I will begin by telling the reader that I do not believe that the Bible teaches the widely held view of hell as a place where unbelievers go to suffer eternal punishment. (Please see the paper on this web-site, A Study Of Hell for the Scriptural evidence of that belief). I believe that when the unbeliever dies that is the end of him, i.e. he will not suffer eternal torment.
We will discuss the following topics in our study of predestination:
What Is Man?
Does Man Have A Free Will?
Is God’s Will Sovereign?
“FOR WHOM HE DID FOREKNOW”
What Is Man?
Romans 7:14, “For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin“.
Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be“.
Eph. 2:2, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience”. We read of the “prince of this world” in John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out”. The prince of the power of the air, is, of course, Satan. The Greek word translated “children” in this verse is “huios“. The Companion Bible gives this definition: “having reference to origin”. We learn from this verse that before these Gentiles came to believe in their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they were living their lives in accordance with the ways of Satan, and that they were the offspring of disobedience. It is no wonder therefore that the “carnal mind is enmity against God”.
John 6:44, “….No one can come to Me except the Father Which hath sent Me draw Him…..”.
John 6:65, “…..Therefore, I say unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it were given unto him of My Father”.
It is clear that in his natural state, no man is naturally inclined to come to God.*
Does Man Have A Free Will?
Fortunately, as we read in John 12:32, God took into consideration the fact that man is not naturally inclined to seek Him. We are told that “I…..will draw all men unto Me“. We need to focus our attention on this truth, especially in regard to the question of predestination. God draws all men unto Himself. It is clear then, that all men have the opportunity to accept and believe in Him and would consequently inherit resurrection life. The fact that not all men choose to believe in Him proves that, in spite of the fact that God draws them, some men do not accept Him. This, in my opinion, proves that, in general, man has free will to choose God or not. (The question of those who do not have a free will will be discussed in more detail further in this paper).
Romans 9:6 is also helpful. “Not as though the word of God hath none effect”. Paul is making the point in this passage that he deeply desires his people Israel to accept Christ as their Messiah, to the point where he writes, “…I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh” (verse 3). Paul wants all Israel to accept their Messiah, but some have not. But that doesn’t mean that the preaching of the word of God is of no effect, because some had accepted Him. This is free will; some have accepted Him and others have not.
If we assume that God had predestined some to be saved, and therefore others to not be saved, then the argument could be made that He had not died for all men, but just for the ones He predetermined would be saved. It is very clear in the Bible however, that Christ died for the sins of all men, not just for the chosen.
I Tim. 2:4, “Who (God) wills all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth”. God wills (the word is better translated “desires”) all men to accept Him. He desires all men to be saved, but some choose to reject Him and will not be saved.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that…….. whosoever shall believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life”. God sent His Son to die for the world, not just some.
I Tim. 2:6, “….who gave Himself a ransom for all.”
II Cor. 5:14,” ……One died for all“.
II Peter 3:9, “….not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.
Rom. 5:8, “…..that brings life for all men…”.
Heb. 2:9, “….He might tamest death for everyone“.*
Is God’s Will Sovereign?
Having established that man, in general, has free will, it would seem contradictory to say that God’s will is sovereign. But there are many clear passages in Scripture that says that His will is indeed sovereign. But the two (man’s free will and God’s sovereign will) are not always mutually exclusive. That is to say, I believe, and will give the reasons for this belief as we continue in this study, that man, in general, is free to exercise his will in believing God or not, but at times God does step in and override that free will for the fulfillment of His purposes. Sometimes those purposes require His chosen vessel to be a believer, and sometimes it does not.
But for now let us focus on the fact of God’s sovereign will. Let us consider, for example Romans 9:11-25. “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purposes in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls; she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger…'”. Some might say that God chose the younger twin (Jacob) because He knew that Jacob would believe in Him. But consider John 15:16, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you”. It is true that Christ is speaking to His apostles in this verse, but the precedence is set: God does choose some, and it is not because He knew they would choose Him. In point of fact, Christ chose Judas to be an apostle, and Judas was not a believer (see Jn. 6:64) which proves that God’s choice is not made on the basis of whether one would believe in Him.
We must also note that there is absolutely no scriptural evidence to support the view that God chose only those that He knew would choose Him. (Romans 8:28-30 will be discussed later in this paper).
