People of God — Lesson 7

A Study by Robert F. Turner

The Calling of the Elect

In our studies thus far we have found the words “elect” and “chosen” frequently used in Scripture with reference to becoming one of God’s people. To many this is enough to warrant the conclusion that God selects the individuals He will save, and (in His “inscrutable wisdom”) leaves others to be lost. We freely acknowledge man’s inability to grasp the fullness of God’s ways (“the secret things belong to the Lord”), but we are told “those things which are revealed belong to us” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Well, it is clearly revealed “there is no partiality [respect of persons — KJV] with God” (Romans 2:11–13). Can we understand that “revelation”? Paul wrote of “the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ . . . revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:2–5). We can understand things revealed in God’s word, and they teach an election and choosing that respects free will and response on man’s part.

“Elect,” “Chosen,” and “Called”

“Elect” and “chosen” are often translated from the same Greek word, eklektos. See Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen,” and Matthew 24:22, “but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” “Elect” and “chosen” are linked to the word “called,” as seen in Revelation 17:14, “for He [Christ] is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen [eklektos], and faithful.” (Note, “and faithful.”) If we can determine how God “calls” His people, we will better understand how He “elects” or “chooses” them, and why “faithful” is essential to the process.

1 Peter 1:1,2 is addressed to the “elect [eklektos] according to the foreknowledge of God“ and some, erroneously equating foreknowledge with foreordination, have concluded that God selected these individuals apart from and unrelated to their faith and response to His call. But “knowing” ahead of time (as Christ foreknew who would betray Him — Matthew 26:21,22) does not remove individual responsibility to God. 1 Peter 1:2 continues: “in [en] sanctification [the root word is hagios, setting apart, dedication to holiness] of the Spirit [lit., spirit] . . . “ There is no “the” in the Greek, nor anything in the context to demand capitalization of the “s” in spirit. The setting apart of their spirit was “for obedience” (response of the believers to their faith), which resulted in cleansing by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 5:9). Later, in 1 Peter 1:17,18, Peter says God judges according to every man’s work, but we should be humbled in the knowledge that acceptable obedience is response to the “call” that precedes it — a call made possible by Christ’s sacrifice. We are “born again” by obedience to the word of God “which by the gospel was preached to you” (vv. 22–25).

A closely paralleled scripture is 2 Thessalonians 2:13,14. God chose the Thessalonians “for salvation through [en, in] sanctification by the Spirit [no “the” in Greek, nor capital “s”] and belief in truth [no “the”], to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God was “calling” as the gospel of Christ was preached; and those who believed and obeyed that “call” were “chosen to salvation.”

Light and darkness represent the two extremes or realms of right and wrong, and 1 Peter 2:9 says God had called His people “out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Verse 10 continues, “who once were not a people but are now the people of God.” The “call” was by the gospel to the Gentiles, “ . . . to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among those how are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:17,18). “Faith comes by hearing . . . the word of God” (Romans 10:17). God called Gentiles when the gospel was preached unto them; as Peter had said (Acts 2:39,40), “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

The Necessity of Heeding God’s Call

“And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added unto them” (Acts 2:41). Verse 47 reads, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Man does not merit salvation. It is available to “whosoever will” according to the “eternal purpose” which God purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:11). God freely provided the means of salvation (Jesus Christ) before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9) but man must hear the “call” of the gospel, gladly receive the word, and obey it, to be forgiven of his sins (see Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:37,38; 22:16). By the same principle, those who have been forgiven of past sins are now called to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord . . . “ (2 Peter 3:18).

A study of the people of God repeatedly brings us back to that which “went forth” from Jerusalem: “the law and the word of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:3). Our conclusions must not be subjectively determined, i.e., how we “feel” about a matter, but by objectively determining what God has said about that matter. Some say this makes the Bible our “God,” but these accusers, who accept their “feelings” as the standard, have made a “god” of themselves. Their “god” has no uniformity, is as varied as the people who dream him up, and has no more moral integrity than the society who invents him. There certainly are honest differences among people who read the Bible, but those differences can be resolved by further study and faith in God’s word. They will not be removed by depending upon a standard no higher than those who need it.

God calls the whole world population. With “all power “ (authority) Christ said, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18,19). The Lord is “not willing that any should perish [hence, a universal call] but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). This says that people of the world must respond to the Lord’s call in order to be benefited by it. As seen throughout this study, the love and glorification sought by God and essential to His purpose in creating man demands a free-will response of man to His will. The ultimate people of God are not puppets: (1) condemned by a depravity inherited from Adam; (2) unconditionally elected; (3) to be among the “limited” number for whom Christ died; (4) saved (or lost) by an irresistible force (that makes God partial — a respecter of persons); nor (5) preserved, regardless of the individual’s rebellion against God’s will. Not one item in this Calvinistic doctrine is true.

God’s Word, the Instrument Used by the Holy Spirit

We have seen that the Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all truth (Luke 24:46–49; John 16:12,13); and spiritual gifts endowed others in those formative years with wisdom, prophecy, etc. (1 Corinthians 12:7–11). Today those who accept their message are guided by the Spirit, through the instrumentality of the word. Someone has compiled a list of twenty-five blessings that are assigned both to the Spirit and to the word, but we note only a few of them here. The new birth is “of the Spirit” (John 3:8), but it is also by the word of God (1 Peter 1:23). We are sanctified “by the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:11), but Jesus taught that it was through the word of truth (John 17:17). The Spirit “dwells in you” (Romans 8:11), but so does the word (Colossians 3:16). We are quickened (made alive) by the Spirit (John 6:63), but this same passage tells us, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” We repeat, the word of God is the instrument of the Holy Spirit, and it must be approached objectively — looking outside ourselves and our “feelings” — in order to profit by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

In the nineteenth century a strict Calvinistic sect reached the conclusion that there was no need for “missionaries”; for if God selected the individuals to be saved, and “called” them with an irresistible working of the Holy Spirit, “missionaries” would be a waste of time and money. Their conclusion was consistent with their doctrine, but failed to consider the New Testament explanation of faith. “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14–17). A quotation within these verses, from Isaiah 52:7,8, shows that the “preacher” under consideration is God-sent; a Messianic prophecy of apostles and prophets in the Christian era (see Isaiah 53). But the principle here clearly established is consistent with many other passages. An example: “these are written that you may believe” (John 20:30,31). God saw to it that we had the message of salvation in Christ, but man must do the believing.

Peter says God’s people, having believed, will “add to [their] faith virtue; to virtue, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love.” For those who abound in these things, there are great promises; but for those who lack them, there are serious warnings. And Peter concludes: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2 Peter 1:5–11).

Study Questions

1. “Elect” and “chosen” are linked with what words?

2. What is the difference in “foreknowledge” and “foreordination”?

3. We are born again by obedience to what? See 1 Peter 1:22–25.

4. How does God “call” those who become people of God?

5. Who were baptized on Pentecost? See Acts 2:41.

6. The Holy Spirit operates on man’s heart through what medium?

7. Who is responsible to “make . . . call and election sure”?

You Shall Be Holy (July 12)

You Shall Be Holy (July 12)

Sometimes holiness requires physical separation (and we are foolish if we don’t understand this). But with or without physical separation, holiness requires that our principles, our values, and our decision-making — our character — be different.

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