Election vs Free Will - What the Bible Says

Some Bible References for Consideration

Main Ideas

The bible allows free will but in His sovereignty, God exercises election, that is, the Bible expresses both election and free will.

Election in terms of salvation can only be viewed by the saved person. An unsaved person has no consciousness of it.

Election is an action of God towards humans, while free will is an action of humans.

Election occurred in the past and relates to how a saved person obtains the position he or she finds his or her self.

Election does not necessarily relate to salvation – it however does relate to God's eternal purpose.


Election is not all about salvation

Israel was elected, but not all of Israel will be saved.

Deuteronomy 4:37

And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power.

Romans 9:6

But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.

But the choice God made had nothing to do with any quality or quantity found in Abraham or his decedents

Deuteronomy 7:7

The LORD did not set His love on you [Israel] nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples

2. Cyrus was chosen by God some 200 years before he was born to bring the exiled people of God back to their promised land. There is no evidence he was saved, indeed, the contrary, for Isaiah 45:4 states that "you have not known me". See also Ezra 1:1-3.

Isaiah 45:1-4

"Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held-- To subdue nations before him And loose the armor of kings, To open before him the double doors, So that the gates will not be shut: 'I will go before you And make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel. For Jacob My servant's sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.

3. Christ was chosen (elected) by His Father to bring justice to the Gentiles

Isaiah 42:1

Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.

4. During the tribulation there will be elect people. This understanding is important, as too many seem to believe election only pertains to the church (during the tribulation the Church is with God – it does not suffer judgement). Israel will evangelise the world as commanded in Matthew 28:28 (Revelation 7:3-8), and some will be saved – these form the elect of the tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24

Matthew 24:22

And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

5. Church believers have been elected, and are called the 'elect of God'.

Colossians 3:12

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;

Titus 1:1

Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness

The apostle John writes to a Christian lady in order to warn Christians against receiving false doctrine, in particular doctrine that does not respect the person of Christ as coming in the flesh (2 John 1:7).

2 John 1:1

The Elder, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth


Election cannot be understood separately from the entire character of God

The Bible does not speak of election in isolation to the character of God. Indeed it can be said that election is in harmony with God's character and always connected to it. For this reason we need to rest in who He is (Psalm 37:7). Election of God involves at least the following:

God's will

God's will is His own; it is far beyond anything we can comprehend.

Ephesians 1:5

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will

Isaiah 55:8-9

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.


John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.


Election is for the sake of God to demonstrate His glory – it cannot be separated from this.

Ephesians 1:4-5,11

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, …

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

Jude 1:24-25

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.

God's Eternal Purpose

The destination of a saved person is embodied in the inheritance provided by the Father in Christ, which has been worked out before the world was created. God's purpose was within the counsels of His will – His good pleasure, not some evil.

Ephesians 1:11

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will

God's desire that all be saved

Unlike the view of extremists in this topic, the Bible is clear that God wants everyone to be saved, but since not everyone will accept him, some will be lost (John 1:11).

1 Timothy 2:3-4

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Election and the Divine Sovereignty of God

Election preempts

Election is an action ahead of time – that is, it preempts and therefore one who is elected is preemptorally chosen.

Election is unconditional

God does not place a condition on election, that is, it is not true to say that if you do something (good) God will elect you for an everlasting inheritance (or anything else). It is faith that allows righteousness to be imputed not works.

Election comes from the Father

No one can come to the Father unless the Father first draws him. Note here the 'to draw' is the same word used when a net is taken aboard a boat – it's drawing against a resistance. For Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

John 6:44

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws (ἑλκύω to drag) him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:65

And he [Jesus] said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

A practical example of this is given in a few verses further on in John chapter six, in relation to the 12 disciples, which Jesus had chosen, although from the disciple's point of view they had chosen to leave their nets (Matthew 4:20; Mark 1:18). In each case Jesus gave the invitation "come follow me" (Matthew 4:19), and each on his own volition followed Jesus. However, from Jesus' view point he had chosen them:

John 15:16

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you

John 6:70

Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?

