Paul wrote of,
. . . the election of grace.
What did he mean by it?
Paul goes on immediately to say, "And if by grace, then…" (Romans 11:6) so that this election of grace means it is "by grace", it is with grace. And this is in contrast to another type of possible election, that of debt: God would be indebted to do something, if what is in view functioned by works. That would be an election of debt.
And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.
God decided, His election, which means His decision, His choice, is to make things function by use of grace, not the use of debt: that is, by not being indebted to someone else because they had worked for it. The election with grace involves faith in the individual and not any reliance on work. It is also from one degree of faith to another: from one level of faith to another level of faith.
Paul began his letter of Romans, following his introduction, by headlining what follows,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
The gospel of Christ is all about faith.
He then began talking about folk being accepted or rejected by their evil deeds or their works of righteousness (Romans 1). He listed the kind of things involved in both those categories (Romans 1:18-31 for the bad; Romans 2:7 & 2:10 for the good). Nicely summarised here:
God . . . "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness-indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil . . . but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good
But we see him consistently returning to these as mere fruits of an inner conviction of either type of person. Faith within is the key.
What is the desire in the heart, to "seek for glory, honor, and immortality" or, is it to seek the "lusts of their hearts" (Romans 1:24) since they are "self-seeking"?
Paul wants to highlight both faith being key and, that there is no difference between Jew and Greek in some things; there is in other things.
Romans 3, is about the Jews being sinners too: both Jews and Greeks (that is, all Gentiles) are under sin. He quotes the Jews' scripture to make his point (Romans 3:10-18), to merely show this is the Jews' own writings about the wicked in their midst, thus showing they too are sinners. He is clear about that,
Now we know that whatever the law says, [that is, the texts he just quoted in verses 10-18] it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Then in Romans 4 he explains in more detail how it is faith within that is key to the gospel. He tells of Abraham, not known as a Jew, since this was long before the birth of Israel (Jacob renamed), his grandson to be, but Abraham is shown here as a father of all who believe (Romans 4:16). And that this belief is a decision following consideration that what he was told by God was true, that it was going to happen (Romans 4:21).
It is one's own decision, as it is based on a reckoning of the mind and involves the will. Abraham reckoned what God said to him was possible - for his posterity to be as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:5:6) - and that God would be faithful to do it. This was Abraham deciding to believe. Just as later, this reckoning is seen in his obedience of offering up Isaac, his only son from Sarah.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
This "accounting" involved reasoning on Abraham's part that "God was able to raise him up" so we know his thinking and his will was involved. This faith was Abraham's decision.
And Paul makes clear that this act of the will, this decision is not a "work" as he repeatedly contrasts faith with works. He says "But to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness," (Romans 4:4-5).
This decision, this faith, was accounted to Abraham for righteousness (Romans 4:21-22). It is this word of God to him that made him a child of promise too as he believed that word (Paul introduces the term "children of the promise" in Romans 9:8. cf. Galatians 4:28). And so, it is to everyone who believes the word given to them by God, whether through nature (Romans 1:20; Romans 10:18 referring to Psalm 19) or conscience (Romans 2:14-15) or some other word from God (John 6:45; Job 32:8). You become a child of promise by receiving the word (see also John 1:9 and 1:12). This is an integral part of the gospel Paul is teaching.
Paul rounds off what he said with Abraham's faith by saying,
we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand
Grace is accessed by faith.
Paul began headlining that "the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith".
He expanded on that by speaking of inner faith of those who do the law, though not having the law, being Gentiles by birth (not having heard any good news externally) in Romans 2:14-15. He explained what this faith consisted of in Romans 4 with Abraham. It is a decision following consideration. But it involves perseverance: the fruit of this true faith within is that it involves "patient continuance in doing good" (see above quote). And because all this is about "from faith to faith", there are many who do not know how they should pray, nor do they know what to believe about God in detail of doctrine: Folk, who believe in doing right, yet do not know God well or, have not heard of Jesus. This Paul addresses in Romans 8. There he mentions what God does *after* He searches the heart and reveals this real but incomplete love for God in the heart, this faith within, but all this is within the lifetime of the individual. The foreknowledge of God mentioned in Romans 8 involves searching the heart of that individual and is thereby foreknown before that very person themselves has knowledge and full understanding of what is going on (Romans 8:27 - see Paul's teaching of conditional predestination). It is knowledge in the lifetime of the person, but before that person themselves know fully what is going on: hence foreknowledge.
Because they have a measure of faith, more is made possible: "from faith to faith". As Jesus said,
whoever has, to him more will be given
It is those who are humble who receive (more) grace (James 4:6); it is not the proud unbeliever who receives it. All teaching that the depraved or disabled, but proud by default, receive grace: that is error. With God it is all about "from faith to faith".
So what is this "election of grace"?
It is God's decision to make things work in regards to salvation by grace and not by the alternative; not by works whereby He accounts the good worked and then He is indebted to that individual to give something. It is not an election of debt. It is instead all about the faith within that is true. To that God adds more.
