The Biblical term election isn’t too hard to comprehend if you just look at it through the lens of the Old Testament; for Israel was God’s chosen community. He elected them to be His nation. In the same way that we are all imagers of God because we are born human, all Israelites were elect ones because they were born an Israelite. Out of all the nations of the world, they were elected/chosen to be God’s nation by none other than God Himself.
But did every last Israelite throughout history live out the election that was upon them? Most certainly not. Their chief sin was to turn away from the one true God and worship the false gods over and over again. This was a break in their oath of loyalty to God. You couldn’t just reject God and go burn your children alive to Molech and still expect to receive the promises of the one true God simply because you had the DNA of an Israelite running through your veins. That is what we call apostasy—turning away from God severs the contract, regardless of whether you carried the title “elect” or not.
So yes, election is a specific call of God upon a person’s life. Israel was once the elect. Now the Church is the elect. But just because someone is elect does not mean that their free will has been overrun and that they are “once saved always saved” as has been often stated. For so long as a human lives and breathes, they will always have a chance out of their free will to apostatize and turn their back on God. They will always have a chance to run to another god and they will always have the free will to carry out such an action. And if they do so, they will have left the election that was placed upon their lives and the elect, predestined community to which they were a part of.
If you’ve been in the Church long enough, you’ve surely seen this happen—friends who followed faithfully for decades, suddenly gone in a moment. My soul is troubled when I think of some of my best friends who once were a part of the elect and have since apostatized and turned away from that which they were predestined to. I hope and pray for their return.
Election does not promise things will go the way God hoped because free will can still get in the way. God elected Israel to be His people and they failed time and time again. God elected King Saul to office and then God ended up regretting it (1 Sa 15:11). Jesus told us there was a possibility that the elect might be led astray by false christs and false prophets (Mk 13:22). Clearly, to be elect is not to be eternally secure, for many fallen Israelites and Christians match the Biblical term “elect,” but have since turned away from their election and from God.
Election is a powerful word because it reminds us that only God can save us. Even though you have free will, you don’t choose salvation—the one who brings about salvation chooses to offer it to you. You cannot save yourself, all salvation comes from God. So when we choose to receive salvation/election/predestination, we are to understand that God has chosen us and given us the things that we otherwise could not have.