Let us continue with Romans 9. In verse 15 we read, “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, nor of him that runneth, but of God That sheweth mercy”. There are those who believe that God showed this mercy on those who would come to believe in Him. But the whole point of this passage of Scripture is that God is sovereign. If God must depend on man’s will to accept and serve Him, He is not sovereign, man is sovereign.
For those who might find God’s sovereignty “unfair” I would quote Rom. 9:20-21, “..who art thou O man that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, ‘why hast Thou made me thus?’ Hath not the potter power over the clay?”
In summary, I am suggesting that God draws all men to Himself because due to his nature, man would not be inclined to come to Him on his own. I am also suggesting that, in general, man does have the free will to come to God, but there are times when God chooses some because He has a purpose for him or her. This choosing, however, is not primarily unto salvation, but for service. Sometimes salvation is required for God’s purposes to be completed, in which case God chooses that person to come to believe in Him. This last point will be made more clearly as we continue in our study.*
Too many Bible studies on this subject begin in the New Testament, and are doomed therefore to lead one to an incomplete, if not erroneous understanding. In order to understand what the New Testament writers were writing, we must understand the mind set of those to whom they were writing. For example, when our Lord said that He chose the twelve, would first century Jews have been surprised, or would they have had an understanding from the Old Testament of God choosing certain ones? Let us look at this question from the Old Testament point of view. Below are some examples from the Old Testament of God’s choosing some for His own purposes. Note, there is no suggestion that God chose these to inherit resurrection life, but only to fulfill His own purposes.
Deut. 7:6, “….The Lord your God has chosen you (Israel) out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession”. It is clear that not all of Israel were believers. We know from this that God did not choose Israel to be saved, but for service.
Deut. 18:5, “The Lord your God has chosen them (Levites-vs.1) and their descendants out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the Lord’s Name always.” Again, we know that not all Levites were believers. And again, we learn from this that God’s choosing was not unto salvation, but unto service.
In I Sam. 10:24 we read of Saul being chosen to be king over Israel. To argue whether Saul was saved or not misses the point. The point is that Saul was chosen to be king. He was not chosen for the purpose of being saved, he was chosen for the express purpose of being king.
David was also chosen by God to be king over Israel (I Chron. 28:4). Of course, David was a believer and saved unto resurrection life. But that was not the purpose in this context of his being chosen. He was chosen to be king over Israel.
Solomon was chosen to build the temple (I Chron. 28:10).
Abram was chosen to be the father of many nations (Neh. 9:7). Was Abraham a believer? Of course he was. But the point of this verse is that he was not chosen to be a believer, he was chosen to be the father of many nations.
Moses and Aaron were chosen to lead Israel (Ps. 105:26).
It is clear that in Old Testament times God did indeed choose a nation, a tribe, and individuals to fulfill His purposes. This would be understood by those to whom Christ and the New Testament writers addressed themselves. Let us now look to see if we find a difference in regard to God’s choosing certain individuals to fulfill His purposes in the New Testament.
Luke 6:13 and John 6:70, “…..He chose twelve…”. It is important to bear in mind that God did not choose the twelve disciples to be saved. Indeed, not all were saved. Judas was not a believer and therefore, was never saved. (“For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not…” John 6:64.) The twelve (including Judas) were chosen to fulfill God’s plans and purposes.
Luke 23:35, “…if He be Christ, the chosen of God“. This makes it very clear that being chosen was unto service, not unto salvation, as Jesus Christ was certainly not in need of salvation.
We read in Acts 9:15, “he (Paul) is a chosen vessel (lit. a vessel of election) unto Me.” Paul writes in Galatians 1:15, “When God, who set me apart from birth, and called me by His grace….”. Let us look a bit closer at this verse. God set Paul apart. For what reason? For service. But He also called Paul unto belief because Paul could not fulfill God’s purposes if he had remained in unbelief.
Did God call Paul because He knew Paul would accept Him? No, we read in John 15:16, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you“. The whole point in Romans 9 is that God’s will is sovereign and does not rest on man’s will. To say that God chose Paul because He knew Paul would become a believer is to say that God’s plans and purposes rests on man’s will. Even earthly kings have more power than that.
Did Paul have the free will to reject Christ on the road to Damascus? I believe that he did not, because God had set him apart from birth for service which only a believer could accomplish. So in the case of Paul, belief was part of, but not the primary reason for being chosen of God. In the case of Judas and of some of Israel they were not chosen to be believers. Israel had the free will to accept God or reject Him, but Paul did not.
