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By Helen Setterfield

There are differing opinions as to whom the term "the elect" refers to when mentioned in the bible. Probably the most likely explanation is that "the elect" refers to all "believers" in the church age, but in the tribulation period as well as the time before Christ, it refers to the Jews. For another writer's view please see....



As a challenge to my conviction that Calvinism is not accurate, I was asked to please give my opinion of the term ‘elect’ as used in the New Testament. My response was that my opinion didn’t matter a whit, but what the Bible says is what matters, and so I promised to do a study on this word.

I learned a lot, and that is an understatement. I do want to thank my husband, Barry, for his help in helping me look up so many verses and checking many in other translations for me. So here is, as requested, what ‘elect’ appears to mean in the New Testament.

The Greek words being dealt with here include ‘eklegomai’, ‘eklektos’, and ‘ekloge’.

Matthew 24:15-31

"So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.

“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

“Immediately after the distress of those days

‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

“At that time the sing of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather the elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

The first two uses of ‘elect’ in the above passage are in direct reference to Daniel’s prophecy regarding the abomination that causes desolation and the time known as Jacob’s trouble. This is the Tribulation. Revelation tells us that during that time there are 144,000 of the tribes of Israel who are identified as “the servants of our God.” These are chosen by God to be hidden from the wrath. Thus they have the name ‘elect.’ But they are chosen because they are His servants, and that is stated plainly. This use of ‘elect’ clearly does not pertain to any of us here on this forum today.

The third use of ‘elect’ in the above is interesting, for they are being gathered not from on earth, but from ‘the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.’ The implication is that they are already dead as we would consider them here on earth and are being gathered for this final scenario which Jesus is prophesying. There is internal evidence in the Bible that these may be the ‘armies of heaven’ who follow Christ when He comes down for battle against the beast in Rev. 19. Their clothes are ‘fine linen, white and clean.’ These are identified as the robes of the saints in verse 8, just preceding that coming. These are most certainly the elect, whether one sees that word from a Calvinist or non-calvinist perspective.

There is one other option for these elect, as the term is used once, as seen below, for some of the angels.

Mark 13 marks the next three uses of the word ‘elect’, and is parallel to the above account in Matthew.

The next use, going through the New Testament, is in Romans 9:11. Verses 10-12 are here quoted for context:

Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand; not by works but by him who calls – she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

First of all, the clear reference election makes here is to the fact that the younger would serve the older. This would be to God’s purpose. It has nothing to do with their salvation, but with the history which would unfold, as Rebekah was told ‘there are two nations in your womb.’ Thus God is also talking about the nations, not the individuals per se. During the boys’ lifetime we have no record of Esau serving Jacob. However we have record of that happening to the peoples who descended from them. The phrase “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I hated.” Is a quote from Malachi. There it is clear that the two nations are being talked about, not two individuals. This is clear in Malachi 1:

An oracle: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.

“I have loved you,” says the Lord.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?”
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother” the Lord says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”
Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.”
But this is what the Lord Almighty says:
“They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the Lord – even beyond the borders of Israel!”

God’s judgment over Edom and some others is delineated rather graphically in Isaiah 34.

And why?

We read in Obadiah why – here is a bit from that one chapter book, all of which is to the Edomites:

The pride of your heart has deceived you…

Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame, you will be destroyed forever.
On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.
You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune,
Nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction,
Nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.
You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster,
Nor look down on them in their calamity in the day of their disaster,
Nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster.
You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives,
Nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble.

For the day of the Lord is near for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;
Your deeds will return upon your own head.

This is the Esau God hated, and the reason He hated it. It was not the person, but the nation. And the predestination as prophesied by God to Rebekah was that the younger would serve the older, not that either of them would be saved and the other not. We do not know about Esau’s eternal destiny.

