Chosen of God

Soon after the beginning of the church at Pentecost, it became apparent that Gentiles were trusting in Christ in far greater numbers than Jews. It appeared as though God had forgotten His chosen people! But that was not the case! Paul recalled all the promises that God had given to Israel alone (Rom. 9:1-5).  Paul’s love for the Jewish people came to the surface. He said that he could wish himself to be accursed from God if it would mean the salvation of the Jews (Rom. 9:3).  But Paul went on to make known that Israel’s rejection was really in God’s plan. It was for the purpose of revealing the chosen people of God.  Paul explained that not all the descendants of Israel were in fact, Israel.

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.” (Rom. 9:6)

What exposed the true sons of Israel? Faith! True descendants of Jacob would exercise the same faith in God that Abraham had (Gen. 15:6). This was not the case with all Jews. Paul gave some clear illustrations to show why God’s word had not failed!  Israel’s rejection was in His plan and their refusal to believe would be used to reveal God’s elect.


  • Birth of Isaac

The first illustration Paul used was the birth of Isaac. Not all of Abraham’s descendants were brought into being “like Isaac.”

“Nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘through Isaac your descendants will be named.’” (Rom. 9:7)

God had not given Paul some special divine insight. Paul had simply read his Bible. He had read carefully a portion of the book of Genesis.

“But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named.’” (Gen. 21:12)

The true children of Abraham were to be born “like Isaac was born.” How was Isaac born? God rejected Abraham and Sarah’s human means of bringing about the promised child. Then God alone brought the promised child to be. God did it all! That is the essence of grace! God does it all! God gives life to the dead. (See “The Isaac Connection.”)

  •  Esau and Jacob

Paul also used the illustration of Rebecca’s twin sons, Esau and Jacob.

“And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger;’ Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’.” (Rom. 9:10-13)

Here is a picture of God’s distinguishing grace. We will never understand the depths of this, but it is in the Bible and it is clear!  God had told Rebecca that twins were in her womb (Gen. 25:23).  But before the twins were born, God chose Jacob! God made the choice! God made a decision! Paul quotes from the Old Testament book of Malachi.

“‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have You loved you? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the LORD. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.’” (Mal. 1:2-3)

To “hate Esau” is a Hebrew idiom. It means that God had rejected Esau in order to fulfill His divine purpose. It does not mean to hate in the way that we understand the word. In fact, God blessed Esau and made him the father of twelve princes. God’s hatred for Esau meant that Esau was not to be a part of God’s divine purpose.

Paul said that God chose Jacob in order that His purpose might be accomplished (verse 11). God’s extended grace is based solely upon His choice. Paul anticipated the many questions that would be raised in the minds of his readers. In order to answer the questions, Paul turned to the authority of scripture.

  • Moses

Paul used Moses to confirm God’s sovereign choices of Isaac and Jacob.

“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth (chooses) nor of him that runneth (strives) but of God that showeth mercy.” (Rom. 9:14-16)

  •  Pharaoh

Paul also used Pharaoh as an illustration that God is the Potter and His creation is the clay.

“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.’” (Rom. 9:17).

Pharaoh was “raised up by God” for a special purpose. This is hard to balance in our mind unless we have a proper view of God.  It is precisely what the Bible says. Paul was not pulling this information out of the air. He was quoting from the Old Testament.

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go” (Ex. 9:13-18).

As the sovereign Creator of the entire universe, God retains the right to do with His creation what He has chosen to do.

“So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” (Rom. 9:18)

“He desires” is from the Greek word thelo. It means “a choice!” God shows mercy to those whom He chooses to show mercy.  The word “harden” is from the Greek word scleros. The picture is that of baking clay in the sun until it hardens. God hardens those whom He chooses to harden.   (See “The Creator’s Privilege.”)

God Chose Us

God’s elective purpose was not for Jews only; it was also extended to Gentiles.

“And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea, ‘I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’ And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’” (Rom. 9:23-25)

Notice that God prepared His elect beforehand (both Jews and Gentile) for glory. The Bible says that believers are “in Christ” because God has chosen them to be in Christ.

“In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Eph. 1:3-14; emphasis mine)

God’s redemption of man is based upon the will and work of God. We know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior because God has chosen to set His love upon us.  He willed us to know Him long before this world began. People do not choose God, God chooses people. Therefore, God deserves all the credit and all the glory for His so great salvation. That is what makes grace, grace! He chose us “in Christ” before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him.  (See “What does God know and How does He know it?”)

There are some who explain this text by implying that Christ was the chosen one of God. Believers are chosen only because they choose to believe in Him. But that is not what the passage says.  Paul is emphasizing the “when” of this event. When were believer’s chosen in Christ?  Believers were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.  Christ was obviously chosen by God before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:20).

But that is not Paul’s point!  Paul’s point is that believers were chosen in Christ before the world began.  Before anyone was born, believers were chosen. From eternity past, believers were in God’s mind. He chose believers to be made holy in Christ. God chose us just as He brought Isaac into the world!  God chose us just as He chose Jacob. He chose us to be blameless in Christ. The verb “He chose us” turns the action back on the one doing the choosing.

Paul preached the gospel of God’s grace to a group of Jews who blatantly rejected the message! So he turned his attention to a group of Gentiles.

“The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’ When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:44-48)

Who were the ones who believed?  Those whom God had appointed to believe! God’s elective grace is taught in the Bible and it is clear.

God’s Glory

Our life in Christ is based entirely upon the purpose and work of God. God saved us in order that He might be glorified.  It is all of Him and from Him, and it is all to His credit. He alone must receive all the glory and all the praise. God has done it in order to display the riches of His glory (Rom 9:23). Salvation must be all of God’s grace, or man would have some basis for glory.

