Biblical Terminology of Election
As I pointed out in an earlier study, there really is no dispute over the reality of divine election, only its basis. Nevertheless, I think it might prove helpful to see just how pervasive the concept of election is in the Bible. Here I focus exclusively on the New Testament and the terminology for election and predestination found in it.
1. The verb to “choose” or to “elect” (eklego) is found twenty-two times in the New Testament. It is used eight times of Christ’s choosing or electing his disciples (Luke 6:13; John 6:70; 13:18; 15:16 (twice),19; Acts 1:2; 2:4). On one occasion Jesus is himself the person chosen (Luke 9:35). Six times it is used in a context that does not pertain to salvation (Luke 10:42; 14:7; Acts 6:5; 15:7,22,25). The remaining seven occurrences refer to men and women as the objects of election to eternal life (Mark 13:20; Acts 13:17; 1 Cor. 1:27 (twice),28; Eph. 1:4; James 2:5).
2. The noun “elect” (eklektos) is also used twenty-two times in the New Testament. On three occasions Jesus is the “elect” one (Luke 23:35; 1 Peter 2:4,6), and in one text the word refers to angels (1 Tim. 5:21). There is also one passage in which the word has no bearing on salvation (Rom. 16:13). In the seventeen remaining cases the word is used of men and women as God’s “elect,” those chosen to eternal life (Matt. 22:14; 24:22,24,31; Mark 13:20,22,27; Luke 18:7; Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9; 2 John 1,13; Rev. 17:14).
3. The word which means “election” (ekloge) is used seven times, all of which refer to salvation (Acts 9:15; Rom. 9:11; 11:5,7,28; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10).
4. The word frequently translated “to predestine” or “to predestinate” (proorizo) is found six times in the New Testament. It is used once with reference to Christ’s sufferings (Acts 4:28), once of the predestination of God’s redemptive plan (1 Cor. 2:7), and four times of the predestination of people to salvation (Rom. 8:29,30; Eph. 1:5,11).
5. Another word which means “to choose” (haireo) is used three times, only one of which refers to God’s “choosing” people to salvation (2 Thess. 2:13).
6. The word that means “to place, appoint, ordain” (tasso) is used eight times in the New Testament. Only one of these usages (Acts 13:48) is applicable to our study.
7. One other word is often translated “to appoint” or “to determine” (horizo), but none of its eight occurrences pertain to the salvation of men and women (Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 10:42; 11:29; 17:26,31; Rom. 1:4; Heb. 4:7).
Clearly the terms used in the New Testament do not of themselves tell us anything definitive about the basis of divine election. One cannot appeal to any alleged intrinsic meaning in a particular Greek word to prove either the Arminian or Calvinistic perspective. That issue must be determined by the way in which each term is used, as well as other relevant statements in each context.