Simon Peter follows Christ, at Jesus' invitation, but it is not Simon Peter's own intellect that worked out the Jesus is the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16), but rather the Father who gave him this knowledge. Humans do not have innate knowledge of God, but God can elect to provide the knowledge to an individual. Jesus askes Simon Peter a question and gets the right answer – a deep and meaningful answer:

Matthew 16:15-16

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

However, Jesus points out this knowledge if not of Peter's doing but of the Father.

Matthew 16:17

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Election pertains to those who are saved

Those that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are those that are elected (ordained).

Acts 13:48

And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained [lit. arranged] to eternal life believed.

Lydia was saved and become a useful vessel for Christ in the church at Thyatira, but it was not Lydia that opened her heart to the gospel, but the Father who opened it. This shows the pattern of salvation as Jesus spoke about in John 6:44: The Word is preached -> the Word is heard -> God opens the heart -> the person choses to believe -> the person is saved.

Acts 16:14

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

The purpose of election is conforming to God's will

The process of election is spelt out by the Apostle Paul in Romans. Many use this verse to abrogate their responsibility to preach the Word. They state that those God "foreknew" are saved, therefore, there is no need to hear to gospel, therefore there is no need to teach or preach the gospel, yet Scripture (Romans 10:15, 1 Corinthians 1:17, 2 Timothy 4:2 etc.) is adamant that the gospel must be preached so it can heard, else Lydia (Acts 16;14) would not have been saved, nor the jailer in Acts (Acts 16:30,31). Humans have a responsibility – see below; Romans 8:29-30 sets out the process of being glorified, it does not negate our free will, merely highlights it.

Romans 8:29-30

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Election's purpose is for good works

Ephesians 2:10 (JND)

 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has before prepared that we should walk in them.

Election is the prerogative of God

Romans chapter 9 sets out the sovereignty of God in relation to election. It tells of the counter-cultural action of God that set a first-born aside, to be ruled by the second born – this was God's prerogative.

Romans 9:11-12 (JND)

The children [Esau and Jacob] indeed being not yet born, or having done anything good or worthless (that the purpose of God according to election might abide, not of works, but of him that calls), it was said to her [Rachel, their mother], The greater shall serve the less.

Any objection to this view point, in particular those of a culture where the firstborn is particularly blessed, is answered by Paul thus, ending with a rhetorical but obvious question:

Romans 9:18-20

Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?"

Election pertains to Individuals


Jeremiah 1:4-5

Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations."


It is interesting to note that Paul did not have a choice about who he preached the gospel to: it was the Gentiles, but included kings and the Jews. We are saved for a purposed, and that purposed is not ours but rather God's (Ephesians 2:10).

Galatians 1:15, 16

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood

Acts 9:15-16

But the Lord said [the Apostle Peter] to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."

Rufus and others

Romans 16:13

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.

A lady

2 John 1:1

The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth,



John 15:16

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you

Messianic Jews

1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.

Election that means rejection


Judas was rejected by God and is spoken of by Jesus in the terms of election, for the purpose of ensuring people know that Christ is the Son of God (the purpose of John's gospel)

John 13:18-19

I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, 'He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.' I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.


Pharaoh rejected God six times (the number of man) before God rejected him, and hardened his heart – see Exodus chapter 8-11.

Exodus 11:9-10

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt." Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.

Romans 9:22

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,

Israel who reject Christ

1 Peter 2:7-8

So the honour is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Free Will or the responsibility of Humans

Humans are created in God's image or His likeness

All people are created after the image of God; we are not exactly like God, for we are not God, and furthermore we have fallen, but we have the characteristics of Adam, the first to be made in God's image. Some like to suggest that this ceased with the fall but God did not remake Adam, and even in New Testament times men of God understood people were made in the likeness of God – James 3:9.

Genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Genesis 9:6

"Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.

James 3:9

Therewith bless we the Lord and Father, and therewith curse we men made after the likeness of God.

Humans must make choices

God placed the tree of knowledge of good and evil into the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9) in order for man, created in God's image, to have the ability to carry out certain functions that God created in each, which would not otherwise have been exercised, noting that each person was made after God's own image (Genesis 1:26,27; Genesis 5:23 etc). That function was to be able to make a choice to rebel against God. If there was no method for man to be able to rebel against God there would be no method for God to demonstrate the magnitude of His love in showing grace to humans. Humans from the beginning could choose to obey or rebel against God.