Why did He choose us?  He chose us because of the good pleasure of His will. He chose us because He wanted to.

“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Cor. 1:30-31).

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut. 7:6-8).

Moses felt no compulsion to explain why God chose Israel. God volunteered the information that He did not choose Israel because they were large. He simply chose to set His love upon them because He is the Creator.  He reserves that right.

We do not worship a frustrated Deity. God did not sit up in heaven wringing His hands saying, “I hope some nation chooses Me.” No! Out of all the people on the earth, God chose Israel, and He called them “My elect.”

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deut 14:2)

“And He brought forth His people with joy, His chosen ones with a joyful shout.” (Psa. 105:43)

“For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession.” (Psa. 135:4)

“I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? ‘Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.’ But what is the divine response to him? ‘I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” (Rom. 11:1-6)

Although many in Israel rejected God, there were some who did not.  Why?  Because God has always kept for Himself a remnant according to His grace.

Grace is the means that God uses to accomplish His plan. Grace means that what God planned from eternity past, He will do!  One cannot go beyond that! We cannot know the depths of the mind of God.

The Word “Election”

“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?” (Rom. 8:33)

“As those who have been elect of God, holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12; KJV).

The New American Standard Version Bible correctly translates elect as “chosen.”

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12). The word “elect” is taken from the Greek word eklego. Ek is the preposition, “out from,” and lego is the verb “to say or to call.” When placed together, the word means “to call out.”  Believers are those whose identity can be explained as the “elect of God.” Christians are the ones who have been called out by God.  Dr. Charles Ryrie says, “When Paul uses the verb, “elect” he uses the middle voice which indicates that God’s choice is made freely and for His own purpose.” (Basic Theology; Moody Press, 1999, p 360).

“For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” (2 Tim 2:10)

“Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness.” (Titus 1:1)

“The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth.” (2 John 1)

“The children of your chosen sister greet you.” (2 John 13)

“But you are a chosen (eklektos) race, A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9)

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you.”  (1 Thess. 1:2-4)

“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” (2 Thess. 2:13)

“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:30-31)

The Called

God predetermines, predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies all whom He has chosen (Rom. 8:29-30).

“Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isa. 43:7).

God calls to Himself those whom He has chosen!  The two main Greek words for “call” are kaleo and kletosKaleo means to be summoned and kletos means to be invited.  When the little preposition ek is added to the Greek word kaleo, it is translated. “To be summoned out of” or “called out.” It is translated in the New Testament as “church,” or “called out ones.” There is also the word klesis which is translated “calling.” Notice how the words are used in the New Testament. (The commentary used in these verses is my own.)

1 Corinthians 1:9

“God is faithful, through whom you were called (kaleo, summoned) into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:24

“But to those who are the called (kletos, invited) both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Romans 1:6

“Among whom you also are the called (kletos, invited) of Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 4:1

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling (klesis, the calling) with which you have been called” (kaleo, summoned).

Ephsians 4:4

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called (kaleo, summoned) in one hope of your calling” (klesis, calling).

1 Timothy 6:12

“Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called (kaleo, summoned) and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

2 Timothy 1:9

“Who has saved us and called (kaleo, summoned) us with a holy calling, (klesis) not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

Jude 1:1

“Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called (kletos, the invited ones) beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:15

“But like the Holy One who called (kaleo, summonded) you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.”

1 Peter 2:21

“For you have been called (kaleo, summoned) for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”

1 Peter 5:10

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called (kaleo, summoned) you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

2 Peter 1:3

“Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called (kaleo, summoned) us by His own glory and excellence.”

2 Timothy 1:9

“Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

The Called Will Come

Those who have been elected by God will come to His call.  Look closely at these words of Jesus Christ and consider first of all the giving and then the coming.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” (Jn. 6:37-39)

The Father first gives the sheep to the Shepherd, and then the sheep come to the Shepherd.

“The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, ‘How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, 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. I and the Father are one’” (Jn. 10:24-30).

It is my understanding that many shepherds often use the same watering holes in the Middle East.  Water is scarce, so it is common to see several shepherds with their sheep around the same pool. The sheep are all blended together. When a shepherd is ready to leave, he calls his sheep to himself. His sheep recognize his voice, and they come to him. They come because they belong to him, and they know his voice.

This is exactly what our Lord had in mind. The sheep will come to the Shepherd by placing their faith in Jesus Christ. That is the human responsibility to the hearing of the gospel. The divine side is God’s election, and the human side is to believe in Jesus Christ.  Those who have been called must respond to the call by faith.

But when did the sheep belong to the Shepherd?  They belonged to the Shepherd before they came. The giving clearly precedes the coming. The sheep were sheep before they came. If they were sheep, they came; and if they were not sheep, then they did not come.

“I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours”  (John 17:9).

When God’s Son came to earth, He chose the tax collectors and the prostitutes, the socially rejected, and the poor. These were the ones whom the Father gave to the Son.  He turned away those who were religious and self-righteous.

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

“I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen” (Jn. 13:18).

Century by century, year by year, and day by day, many will trust Christ by means of the gospel of God’s grace.  Those who have been elected by God will come to His call by means of the gospel.  They will come to God because He has chosen them.

New American Standard Bible

Chafer’s Systematic Theology

Lewis Johnson; tapes from Believer’s Chapel

Bible Knowledge Commentary; New Testament

John MacArthur

Charles Ryrie; Basic Theology

Word Pictures in the New Testament; A. T. Robertson