In Acts 13:48 we read of Gentiles being appointed unto eternal life. I have said that God did not call anyone for the primary purpose of being saved, but to fulfill His purpose. In this instance, the salvation of these Gentiles was an inseparable part of God’s purposes, so they were appointed unto salvation. What was that purpose? The answer to that question is found in the next verse. “And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region“. The “region” in this context is the area around Antioch where Paul preaced his message recorded in Acts 13 (see vs. 14). Antioch was a city in the Roman Empire, far from Judea which means that there were many Gentiles living in that region. With the exception of Paul who was the apostle to the Gentiles, none of the apostle were preaching the word of salvation to the Gentiles. God, in His wisdom appointed some Gentiles therefore, to preach the word to other Gentiles of that region.
Eph. 1:4, “…as He hath chosen us in Him ….to be holy and blameless in His sight”. The epistle to the Ephesians was written to believers. This verse therefore is saying that believers have been chosen to be holy and blameless. This verse does not say that they were chosen to be saved.
In the New Testament several individuals whom Paul mentioned by name are said to have been chosen. For example in Rom. 16:13 we read of Rufus being chosen in the Lord. We can only assume that he was chosen because God had a purpose for him. That purpose required Rufus’s salvation and so he was a believer. But once again, the point is that Rufus was chosen, not primarily to be saved, but to fulfill a purpose of God. We are not told what that purpose was, but it is clear from the Old Testament that God chose some to fulfill His purpose. Some of those purposes required belief (as in the case of Paul) and some did not (as in the case of Judas).*
What is the difference between being called and being chosen? It has been suggested that being called leaves the one being called a choice, whereas being chosen does not. Let us consider that suggestion.
Paul was both called (Rom. 1:1 and Gal. 1:15) and chosen (Acts 9:15). If being called implies having a choice and being chosen implies not having a choice there is an obvious difficulty in Paul being both called and chosen. That is to say, he could have had a choice (called) or not have had a choice (chosen) but he could not have had both.
I believe there is a difference between being called and being chosen. I believe that difference is in the timing. That is to say, once God has chosen, He then will call. In other words first God determines (chooses) who He wants to serve Him, and then, in accordance with His own timing, He calls that person. Let me put this in secular terms for clarity. Let us say that a business needed to employ someone to keep their financial records. They may advertise in the newspaper and ask those interested to send a resume. Let us say the business received ten resumes from which they chose one. So one was chosen. The most obvious next step would be to call that person and offer them the position. In other words, the person was chosen for a job and then called to fulfill that job for which he had been chosen.
As we learned in the section above on “chosen”, Luke 6:13 and John 6:70 tell us that, “…..He chose twelve…”. . But we read, for example in Matthew 9:8, the record of Christ telling Matthew to follow Him. In my opinion, this suggests that the twelve had been chosen and then Christ called them.
So too, God chose Paul, for example, and in due time He called Paul (on the road to Emmaus) to serve Him.
In short one is chosen to fulfill a purpose that God has for him, and in due time, he is called to fulfill that purpose.
Let us consider every time the New Testament recorded one being called.
In Acts 13:2 we read, “….Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them”. Here we are told quite specifically that Saul and Barnabus were called to do the work for which God had chosen them.
Acts 16:10, “And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them”. This verse is quite specific as to what work they had been called to accomplish, i.e. “to preach the gospel”.
Rom. 1:1, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God”. The purpose of Paul’s being called is given, i.e. to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.
Rom. 1:5-6, “By Whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ”. This passage does not record the purpose for which the ones of verse 6 were called. Because the purpose is not stated it must be taken from other passages which do state the purpose(s) for which others are called. Given that in every passage in which the purpose of being chosen and called is stated refers to being called to accomplish something that God desired, we may conclude that these saints in Rome were also called to accomplish God’s purpose(s). In short, we must understand the reason for their being called from the other scriptures that speak of ones being called, i.e. to accomplish that for which God had chosen them.
Rom. 1:7, “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints”. If one does not understand how the Holy Spirit used the Greek word translated “saints” in this verse, one might be led to the erroneous conclusion that they were called to be saved. Let us therefore briefly consider the Greek word translated “saints”.
The Greek word translated “saints” is “hagios”. The word is most often translated “holy”. It is used, for example in Matt. 24:15 of the “holy place”, i.e. the temple. It is used in Matt. 27:53 of the “holy city”, i.e. Jerusalem. It is used in Luke 1:72 of the “holy covenant”. In Rom. 16:16 it is used of a “holy kiss”.