On to Romans 11:1-10 (also in bold is the word ‘chosen’ as it is an alternate translation of the Greek words being discussed here)

This verse is one very commonly used by Calvinists to make their point about predestination. And if one does not let Bible explain Bible, they seem to be right. Here is how that entire passage reads:

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah – how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So, too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written:

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear
until this very day.”

And David says:

“May their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
And their backs be bent forever.”

Before we deal with any other Scripture here, there are a couple points that should be noted. The elect mentioned above are Jews. They are specifically Jews.

The seven thousand mentioned in reference to Elijah’s day did not bow to Baal. Now, they may have broken all the rest of the commandments individually or corporately, but they did not bow to Baal. Maybe they didn’t even actively worship God! But they did not bow to Baal. It is just as conceivable that a great number of those who did worship, or bow to, Baal, had done many fine things aside from that: taken care of the elderly among them, honoring their parents, staying faithful to their marriage partners, etc. But they bowed to Baal. They were given up despite any good works. The seven thousand were reserved by God despite any other sins committed. Paul is very clear about the reason those seven thousand were reserved. It was not arbitrary or even seemingly arbitrary on God’s part.

Paul then goes on to reference two other Scripture passages he incorporates into this letter to the Romans. Let’s look at those passages and what they are referring to.

The first is from Isaiah 29. This is written to “Ariel”, or Jerusalem, David’s City. The first two verses read:

Woe to you, Ariel, the city where David settled!
Add year to year and let your cycle of festivals go on.
Yet I will besiege Ariel; she will mourn and lament,
She will be to me like an altar hearth.

In verse 10, we read

The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep;
He has sealed your eyes (the prophets);
He has covered your heads (the seers).

In referencing this verse, Paul was then not talking about individuals being blind and deaf, but that their prophets and seers were either gone or totally useless to them anymore. This is a corporate statement, not one of God hardening individuals. This is the first mistake Calvinists make in regard to this passage.

But why is the Lord doing this to Jerusalem?
The Lord answers why starting in verse 13:

The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.
Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder;
The wisdom of the wise will perish,
The intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.
Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord,
Who do their work in darkness and think,
‘Who sees us? Who will know?’
You turn things upside down,
As if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to him who formed it,
‘He did not make me’?
Can the pot say of the potter,
‘He knows nothing’?

There is the reason God gives. These people have become religious in the ways of man, not God. Their hearts are far from Him. FOR THIS REASON, He will come upon them in strong discipline. It, again, has absolutely nothing to do with predestination.

The second of the two quotes Paul uses is from the Psalms, what we know as Psalm 69 now. I will quote from verses 16 to 29 so that the quote Paul used can be put in context:

Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant;
Answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
Come near and rescue me;
Redeem me because of my foes.

You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
All my enemies are before you.
Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
For comforters, but I found none.
They put gall in my food
And gave me vinegar for my thirst.

May the table set before them become a snare;
May it become a retribution and a trap.
May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see;
And their backs be bent forever.
Pour out your wrath on them--
Let your fierce anger overtake them.
May their place be deserted;
Let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
For they persecute those you wound and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
Charge them with crime upon crime,
Do not let them share in your salvation.
May they be blotted out of the book of life
And not be listed with the righteous.

I am in pain and distress;
May your salvation, O God, protect me.

[Note, the Alexandrian LXX here says “Your salvation shall set me on high.”]

Why is David asking for God’s anger and punishment against his foes? Not simply because they are his foes, if you will notice. But because they have scorned him, withholding both sympathy and comfort, and instead ‘put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.’ According to verse 5 of that Psalm, David is being disciplined strongly by God for some sin.

Thus both of Paul’s references in Romans 11 have to do with wrongs committed and God’s responses, or requested response, to those wrongs. Neither passage would indicate that Paul is making any possible reference to the predestination or pre-election of believers from even before their births. To use Romans 11, then as a support for predestination by virtue of the word ‘elect’ is to stretch it far beyond anything Paul ever evidenced meaning. It is important to remember that ‘elect’ means either ‘to choose’ or ‘chosen’, depending on whether it is being used as a verb or a noun. God truly is choosing, but this choosing is not at all arbitrary by any human standard and the reasons are clearly given – His election of these people is His response to how they are living their lives.

