Who Are the Elect in the Bible?

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

In many Christian circles, people describe believers as God’s elect. However, some people use the phrase “God’s elect” with the idea that God chooses some people to go to Heaven and some people to go to Hell for no reason other than He can do so because He is sovereign. The purpose of this article is not to debate that theology, which originated with Augustine and was made popular by John Calvin and A.W. Pink. Instead, we will look at who are the elect in the Bible.

What does it mean to be elect?

Simply stated, to be elect means to be chosen. In common usage, the word elect as a verb denotes the idea of choosing something. For example, in political elections, people are elected by the voters or their representatives. However, when asking the question, who are the elect in the Bible, the word elect is an adjective that describes a group of people.

How does the Bible use the word elect?

The word elect is used 17 times in the Bible. In the original languages its root word can be translated as elect, chosen, chosen one, select or other variations (1). The first four uses of the word elect can be found in the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 65:9; Isaiah 65:22). We see from the context of these verses that there are several different people being referred to as God’s elect:

• Isaiah 42:1, God’s elect is Jesus Christ.
• Isaiah 45:1, God’s elect are the people of Israel.
• Isaiah 65:9, God’s elect are people that inherit God’s mountains or land.
• Isaiah 65:22, God’s elect are those who inherit the new heavens and a new earth.

In the New Testament, we see the word elect used in a more general sense to indicate people that are favored or chosen by God (Matthew 24:24; Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:22; Mark 13:27; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; 1 Timothy 5:21; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 2:6; 2 John 1:1; and 2 John 1:13). At the same time, we can see similarities with those in Isaiah:

• The elect can refer to Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:6).
• The elect can refer to the people of Israel (Matthew 24:24; Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:22; Mark 13:27; Luke 18:17).
• The elect can refer to people that inherit the new heavens and the new earth (Matthew 13:27; Revelation 7).

We also see the elect used in a reference that is somewhat different. When looking at the near context, it often is not fully understood. In 1 Peter 1:1-2, we see a description of the elect that gives us deeper meaning:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

In this passage, we see a condition of the election by God. The condition is according to the foreknowledge of God. What is the foreknowledge being mentioned here? The answer is laid out in Romans 8:28-30 as follows:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

These verses tell us that God works out all things for good to those who love Him. But, He also refers to them as those “…whom He did foreknow”. So, it is telling us that all things work together for good to them that love God, who are called according to God’s purpose and whom He foreknew. The question is who are those who love God? The answer can be found in 1 John 5:1-5 where we see that those who love God are believers! This then means that those whom God did foreknow that would love Him are believers. This is confirmed in the far context of Scripture when we look at 1 Peter 1:1-2 and Romans 8:28-30 in light of 1 John 5:1-5. The elect are those whom God foreknew would love Him. This is confirmed in Romans 8:33 where it is talking about believers that have trusted Christ, which says, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.”

When we put all of this together, we learn that in eternity past, God foreknew who would love Him. He also foreknew that given every possible situation in your life if you heard the gospel of salvation at the right time and circumstance, you would trust Christ as your Savior. Likewise, He also foreknew there are some people that no matter what the situation or circumstance, they will never trust Christ as their Savior. This means that God in His infinite wisdom and foreknowledge, chose to make it so that at the right time and the right circumstance, we would hear the gospel of salvation and trust Christ as our Savior (Isaiah 49:8; 2 Corinthians 6:2).

He also predestinated that He would put His Spirit into us and seal us until the day of redemption, while changing us to become more like His Son so that one day we could stand before Him in a perfected state just like His Son Jesus (Ephesians 1:12-14; Ephesians 4:30). With each day, as we submit to the leading of the Spirit and study His Word, God changes us to be more and more like Christ so that we would even have the mind of Christ (Philippians 1:27; Philippians 2:5; 1 Peter 4:1). With this in mind, we would be enabled to love God and our neighbor the way He loves them. This love of God, which God foreknew, was the basis by which He elected to appoint our day of salvation.

As we saw in the book of Isaiah, because we are children of God by faith in Christ and He is in us, we also become the elect of God through Christ. Likewise, when we become a child of God by faith, we also become the children of Abraham and God’s elect as part of the family of Israel. In addition, as children of Abraham, this makes us God’s elect as heirs of the promises that He made to the Israelites (Galatians 3:6-9; Galatians 3:26-29). Finally, as God’s elect, we also inherit the new heavens and the new earth. All of these things are in store for us as God’s elect.

Conclusion

In many Christian circles, people describe believers as God’s elect. However, some people use the phrase “God’s elect” with the idea that God chooses some people to go to Heaven and some people to go to Hell. The Bible teaches that God’s elect are those whom God foreknew would love Him. Given the descriptions of the same in the Old and New Testaments, God’s elect are believers that love God because He first loved them.

More for you to read: What is Reformed Theology?

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Strong, James. New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Strong’s number H977, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990.

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