/foreknow.htm - 36k

Foreknowledge (2 Occurrences)
... in 1 Peter 1:2 those to whom the apostle is writing are characterized as "elect
according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God," where the election is based ...
/f/foreknowledge.htm - 37k

Lady (37 Occurrences)
... Electam, significat autem electionem ecclesiae sanctae ("It is written to a certain
Babylonian, Electa by name; but it signifies the further election of the ...
/l/lady.htm - 22k

Matthias (2 Occurrences)
... Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26). This election was held at Jerusalem, and the meeting
was presided over by Peter. The conditions demanded of ...
/m/matthias.htm - 9k

Bible Concordance
Election (6 Occurrences)

Romans 9:11 For being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him who calls,

Romans 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Romans 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

Romans 11:28 Concerning the Good News, they are enemies for your sake. But concerning the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sake.

1 Thessalonians 1:4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.

2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brothers, be more diligent to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.



Election of Christ, As Messiah

Election of Churches

Election of Good Angels

Election of Grace

Election of Grace of Christ As Messiah

Election of Grace of Churches

Election of Grace of Good Angels

Election of Grace of Israel

Election of Grace of Ministers

Election of Israel

Election of Ministers

Election of Rulers by Lot

Election of Saints, Is by Christ

Election of Saints, Is for the Glory of God

Election of Saints, Is in Christ

Election of Saints, Is of God

Election of Saints, Is of Grace

Election of Saints, Is: According to the Foreknowledge of God

Election of Saints, Is: According to the Purpose of God

Election of Saints, Is: Eternal

Election of Saints, Is: Irrespective of Merit

Election of Saints, Is: Personal

Election of Saints, Is: Recorded in Heaven

Election of Saints, Is: Sovereign

Election of Saints, Is: Through Faith

Election of Saints, Is: Through Sanctification of the Spirit

Election of Saints, Is: To Adoption

Election of Saints, Is: To Conformity With Christ

Election of Saints, Is: To Eternal Glory

Election of Saints, Is: To Good Works

Election of Saints, Is: To Salvation

Election of Saints, Is: To Spiritual Warfare

Election: Abram

Election: Apostles

Election: Ensures to Saints: Acceptance With God

Election: Ensures to Saints: Belief in Christ

Election: Ensures to Saints: Blessedness

Election: Ensures to Saints: Divine Teaching

Election: Ensures to Saints: Effectual Calling

Election: Ensures to Saints: Protection

Election: Ensures to Saints: The Inheritance

Election: Ensures to Saints: Vindication of Their Wrongs

Election: Ensures to Saints: Working of all Things for Good

Election: Isaac

Election: Jacob

Election: Paul

Election: Rufus

Election: Saints May Have Assurance of

Election: should be Evidenced by Diligence

Election: should Lead to Cultivation of Graces

Election: Zerubbabel

Electioneering by Absalom

Electioneering by Adonijah


Related Terms


Elect (32 Occurrences)

Return (499 Occurrences)

Chosen (197 Occurrences)

Choose (116 Occurrences)

Foreknow (1 Occurrence)

Foreknowledge (2 Occurrences)

Lady (37 Occurrences)

Matthias (2 Occurrences)

Poll (5 Occurrences)

Saul (371 Occurrences)

Electrum (3 Occurrences)

Beloved (117 Occurrences)

Calling (145 Occurrences)

Judicial (2 Occurrences)

Empire (8 Occurrences)

Unchangeableness (1 Occurrence)

Unchangeable (4 Occurrences)

Bishop (4 Occurrences)

Zealous (40 Occurrences)

Lot (145 Occurrences)

Gibeah (52 Occurrences)

Worthless (103 Occurrences)

Iscariot (11 Occurrences)



Twins (9 Occurrences)

Thomas (12 Occurrences)

Tiberius (1 Occurrence)

Remnant (157 Occurrences)

Regards (43 Occurrences)

Rebekah (31 Occurrences)

Refer (4 Occurrences)

Electing (1 Occurrence)

Enemies (317 Occurrences)

Doctor (5 Occurrences)

Diligent (33 Occurrences)

Military (44 Occurrences)

Precinct (1 Occurrence)

Blinded (15 Occurrences)

Courts (59 Occurrences)

Calls (62 Occurrences)

Concerned (45 Occurrences)

Calleth (261 Occurrences)

Confirm (39 Occurrences)

Campaign (3 Occurrences)

Carry (246 Occurrences)

Choice (113 Occurrences)


Sakes (35 Occurrences)

Scrutiny (3 Occurrences)

Standpoint (1 Occurrence)

Seeketh (60 Occurrences)

Andrew (12 Occurrences)

Ordination (12 Occurrences)

Rehoboam (42 Occurrences)

Ordain (13 Occurrences)

Diligence (31 Occurrences)

Continue (144 Occurrences)

Touching (121 Occurrences)

Kings (350 Occurrences)

Judas (42 Occurrences)

Eager (43 Occurrences)

Either (152 Occurrences)

Apostle (25 Occurrences)

Bad (129 Occurrences)

Abide (162 Occurrences)

Benjamin (167 Occurrences)

Roman (26 Occurrences)

Heavens (548 Occurrences)

Stumble (89 Occurrences)

Jeroboam (96 Occurrences)

Loved (249 Occurrences)

Earth (10501 Occurrences)

Born (228 Occurrences)

Father's (251 Occurrences)

Tidings (169 Occurrences)

Sake (241 Occurrences)

Fathers (572 Occurrences)

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