It is clear that “holy” does not mean “saved”. What then does it mean? The only definition that would fit every occurrence is “separated”, i.e. separated unto God. The holy temple was separated unto God from all other temples. Jerusalem was separated unto God from all other cities. When the word is translated “saints” it refers then to those who have been separated unto God, i.e. believers separated from those who are not believers.
Coming back then to Rom. 1:7 we see that Paul was writing to all in the Roman church. Note that they were all members of the church at Rome. That tells us that they were all believers. In short, this verse does not say that some were called to be saved, it says rather that believers were separated unto God from unbelievers. The purpose of that separation is not given (please see the note on Rom. 1:5-6).
We read in Rom. 9:7-8, “Neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children, but, ‘In Isaac shall thy seed be called’. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed”. In Is. 49:1 we read, “…..the Lord hath called me from the womb….”. Verse three tells us that it was Israel that was called from the womb. That verse reads, “….Thou art My servant O Israel, in whom I will be glorified”. I believe this calling refers to the entire nation of Israel, but in Rom. 9:7-8 we read that ‘In Isaac shall thy seed be called”. In Isaiah the calling is to all Israel, but in Romans the calling is limited to the seed of Isaac. Is this a contradiction? Of course not, but this seeming contradiction does require further consideration.
We read in I Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation (Gr. “genos” = “race”), a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should shew forth the praises of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into the marvelous light”. This verse is in reference to Israel. How do we know that? Let us consider the first time we read of Israel being royal priesthood and a peculiar people etc. .
We read in Ex. 19:5-6, “Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all the people….. And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation….”. This passage again limits those of Israel who will be “a peculiar treasure” etc. to those who will obey God and keep His covenant.
Romans 9:6 explains quite succinctly that “they are not all Israel that are of Israel”. This is not a figure of speech but plain literal language.
It should be noted however, that God also used the entire nation of Israel for His purposes. We read, for example in Judges, chapter nine of the men from Gideon coming to Joshua in order to avoid a battle with Israel. The reason is given in verses three and nine. Verse 3 reads, “And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai….”. The succeeding verses explain that they went to Joshua pretending that they had come a long distance. Then in verse nine we read, “And they (the men from Gideon) said unto him (Joshua), ‘From a very far country thy servants are come (a lie, they had not come a long distance) because of the name of the Lord thy God: for we have heard the fame of Him, and all that He did in Egypt’”. In other words, in leading Israel out of Egypt, God had showed the nations Who He is, i.e. mighty and powerful.
In other words God called the entire nation to fulfill some purposes, and He called the seed of Isaac to fulfill others. If the context implies the condition of obedience to God’s covenant as in I Peter 2:9 (as compared to Ex. 19:5-6), then obviously in that context Israel is limited to the seed of Isaac. But if the context does not imply obedience as in Is. 49 then the entire nation is in view. We must understand that when considering the passages concerning Israel as chosen and/or called we must allow the context to determine if it refers to Israel as a whole, or Israel as the seed of Isaac.
But in some passages the entire nation is in view and the context does not clearly limit it to believers. In that case the figure of speech Synecdoche is used. That figure of speech is defined, in part, by Dr. E. W. Bullinger as, “When the whole is put for a part”. In other words, only the seed of Isaac, i.e. believers, are chosen and called to be a nation of priests etc. . Figures of speech are used to enhance a truth, what truth is being enhanced by the use of the figure of speech in those passages? In my opinion, the use of the figure of speech is used to emphasize the truth that the entire nation of Israel will not be a peculiar treasure unto God, but only believers will be so blessed.
So the purpose for which God called the seed of Isaac, i.e. those who would obey His covenant was to be a “royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9). And the purpose for God’s calling to the entire nation was to show forth His mighty power.
But there is a bit more to this then appears on the surface. That is to say, if we are to fully understand the difference between God’s calling of the nation of Israel as a whole and His calling to the “seed of Isaac” we must consider the fact that the latter was called to be a ”royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9).
What is a “royal priesthood”? The word “royal” implies kings. In other words, a “royal priesthood” is a kingdom of priests. Israel has never been a kingdom of priests. There has been a tribe of priests but there has never been a kingdom of priests. I believe that the purpose for which the seed of Isaac was called, i.e. to be a kingdom of priests, will be fulfilled in the millennial reign of Christ. The reason for that belief is, in part, that Israel has never fulfilled that purpose, it must therefore, be fulfilled in the future.
