Many people today are confused and disturbed because they have wrongly understood the teaching known as predestination or election. A few brief comments should be helpful for you concerning this particular question.
We know that God has expressly told us that it is not only His will that all men come to repentance but also that He sent His Son to die as a redemption for the whole world. Three verses in particular you may wish to see are I John 2:2, II Peter 3:9, and John 3:16. We also know that not all men have accepted God’s offer of salvation. In John 5:40, Jesus said: “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” You may also wish to see Acts 7:51. Despite the fact that God would desire that all men come to salvation, many have refused that free gift.
In considering Romans 9, we will all readily admit that this passage stresses the sovereignty of God. It is well to keep in mind that an important element in this passage is faith. The sovereignty of God deals with men on the basis of faith. Notice as we read through Romans 9 that the idea is stressed clearly that God does not deal with men on the basis of their racial background or their good works. The basis on which He deals with them is one of faith or unbelief. This is the condition of salvation.
We can rest assured that if we have come by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are saved. By faith, we are one of God’s elect. All who by faith have come are saved. There is no such thing as a person who trusts Christ on the basis of faith and does not receive salvation because he is not one of the “elect.”
Salvation is based on man’s response of faith to the Gospel message. This cannot be removed without doing serious and irreparable damage to Scriptural teaching. Any man-made doctrine which robs us of our assurance that we are in Christ and eternally saved is wrong. God has chosen those who are in Christ on the basis of our faith.
Christ Himself has promised us in John 6:37: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” As God gives us opportunity to believe and we respond to that opportunity by coming to Christ, we can rejoice in His acceptance and rest in His redemptive work for us. We need never be robbed of that blessed assurance and hope that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:4-5 and 9-11
The following is from The Bible Knowledge Commentary by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck:
1:5. The cause of election is God’s predestination of believers unto sonship (cf. “predestined” in v.11). Predestined is from proorisas, “marked out beforehand.” Thus the emphasis of predestination is more on the what than the who in that the believers’ predetermined destiny is their being adopted as full-fledged sons of God through Jesus Christ, the Agent of the adoption. The concept of adoption is also found in Romans 8:15 (NIV marg.), 23; Galatians 4:4-7. In adoption a son is brought into a family and is given the same rights as a child who is born into that family.
1:11-12. As a result of the spiritual blessing of insight into the mystery of God’s will (vv. 8-10) Paul discussed the Jewish believers’ inclusion in Christ. The we in verse 11 seems to be a distinct group from the anonymous “we/us” in verses 3-10. This is supported by two facts: (1) verse 11 includes the word also and (2) verse 13 changes to “you also,” which refers to Gentile believers. Though both Jews and Gentiles participate in God’s blessings, the Jews were called first (cf. Acts 3:26; Rom 1:16).
In Ephesians 1:11 chosen (eklerothemen) is not the same word used in verse 4 (exelexato). The word in verse 11 (used only here in the NT) means “to cast a lot” or “to appoint or obtain by lot.” In this context it is best rendered “to be chosen, appointed, or destined.” Jewish believers were chosen because they were predestined. But this predestination is not a matter of whim or caprice on God’s part; it is according to the plan (prothesin, “purpose”; cf. Rom. 8:28; 9:11; Eph 3:11) of God who works out everything in conformity with the purpose (boulen, “counsel or deliberation”) of His will (thelematos; cf. 1:5, 9). The combination of these words-prothesin, boulen, thelematos-gives a forceful emphasis of God’s sovereignty for including the Jewish believers in the church, which is headed up by Christ. The purpose of God’s choice of the Jewish believers is that they might be for the praise of His glory, which parallels verse 6. The words “for the praise of His glory” serve as a refrain used after a description of the work of each Person of the Trinity (cf. vv. 6, 14). The relative clause, who were the first to hope in Christ, further substantiates that verses 11-12 refer to Jewish believers as opposed to Gentile believers because the Jews did precede the Gentiles chronologically in the faith (Acts 1:8; 13:46; 28:25-28; Rom. 1:16; 2:9-10).
Christ has set the sinner free from his sin and has revealed His will that all things will be headed up in Christ at the end of the ages, including the Jewish believers who first trusted in Him.
God’s seal with the Spirit (1:13-14).
God’s spiritual blessings for believers are based not only on the sovereign election of the Father (vv. 3-6) and the redemptive work of the Son (vv. 7-12), but also on the seal of the Holy Spirit.
The following is also from The Bible Knowledge Commentary by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck:
17:6-8. The little flock of disciples was given by the Father to the Son (cf. vv. 2, 9, 24). They had been separated out of the world (“world” occurs 18 times in this chap.: vv. 5-6, 9, 11 [twice], 13, 14 [thrice], 15, 16 [twice in the Gr.], 18 [twice], 21, 23-25). This separation was by the electing work of the Father, in which the apostles had been given as a gift to Jesus Christ (cf. 6:37). With the words, They have obeyed Your Word, Jesus praised His disciples for responding to the message of God in Jesus Christ. The disciples were not perfect, but they had the right commitment. Their faith in Jesus was a trust in His union with the Father (17:8). This faith in Jesus was manifested in their obedience to His words because they believed in His divine mission (cf. 16:27).
17:9-10. Christ’s prayer (in vv. 6-19) was particularly for the Eleven, though it applies to all believers (cf. v. 20). At this point He was not praying for the world in its hostility and unbelief. This prayer is for two things: (a) the disciples’ preservation (“protect them,” v. 11) and (b) their sanctification (“sanctify them,” v. 17). The world is not to be preserved in its rebellion or sanctified in its unbelief. Jesus prayed this request because of God’s ownership of them by creation and election (they are Yours). Jesus’ words, All I have is Yours, and all You have is Mine, reveal His claim to unity, intimacy, and equality with the Father.
In the old economy, God dwelt among people and showed His glory. In Jesus, God’s glory was displayed (cf. 1:14). Then Christ’s disciples glorified Him: Glory has come to Me through them. And now in the Church Age the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son (16:14) and believers are also to glorify the Son (Eph. 1:12).
17:11. Jesus would soon depart to the Father and leave His disciples in the world. They had to stay in the world to carry out God’s plan in spreading the good news of redemption and in planting the church. With the formation of the church, the history of the world has become, in a sense, “a tale of two cities” the city of God and the city of man.
Since the disciples would be in the world, Jesus prayed for their protection. The hostility against God which fell on Jesus would now fall on the tiny band of apostles, and subsequently on many of Jesus’ followers. Jesus, in calling on His Holy Father, pointed up God’s distinction from sinful creatures. This holiness is the basis for believers’ separation from the world. He would protect them from the sin and enmity of the world by the power of His name (cf. Prov. 18:10). In Bible times a person’s name stood for the person. (In John 17:6, 26 the NIV translates the Gr. “Your name” by the word “You.”)
Why did Jesus pray for their preservation? It was to promote the unity of the believers, patterned after the unity of the Father and the Son: so that they may be one as We are One (cf. vv. 21-22). The unity here seems to be that of will and purpose. By being protected from the world they would be unified in their desires to serve and glorify the Son.