But to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
The election of grace is the decision of grace, the decision by God to do things by grace: faith and not works (works involve debt on God's part).
So, how does this appreciation, this understanding of "election of grace", fit in with what Paul said in Romans 11?
Paul just mentioned that Elijah had cried out to God. He was thinking and saying that he alone was now following God (Romans 11:2-3). God responded by saying that Elijah was not alone in following. God told Elijah, as Paul quotes "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal" (Romans 11:4). Paul then says "Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace." (Romans 11:5). According to the principle God decided to put in play: salvation by faith and not works, so those showing their faith, as shown here by their refusal to bow the knee to a false god, these are a "remnant".
This is a chapter where Paul affirms Israel, the Jews still have a place in God's plans irrespective of the fact believers come from both the Gentiles and the Jews: irrespective of the Church's existence, that is, in spite of all believers everywhere, God still has a purpose for the Jews as a people right up to the return of Jesus.
So Paul in returning to talk about the Jews' ongoing relevance in God's plans says here that the believing among the Jews, here shown as those not having bowed the knee to Baal: a fruit of their belief, these are a remnant among Jews. Having asked the question "has God cast away His people?" (Romans 11:1), Paul affirms that cannot be, since there is a remnant. But, he goes on to say more than that.
God has a plan that includes all those remaining alive among the Jews when Jesus returns (Zechariah 12:10-14; et al). Even those who do not yet believe like the remnant now: For those Jews, other than this remnant, the "in part" mention of Paul now applies.
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
The unbelieving Jew is blinded (KJV) "in part" in order for God's plan among the nations to be fulfilled.
So the remnant, those already believing in their hearts, as testified by their practise of not bowing the knee to Baal, these are the remnant according to the election of grace (Romans 11:5): their believing gives them access to grace (Romans 5:2). God's *decision* - His EKLOGÉ - to make things work by faith is in view in this mention of "election".
In the next mention Paul applies this Greek word, he identifies the very remnant which he just mentioned. Just by saying "the decision" the EKLOGÉ, he refers to them, the believing remnant.
What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were hardened.
Here the NKJV translates EKLOGÉ as "elect", the YLT as "chosen". But this Greek word is not an adverb or adjective; it is a noun. "The decision" have obtained it Paul says literally. In view here is the remnant mentioned. The believing Jews mentioned, Paul is now calling them "The decision": the EKLOGÉ. And, here he (could) also include the believing Gentiles (as per Romans 9:30), but in this chapter (11) Paul is addressing the fact that Israel as a nation of people are also still part of God's plans in the nations. So primarily in view as "THE EKLOGÉ" are, the remnant, the already believing among the Jews.
But, he uses this Greek word once more in this chapter to refer to another decision of God: That of the whole nation of Israel being chosen by God. They too are the EKLOGÉ in that context. The Decision to have His name attached to this people is clear in Scripture. And this is what Paul is "redeeming" in this chapter. Having made so much of the believing Gentiles being part of God's Family (that is, in the preceding so called "chapters" - chapter divisions were introduced in the 13th century AD), he wishes here and now to point to the nation of Israel (the Jews); that they are still in God's plan too. Whilst talking of Gentiles being part of God's plan of salvation once they believe, God has not forsaken Israel as a people.
Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
The Jews that are blinded in part, has caused the gospel to go to the Gentiles. But the birth fathers of the nation of Israel were promised, that is Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each were promised by God about the nation that would come from their children. This promise is God's decision. This is the context of this mention of EKLOGÉ.
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
God's gift and call of the nation of Israel, as the means to reveal Himself in the nations, this decision of His, is irrevocable. It is without His repentance: God's mind is made up that this nation of people will remain in His plan right up to the return of Jesus. This simple truth that Paul returns to, it is made plain in Jeremiah.
Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): "If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever."
Whilst the sun and moon remain to give light, the nation of Israel will remain.
That is the last use of the Greek word EKLOGÉ in Romans 11.
It is a reference to the decision of God to have Israel as a people set apart from all other nations.
The election of grace is the decision of grace. It is God's decision to use the faith seen in the individual heart as to whether they are imparted righteousness instead of another means. It is not by being indebted to the individual because of the work they did: the earning of salvation is not God's decision: it is not the means by which God decided things should be. This also means that Paul viewed the individual person's choice to believe is not a work, since all Paul's references to work involved the working of the law. The decision to believe and the practice of righteousness as a fruit of a believing heart are not accounted as "works" in the contrast with faith equation.
The word for "election" here is EKLOGÉ and I have done
a separate look at all the places it appears in this article:
SO, WHAT IS THIS "ELECTION" BUSINESS IN THE BIBLE?
A look at the translation of the Greek word EKLOGÉ
For Paul's teaching of conditional predestination I recommend my article:
PAUL'S TEACHING OF CONDITIONAL PREDESTINATION
For a full look at Romans 9 I recommend my article:
ROMANS 9 (R9) SIMPLY EXPLAINED