His grace is unmerited. This is not a point of argument. But His choices have reasons, and He gives those reasons in Scripture.

The next time ‘elect’ is used is also in Romans11: 25-32:

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

‘The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Although it is common for some to extract the phrase that God’s gifts and call are irrevocable, and use this as a proof text for various doctrines, the fact is that Paul is referring to Israel here, and the fact that God formed and made Israel for a purpose – not only to show God’s character to the world, but to bring forth the Redeemer, the Christ. A great deal of care must be taken if one wants to apply this verse to something else.

Paul is again applying, in the above, the concept of election to Israel itself, and that they are loved “on account of the patriarchs,” and, again, not because of any works they may have done. The fact that they are ‘partially hardened’ means, also, that they are partially NOT hardened. This is important to remember.

The closing lines of this passage are quite important in confronting Calvinism, for if the all men who are bound over to disobedience are indeed all in the human race, then this is also exactly whom God will have mercy upon. This does not mean that all will be saved, but it does emphasize again that God’s love and mercy are extended towards every member of mankind and not just a select few.

The next use of the word ‘elect’ is in 1 Timothy 5:21:

I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

Here it is a population of angels who are referred to as chosen, or elect. This has nothing to do with men.

2 Timothy 2:8-10:

Remember Jesus Christ, raised form the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

Paul, in this letter to Timothy has just made a strong point that Jesus Christ was not only raised from the dead, but was descended from David. If we go back into Romans, we can see Paul’s love for his own people, the Jews, poured out over and over again. (”For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.” Romans 9:3-4). From the above we can see that, with the exception of one mention of angels, he has not referred to the elect as anyone other than Jewish people. There is no reason, especially in light of his mention of ‘descended from David’, that he is referring to anyone else in the above passage. It certainly makes no reference to anything remotely resembling predestination.

Titus 1:1-4

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,
To Titus, my true son in our common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Savior.

Who are ‘God’s elect’ here? Paul has made, in all of his letters, NO reference to any humans but the Jews in this regard. This phrase may have been especially meaningful to Titus, as Titus was not a Jew, but rather a Gentile, albeit Paul’s “true son in our common faith.”

It should be noted as well that both faith and knowledge are said here to be resting on the hope of eternal life! This is a hope which resonates through all mankind of every time and culture, as we can see in the other religions. It is interesting that Paul has linked this knowledge to a hope of eternal life, for when we look again at Romans 1, we see the following:

For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Paul says all men have seen and understood this much about God through creation. He then, in his opening to Titus, above, speaks of the hope of eternal life being a foundation for the knowledge he is referring to – a knowledge leading to godliness.

At no time is there even a hint of any predestination of any special individuals here.

On to 1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappodocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

The above quote is from the NIV. But look at both the King James and the New King James for a much clearer statement of who this is to:

…To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia…..

Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles. Peter to the Jews. So Peter is also using the phrase “God’s elect” in connection with his own people, the Jews, and, in particular the believers among them (via use of his phrase ‘strangers in the world’ which refers to Christ’s words to His disciples in John 15:18, 17:6, etc. which Peter was there to hear himself), who at that time were indeed scattered. These elect were chosen for something, not just ‘chosen’ – they were chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ. If the rest of the Bible holds true, they were chosen by God because they had accepted the truth presented to them about Christ – the Promised Redeemer. There is no indication anywhere in the Bible that God’s choices cannot be understood by men in terms of who is saved. The Bible, on the contrary, spends quite a bit of time explaining all this!

2 Peter 1:10

(Ah, maybe THIS one uses ‘elect’ in the Calvinist sense! In fact, let’s take it from verse 3, because some very interesting things are being said:)

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is near-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fail, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Who is he writing to here? In 2 Peter 1:1 we read that the letter is “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.”

