The Doctrines of the Bible

Documentation Published on Friday, 01 January 2021

The Doctrines of the Bible: Soteriology - Election and Vocation

The Doctrines of the Bible: The Purpose, Plan, and Method of God: Election and Vocation

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Soteriology (Thiessen, 1949) is the Biblical doctrine of the person of Jesus Christ and God’s plan for the salvation of mankind through His Son. This includes the entire scope of Jesus Christ, from His pre-incarnate state (before being born as a human being), His short life on Earth, through His ascension to heaven and His ultimate return.

Election and Vocation

We can generally classify God’s plan for the salvation of man as follows: God decreed to

  • create man in His own image;
  • permit the fall in Paradise;
  • offer in Christ redemption that is sufficient for all;
  • elect those who accepted the call of salvation; and
  • send the Holy Spirit to secure the acceptance of redemption on the part of the elect.

Excerpt From: Henry C. Thiessen. “Lectures in Systematic Theology”. Apple Books.

We have to deal with the question whether God chose some to obtain salvation while others are left to perish. In His omniscience, God knew beforehand who would respond to the call of salvation and thus offer them salvation. It is simple really: You ask, and you get. If you prefer not to ask, then you cannot expect to get. This is due to the free will of man. God has given us the ability to make decisions. However, those decisions have effects. It is never God’s will that anyone should perish, but that everyone should be saved. That is His perfect will for your life. If you decide not to accept the offer of salvation, He allows it, as His allowed will.


Election is the act whereby God chooses some persons or even nations to accomplish some task. Examples of election are of nations:

1I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. – Romans 9:1-5

Israel was elected as a nation to have special favour with God, not because He is unfair, but because He can. While we know that through the ages, they have often declined the special privileges He has offered them and are currently living almost as exiles, He is not done with them yet and they will receive their Messiah soon. In the time that they have turned away from God, He has extended His grace to the gentiles:

11He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. – John 1:11-12

In this verse, “His own” represent Israel and “as many” represent the gentiles, as well as any Israelites that responded to His call.

The next example is that of position:

26He sent Moses his servant; and Aaron whom he had chosen. – Psalm 105:26

Moses and Aaron were specifically chosen for a specific task, in this case leading Israel out of Egypt and bondage, into Canaan and freedom.

He calls specific people to apostleship:

13And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; 14Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, 15Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, 16And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor. – Luke 6:13-16

In terms of our salvation, it transcends the borders of nations, race, gender, language and current standing and is free for all who respond.

Because of the fall of man, God is under no obligation to offer salvation to anyone. However, since one of His decrees is to off Jesus Christ as redemption to all mankind, He will pursue this route. This is grace in its purest form:

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4According 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: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. – Ephesians 1:3-6

He chose us in Christ because in ourselves we have already proven to be unworthy. There are some very important statements made in these verses:

  • We were chosen by God – by whom;
  • We were chosen in Christ – through whom;
  • We were chosen before the world was made – the decision was taken before the world was made. Think about it – God knew your name before any seas or continents were formed;
  • We were predestinated – by God’s intervention and interest in our lives;
  • We were adopted by Jesus Christ – Jesus Christ made us real sons and daughters;
  • We were adopted by Jesus Christ to Him – Jesus Christ adopted us so that we could be reconciled to God the Father;
  • We were adopted by God because of His will – this was God’s decision, and the offer was available to all; and
  • We were accepted – the result is that we are now full citizens of heaven, signed and sealed, and not temporary residents.


As indicated earlier, there has always been a debate whether God is in fact unfair and that there are some who were simply not pre-elected and thus excluded from salvation. At the same time, the opposite is that there will be some that have been pre-elected and that thus no matter what they do or do not do, they are saved. If we say that the election of man is based on God’s prescience, it means that He knew (-science) before (pre-) the time who would be saved and thus ensured that the way is prepared for them.

Where the argument of prescience is held, it is because grace is available to everyone:

11For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. – Titus 2:11-14

Take a moment to savour the rest of the text. First, God’s grace is available for all. Next, once we have accepted it, we are asked to live Godly lives. Then, we are to be on the lookout for His coming (the rapture) which is our escape from the wrath to befall unbelievers in the not-too-distant future.

Even though on our own we can never procure our own salvation, God has not cast us away but has made the perfect plan. Before the sinner even gets to be evangelised, there would have been several ways the truth could reach them – the media, the lives of other believers, and, most important of all, the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. We learned in the previous lesson on soteriology that the Holy Spirit works in the lives of sinners long before they get to the point of giving over their lives to Jesus Christ.

