The second point is unconditional election. To elect is to chose, and I assume all would agree that God's people are His chosen people (1 Peter 2:9). The real issue is why God chose the people He did. Is it because they met some condition, passed some test, were better or wiser than others? Or is God's choice all of grace and totally a matter of God's mercy upon the undeserving? The doctrine of unconditional election teaches the latter.
God elected His people before time began (Ephesians 1:4) and thus made His choices before the people involved had actually done anything good or evil. From this basic fact, Paul argues that God's election is based not on human will or works but on God's sovereign choice to have mercy on whomever He will have mercy (Romans 9:10-16).
The Christian chooses God when he savingly believes, but it is God's choice that is primary and deciding. An old hymn expresses it this way:
It is not that God chose His people because He foresaw that they would believe or live holy lives. Rather God's people believe and obey because God freely chose in eternity past to give them grace in Christ Jesus (Acts 13:48; 18:27; Ephesians 1). God's choice of a people was not the result of their faith and holiness but rather is the cause of their faith and holiness (Ephesians 1:4; 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). As Jesus said in John 15:16: "You did not choose Me but I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit."
The Christian should not think that God has chosen him because he is any better than others. Paul spoke of sinful humanity as one common lump of clay, and of God as the divine Potter who chooses from this common lump some clay to make vessels unto mercy and some to make vessels unto wrath (Romans 9:20-23). God chooses His people not because they are naturally better clay than others. In fact, God's chosen people before their salvation are often the more foolish and weak and lowly so that God will have all the glory for their salvation (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). God's choice is not because of human merit but according to His own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:5).
Some question God's fairness in giving free grace to some while allowing the rest to remain in their slavery to sin (Romans 9:18-20; 1 Peter 2:8). We must remember that fairness would be for God to allow all to remain in sin and under judgment. God's choice to save some is all of mercy and grace.
But, you say, what about Romans 8:29 where it says that those whom God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son? Does this not mean that God before the foundation of the world looked ahead into history to see who would believe and obey and then chose them to be His people? That would mean that faith and obedience are the cause or condition of God's election. That would mean that God in eternity past did not plan out history but merely passively observed history to see what would happen. Since we must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, this understanding of divine foreknowledge cannot be correct. Scripture clearly teaches that faith and good works are the result of God's election, not the cause or reason for God's choice (Acts 13:48; Ephesians 2:10; John 15:16). Also Scripture teaches that the reason God is able to know the future is because He is in total control of the future (Isaiah 46:8-11). The idea that God knows the future without having planned it and without controlling it is totally foreign to Scripture.
Also notice that Paul in Romans 8 was not talking about foresight but about foreknowledge. Foreknowledge does not refer to God's finding those who merit salvation but rather to God's setting His heart and affections upon those whom He has chosen to freely give salvation. The foreknowledge of Romans 8:29 is God's saying "Yea, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I will draw you." In eternity past, God, standing above time and history, looked in love upon certain children of Adam who, like all the rest, deserved only God's wrath, and He chose to give them mercy and grace in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:29 does not speak of God's knowing something about people but of God's personally knowing certain people. This is not the passive knowledge of the intellectual observation of events but the active knowledge of personal acquaintance and friendship. Scripture elsewhere speaks of this intimate, personal sort of knowledge:
Psalm 1:6: The Lord KNOWS the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish.
Amos 3:2, with God speaking to the children of Israel: You only have I KNOWN of all the families of the earth.
Genesis 18:19, with the LORD speaking of Abraham: For I have KNOWN him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.
The doctrine of election is a part of the larger teaching that God is in sovereign control of every detail of history. God is not just one influence among others, such as fate, chance and human whims. God is in absolute and total control of all that happens, and this should be the greatest of comforts to all those who love and trust Him.
Some, however, object that if God is in sovereign control of history, then people are just robots, history is just a cosmic computer printout, and God is morally responsible for evil. The same Bible, however, that teaches the sovereignty of God also teaches that God is not the responsible author of evil, that man is a free moral agent who is not forced to sin and who is responsible for what he does, and that history is a meaningful, dynamic process. Our limited minds may not be able to comprehend how man can be a responsible moral agent while God is totally sovereign, but God's ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). "How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out" (Romans 11:33). The teachings of human responsibility and divine sovereignty are like two parallel lines that meet only in infinity. We cannot understand how both can be true because of the limitations of our finite minds, but God can understand such matters and God has told us that both are true. That should settle the matter for us.
If God is in sovereign control, this means that there are no real chance happenings. From the human perspective, some events do appear to be accidental. For example, the parable of the good Samaritan speaks of a certain priest's coming down a road by chance (Luke 10:31). And Ruth, we read, just happened to glean in the field of Boaz (Ruth 2:3). Also, from the human perspective, the arrow that killed King Ahab was fired at random (1 Kings 22:34). Yet the death of King Ahab in that battle had been planned by God and prophesied by God's prophet.
According to Scripture, God is in control of all events. As it says in Ephesians 1:11: ". . (God) works ALL THINGS according to the counsel of His will."
See also Daniel 4:35; Isaiah 14:24 and Isaiah 46:9-11.
God is in control of all things, even to the fall of the sparrow and the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:29-30). There are no exceptions to this rule. When there are calamities, God is in control (Isaiah 45:7; Ecclesiastes 7:14). When there are physical handicaps, God is in control (Exodus 4:11). When evil men come to power, God is in control (Exodus 9:16; 4:21; Romans 9:18). And when someone believes or rejects the gospel message, God is in control (Acts 13:48; 1 Peter 2:8; Romans 9:16).
The doctrine of election is difficult, and God has not answered all our questions. The Christian should respond to election not with an arrogant curiosity into the unrevealed secrets of God (Deuteronomy 29:29) but with an humble gratitude to God for His unmerited mercy. The non-Christian should respond not with useless worry as to whether his name is on God's secret list but with a prayerful seeking to obey the Gospel command to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.