Category Archives: Sovereign Grace (the Doctrines of Grace, Calvinism, the TULIP)

Who Are God’s Elect?

by Peter Ditzel

That the Bible uses the words “elect” and “chosen” to refer to some people is indisputable. Sometimes it is referring to certain individuals whom God chose to a certain calling or position, such as that of a priest or a prophet. In the Old Testament, God uses it to refer to the nation of Israel: “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, above all peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). But what I want to discuss in this article is the New Testament’s use of “elect” and “chosen” to identify sinners whom God has saved. Theologians hotly debate the precise identity of these people and how they became elect. Let’s look at four teachings concerning the New Testament elect and see how these stand up to Scripture.


Q. Do you consider Martin Luther a Calvinist, since he believed in loss of salvation?

A. Strictly speaking, Martin Luther (1483–1546) could not be called a Calvinist since he did not follow Calvin. Luther started the Reformation in 1517, while John Calvin (1509–1564) did not write the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion until 1536.


Q. Does Matthew 23:37 say that Jesus wanted to save all Jerusalem but Jerusalem refused?

A. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Many think this is saying that God wanted to give grace to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but they refused it. But a careful examination of what Jesus said shows that this is not the case.


Q. Did God deliberately reprobate the non-elect to hell or did He merely pass them by? Also, is the difference really a big deal?

A. I appreciate your good question. What you are asking about is what people often term the difference between predestination and double-predestination. Those who believe only in the predestination of the elect to be saved (for the sake of clarity, I’ll call it single-predestination) say that God in eternity elected some to be saved. They say that God simply passed over the rest of humanity, leaving them in their sins. Thus, they are condemned by their own sinfulness.


Q. What determines whether someone is elect or reprobate?

A. Many good, Bible-believing Christians would answer this question with one word: “Nothing.” Their reasoning would be that, because election is unconditional, then nothing determines whether someone is elect or reprobate. But the answer is not so simple. What determines whether an animal is a squirrel or a turtle? Certainly, no choice the animal made determines its species, and no works the animals does makes it either a squirrel or a turtle. So, being a squirrel or a turtle is unconditional as far as the animal is concerned. Yet, we would have to agree that something determines whether it is a squirrel or a turtle, something that is outside of the control of the animal. So, can election be both unconditional and determined by something?