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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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

goldiewheele August 13, 2019 at 12:51 am

I was truly bless by reading who are the elect of God that you for writing this may God continue to open up your knowledge of His word

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Chief Moses Boahen September 27, 2019 at 7:12 pm

I am very excited and blessed when Dr Michael Williams explained this verse for me because I was confused when I read this Bible verse for the first time.May God Almighty who gave you this knowledge continue to provide you with more wisdom.Amen.

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Pete October 19, 2019 at 8:23 pm

Thank you for your clear description and refuting of TULIP. My daughter is totally convinced that Calvinism is the truth and in love, often argues these points so that I would not be a “false convert”. I appreciate your heart and wisdom.

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Jack Wellman October 19, 2019 at 8:59 pm

Hello Pete. Thank you for your encouraging comment sir. To argue a point so as to not be a false convert because you don’t believe as they do is wrong in the first place. The Spirit Himself bears witness that we are the children of God…We are not declared children of God by not holding onto or holding some belief or doctrine.

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Brian Thompson November 24, 2019 at 6:51 pm

I say Amen to the comment made by Jack! Once we truly accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit immediately comes into our hearts and we know that we know that we know that we have Eternal Life per John 17:3.

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Jack Wellman November 24, 2019 at 8:02 pm

Thank you Mr. Thompson. I appreciate those encouraging words. Sadly, many live with the fear of either not being saved or having it and then losing it.

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Dane April 2, 2020 at 8:52 am

Weak.
The doctrine of election didn’t start with Calvin or Pink. It started with God before the foundations of the world.
God knows future events because he has ordained future events and this includes elect men and women “choosing” salvation through Jesus.
If there is no election there is no salvation because natural man does not have the capacity to “decide” to be born again (haven’t you read Romans 3?)
“Christians” were far more likely to be called
“Saints” or “the Elect” or “Believers” by New Testament writers. Only Peter makes a direct reference to a believer as a “Christian”.
Election is a most blessed gift from God. It doesn’t diminish His character and it doesn’t reduce man’s responsibility come judgement.

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Jack Wellman April 2, 2020 at 10:20 am

Well said Dane. Thank you.

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Joel April 28, 2020 at 12:43 am

Well said but not quite. If God foreordained only some people to be elect, then God must be playing favorites and man’s free will is no longer free will at all. Moreover, the doctrine of election put God in a bad perspective that there will also be election of people to be predestined to hell. All these are not in the true nature of God. Although He is sovereign, man’s free will let him decide whom he will chose to serve – either God or Satan, which means heaven or hell.

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Jack Wellman April 28, 2020 at 9:48 am

If you think this puts God in a bad perspective, you could not be more wrong. No one is predestined to hell (I never wrote such a thing) but people send themselves there by rejecting Christ. They choose to live outside of the faith and live their own lives. They are responsible for their choices. You must have not read the article well enough to see that.

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Carol June 16, 2020 at 2:12 pm

My God’s character is just, fair, equal, impartial, and loving.
To believe that God would love some and hate others and give some eternal life and some eternal hell is downright
BLASPHEMY! I gave up reformed theology because I found I could no longer obey the first commandment to love God while believing he would be so unfair.

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Jack Wellman June 16, 2020 at 2:33 pm

Friend…it’s not just amazing that only a few be saved, as Jesus Himself said. It’s amazing that any of us are saved at all (Rom 5:6-10). People send themselves to hell because they reject the free gift of eternal life. Your anger is toward God and others…I will pray you repent of your bitterness and it does not posion those around you or in your church. I will pray for those around you too, since you seem full of venting anger and spewing hatred. If you stumble over the doctrine of hell, which Jesus spoke twice as much as heaven, then it shows you were never really saved in the first place (1 John 2:19) so I will pray for that. Its not what I believe or we beieve, but what is true, and hell is real. Repent or you will find it yourself, but I pray that not happen to you.

By saying “Your God” you have created a God in your own image and with your own likenesses, and that is idolatry.

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ESBARDO R HERNANDEZ July 10, 2020 at 1:40 pm

HELLO. I AM RESPONDING TO YOUR CLASSICAL RESPOND OF THE WELL BRAINWASHED CHRISTIAN THAT EXISTS OUT IN THE MISTS OF THE PREDESTINED CROWED. YOU WENT AROUND AND ROUND IN WITH BIG CIRCLE TO CONCLUDE THAT GOD HAS ALREADY CHOSEN WHO IS GOING TO HEAVEN AND WHO IS GOING TO HELL. JUST ASK JUDAS. JOHN 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” IF THE FATHER DOESN’T CALL YOU . YOU CAN GO TO THE ALTER 1,000,000 TIMES AND NOT BE SAVED. ONLY IF “HE” CALLS YOU. Psalm 139:2-4. 1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. PEOPLE OFTEN SAY, ” his untimely death.” NO SUCH THING. FOOD FOR THOUGHT.

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Robert Talley September 29, 2020 at 7:56 am

We can never repeat the ancient of days the ancient Hebrews made that mistake when they allowed the ruling class to elect a socialist leader when we should be a self governed people that is what the constitution is all about . We the PEOPLE of the United States of America are the Government Of Democracy or the (GOD) that rules our selves .(“Remember in GOD we Trust”) means Government of Democracy we Trust this is what the founding fathers ment in the Revelation of the Constitution of the United States of America.I Pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands one Nation under Government of Democracy with liberty and justice for( All ). Peace be with you.

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