So far no one has really addressed the biblical meaning of election. In what follows here, I have taken most of it from the teachings of Jack Cottrell. He most clearly presents what I believe to be the truth about the Biblical concept of Election. You can find his work in several books he has written and on many articles he has written and which can be found on the internet.
The New Testament speaks of God as “choosing” or “electing” us, and Christians are called “the chosen ones” or “the elect.” The main verb for “choose” is eklegomai; the adjective (as in “chosen ones”) is eklektos; the noun (‘the chosen”) is eklogē. The words “elect,” “chosen,” and “predestined” carry similar connotations. A main point is that this language is used in different contexts with different applications. It does not always have to do with salvation, i.e., “chosen for salvation.” Consider God's declaration concerning Jesus.
Luke 9:35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!"
Here God calls Jesus "My Chosen (ἐκλέγομαι - [eklegomai]) One". (See also 35; see Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 12:18; 1 Peter 2:4,6). Peter says in Acts 2:23 that Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Obviously Jesus was chosen not for salvation but for service. And He was certainly not chosen against His own will.
Just as with Jesus, when used of human beings sometimes the language of election refers to being chosen for service, not for salvation. God decides to use certain individuals to play specific roles in His program of redemption. To create the nation of Israel God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Nehemiah 9:7; Romans 9:7-13). He chose Moses (Psalms 106:23) and David (Psalms 78:70; 139:16) among others. He even chose certain Gentile rulers to help carry out His purpose for Israel, e.g., Pharaoh (Romans 9:17) and Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1).
The language of election is sometimes used in the Bible not for individuals as such but for groups, usually the nation of Israel. In this case, again, the election in view is to service and not to salvation. (See Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 1 Chronicles 16:13; Acts 13:17.) The nation of Israel was chosen specifically to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. This corporate election for service had no necessary connection with the salvation of any particular Israelite. This is Paul’s main point in Romans 9—a point which is usually missed completely in Reformed Theology. In this section of Romans Paul is defending God’s sovereign right to unconditionally choose either individuals (such as Pharaoh) or groups (such as Israel) for roles of service without being bound to guarantee their salvation.
In a similar way the language of election is also used of God’s new elect body, the new Israel, the church. While not strictly parallel to Old Testament Israel, in this age the church as a body is now God’s chosen people (1 Peter 2:9);
1Pe 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
This election, this divine choosing, is in part an election to service. When Peter describes the church as a “chosen race” here, he adds this purpose for the choosing: “that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Thus in terms of service, whereas Israel was elected to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ, the church is elected to proclaim the coming of Christ.
The language of election is sometimes applied to groups in the sense of election to salvation, but in a very special way. Here the Bible speaks of a group as being chosen or predestined for salvation, not in the sense that every individual in the group will be saved, but in the sense that the group is chosen as the category of individuals to whom God is pleased to offer His gift of salvation. This is the key to understanding Paul’s treatment of predestination in Ephesians 1:1-14. His main point is not the predestination of individuals to salvation, but the predestination of all the Jews as a nation, and then the predestination of all the Gentiles also, to be a part of his chosen people. However, he is not here speaking of every individual Jew nor of every individual Gentile as the object of predestination to salvation, but of God’s choice to make salvation available to both groups and to unite both groups into one body, the church (see Ephesians 2:11-16; 3:1-10).
The key to this understanding is how Paul’s use of “we” and “you” in Ephesians 1. There Paul refers to “we Jews” and “you Gentiles.” In this passage Paul identifies himself with the Jews, whom he calls “the first to hope in Christ” (v. 12). In the first part of the chapter he dwells on God’s purpose for the Jews as a nation: how God chose them, the Jews as a nation, before the foundation of the world, how he predestined them to adoption as sons, how he offered them the gospel of grace first (see Romans 1:16). It should be noted that the references to predestination in Ephesians 1 are strictly speaking of the predestination of the nation of Israel, not of individual believers. Paul’s main emphasis up through v. 12 is on God’s purpose for the Jews (“us”). But then in the next verses he begins speaking in the second person, “you,” i.e., you Gentiles. In v. 12 he says that “we who were the first to hope in Christ” were used to the praise of His glory, but now “you also” have been brought into the sphere of salvation “to the praise of His glory.” This is the theme he continues to develop, then, in chapters two and three especially.
So far we see that the Biblical language of election is used in several different ways. I have explained the first four such ways: (1) the election of Jesus as our the Redeemer; (2) the election of individuals to service, e.g., the patriarchs and the apostles; (3) the election election of groups (especially Israel) to service; and (4) the election of groups as categories of individuals to whom God offers his gift of salvation, specifically the Jews and the Gentiles.
There is the fifth way that the Biblical language of election is used. It is in this fifth way that most people tend to think of the "elect" or the "chosen" or the "predestined". This fifth way, sometimes used in the Bible, is to refer to the fact that God has indeed elected or chosen or predestined some individuals to salvation. Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists recognize this. The difference between these groups is not that the former believes in predestination while the latter does not. The difference lies in the fact that the former (Calvinism) believes that such election is unconditional, while the latter (non-Calvinists) believes that it is conditional.
First, God does choose (elect, predestinate) some individuals to be saved. The language of election or choosing is definitely applied to us as individuals (see Romans 16:13). We are “the elect,” the ones chosen by God. (See, e.g., Matthew 24:22, 24, 31; Mark 13:20, 22, 27; Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1-2; Revelation 17:14.)
Second, our election is conditional. I.e., God specifies in advance what conditions a sinner must meet in order to be chosen for salvation. In this New Covenant age these conditions, as clearly taught in the New Testament, are faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. These actions are decisions we must make in order to be chosen by God for salvation. Faith and repentance are not gifts which God bestows arbitrarily upon some sinners while passing others by. Ephesians 2:8 does NOT say that faith is the gift of God; Greek grammar does not allow this interpretation
It is obvious that some choose to meet these conditions, and some do not. The Bible says emphatically that God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:2-4; 2 Peter 3:9), a fact that is clearly inconsistent with the whole idea of the unconditional election of only some to salvation. It is obvious also that not everyone is willing to meet the conditions God specifies in order to be among the chosen.
Jesus said concerning Jerusalem, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” But in spite of Jesus’ own earnest desire (“I wanted”), he sadly acknowledges—“and you were unwilling” (Matthew 23:37). Jesus wanted to choose them, but they did not want to be chosen. This is how we must understand texts such as John 5:21, which says that “the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.” In general He wishes to give life to all sinners, but Scripture makes clear that He will actually give life or salvation only to those who do those things He has specified as conditions for receiving it. These conditions are part of the gospel, through which God draws all men unto himself (see John 6:44, 65; 12:32).
The word of the gospel draws ALL who hear it, but some resist its drawing power. God calls and draws sinners unto Himself, but this calling and drawing are universal and resistible, not selective and irresistible (contrary to Calvinist teaching).
The third point is that God from eternity past in his foreknowledge has already foreseen who will and who will not meet His gracious gospel conditions by obeying His gracious gospel commands. God did not predestine anyone to believe and repent. He foreknew that they would believe and repent along with obeying the other gospel commands, and as a result He predestined them to final salvation.