For all who love the truth of God as revealed in Scripture, and who confess the sovereign grace of Almighty God, the importance of this subject must be self-evident. No apology for an article of this nature need be given.

However, for the sake of clarification of our subject we will submit a few remarks of an introductory nature.

Our chief interest in this essay is to make an inquiry into the relationship of the two concepts in the subject under consideration. Were we to define the terms “election” and “foreordination” what would we consider to be their proper “’differentiation”? It is to this question that we attempt to give an answer in the sequence of his essay.

Keeping the aforementioned purpose in mind we will first make a study of the Scripture passages which speak of these concepts and in the light of this inquiry draw some conclusions and finally in this way attempt to give a “definition” of the respective terms.

Some Representative Texts.

The concept “election” is far more clearly worked out and revealed in the New Testament than in the Old Testament. The Mystery of salvation has been revealed in the dispensation of the Spirit in a greater degree of clarity than in the age of the types and the shadows. The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets born from women. “For the Word of God has become flesh and we have seen His glory” the Gospel of John affirms. And the Spirit promised by the prophets was poured out on Pentecost to lead the church “into all truth”. Fact is that without the interpretation of the Spirit as contained in the New Testament Scriptures, the Old Testament remains a closed book to a large extent. And thus it is also with the doctrine of election. We therefore will turn to the New Testament and thus at once we will also have the Old Testament teaching.

Lest we become tedious we will speak but just a word about the terms employed in the New Testament for “election.” There is first of all the verb: to choose (eklego). We find this in Mark 13:20; I Cor. 1:27; James 2:5; Ephesians 1:4. Secondly there is the noun: the elect. This is the noun designating the class elected to life eternal. This term appears in such passages as Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; Titus 1:1 and Luke 18:7. In these passages is spoken of the elect of God designating the Divine authorship of election. For those interested in further study we refer to such passages as Matt. 24:22-24; Mark 13:20, 22; I Peter 1:1-2:9. Finally there is the abstract noun election. This looks at the act of God. The passages where this term is found are Acts 9:15 and Rom. 9:11. In both these passages reference is had to election as an act oi God and not as the result. In Rom. 11:7 evidently election are the elect however.

Whereas we are convinced that a study of the etymology and derivation of the word offers us little or nothing, we will proceed to study the passages in which this concept is spoken of. We will confine ourselves te some of the more representative ones.

In our study of this question we found the fundamental notion of the concept election is that of God’s sovereignly free choice. Election always deals with definite individuals—individuals who are chosen in distinction from others who are rejected, or not elected as the infralapsarian would put it. Thus in James 2:5 the “poor of the world” are said to have been elected by God to be rich in faith in distinction from those who are the “rich in the world.” A distinction is emphasized, a separation between two groups. The same distinction is also found in I Cor. 1:27ff. Just as Jesus calls His people “my sheep” so He also speaks of them as the elect in their battle of faith in the arena of prayer. Thus in the parable of the Unjust Judge and the Widow, He speaks of the elect who cry to God day and night for justice against their enemies, the oppressors. Again this distinction.

Another aspect of election which is emphasized throughout in Scripture is, that it is an act, a work of God in His eternal Council. This is clearly taught in Ephesians 1:4 where election is said to have been “before the foundation of the world”, i.e. before God in His eternal council decided to lay the foundation of the earth. Also here it is stated that God elected definite individuals. He elected us!

And election is also emphatically said to be a sovereign act of God. The ground of this is not what man has done. It is solely in the will and good pleasure of God. A case in point is that of Esau and Jacob the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca. Rebecca, we are told had conceived by Isaac upon the prayer of the latter, and before their birth the children struggle within her womb. Upon inquiring of the Lord she is told that two manner of people shall be born from her, yea, are now already struggling within her for the mastery. And that in this struggle the elder shall serve the younger. Gen. 25:21. The apostle tells us in Rom. 9:11 that this act of God’s sovereign election was wholly independent of the respective works of these children. They had not yet done good or evil, since they were not yet born. That is the teaching of the apostle is evident from ‘the question: “Is there unrighteousness with God”? Rom. 9:14 and the ultimate answer given to this question in vs. 18: “Wherefore He is merciful to whom He will and whom He wills He hardens.”

And finally let it be noticed that election takes place in Christ, who is called the Elect of God. Luke 23:35. He is elected to be the Head, and the elect are said to be His body in Him.

Let us now turn to the concept foreordination. The underlying notion in this term in both the Classical and in the New Testament Greek seems to be that of boundaries, limitations, (“orizoo” and “Pro-orizoo” are from “oros” meaning: a boundary line). There is also a resultant meaning of this fundamental notion when applied to different objects and relationships, thus the term was employed in logic. It defined the limits of a term. Geographically it defines the boundary line between two areas. It is also used of the course of a ship making its track through the waves. Thus its use is in classical Greek. The meaning of the Holy Spirit in using this term in His book is unique as to the resultant notion.

It here means that act of God in His council whereby He determines the course of world-history from Alpha to Omega—from beginning to end. The emphasis here falls on the Events, on history! Or if you will, the “Moment” of history is here singled out!

