Matthew 20:16
Clifford Denton

How does the God of Israel choose whom He will save? This is an issue that divides Christian denominations. Some teach that, in a mysterious way, beyond our human ability to fully understand, those whom He saves were known by God even before the creation of the world. There is much to attract us to accept this as the truth. The idea seems to elevate our understanding of God much higher than in other theologies. There is a sense of security that God will take His chosen ones through to eternal life whatever they might do, and free will is over-ridden for all who are chosen in the important matter of eternal destiny. Others take a view at another extreme, where the choosing is an individual’s choice of God as much as God’s choice of an individual. Christian doctrine lies between these two poles depending on the denomination, and the theologies come under the broad scope of either Calvinism or Arminianism.

The principle of election overlaps other principles. Among these are predestination, foreknowledge and walking with God. If we try to develop systems of theology they must be robust enough to have no contradictions when viewed in the light of all truth.

Yeshua said in His teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven, “Many are called but few are chosen”. There seems to be a difference between those who are called and those who are chosen. One question we must ask is how much God leaves to the “here and now” in His choosing, rather than preplanning through many years of human history.

There are some things that He has determined thousands of years in advance. He has made a Covenant with Abraham that will not be revoked. There will be a multitude drawn from every nation, redeemed from the curse of the Fall who will live with Him forever. He has made Covenant with the Nation of Israel that will not be forgotten. But can we identify the exact representatives from the history of the world who will be in the final redeemed family drawn from all nations? We neither have the list of names nor the formula for identifying the individuals, which is why we can only go so far with our understanding.

Language and culture influence our interpretation of biblical truth. Greek language and culture has influenced much theology in the Christian Church. This is why some theologies are over-philosophical in the Greek sense. In seeking to “dot every i and cross every t” of theology ideas have emerged that, when pushed to their philosophical conclusion, imply that God has, before even the creation of the world, chosen exactly who will be saved and who will not be saved. This implies that, even before they were born, some people had no possibility of eternal life. Without denying how much God pre-plans and sees ahead of time, or denying that He could work this way if He so desired, there is something that jars with this sort of biblical interpretation.

More and more believers are looking at the Bible again through Hebraic eyes and seeking to live a life of faith that is in accord with this. Hebraically, knowing is not just the knowledge of facts: it is an intimate relationship. If God foreknows us it implies a beginning of relationship involving a sort of wooing by God. The Bible teaches that He predestines those whom He foreknew (Romans 8:29). Hebraically, then, we form a picture of God building a relationship with an individual through a kind of wooing, so that He might find a response in that person that the person might then be transformed into the image of His Son. This is in “real time” as far as an individual is concerned. God has an unfailing plan to draw multitudes to Him, but the identity of individuals is one at a time as they are won through His seeking after them. There will be a Covenant family, but individuals are called into this group at the time they are physical beings on the earth not before they are born.

The call of God goes out across the entire world. Psalm 19 declares that even the Creation speaks in a visual language of the existence of God. God’s other resources are through the preaching of the Gospel, through signs and miracles and even through dreams and personal direct revelation. The calling is not the choosing, but through the calling many find a heart response towards God which He uses to reveal more of Himself and uses for early relation-building as a lover would woo His beloved. This is the beginning of commitment and brings about the first step of Halakhah (walking with God). Many are called and the call results in God’s choosing when response leads to interaction and a building of relationship that results in the full measure of Covenant promise being afforded to an individual. Hebraically, we cannot settle for what may be wonderful philosophy through Greek eyes but which does not necessarily build relationship between a man or woman and their Maker.

A picture of how God calls and chooses is found in the history of Israel. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob entered into Covenant and then the Tribes were called out of Egypt where a walk with God began. The culmination of that walk both for Israelites and for those who respond to the call from the Gentile world will lead to the final choosing for eternal life.

Many are called but few are chosen. If you hear the call from God through the witness of His Creation or through the preaching of the Gospel, even a beginning tentative response in faith will be used by God and lead to the call becoming a choosing for eternal life.