Conditional election – What is it?

Conditional election is a theological belief that God chose who would be saved based on His foreknowledge of who would put their faith in Christ. Their election to salvation is "conditional" upon their own decision to accept Jesus.

The Bible teaches us that God chooses who will be saved, but it is not clear how He makes that decision. Conditional election is one doctrine. Arminian theology holds to conditional election as one of the Articles of Remonstrance. Those who hold to Reformed Theology believe in unconditional election—that God makes a decision on who will be saved based on nothing the person will or will not do or believe.

Those who hold to conditional election point to 1 Peter 1:1–2 and Romans 8:29–30 as key Scriptures.

In 1 Peter, Peter is writing "To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father …" (1 Peter 1:1–2). They key phrase is "elect … according to the foreknowledge of God." Romans 8:29–30 says, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." Again, the key is that those "he foreknew he also predestined."

Most orthodox theologians agree that God "elects" those who are saved, and that He is all knowing, beyond the limits of time and space. The debate comes when we start to determine how God makes those decisions. Is it man's free will choice (and God's foreknowledge of it) that causes His election, or are these verses simply acknowledging the reality of God's omniscience?

We can look to other Scriptures to help us better understand. Ephesians 1:4–5 says, "even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will." God decides based on His own will, not the will of individual people.

Anther Scripture in support of unconditional election—meaning that God elects solely based on His will and not based on anything that people have done or will do—is Romans 9:11 which dismisses any work of a human taking part in their own salvation. Unconditional election can also be seen in John 6:37, John 15:16, and John 10:26–27.

If election is conditional, it would seem that humans are responsible for their own salvation and are glorified in it. If election is unconditional, salvation is purely a result of God's mercy and grace, and He alone is glorified in it.


Related Truth:

In the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate, which side is correct?

What is the doctrine of predestination?

What is the connection between predestination / election and foreknowledge?

The elect of God – Who are they?

The doctrines of grace – What are they?


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