In Hebrews 4:7 the author speaks of the appointment of “another day” of which David had spoken prophetically in Psalm 95:7, 8. This “other day” is the event of Jesus’ labors on the cross and the Rest that results from it. This other day is the real day of rest, the realization of the typical day of rest. This was appointed, set off as event in History. And the beacon light of the prophetic Word showed the way of God’s foreordination. Likewise in Acts 17:26 it refers to “the time afore-appointed and the bounds of their habitation” where the apostle speaking in Athens to the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, contrasts the former and the present relationship of the Gentile world to the Citizenship of Israel. Foreordination deals with the historical destiny and lot of nations.

Again in Acts 2:23 the term refers to an event in history. In this beautiful passage Peter speaks of what the “hands of lawless men have done” to Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God in the midst of Israel by powers, wonders and signs. This wicked event was not a chance happening. It was according to the determinate council of God. According to God’s foreordination the course of history, all the forces and powers that be must be active in this deed. Here the pattern of history as spoken of in Revelation 12 is clearly seen. And the apostles being warned and threatened not to preach in the name of Jesus, lift up their voices to God in prayer and apply Psalm 2 to the event of the Cross,. Now also in Psalm 2 the Decree is the determining factor in history. It and it alone, determines the course of history and the destiny of peoples. Acts 4:28.

In Romans 8:18-30 the apostle speaks of all the events of this “present time”. He looks at all these events in the light of the now prevailing suffering and groaning of every creature and all creation. And what is the conclusion? Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity; there is no wise purpose in all things? Nay, the amazing suffering of all things, this universal “groaning” works together for a “good”, a good which could not be attained in any other way! It is in the deepest sense the love of God in all things, in this universal suffering for those who love God, being called according to His eternal purpose. Nothing can separate God’s people from God’s love in Christ Jesus because there is nothing in which the love of God does not vibrate toward them. This love reaches them not in spite of, but in sickness and health, prosperity and adversity, present and future things, height and depth, nakedness, peril and sword. And therefore God’s called children are more than conquerors in this universal “groaning”.

And what lies back of this “working together of all things for the good of those who love God”? The foreordination of God. The final word in history is the “glory of the children of God, the redemption of their bodies.” The final moment is the glory of being conformed to the image of the glorified Son in the flesh. It is this Omega of history that God’s foreordination has determined to be the end, the purpose of all things. This is the course of history. There is a straight line in the events of time from Alpha to Omega which makes forever impossible the “vicious circle” of a Vanity of vanities! And this thanks to God’s foreordination!

Foreordination also gives the means for the Christian participation in the future blessedness. The central means is Christ and His redemptive work on the cross, His resurrection. Thus it is stated in Eph. 1:5. And soteriologically (applied salvation) foreordination also gives the means; thus guaranteeing the certainty of salvation. Between the foreknowledge of God and the final glory lie the foreordinated means. In Rom. 8:29, 30 this is clearly stated. Foreordination to the glory of sons in Christ implies: Calling (the effectual) and justification. In Ephesians 1:11 foreordination also postulates the means of obtaining the final redemption and the sealing of the Spirit. We read: “In Whom (Christ) we have been called, having been foreordained according to the purpose of all things working One according to the council of His will.” Without foreordination there would be no calling. Now the historical moment of the calling is a certain and effectual reality.

That foreordination is sovereign, all-wise, good, no believer of the Scriptures will doubt.

The Proper Differentiation of the Concepts.

To the careful observer this may already have become clear from the observations that we have thus far made. Just a word about this may not be superfluous.

We believe that these concepts have in common:

  1. Both are sovereign acts of God and deal with the history of the world and determine the destiny of men and angels,
  2. Both are therefore to be placed under the genus, concept: The outgoing works of God.
  3. Both deal with the work of God in His eternal council before the foundation of the world; and are therefore best called different aspects of the one undivided work of God.

The differentiation is as follows:

  1. Election deals with individuals, making the separation, and implies reprobation. This cannot be said of foreordination. It has no such antonym. But foreordination deals with events, with the continuity of history. It determines the historical end, the elos, purpose of electing grace, to wit, the glory of the saints. Election is personal and determines who the individuals are that shall share in this foreordained glory.
  2. Hence the concept “election” is not as broad as the concept “foreordination”. Foreordination includes all things, sin and grace, good and evil, present and future, rational and irrational creatures, the earthly and the heavenly creation. It gives display to the unsearchable riches of God’s wisdom, i.e. that virtue of God whereby He has determined the best means to the highest end. Election determined who shall participate in this highest end—the glory of the saints!
  3. Foreordination seems to be the more fundamental of the two concepts, even as it is the broader. God elected us in Christ, having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Christ Jesus. The particular end unto which men were foreordained implied election.


Election is that act of the triune God whereby He sovereignly chose men and angels unto the foreordained glory of the new heavens and the new earth in Christ Jesus. Foreordination is that act of the triune God whereby He sovereignly determined the end of all things in history, and the means that should work together unto that end, and thus assuring the salvation of the elect, and revealing the greatness of His glorious virtues.