When rightly understood, election brings us to a state of humility and prevents any boasting in the Lord. God has not revealed to us his mystery of election so that we would debate it. God has revealed to us in the pages of Scripture the doctrine of election in order to shape our spiritual formation and impact how we approach God in worship.
An honest answer to that question is that the doctrine of election is difficult. Why is this doctrine one of the most challenging doctrines in the Bible? Perhaps it’s not as difficult as we might want to make it, but because of the way our minds have been conditioned and through superficial discipleship techniques, we are left with tension in clear texts of Scripture where the doctrine of election is put on vivid display. In the ninth chapter of Romans, we see the doctrine of election taught, and yet there are many interpretations.
Romans 9:10–13 — And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (ESV)
The term, “election” is the Greek term, “ἐκλογή” which carries the meaning of a special choice, selection, or election. Who is doing the selecting? Not only do we see the historic commentary of Jacob and Esau in Romans 9, but we likewise see Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus as he uses a related term “ἐκλέγομαι” in Ephesians 1:4 as he emphasizes that God “chose us” in Christ before the foundation of the world. Why is there such debate over this biblical doctrine?
The Issue of Fairness
When the doctrine of election is approached in some circles, people immediately object on the basis of fairness. If God chooses some people before the foundation of the world and does not choose others, that is viewed by some people as unfair.
Is it possible for God to be unfair? That is a different issue than charging God with injustice. Can God be unjust? The obvious answer is no. God is holy and just. Is it possible for God to be perfectly just and unfair at the same time. The answer to that dilemma is found in Romans 9. Paul writes the following in Romans 9:14-18:
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.  For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (ESV)
The way Paul answers the question of injustice and fairness is with the strongest negative denial that he could’ve constructed. The KJV translates it “God forbid!” The ESV translates the text as, “By no means.” In other words, Paul anticipates people objecting to the truth of God’s sovereign election, and he answers by emphasizing God’s freedom to choose whomever he wills. He uses Pharaoh as an example. When considered properly, the doctrine of election teaches us that we get what we do not deserve and we do not want God to treat us fairly. If God treated us fairly, we would all go to hell.
Years ago, I once heard a man make a revealing statement in objection to studying the doctrine of election. He said, “I don’t want to go to seminary, I just want to go to church.” Hard doctrines are not for seminary classrooms only, they’re for the church of Jesus Christ. Paul did not write Romans to a seminary. He wrote it to a local church. Hard truths break through hard hearts and bring us to a sweet place of worship.
When it comes to the doctrine of election, we must admit that it’s a difficult truth. I say truth, because the doctrine of election is clearly taught in the pages of Scripture. It’s one thing to have disagreements on the doctrine, but it’s in the text and must be studied. To approach the Christian life and the weekly worship service with a lazy spiritual mindset is not only a disservice to you, it’s actually a superficial approach to God and what he has done in the work of saving grace. This causes both your understanding of God and your worship of God to be shallow.
If you talk to anyone who has achieved goals in the sphere of athletics, you will find that they did not reach those goals overnight. You know the old saying, “No pain, no gain.” Successful athletes put in hard work in the gym, remain committed to a good diet, and mentally push themselves in order to reach their goals.