Is. 52:7 tells us of the millennial prophecy when the seed of Isaac will indeed be a kingdom of priests. That verse reads, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, ‘Thy God reigneth’”. This is a millennial prophecy. How do we know that? We know that from the term “Thy God reigneth”. Who will pronounce that truth? The nations. How do we k now that? We know that because they pronounce it unto Zion, i.e. Israel. In other words, during the millennial reign of Christ the “seed of Isaac” will, at long last, fulfill God’s purpose as a royal priesthood by bringing salvation to the nations.
Rom. 9:22-24 reads, “What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory. Even us, whom He hath called not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles”.
Note the contrast between vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy. That points to unbelievers (i.e. “vessels of wrath”) and believers (vessels of mercy”). Does this passage tell us that the vessels of mercy were called to be saved? It does not. This passage tells us that the vessels of mercy had been prepared, not unto salvation, but “unto glory”. Let me put that in other terms for clarity.
The vessels of mercy are obviously those who had believed God’s message of salvation and upon whom God will show mercy in part, by shedding on them the riches of His glory. This passage tells us that those who had been called were called unto glory. That is to say, the vessels of mercy were not called to be saved, they were called, in God’s grace, “unto glory”, i.e. believers will be glorified in Christ. (The purpose of that calling is not given; please see the comment on Rom. 1:5-6).
I Cor. 1:1, “Paul, called to be an apostle….”. It is clear again that Paul was called for the purpose of being an apostle.
I Cor. 1:2, “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints….”. Please note that the ones who are called, in this context, are those who have been sanctified. What does it mean to be sanctified?
The Greek word translated “sanctified”, i.e. “hagiazo”. The first occurrence is found in Matt. 6:9 where it is translated “hallowed”, “Hallowed be Thy Name”. The meaning of sanctification in this verse means that God’s Name is to be set apart from every other name as special. In John 17:17 we read, “sanctify them through the truth”. Again, those who know the truth are set apart from those who do not know the truth.
The reader will note that the Greek word “hagiazo” is related to the Greek word “hagios: translated “saints” in Rom. 1:7, which, as the comments on that verse will show, those of I Cor. 1:2 were not called to be saved, they were, as believers, called to be set apart unto God, i.e. holy. In short, the church of God at Corinth was not called to be saved, but rather saved ones were called to be set apart unto God. (The purpose of that setting apart is not given; please see the comment on Rom. 1:5-6).
We read in I Cor. 1:23-24, “But we preach Christ crucified unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God…”. We are not told in this context the reason these have been called so we must base that conclusion on what has been proved above, i.e. one is called to fulfill a specific purpose of God (please see the comment on Rom. 1:5-6).
I Cor. 1:26, “For ye see your calling brethren how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called”. (The purpose of that calling is not given; please see the comment on Rom. 1:5-6).
I Cor. 7:15, “…..But God hath called us to peace”. It is clear that this verse does not say that one is called unto salvation What it does say is that believers (to whom this epistle is addressed, see vs. 2) are called to peace.
I Cor. 7:17-18 reads, “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. Is any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Is any man called in uncircumcision., let him not become circumcised”. (The purpose of that calling is not given; please see the comment on Rom. 1:5-6).
Gal. 1:6, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ. (The purpose of that calling is not given; please see the comment on Rom. 1:5-6).
Gal. 1:15, “But when it pleased God Who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace”. We have considered several passages that tell us that Paul was called to be an apostle and to preach to the Gentiles. So yes, Paul was saved, but his calling was not to be saved per se, it was to fulfill the purposes God had for him to accomplish.
Eph. 4:1, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called”. The Greek word translated “vocation” in this verse is the same as that which is translated “called” at the end of the verse. It should read therefore, “walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye are called”. ”. (The purpose of that calling is not given; please see the comment on Rom. 1:5-6).
Eph. 4:4, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling”. The “calling” in this verse refers to the heavenly places which is the calling of believers in the dispensation of the mystery, therefore this passage has no bearing on our present study.
Col. 1:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body…”. ”. (The purpose of that calling is not given; please see the comment on Rom. 1:5-6).
I Thess. 2:12, “That ye would walk worthy of God Who hath called you unto His kingdom and glory”. To whom does the pronoun “ye” in the phrase “ye would walk worthy”? That question is answered in verse 1, “Paul…..unto the church of the Thessalonians…”. Only believers are members of “the church”, In other words Paul was writing to believers. His point was that believers were called to “His kingdom and glory”. So this verse does not say that unbelievers were called unto salvation; it says rather that believers were called unto “His kingdom and glory”.
