A Clay Jar

Encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thess. 2:12 NIV)

The Doctrine of Corporate Election

Published on:

Last updated on:

The doctrine of corporate election

Election is a topic that is commonly discussed and debated among theologians. Generally, the discussion centers on whether we are saved because God first elected us or if we are elected because we have been saved. But there is another aspect of election that is not often discussed. The doctrine of corporate election. This article will examine corporate election and what the Scripture says about it.

What Is Election?

Depending on the translation of the Bible that you use, you may or may not find the words elect, election, or elected. More commonly, you will find the Greek and Hebrew words translated as choose, chose, or chosen. But they are the same thing. To be elected is to be chosen.

In Nehemiah 9:7, God is said to have chosen (or elected) Abraham and brought him from Ur to Canaan. In 2 Samuel 6:21, David says that God chose (elected) him to be king in place of Saul. And, in Acts 9:15, God told Ananias that Paul was his chosen (elect) instrument to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles.

Election is usually used in relation to God’s people, but not always. The Pharoah of the Exodus was chosen to demonstrate God’s power (Rom. 9:17). And in Isaiah 44:28, the Persian king Cyrus was also chosen. The vocabulary of election is not used concerning Pharoah and Cyrus. But they were chosen by God for a specific purpose.

The Concept of Corporate Election

The preceding examples were of individual election, the selection of an individual for a specific purpose. And there are many other examples in the Scripture where God chooses individuals for a particular purpose.

In contrast, is the idea of corporate election, the selection of a group of people. In our world today, a company might be chosen to fulfill a contract. A warship might be chosen to attack a specific location. Or a city might be chosen to host a sporting event.

In all these cases, the selection is not of individuals but of the larger corporation. Individuals who are a part of the corporate entity are selected, or elected, by virtue of their membership in the corporation. They become elect when they become a part of the elect corporation. And they lose their elect status when they leave the corporation.

Corporate Election in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, we find two examples of corporate election. The primary example is that of Israel as a people. In Deuteronomy 7:6, God told Israel, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Israel was God’s chosen people. And individuals within Israel were elect, not because God had chosen them individually, but because they were a part of the elect Israel.

Membership in elect Israel was not limited to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There were many individuals from other ethnic backgrounds who had joined themselves to Israel. And in doing so, they became elect as well. There were also many who descended from Abraham who were not a part of the elect Israel, and so were themselves not elect. During a time of great apostasy in Israel, God told Elijah that he still had 7000 who followed him without bowing to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). These were members of elect Israel, while those who worshipped Baal were not.

The second example of corporate election in the Old Testament is the Levites. This tribe was selected from among the other tribes of Israel for a particular purpose. They were responsible for the sacred things used in worshiping God (Num. 1:47-53). By being born into this tribe, a person was automatically selected to serve God at the Tabernacle and with all of its related objects.

And within the Levitical tribe was one family chosen to serve as priests before God. Aaron’s descendants were responsible for offering sacrifices to God, making intercession between God and elect Israel.

Corporate Election in the New Testament

The corporate election of Israel is easy to see in the Old Testament. But corporate election is a significant storyline in the New Testament as well. However, it is not Israel who is elected here.

Peter tells us that Jesus “was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Pet. 1:20). Jesus was chosen, or elected, before creation. He is the elect one. And, Paul says, “In him [Christ] we were also chosen” (Eph. 1:11). Christ is the elect one, and when we are in him, we are also elect. Our election is based on our position in Christ.

Our relationship with God is based upon our inclusion in Christ. Below is a sampling of the ways that Paul uses this expression.

  • For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23
  • Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus – Romans 8:1
  • So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. – Romans 12:5
  • To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people – 1 Corinthians 1:2
  • I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Corinthians 1:4
  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ – Galatians 3:26
  • Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. – Ephesians 1:3
  • For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
  • And in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. – Colossians 2:10

Notice that each of the passages above references what is ours when we are in Christ. If I am not in Christ, I have none of this. But if I am in him, it is all mine. Not because of who I am or what I have done. But simply because of my inclusion in Christ, the elect one. My election, and the benefits that come with it, are based solely on being in Christ.

Election As a Believer

Christ is the elect one. And all who are in Christ are then also elect. But how am I included in Christ? What is it that takes me from outside to inside?

In Ephesians 1:13, Paul says that we were included in Christ when we heard the message and that when we believed, we were marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit. This tells me that belief in the crucified and resurrected Christ is what brings me into Christ. And it is continued belief in Christ that keeps me in Christ.

This is very similar to the corporate election of Israel in the Old Testament. Those who committed themselves to the God of Israel were a part of Israel. The rest, regardless of their ethnic background, were not. Even so, those today who have faith in Christ are the elect body of Christ.

Corporate Election and the Church

What role does the Church play in corporate election? Does it have the same role in the New Testament as Israel did in the Old Testament? Or something else?

The Church is composed of all saved individuals, regardless of when and where they have lived. All who are in Christ are members of his church. So, seeing the church as the elect corporate identity might be tempting.

But, more appropriately, it is Christ who is the elect one rather than the church. He is the one who is chosen. And it is by virtue of being in him that the Church itself could be called elect.

The Challenge of Corporate Election

The Bible was written at a time when the family, clan, and tribe were very important. And one’s identity was largely based on the group they were a part of. For them, the idea of corporate election would be easy to understand and accept.

But today, many of us live in cultures that have elevated individuality over the group. And that cultural shift is reflected in the way that we view the Bible’s teaching on election. We read the passages that the Bible’s first readers would have seen as referring to corporate election and understand them as referring to individual election. And, as a result, misunderstand this important doctrine.

Additional Related Posts

Subscribe to A Clay Jar

If you have found value in this post, please consider subscribing to A Clay Jar so that you don't miss any other posts. 

Ed Jarrett

Just an old clay jar that God continues to see fit to use in his kingdom's work. I am retired, married with 2 children, and 4 grandchildren. I have followed Jesus for many years. And I love to share what He has given me from His word.

A Note to Readers

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

Leave a Comment