Luke 23:35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.
Christ as the chosen, or elect, of God, brings out an aspect that helps define what elect means. The question is whether one is elected to be saved or to serve. Compare this with Isaiah 42:1-4
1Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
2He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
3A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
4He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
In its usage, election is clearly not a reference to salvation, as in Luke 23:35. Here, the people used the word chosen according to the common understanding of the word. As Christ, or Messiah, Jesus was understood to be one of those whom God would anoint for a special purpose. This was the case with Saul, David, and even Cyrus. The word Christ and Messiah mean anointed one. Jesus was chosen for God’s special purpose.
The word elect is used similarly in 1 Timothy 5:21.
1Tim 5:21 I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.
Angels cannot be elected to salvation, only chosen for special service. In fact, it would not do violence to the Scripture to interpret these as pastors serving in a special capacity in the church, as in Rev. 3:20 (see also Haggai 1:13 speaking of Haggai as God’s messenger and Malachi 2:7 describing the role of a priest).
The word elect is also used to describe Israel in Romans 11:28-29:
28As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
29For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
Because of the promises made to the fathers — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — Israel had a special purpose in God’s plan. Not everyone in Israel was saved, but God had and still has a place for them in His plans.
In light of these common uses of the word, election for a purpose is more appropriately applied as the proper definition and can easily be applied in others as well. It is only coincidental that those who are saved have a special purpose. That they are saved cannot be used to establish the definition of the word: all the saved are elect, but not all the elect are saved.