Gary: You are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. Still to come, Dave and Tom continue their weekly in-depth study of the doctrine of salvation. Please stay with us.
Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and Tom,
What does the Bible mean when it uses the terms ‘called’ and ‘chosen?’ It seems to be saying that God selects certain people for salvation. Is that true?”
Tom: Dave, as you go through the Scriptures, I can see how people get confused by this, because “chosen” seems very specific. It seems to imply, at least, that I’ve been chosen, so I’m going; I’ve got to go along.
Dave: Very selective if some are chosen and others have been left out.
Dave: Jesus said it in John 15: “You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.” And of course the Calvinists use that to justify - “Well, there’s nothing you can do. You can’t even believe until you are regenerated - born again. So God has chosen you. There it is; isn’t that proof enough?”
But of course, any employer could say that to his employee. I was in the business world. I had hundreds of employees, and sometimes we would put an ad in the paper for a job. Well, a person would come and apply for the job. And the person had to agree to work for you, but they couldn’t force themselves on you. So in the final analysis, the employer could say, “You didn’t choose me, I chose you.” In other words, you can’t make me hire you.
On the other hand, the employer couldn’t make the employee work for him either. You couldn’t force him to do that. That would be slave labor. So it was a question of, “Who really has the ultimate say in this?”
Of course God has the ultimate say in our salvation. “No man can come to me except the Father draws him,” Jesus said. But He draws everybody; He desires - “He is not willing that any should perish,” and He would have all men come to the knowledge of the truth.
Tom: Is it the same with “called and chosen?” Is everyone called? Is everyone chosen?
Dave: The Bible say, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
Tom: Many are called?
Dave: Right. I would say that every person is called. In other words, the gospel - “Come unto me,” Jesus calls to everybody. “Everyone who is weary, heavy-laden, come unto me, [and] I will give you rest.” But there are not many people who want to do that.
On the other hand, “chosen” is used in some specific ways. I think it signifies chosen for a particular purpose, not just chosen to salvation.
So in John 6, of course, Christ said, “Have not I chosen you twelve? But one of you is a devil.” So the fact that you are chosen doesn’t necessarily mean that you are saved. It’s an indication that Christ has given you the opportunity. I mean, He chose twelve to follow Him, and He chose Judas; he was one of the twelve. Now, tragically, he was chosen for a particular purpose, because he was the one who would betray him. But when Jesus said, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil,” and the Scripture gives the commentary, “This he spake of Judas Iscariot, for he it was who would betray him.”
So, to say that I am chosen doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to make it. Am I willing to obey? Am I willing to trust Christ? And Judas was not. He was tempted.
There are a lot of things that I don’t understand, Tom. Judas apparently went with the twelve out on their missionary journey two by two. I’d like to know who was his partner. They were casting out demons and healing the sick.
Tom: This is still the power of God. It’s nothing in Judas, nothing in whoever he was with.
Dave: Right. So what does this mean? “Many are called, but few are chosen.” I think it means that God calls everybody. I think it means that very few of those are chosen. He’s given us an opportunity to serve Him. How many of those are really Christians? How many of them really come to faith in Christ? Only God knows that.
Tom: Well, you go through Old Testament history, and you find God has His elect. He has those whom He has chosen for a particular purpose. Do we know that Cyrus, for example, became a believer? But he was certainly used of God.
Dave: He chose Saul to be king, God did. And it doesn’t mean that that was God’s choice, but the people wanted him, and God gave them their man - gave them who they wanted. The Bible says he gives us our own desires, but sends leanness into our soul.
Tom, you and I must each decide, “Am I chosen of God? Chosen to do what? What does God want to do in me and through me?” And it’s more important what he does in me than what he does through me. We can be so eager to be God’s servant, to be used of God, to win souls to Christ, get out in the street and preach, or whatever it is, and we may be a very disagreeable person in our family life. I can remember being on - oh, it’s terrible to admit - being on my knees in prayer and talking with the Lord, and my little daughter, about five years old, comes and taps me on the shoulder and wanted to talk to me, and I turned in anger - “Can’t you see that I’m praying?”
I can remember being on my knees praying for humility, and the next thing I knew I was proud I got it! So our hearts are deceitful. We have to be very careful, but the Lord teaches us these thing over time. But we are to examine ourselves, “whether we are in the faith,” 2 Corinthians 13: “Examine yourselves, prove yourselves.”
So am I chosen? Am I one of the elect? Am I called? I believe that God calls everyone. I believe that every Christian is called to be a servant of Jesus Christ, to preach the gospel. Am I chosen to do it in a particular way? Well, maybe; not everyone - even less are chosen. But just because God has chosen me and given me the opportunity to do something, I still need to examine my heart - whether it’s right with Him, whether I really am a Christian.