This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God had decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them to his communion by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: “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, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Eph. 1:4,5,6 Canons of Dordt, First Head, from Article 7.
Unconditional Election is the second doctrine which John Calvin treated in what have come to be known as the Five Points of Calvinism of the TULIP.
Unconditional Election is the working out of predestination. Predestination has for its backdrop the counsel of God (also known as His determinate plan), which is wise, good and holy. Therefore, Election is one of the works of God.
Predestination is a particular application of God’s all-encompassing determinate plan that pertains to the eternal destiny of all mankind. God ultimately determines the final destiny of man by choosing His own out of the world and ordaining them, out of free love, to eternal life and passing by the rest ordained to dishonor.
As Adam’s descendants, all people share in his transgression and inherit God’s sentence upon sin. This sentence we know to be eternal death. In unconditionally electing, God “passes by” the reprobate out of wrath for his sin and lays His gracious redeeming hand on another whom He calls His Chosen. The unconditionality of this act is shown to the one elected to eternal life in that his direction was no different than the reprobate who was passed by.
Election and reprobation are equally ultimate. Both trace their origin equally and ultimately to God’s decree and are not conditioned upon anything in man. However, damnation does not flow forth from reprobation in the same manner as salvation does from election. In between election and salvation is faith (a free gift of God); whereas between reprobation and damnation there is sin (a responsibility of man).
God makes no humanly perceptible distinction between the actions of the one He will pass by and the actions of the one He will save. Therefore, prior to conversion, one’s life makes no difference to God when we speak about election. There is no human explanation for the action taken by God. This is God’s sovereign choice. This is God’s unconditional election.