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Election and the Gospel

Can Only the Elect Accept Christ?

by Bob Wilkin

A few weeks ago I was on a radio talk show. One of the hosts asked me, "Do people choose to become a part of the family of God?"

A short time later I received a phone call from a GES News reader who wondered what GES believes about the doctrine of election.

I will share my views on the subject. We have not dealt with election in our doctrinal statement. This is because we do not feel that one's view of election determines his or her view of the Gospel.

Election: Individual or Corporate?

I believe in election. The Scriptures teach that God chooses those who will be a part of His family (Eph. 1:4; 1 Thess. 1:4; 1 Pet. 5:13). This choice took place before the foundation of the world. While the corporate election position (i.e., that God chose Christ and thus all who choose to trust in Him) is possible, I think that the individual election position best fits the Scriptures.

Is Belief Only Possible for the Elect?

This raises a problem. Can the non-elect choose to believe in Christ? Some would say that only the elect can believe. They would say that the non-elect are unable to choose to believe.

Belief in individual election does not necessitate belief that the non-elect cannot trust in Christ. I happen to believe they can.

Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all unto Me (John 12:32)." All most naturally refers to all people, each and every one--including the non-elect. In John 16:9-11 Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. That is the same world as in John 3:16. Christ died for all (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2) and all are being drawn by God to Him. God is drawing both the elect and the non-elect to Himself.

This can easily be seen from the Gospels. Judas was surely drawn to Christ in a very intense way. That is why his guilt is so great. The nation of Israel was being drawn. Jesus said that the guilt of those in Chorazin and Bethsaida would be greater than that of those from ancient Tyre and Sidon because they had rejected greater light (Luke 10:13-16). Indeed, Jesus indicted the whole generation for rejecting One greater than Solomon and Jonah (Luke 11:29-32).

This raises a related question. Can unbelievers--elect or non-elect-seek God? Paul said in Romans 3:10 that "none seeks God; no not one." Yet in Acts 17:27 Paul said that God has made all nations "so that they should seek the Lord, in hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." How can these seemingly contradictory statements be harmonized?

No one seeks God out of his own initiative (Rom. 3:10; see also John 6:44, "No one comes to Me unless the Father draws him"). If God didn't draw us, none would seek Him. However, since He does, we can respond. Our seeking of God is actually a response to His seeking of us (Acts 17:27). We might say, "We seek Him because He first sought us." Hebrews 11:6 verifies that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Election and Evangelism

When I share the Gospel, I call people to trust in Christ, fully expecting that it is in their power to do so. I realize that the elect will believe someday and the non-elect never will. However, there is a difference between what someone will do and what they can do. It is possible for anyone with a sound mind to trust in Christ. That is why those who do not believe can be said to have rejected Him, to have chosen not to receive Him (John 1:11).

Election and Free Will

How can both of these be true? How can God elect and man choose? There is a mystery here. Somehow it works out perfectly that everyone God sovereignly elects freely chooses to trust in Christ. So, too, all He does not elect freely choose to reject Christ.

An illustration may help here. When we walk through the Pearly Gates of the New Jerusalem we may look up and see a sign that says "whoever believes in Him has everlasting life." Upon passing through the Gates if we look back we may see another sign that reads, "elect before the foundation of the world." Which is true? Did we believe or did God elect? Both. Those are not exclusive ideas.


A couple from a strong Reformed background came to a sharing service one evening. At one point the husband stood and said, "I thank God that I am elect and will spend eternity enjoying unending fellowship with my Lord." Immediately upon his taking his seat his wife stood. She said, "I praise God that though I am not elect, He is just. I am a vessel fit for destruction. God be praised." The pastor was shocked.

After gaining his composure he explained that the doctrine of election is not for such a purpose. The only way one can know that he is elect is by believing. Prior to death it is impossible to be sure that one is non elect since it is conceivable that at any moment a person might trust in Christ.

Are you elect? You are if you have placed your trust in Christ alone to save you from your sins. If you haven't done that, why not do so today? You can if you choose to.

If you don't happen to agree with my view of election, fine. Like I said earlier, one can hold just about any position on election and still hold to a Free Grace view of the Gospel. Whatever view you hold, however, I hope that you will share your faith with any and all people that you have the opportunity.

Bob Wilkin is the Executive Director of Grace Evangelical Society.

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