In addition to God’s grace being available to all, the Bible is clear that Christ died for all men:

5For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. – Timothy 2:5-6

There are also many examples that people are called to repentance and turn to God:

11For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. – Titus 2:11

Since God is just and fair, it is only reasonable that He would foresee a situation where sinful man simply cannot help himself and as such, the plan of salvation must be readily available. Even more than being just and fair, God is a God of love and loving is an action that is central to His character. No more is this more evident than here:

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.John 3:16-17

The highlighted part does not differentiate between good and bad people. We have all sinned and cannot radiate the glory of God:

21But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. – Romans 3:21-23

Many will argue that there is a problem with this view in that not all people have been exposed to the gospel. This is exactly why we are commissioned to spread the gospel any way we can – whether by going there and preaching the Word, or by using whatever platform you have at your disposal. In fact, the very text you are reading here comes by way of a publicly available website. If it is not possible to spread the gospel in person, we need to use whatever methods are available to us.


Choice is the one thing that lands us in so much hot water. God has given each of us a choice to do what is right, or to choose to do the opposite. Many will argue that God also has a choice to decide who to save and who to condemn, but that would be contrary to His nature. It is not His choice that anyone perishes. At the end of the day, we as humans live or die by the choices we make, in the light of the opportunities available to us. To illustrate this, read the account of the rich young man:

16And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. – Matthew 19:16-22

Despite teaching by the Master Teacher, the young man left without accepting the offer to follow Jesus. Was this because there was a problem with the message? The message is the same for everyone and therefor the only difference could be with the hearer of the Word. This was the man’s choice, the decision he made not to heed the message, and he had to live with the consequences.

At the time, this man would not have known about the atonement what would be made by Jesus, but in our time, we have no excuse. Of course, by not accepting it, we are limiting the effectiveness of the offer, but it does not limit the validity of the offer in any way. It does not mean that this offer will never be available to anyone again who once rejected it, but they have certainly lost an opportunity and have no guarantee that it will come their way again. In my life, God’s grace was more than sufficient, and He was certainly more than patient. I turned down the offer for salvation twice before accepting it on the third occasion. Others may not be so lucky.


God calls us to repent. He invites us. All we must do is to obey the call:

19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live. – Deuteronomy 30:19

When we look at the background for the text above, Moses is giving instructions to the nation who would soon enter the promised land. He is speaking on behalf of God here. Not only does he present them with both options but also suggests which one they should choose instead. God has already provided us with the best option, but we still have the choice whether we will accept it or not.

The offer of life is made to all people – those who are weary:

28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-20

whoever believes in Him (John 3:16):

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.John 3:16-17

and to people everywhere:

22Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. – Isaiah 45:22

How sad is it then, when those who God held in high esteem, those He really wanted to accept the offer, Israel, did not accept the invitation:

10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:10-13

In the quoted text, “his own” refer to Israel, and the Jewish leaders refused to acknowledge the Messiah. Not only did they not accept Him, but made every effort that nobody else did, either. Thus, the opportunity was given to others.


The purpose of God’s call is twofold:

God’s call is not for us to do extraordinary things, although because of obeying the call, extraordinary things may be done. He simply calls to do two things:

to repent:

1In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. – Matthew 3:1-2

and to believe:

29Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. – John 6:29

From repentance and faith should come forth good works, a changed life, involvement in the activities of the organised church, and spiritual growth.


There are many ways to call man. It can be through the Word:

15And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. – Romans 10:15-17

by His Holy Spirit (the Comforter):

7Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.John 16:7-11

by using His servants:

2The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 4Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 6And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 7But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.Matthew 22:2-9

and by showing His love to people:

4Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? – Romans 2:4


If you are reading this as an unbeliever today, do not delay. This day may be your only chance. You do not know what tomorrow will bring or if you will even be alive. Let us look at the two other crosses on the hill and examine the attitudes of those on either side of the Saviour:

39And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. – Luke 23:39-43

There are two people crucified at the same time as Jesus. Both were malefactors – sinners, convicted, with no hope of escape. Their circumstances were the same. The difference is in the attitude. One of them (39), at the point of death, curses and somehow blames everybody else for his circumstances. The other (40), realising his predicament, understands in this late hour his need for a Saviour and cries out to Jesus to remember him (42) when He enters His Kingdom. Both had the same opportunity. Jesus died for both the left and the right. They were on either side of the Saviour. Only one made use of it. One will end up in hell, eternally damned. The other will end up in paradise, this day (43), forever saved! The latter needed only to repent, and his reward was eternal life. In our next lesson, we look at the process of conversion.

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Thiessen, H. C., 1949. Lectures in Systematic Theology. 3rd Edition ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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