I Thess. 4:7, “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness”. Here too Paul is addressing believers. His point is in the same vein as that of I Thess. 2:12 quoted above. That is to say, Paul was not saying that unbelievers were called to salvation, he was saying that believers are called unto holiness, i.e. to be separated unto God.
II Tim. 1:9, “Who (God, vs. 1) hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace., which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began”. There is much to learn from this verse. Note, for example the very important word “and” in the phrase “saved us and called us”. That tells us that to be saved and to be called are two different things. Note also the calling was “according to His own purpose”, which, as I have tried to show in this study, is true of all those who are called, i.e. to fulfill a specific purpose of God.
The term “holy calling”, in my opinion refers to the fact that the calling of believers of the dispensation of the mystery is separate (the meaning of the Greek word translated “calling”, see the comments on Rom. 1:7) from the calling of Israel.
Heb. 5:4, “And no man taketh this honour (the honor of being a high priest, vs. 1) unto himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron”. This is, of course, consistent with the Old Testament verse quoted in the section on “chosen” of this study, that the priesthood was called of God to fulfill a specific purpose, i.e. to be God’s priests.
Heb. 9:15, “And for this cause He is the Mediator of the new testament, that …..……they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance”. Is the “eternal inheritance” salvation? If not, what is the “eternal inheritance” spoken of in this verse? To answer that question we must consider the epistle as a whole and the near context.
It is obvious that the epistle to the Hebrews was written to Israel. With that said, what does the context tell us in regard to the inheritance? Heb. 11:8 also speaks of an inheritance? We read in Heb. 11:8, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance….”. Let us also consider vs. 10, “For he looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God”. Obviously, “the inheritance” of this passage refers to the eternal city, i.e. the new Jerusalem.
Let us come back to Heb. 9:15. We have read several passages in this study which tell us that Israel was called of God to fulfill His purposes. We know that the epistle of the Hebrews was written to Israel. In my opinion, we may conclude that the eternal inheritance of Heb. 9:15 is the new Jerusalem. In other words, believers of Israel “They are not all Israel that are of Israel”) are called for the purpose of inheriting the new Jerusalem.
Heb. 11:18, “…..in Isaac shall thy seed be called”. (Please see the note on Rom. 9:7-8 above).
I Peter 1:15, “But as He Which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation”. To whom had Peter written this epistle? That question is answered in verse 1, “Peter….. to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia….”. Who are the “strangers” scattered throughout these lands?
The Greek word “diaspora” translated here “scattered” occurs three times in the New Testament. In John 7:35 we read, “The Jews said to one another, ‘Where does this Man intend to go that we cannot find Him? Will He go where our people are scattered among the Greeks?” In this verse, it is obvious that “diaspora” refers to the scattered of Israel. The second occurrence of “diaspora” is found in James 1:1, “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations”. The reference here is also obvious. The third occurrence is in I Peter 1:1. We find in this matter a perfection in the Word of God which one would expect. That is, that the Greek word “diaspora” refers to the scattered of Israel.
In short, Peter’s epistle was written to Israel. Again, as shown in this study, Israel was indeed called of God to fulfill His purposes.
I Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation (Gr. “genos” – “race”), a royal priesthood an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should shew forth the praises of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”. This verse is an obvious reference to Israel which was chosen and called to show forth the praises of God. How do we know that? We read in Ex. 19:5-6, “Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all the people….. And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation….”.
Again, Israel was chosen and called to fulfill the purposes for which God called them. In this context that purpose was to “shew forth the praises” of God.
We read in I Peter 2:20-21, “…..But if when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called…..” The work to which these were called is explained in the context, i.e. to suffer patiently.
We read in I Peter 3:8-9, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing; but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing”. Here too, the purpose to which these were called is explained in the context, i.e. to be compassionate, loving, pitiful, courteous etc.
I Peter 5:10, “But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory……make you perfect….”. Again, it is important to note that Peter’s epistle is written to Israel and that Israel was called of God to fulfill His purposes. Note also that Peter does not say that they were called to be saved, he says rather that the saved were called to glory. (The purpose of that calling is not given; please see the comment on Rom. 1:5-6).
II Peter 1:3, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him That hath called us to glory and virtue”. Note that this verse is written to those who have been given all things that pertain to godliness through the knowledge of God. That tells us that this verse is directed to believers. As believers, they were called to glory and virtue. That is to say, they were not called to be believers, but rather because they were believers they were called to glory and virtue.
