The Bible teaches what has been commonly referred to in the history of theology as “Calvinism.” The second point of the Five Points of Calvinism is called “unconditional election,” which means that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4) according to His good pleasure (Mt 11:26). He did not choose us because we were “holy and without blame,” but so that we would become “holy and without blame” by virtue of our union with Christ (Eph 1:4). As John Gill wisely commented, “Election does not find men in Christ, but puts them there; it gives them a being in him, and union to him.” The comfort this doctrine affords is obvious: If God had not chosen men unto salvation, they would have never chosen Him and would have perished under the just judgment and wrath of God forever.
The challenge this doctrine affords is also obvious: How does a sinner know that he is elect? In 2 Peter 1:10, the Apostle Peter writes, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure…” This text, however, does not address the challenge concerning election, for Peter writes to Christians, those already saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and he essentially calls them to live in light of the salvation they already experience. As far as unbelievers are concerned, the Bible never calls on them to determine whether or not they are elect before coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, God in the Bible calls sinners to come to Him immediately, without first trying to determine whether or not they are elect. For instance, in the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord God declares, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Is 55:1) The Lord does not call men to look inside to see if they may or may not be elect, He calls them to come and live. In Matthew 11:25-30, the Lord Jesus highlights the sovereignty of God in salvation (including election) in verses 25-27, and then calls sinners to “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (verse 28). The Lord Jesus does not call sinners to determine whether or not they are prepared to come to Him, He calls them to come to Him and He will give them rest (verse 28). In Acts 16:25-34, there is the situation of the Philippian jailer who fears judgment at the hand of the civil authority for what would have been considered dereliction of duty in his part if the prisoners had escaped (verses 25-26). Instead of facing the wrath of his superiors, the jailer reckons he will commit suicide (verse 27) but is thankfully interrupted by the Apostle Paul (verse 28). When the jailer asks Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (verse 30), Paul and Silas do not respond, “make sure you are one of the elect” or “make sure you are prepared to meet God.” Rather, Paul clearly tells the man, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (verse 31).
A good rule of thumb concerning the challenge of election: On the way to the cross, sinners should not concern themselves with it, they should simply look to Christ in faith for the salvation that God promises to those who believe. After having come to the cross, believers should endeavor “to make [their] call and election sure” (2 Pet 1:10) by living in a manner that is consistent with their salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.