Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior.
When you are talking about the elect in Abraham, you are talking about Israel. When you are talking about the elect in Christ, you are talking about Christians. This verse reinforces the fact that the elect, in the New Testament sense, is indeed referring to Christians. The Calvinist understanding of the elect is that it refers not only to present Christians, but also presently unsaved, unbelieving, future Christians, decreed and elected for salvation, as members of a special class of humanity. This is not possible, though, since the elect in Christ are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1, 33), whereas unbelievers are enslaved to condemnation. (John 3:14) So there is a conflict. Titus 1:1 reinforces the point that the elect in Christ are, in fact, Christians, as it addresses their “faith,” that is, “the faith of those chosen of God.” Christians are the chosen of God “through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2nd Thessalonians 2:13) and “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit.” (1st Peter 1:2) These references signify Christians. 1st Peter 2:9 states: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” When you put your faith in Christ, you become identified with Christ, and even “one spirit” with Him (1st Corinthians 6:17). When you become born again, you are born into the ultimate chosen race of the redeemed in Christ, in whom you have an adoption with God on account of your position in His Son.
John Calvin comments: “By the elect, Paul does not just mean those believers who were alive when he wrote but all who had been alive since the beginning of the world. Paul means that he teaches no doctrine that disagrees with the faith of Abraham and all the fathers.” (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.176, emphasis mine)
As long as you understand “the elect” as a reference to actual believers, then there is no problem. Christians are the “chosen of God.” That’s the bottom line. We know that believers in Christ hold a special place with God.
John 14:23: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.’”
John 16:27: “For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.”
The Christian’s identification with Christ is the basis for adoption. This is the Christian’s basis for being deemed elect and holy, and subject to adoption, and all that comes with being in Christ. If you say, no, you already have all this, long before becoming a Christian, simply because God has you in a special class of the eternally preferred, simply by decree, then the criticism against Calvinism, very simply, becomes one that highlights the erosion that it places on the value of what Christ has done. It takes salvation from being Christocentric, and makes it decree-centric. One particular Calvinist’s quote, brings this point out:
One Calvinist responds: “Do Calvinists secretly believe that God chose them for some reason other than their need for salvation? Would I, as a Christian, believe that God chose me for some other reason than my need for salvation? Yes, I do. God chose me for His glory, for His pleasure, for His purposes. Sure I had a need for salvation. But that is not why He saved me primarily.”
The Calvinist answers: “In the Bible, God does not say He chose us because of our desperate need. He chose us before our need ever arose.”
John Calvin comments: “The word purpose distinctly excludes all that men imagine they reciprocate, as though Paul were denying that the causes of our election are to be sought in any other place than in the secret good pleasure of God.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.180, emphasis mine)
The complaint against Calvinism is the erosion that it places on Christ, that is, by rendering Calvary as a rubber stamp for a decreed Election. What you then have in Christ, is solely because of what you eternally had in the Father by decree. You would no longer be so special because you are in Christ, but because you are a preferred member of a secret Election.
J. Vernon McGee explains: “God chose believers in Christ before the foundation of the world, way back in eternity past.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.27, emphasis mine)
J. Vernon McGee states: “I cannot repeat often enough that election is God’s choosing us in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.33, emphasis mine)
J. Vernon McGee states: “God sees the believer in Christ and He accepts the believer just as He receives His own Son. That is wonderful. That is the only basis on which I will be in heaven. I cannot stand there on the merit of Vernon McGee. I am accepted only in the Beloved. God loves me just as He loves Christ, because I am in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.38, emphasis mine)
J. Vernon McGee states: “It is the overall purpose and plan of God that believers should have a part in Christ’s inheritance. They are going to inherit with Christ because they are in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.50, emphasis mine)
Jacob Arminius states: “For God chooses no one unto eternal life except in Christ, who prepared it by his own blood for them who should believe on his name. From this it seems to follow that, since God regards no one in Christ unless they are engrafted in him by faith, election is peculiar to believers....” (Works of James Arminius, Volume 3, emphasis mine)
Arminian, Robert Shank, states: “Thus Christ’s ‘redemptive’ career--the incarnation, His death and resurrection, His ascension and intercession--are seen as incidental and symbolic, divine pageantry rather than authentic saving acts.” (Elect in the Son, p.32, emphasis mine)
Shank adds: “The atonement wrought by Christ was by no means symbolic. It was an authentic saving act made necessary by the holy character of God Himself, a saving act whereby God can adopt into sonship and into His kingdom men who have transgressed His righteous laws, outraged His holiness, and of themselves are sinners. The death of Jesus Christ was not pageantry. It was a decisive saving act in which Jesus Christ was truly instrumental in the election of men to salvation and the everlasting kingdom of God.” (Elect in the Son, p.36, emphasis mine)