Jude 1, “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ….to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ and called”. As the comments above on I Cor. 1:2 reveal, to be sanctified is to be separated unto God. My point is that sanctification is not the same as salvation. Salvation is be raised from the dead unto resurrection life, while sanctification is to be separated unto God from unbelievers. In other words, once one becomes a believer, he is set apart (sanctified) from unbelievers unto God, (The purpose of that calling is not given; please see the comment on Rom. 1:5-6).
“MANY BE CALLED BUT FEW CHOSEN”
The phrase “many be called but few chosen” (or words to that effect) is used only two times, both in order to express the point of a parable. The first occurrence is found in Matt. 20:16 which records the point of the parable of the laborers. Note the very important opening, “For the kingdom of Heaven is like unto…”. As the paper on the kingdom of Heaven will show, the term “kingdom of Heaven” is used of Christ’s millennial reign over Israel. That is to say, while it is true that Christ will reign over all the nations of the earth in the millennium, the term “kingdom of Heaven” is limited to His reign over Israel in the Land.
The point of the parable given by the Lord is,. “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen“. For the meaning of this point we must go back to Peter’s question as recorded in Matt. 19:27-30, “Then answered Peter, and said unto Him, ’Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?’
The point of the parable is made with the phrase “many are called but few are chosen”. Consider that the parable comes as an answer to Peter’s question, “we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?’ I believe that we may conclude that in this parable and in this context (i.e. “the kingdom of Heaven is like unto”) the many who are called are Israel, and the few that are chosen are the twelve disciples.
Both Israel and the twelve were chosen for service; so the use of the phrase “many be called but few chosen” is consistent with that which has been suggested in this study, i.e. God chooses and then calls some for service to Him.
The term “many are called but few are chosen” is found in the parable of the wedding feast as recorded in Matt. 22:1-14. Let us consider the parable of the wedding feast. ”The kingdom of Heaven is like unto a certain king which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, ‘Tell them which are bidden, ‘Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my farlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage’. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to the farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways and as many as ye shall find bid to the marriage.’ So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him, ‘Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth’. For many are called, but few are chosen”.
Note that once again Christ’s opening statement, “The kingdom of Heaven is like unto..”. The term “the kingdom of Heaven” tells us that this parable centers on Israel. Let us consider the question, who are those bidden from the highways? To know when the ones of the highways will be bidden is crucial in understanding who they are. In verse 8 we read, “Then saith he to his servants, “the wedding is ready….”. The wedding of this parable represents the wedding of Christ in the end times. One of the events connected with the end times return of Christ, when His wedding will be ready, is the gathering of Israel.
The gathering of Israel is prophesied several times in the Old Testament, but let us consider Ezek. 20:34, “I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered”. Note Israel will be gathered from the nations. I believe it is these nations that the parable refers to as the “highways” to which the servants of Matt. 22:9-10 will be sent. That these servants were sent to the nations to gather Israel is in keeping with the fact that this parable is one of those that teach things concerning the kingdom of Heaven. Again, the kingdom of Heaven is Christ’s rule of Israel in the millennium. (For the Scriptural evidence of that statement please see the paper on this web-site The Kingdom of Heaven.) It is also in keeping with the fact that Matthew is the most Israel centered of the four Gospels and this parable is recorded only in Matthew’s Gospel.
I suggest therefore that those who were gathered from the highways represent the scattered of Israel who will be gathered at the time that the wedding feast will be ready, i.e. at the second coming of Christ.
Let us also consider the question: who does the man without the wedding garment represent? He obviously represents those gathered from the highways who were found unworthy to attend the wedding feast. Ezek.20:38 reads, “And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me……they shall not enter into the land of Israel…..”. As the paper on this web-site about kingdom of Heaven will prove, there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” outside the land of Israel in the millennial reign. This is where we are told the unworthy guests will be cast (see Matt. 22:13).
As mentioned above, I believe that those in the parable who were called represent the scattered of Israel at the time of the second coming of Christ. The one in the parable who was cast out into outer darkness was one of them who had been called to the wedding feast, but had not been one of the chosen. In other words, both those who were called and those who were chosen (the ones not cast out) were of Israel.
In this parable the phrase “many be called but few chosen”, both the called and the chosen refers to Israel. As was shown in this study, Israel was chosen and called for service. This is perfectly consistent with the suggestion that to be chosen and then called, is to be called and chosen for service to God.
