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The Bible plainly teaches that Abraham did not discover God. God appeared to Abraham. Likewise, Moses did not go to Midian in search of God, but God spoke to Moses in the land of Midian. A distinctive idea of scripture is that God has always sought special people for reasons known only to him. People like Gideon, Samuel, David, Ruth, Esther, Nehemiah, John the Baptist, Mary, and Saul of Tarsus come to mind, among many others. Jesus said to his apostles in John 15:16, "You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last."

Election was not, in and of itself, an original idea. The kings of pagan nations also felt their gods had chosen them for greatness. They typically attributed their selection to some personal attribute their god admired in them. But the God of the Bible seems to prefer underdogs and nobodies. As part of their regular worship, the people of Israel were commanded to remind themselves that they were descendants of "a wandering Aramean" (Deuteronomy 26:5). Scripture makes it patently clear that Israel was not chosen for its physical, moral, social, intellectual, or spiritual merit (Deuteronomy 7:6-7; Ezekiel 16:3-7). God chose Israel to keep his promise to Abraham (see Psalm 105:38-42). Why God chose Abraham reverts to the mystery of election.

Whom God chooses, he always chooses for service. Although Israel prospered as a result of God's faithfulness to the covenant with Abraham, God blessed Israel for his name's sake, that is, to show he was truly God by doing the impossible for this puny nation (1 Samuel 12:22; 1 Kings 8:41-43). Furthermore, he called Israel to spread the truth of ethical monotheism by becoming a moral and spiritual beacon to other nations (Isaiah 2:2-4; 42:6-8; 43:10). Election is never a free ride. It entails becoming an instrument of God's peace. Because Israel largely failed in fulfilling its service responsibilities, Jeremiah prophesied the creation of a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

God elected a new Israel, the church, but the service requirement remains in effect (1 Peter 2:9-12). The church is not simply a Jesus club, a society of like-minded people who meet for mutual edification. It is the Israel of God, chosen and called--chosen to receive his grace but also to feel the cost of that grace, called to be a new creation and to maintain a higher ethical standard (Galatians 6:15-16). Like those who survived the Babylonian Captivity, the church is the faithful remnant--the bit preserved by God (Romans 11:5-7; Matthew 22:14). Yet the distinctive idea behind the remnant concept is that the remnant is saved to save others; the stump is eventually expected to produce branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit.

Election is not predestination, if one means by predestination a destiny that cannot be refused. Thoughout history, people have cast their election aside. In Jeremiah, the vessel that fails to realize the intention of the potter is refashioned into another vessel (Jeremiah 18:4). Although God does not create people who are doomed to hell from birth any more than a potter would make vessels with no other thought than to destroy them, pots do become marred for one reason or another. Faithless Israel marred itself through idolatry and sin while God remained faithful. In scripture, election and predestination are always positive. God chooses people for glory, not for damnation (Romans 8:29-30), but it is up to them to make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11).

God predestines people in love, not wrath (Ephesians 1:4). Christians have been chosen, not for privilege or pride, but for service, whether noble or menial (Romans 9:20-21). Forsaking complacency and self-righteousness, the chosen of God are called to serve others with all heart, mind, and strength, relying on eternal promises for the strength to do so.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 4, 2007 12:02 PM.

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