God is holy and just, and all who fall short of his standard for perfection are under condemnation (Romans 1:18, Romans 6:23). It would be contrary to God's nature for him to allow any sin to go unpunished.
So, if all are born into sin, what hope do we have? Our hope lies in the very one who is condemning us. Because we are completely powerless to overcome sin on our own, he, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, effectively draws certain people unto himself. In other words, he chooses who will be saved and who will not be saved.
Most Christians will agree -- to a point. They cannot deny the doctrine of election entirely because scripture uses the terms "elect" and "election" explicitly (Matthew 24:41, Luke 18:7, Romans 11:28, 2nd Timothy 2:10, 2nd Peter 1:10, etc.). However, many believe the election referred to is conditional.
Here is how conditional election works: God, at some point in eternity past, looked ahead down the corridors of time and, according to his foreknowledge, saw who would receive Christ as savior. Those are the ones he then predestined for salvation. This may seem like a simple explanation, but it's wrong.
Here is what Paul writes in Romans 9:9-13:
- For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son." And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad -- in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls -- she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
Naturally, this doesn't seem "fair" according to human standards. Paul anticipates that and continues in verses 14-18:
- What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
The more I contemplate the doctrine of unconditional election, the more I am humbled. God had every right to condemn me to hell for all eternity, but he didn't. And while I don't know why he chose me in Christ for salvation, scripture reminds me constantly that it had nothing to do with my works: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The truth is that we believers, even in eternity, may never know why God predestined us for salvation. We do know that what was done was done in such a way "so that no human being might boast in the presence of God" (1st Corinthians 1:27). In short, election is unconditional so that all glory is reserved for God and God alone.
Part 1: Total Depravity
Part 2: Unconditional Election
Part 3: Limited Atonement
Part 4: Irresistable Grace
Part 5: Perseverance of the Saints