“FOR WHOM HE DID FOREKNOW”
“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified”.
Many have said that the phrase, “whom He did foreknow” refers to those that God knew would accept Him. Again, there is no Scriptural evidence to support this view. But let us consider Acts 13:48, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed”. This tells us that those who had been chosen unto eternal life believed. Note this does not say that as many as God knew would believe were ordained to eternal life, but as many as were “ordained”. In other words, they were not ordained unto eternal life because God knew they would believe, they were ordained and therefore, they believed. Just as Paul had been set apart from birth unto God because Paul fulfilled some of God’s purposes, so too those whom God foreknew were called. Let us therefore, look to the Old Testament for the true meaning of the phrase, “whom He did foreknow”.
In the Old Testament we read of God knowing Moses and others. But those He chose to know were not always believers. We read in Is. 45:3-4, “….so that you (Cyrus) may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel who calls you by name. For the sake of Jacob My servant….I call on you by name and bestow on you a title of honor though you do not acknowledge Me”. God chose to know Cyrus, not for salvation, but for service. It was Cyrus who ended the seventy year captivity of Israel.
But Rom. 8:29 uses the word “foreknow”, “For whom He did foreknow”. God knew them because He had a specific purpose for them to fulfill. That purpose required them to be justified. So God foreknew those for whom He had a specific purpose. Because His purpose required these people to believe in Him He predestined them to be called and justified. But again, this calling was primarily for service to Him. We must not take this passage out of the context of what the entire Bible teaches about predestination. The testimony of the entire Word of God, as we have seen in the sections above, tells us that many were chosen to fulfill a particular purpose that God had for them. But nowhere do we read that God had ever chosen someone for the sole purpose of being saved.
A discussion of foreknowledge would not be complete without a consideration of I Peter 1:2, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father….”. This verse does seem to indicate that the elect were foreknown by God. That is to say, this verse, as translated in the KJV, may be interpreted to say that God elected those unto salvation that He knew would believe in Him. But as we have seen above, in the case of Cyrus, for example, foreknowledge did not imply salvation. How are we to understand this passage in I Peter?
The note in the Companion Bible on the word “elect” reads, “Read ‘before strangers’. See vs. 1”. In other words, verse one should read, “Peter….to the elect strangers scattered throughout Pontus…”. And verse two should read, “According to the foreknowledge of God….”. Let us put this together, “Peter….to the elect strangers scattered throughout Pontus……according to the foreknowledge of God….”. The most natural reading is that God foreknew that they would be scattered. (“Peter….to the elect strangers scattered ……according to the foreknowledge of God….”.)
But then the rest of verse two would make no sense, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ; Grace unto you, and peace be multiplied”. That is to say, the fact that God foreknew that they would be scattered strangers has nothing to do with sanctification and sprinkling of blood. Therefore, I suggest the following translation, “Peter….to the elect strangers scattered throughout Pontus ……..according to the foreknowledge of God. (Full stop.) Through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, grace unto you, and peace be multiplied”. In other words the grace and peace that Peter prays will be given to the scattered strangers would be given through sanctification of the Spirit and through the sprinkling of the blood of Christ. This suggestion is in keeping with the fact that the sanctification of the Spirit is “unto obedience”. That would be a matter of great concern to those who were scattered among the heathen.*
We all know that the question of whether God chooses some to be saved and leaves others to not be saved is one that has been debated for some time. I believe that one of the main reasons that honest, Bible-believing Christians can not agree on this issue is because the question is approached solely on the basis of the teachings of the New Testament. As I have mentioned above, such an approach often leads to error.
We must understand the teachings from the Old Testament, that God does indeed choose a nation, a tribe and certain individuals for the completion of His plans and purposes. And that sometimes the completion of those plans and purposes require the ones chosen to be believers. God has the right and the authority to choose some individuals to be saved when the completion of His plans require belief.
We must also understand that God’s plans and purposes do not depend on the will of man, and that, while His will is sovereign, He does allow most to exercise their free will to accept or deny Him.
I am not suggesting that all that are saved are chosen. Some may be chosen and some may have come as a result of their own free will allowing God to draw them to the truth. We who are saved don’t know if we were chosen or if we were only exercising that God given free will. But if He did choose us, we know that He will accomplish His will in that choosing.*
*The bold type in the quotations were added.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. I would appreciate hearing your views. Please e-mail me at:firstname.lastname@example.org