How Do I Know If I’m One of the Elect?

You Are at War

Election is terrifying for some people. “Am I chosen by God? How can I know for sure? And what about ______ [my spouse, my child, my parent, my neighbor, or my friend]?” Election may be alarming because it means that God the Creator is supremely sovereign and that we the creatures are not. We prefer to be in control. But what God has revealed about election should be encouraging, comforting, humbling, exhilarating, and motivating.

If you follow Christ and are struggling with whether you are elect, you are at war. You are fighting a scheme of the devil (Eph. 6:11–12). That is why Martin Luther asserts, “When man is assailed by thoughts regarding his election, he is being assailed by hell.”1 So how do we know if God has elected an individual? Cornelis Venema explains, “The warrant for the assurance of election is the same as the warrant for the assurance of salvation.”2

Calling and Justification Are Evidence of Election

“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Paul supports those comforting words with four proofs (Rom. 8:29–30):

  1. God predestined (or elected) those whom he foreknew.
  2. God called those whom he predestined.
  3. God justified those whom he called.
  4. God glorified those whom he justified.


Andrew David Naselli

In this addition to the Short Studies in Systematic Theology series, Andrew David Naselli carefully examines the doctrine of predestination and encourages believers to respond in worship.

This five-link chain of God’s actions is unbreakable: foreknowledge, predestination (or election), calling, justification, and glorification. Every human is either the object of all five of those actions or none of them. If God has called you, then he has enabled you to believe the gospel and thus has judicially declared you to be righteous. Faith is the means of justification, and faith is also an evidence of election. Jesus says, “All that the Father gives me will come to [i.e., believe in] me” (John 6:37).

If you are the object of God’s calling and justification, then you are also the object of God’s predestination. In other words, if God has effectively called you (which means that God has regenerated you and enabled you to repent and believe), then you are elect. If you are justified (which is a result of God-enabled faith), then you are elect. Your calling and justification are evidence of your election.

Following Jesus the Shepherd Is Evidence of Election

Jesus’s sheep are the elect. Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Do you listen to Jesus and follow him? Then what Jesus says next is a precious assurance for you: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28–29; cf. 6:37–40).

A Transformed Life Is Evidence of Election

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you [your election (KJV)], because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thess. 1:2–10)

Paul thanks God (not the Thessalonian believers) because he knows that God has elected them. The evidence for their election is their transformed lives after they responded to the gospel (1 Thess. 1:3, 5; cf. 1 Thess. 2:13–14). They did not receive the gospel “merely in words” (1 Thess. 1:5 NET). The gospel transformed them because the Holy Spirit powerfully convicted them and enabled them to produce the fruit of genuine repentance and faith. They received the word “in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6). They “turned to God” (i.e., faith) “from idols” (i.e., repentance); they no longer were serving sin but “the living and true God” and eagerly awaiting Jesus’s return (I Thess. 1:9–10). A transformed life is evidence of election. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

We must persevere in faith and good works until the end.

Application: Confirm Your Election

It is encouraging to know that a transformed life is evidence of election, yet we must not twist that truth by morbidly introspecting. Jonathan Edwards explains, “Although self-examination be a duty of great use and importance, and by no means to be neglected; yet it is not the principal means, by which the saints do get satisfaction of their good estate. Assurance is not to be obtained so much by self-examination, as by action.”3

Yes, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5). But do not despair about election; instead, confirm your election. Peter tells us how:

Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm [make certain about (NASB), be sure of (NET)] your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:5–11)

We confirm that God called and elected us by cultivating the virtues listed in 1:5–7. We must be continually growing in those virtues. We must persevere in faith and good works until the end. Consequently, God will richly welcome us into his eternal kingdom (1:11)—like how the King richly welcomes Christian into the Celestial City at the end of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.4

Election is not an excuse for lawlessness or laziness. We must put off sin and put on virtues (see Col. 3:1–4:1). That is what God’s chosen people do: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones [as the elect of God (NET)], holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). The logic is similar to Philippians 2:12–13: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We work because God works. Be diligent to confirm your election.

Responding with a Prayer

Father, please help me confirm my election by continually growing in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. Help me put on a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, love, and thankfulness.

Thank you, Father, that since you are for me, no one (and nothing) can successfully be against me! No one can successfully bring any charge against your elect (Rom. 8:33a). No one can take me to court before you on judgment day and win a case against me because you are the one who has declared me to be righteous through Christ (Rom. 8:33b). Thank you.


  1. Martin Luther, “A Sermon on Preparing to Die,” in Devotional Writings I, ed. Martin O. Dietrich, vol. 42 of Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 103. Cf. R. C. Sproul, ed., Doubt and Assurance (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993).
  2. Cornelis Venema, Chosen in Christ: Revisiting the Contours of Predestination, Reformed, Exegetical and Doctrinal Studies (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2019), 360. This short chapter highlights passages that directly connect election and assurance; for more comprehensive studies on assurance, see D. A. Carson, “Johannine Perspectives on the Doctrine of Assurance,” Explorations 10 (1996): 59–97; Carson, “Reflections on Assurance,” in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000), 383–412; Joel R. Beeke, Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2017), 89–105; Greg Gilbert, Assured: Discover Grace, Let Go of Guilt, and Rest in Your Salvation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2019), 93–107; Robert A. Peterson, The Assurance of Salvation: Biblical Hope for Our Struggles(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019), 137–75; Donald S. Whitney, How Can I Be Sure I’m a Christian? The Satisfying Certainty of Eternal Life, 2nd ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2019).
  3. Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, ed. John E. Smith, vol. 2 of The Works of Jonathan Edward (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 195.
  4. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come, ed. C. J. Lovik (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 218–19.

This article is adapted from Predestination: An Introduction by Andy Naselli.

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