Since this an election year, we are hearing the word "candidate" more than usual. We're being urged to vote for this man or that woman and this party or that position. The point of this article has nothing to do with American politics. It's about another "election." The New Testament uses the words elect, elected and election twenty times as synonyms for salvation. Peter was no politician, but he taught us the importance of elections -- our own! He wrote, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for it ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10).
Jesus said only a few will 'get elected' (make it to heaven) (Matthew 7:13-14). More than 70% of Americans believe they will go to heaven, according to one poll, but who is actually on the invitation list to the Lamb's marriage feast? The disciples once marveled when Jesus explained how hard it is to make it to heaven (Matthew 19:23-26; cf. Luke 13:24). They asked, "Who then can be saved?" -- a good question. He said it would be impossible for any to be saved by man, but with God all things are possible. Let us look at several 'elections' in the Bible's book of conversions (Acts) to find what people made good candidates. (The answers may surprise you!)
Those Devout in False Religion (Acts 2:1-47). Those gathered in Jerusalem for the A.D. 33 Feast of Pentecost were devout men from every nation under heaven (2:5). Many had traveled quite a distance and sacrificed a great deal to be there. Would such dedicated religious people need conversion? Peter made it clear they were lost and needed to do something to be saved (2:22, 37-38). He convinced three thousand to believe in Jesus, repent and be baptized (2:37-41). Luke says they were added to the church (2:47). Many devout, religious people today still need conversion. God looks for more than devotion. He looks to see if our religious practices are right (conforming to Scripture, Psalm 19:8). We cannot be saved if we are devoted to false religion (Galatians 1:6-9; Romans 9:2-3; 10:1-3).
Those Deceived By 'Miracles' (8:4-12). Simon the sorcerer had for "a long time bewitched" (deceived) many in Samaria into believing he worked great miracles (8:11). But, when they saw God's true power and heard Philip's true preaching, they were converted to Christ (8:12). They are not unlike many today. Many 'Simons' claim to be 'some great one' and allege to work miracles, heal the sick, predict the future and tell God's secrets. They do not explain that they study how to move audiences and carefully stage their productions. They learn to use psychology and closely screen applicants. Those who have followed their 'sorcery' and emotionalism need to switch to the Truth. Miracles have ceased in this age (1 Corinthians 13:8-10), but Jesus has not ceased working. He still saves those who come to him (Matthew 11:28-30). Since the Bible is the standard that will judge us (John 12:48), we need to base our religion on it rather than on simple feelings or emotions.
Those Who Are Sincere, But In Error (10:1-48). Cornelius was a good man -- God-fearing, generous and religious (10:2). If any man would not need converting, Cornelius would appear to be that man. But, he was told to send for Peter to learn what to do to be saved (10:5; cf. 11:14). Upon hearing Peter's sermon, he and his family were converted to Christ (10:48). Many today feel they are acceptable to God simply because they possess good morals, give to good causes, obey the law and, perhaps, attend some religious services. But, Cornelius says to them, "Being a good person is not enough. You need to be baptized into Christ and become a member of his church" (cf. Galatians 3:26-27).
Those Completely Ignorant of God (16:30-34). The jailer charged with keeping Paul and Silas was not a Jew. He was, therefore, uninformed of what the Old Testament said about a coming Messiah. Paul and Silas taught him that he needed to believe on Christ to be saved (16:31). When he learned what that involved, he and his household were baptized "the same hour of the night." He was, then, said to be a believer (16:34). To those who oppose foreign evangelism because those in other lands may not believe in the Bible, the jailer says, "Please do not ignore us. We need the Gospel and will come to believe and obey the Bible."
Those Who Have Been Immoral (18:8). There was no Las Vegas or San Francisco in the Roman Empire, but there was a Corinth. Its citizens were widely known for immorality and ungodliness. Evangelizing here struck fear into the seasoned heart of the veteran apostle Paul (Acts 18:9-10; 1 Corinthians 2:3). "Surely," he must have thought, "I'm wasting my time here." But, the Lord knew what Paul did not. Though those who eventually composed the membership roll of Christ's church in Corinth were more used to being featured in gossip columns or police records (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), many obeyed when they heard the Word. The Gospel is powerful enough to reach the out-and-out sinner (Romans 1:16). It can take the bottle from the drunkard, the pornographer from his magazines, the homosexual from his perversion, the cigarettes from the smoker, the thief from his loot and the needle from the addict. Gospel teachers should never judge another as being unfit for Gospel instruction. Jesus worked among publicans and sinners (Luke 7:34). He had success at changing them then, and his Gospel can change people today. Those involved in such behavior should not judge themselves unworthy of being Christians. People can change. It may not be easy, but with the strength of Christ (Philippians 4:13), it can be done.
Those Who Were Previously Baptized (sometimes) (Acts 19:1-6). Paul met some in Ephesus who had been baptized, but whom he determined had been incorrectly baptized. After correcting their misunderstandings, he baptized them again. Some today who have been baptized still need conversion, because they misunderstood what they were doing. They may have been 'baptized' as infants and have not understood what was going on (we must be believers before baptism, Mark 16:16). They may have been taught they were saved before baptism (baptism is the act God used to wash away sins, Acts 22:16; cf. 1 Peter 3:21). They may have been baptized in an incorrect manner (baptism is immersion, Romans 6:4). They may not have been taught they had to repent before baptism (Acts 2:38), and thus never changed their lifestyle. In each case, one needs to be baptized again correctly.
Who is a good candidate for salvation? We all are. You are! One old preacher had little education, but knew about 'politics.' He put it this way, "God voted for you; the devil voted against you; now it's up to you to cast the deciding vote." The polls are open.