Humans need to do something to be saved – they must believe

It is very obvious that humans have a choice of believing or not believing in God. Abraham was certainly chosen by God, but without believing, righteousness could not be imputed to him.

Genesis 15:6

And he [Abram] believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

Romans 4:16,22

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness."

The foundation of salvation is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus clearly teaches that it is not from our earthy bodies or own efforts that we can be saved: we are required to be born again, but to be reborn we need to believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

In practical terms a person seeking salvation only needs to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and he or she shall be saved.

Acts 16:30-31

And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."

Due to our free well we have a choice of repenting or continuing in sin, and for this reason, Christ orders his disciples to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47).

Acts 17:30

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent

The Bible Teaches Election and Free Will

Jesus Christ was elected to be killed by the Jews for the sake of all, but it was Christ's free will that made the choice to obey his Father and it was purposed that the Jews would kill the Messiah.

John 6:38

For I [Jesus Christ] have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Here we have the purpose of God who elected that the Christ would die at the hands of wicked men, but it was the choice of men to kill this innocent man, the Son of God.

Acts 2:23

This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Isaiah 53:10

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

The wife is chosen by the husband, but the woman has a choice: accept or reject:

Ephesians 5:23

For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Saviour of the body.

Rejecting False Teaching

Regeneration is not needed for faith

Some contend that faith is elected and follows regeneration hence making the need for the gospel of no effect. It places the horse before the cart. Scripture reflects the councils and economy of God. It is consistent from beginning to end. God has not changed His mind: faith has ALWAYS been required for righteousness to be imputed (Read Romans 9 -12). The Scriptures never state or even intimate that regeneration is required for faith. The outline that Jesus provides in John chapter three is clear and adequate to demonstrate that new birth (regeneration) follows believing in the only begotten Son of God.

Faith is not a gift, but a right that can be exercised by any person

Some take Ephesians 2:8-9 as evidence that faith is a gift of God, hence elected to a person, negating the need for free will (or the gospel to be preached).

Ephesians 2:8-9

For ye are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God's gift: not on the principle of works, that no one might boast.

This attitude arises from failing to read the verses correctly – God chose Greek as the vehicle to deliver the gospel because it is such an extraordinary rich language but very precise in its construct. Words, especially verbs and nouns have particular characteristics in the Greek that is poorly, if at all, reflected in English. These characteristics ensure that every verb is matched exactly to the noun on which the action is taking place or has taken place. In Ephesians 2:8,9 faith is not the gift, but salvation is. This aligns with all of Scripture – we cannot save ourselves and we cannot work for our salvation but we can accept the gift of salvation, provided as an unmerited favour (which is what grace means) from God the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ. For the Greek scholars in this verse 'faith' is a noun "πίστις which is provided in the feminine genitive singular form (πιστεως), where 'gift' also a noun "δῶρον" is provided in as the neuter nominative singular form (δωρον) (the nominative names the main topic of this sentence – gift). The verb is 'saved' "σώζω" in the perfect participle middle (or passive) neuter masculine plural. The issue surrounds the word "this" (τοῦτο) which is a neuter (singular) pronoun, and working out to which noun is it referring – faith or grace. Bill Mounce clearly explains the rule needed to decide what the antecedent is (Antecedents and Faith (Eph 2:8-9))[1]. He writes "The answer is to know a little Greek! When Greek wants to refer back to a general though, perhaps a phrase, the pronoun can be in the neuter. 'This is not of yourselves' does not refer specifically to πίστεως but rather to the entire salvific process, of which faith obviously is a part. It is the entire salvific process that is God's gracious gift and is not part of our own doing. It is a gift." Grace (dative) is the cause of our salvation, whereby faith is the means. Isaiah is an example that testifies to this fact.

Further information

Landmarks and Stumblingblocks: The Doctrine of Election Misplaced. C. H. Mackintosh.


[1] William Mounce October 2011 "Bill Mounce's Blog" Accessed 30 January 2016

David L Simon  (31 January 2016)
Doctrine\Election and Free Will - What the Bible Says