This could certainly be to any Christian.

Except….at the beginning of chapter 3, he writes: Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. This letter is being written to the Jews, as was made plain at the beginning of his first letter..

Now let’s look at that same quoted section in that light:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

“Us” is the Jewish people, and they were called via Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Moses. It is through this knowledge of God given to the patriarchs that Peter is saying they have everything they need for life and godliness.

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

The promises are those given to the Israelites (ref. Romans 9:4, as quoted above), the main one of which was the promise of the coming Messiah through their nation. By holding to these promises and the knowledge God had revealed to them in particular, they had all they needed to escape the world’s corruption. This is exactly in line with God’s directions to the ancient Israelis to keep from intermarrying or commingling with the pagan nations around them when they went in to take the Promised Land.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is near-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

This probably does not need any explanation in terms of the subject of election.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fail, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Their election was as the Israeli people. Making this election sure, then, is what is involved in being a follower of Jesus Christ.

The word which translates, in its different forms, as ‘elect’ or ‘election’ also is translated as ‘choose’ and ‘chosen’. So let’s check those verses. Not considered will be those verses where the reference is to people choosing other people for different matters or those verses in which is says God chose Christ. It is only those matters where God is said to be choosing in terms of humans that will be considered below.

Matthew 22:14

This is the closing line of the parable of the wedding banquet, which starts at the beginning of the chapter: For many are invited [KJV ‘called’], but few are chosen. This states, just as accurately according to the Greek used, For many are invited, but few are elected.

Kletos is the word for ‘invited’ here and it is the only time the NIV translates it that way instead of ‘called.’ [this is further dealt with below]This parable, however, makes election, or choosing, contingent upon something more than God’s invitation to “Come”. This denies the idea of the election necessarily resulting in salvation.

Mark 13:20

This is part of a parallel passage to the passage in Matthew 24, which was the first part of the discussion above.

Luke 18:7

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

There is nothing in this passage either alone or in context which gives a specific identity to the chosen ones being referred to. However, if one uses the alternate form of ‘elect’ here, we have “And will not God bring about justice for his elect ones, who cry out to him day and night?” And the meaning becomes clearer in light of two things:
1. As has been shown above, the identity of “God’s elect” in the New Testament is quite clear – they are the Jewish people.
2. It is the Jews who have been so persecuted throughout history and have been calling out for justice day and night.

We can also see that, apart from any idea of individual salvation at all, Isaiah tells us quite clearly that the Lord WILL be fulfilling justice where Israel is concerned. That is one of the precious promises they were to count on.

John 6:70

”Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!”

Here the choosing, or election, is specifically of the Twelve disciples. Also interesting here is that Christ’s electing included one who He called ‘a devil.’ This would negate this particular choosing, at least, as being in connection with salvation.

John 13:15-18

”I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’”

This is again a direct reference to the Twelve disciples and to them only.

John 15:15-19

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

This address is being made specifically to the 11 disciples (Judas had already left). This is not to deny that the world indeed hates Christians, but this was being said specifically to the Eleven, all but one of whom are reputed to have been martyred for Christ in later years.

Acts 1:1-2

In my former book Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

This is, again, a reference to the only choosing of humans Jesus did: His apostles.

Acts 1:24-25

Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”

Here they are asking for God’s specific election between the two men they have chosen to replace Judas. Although this is the same word in the Greek we are looking at here, I don’t think this choosing by God is part of the argument we are dealing with.

Acts 9:15

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”

Here the choosing, or election, is not referring to salvation, but to God’s use of Paul. He was chosen as an instrument to do something. The choosing referred to a purpose apart from Paul’s salvation.

Romans 8:31-33

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

Here the chosen, or elected, are clearly all Christians, and Paul is giving us reassurance regarding our standing with God.

Romans 11:5 – see above in the ‘elect’ section.

Romans 16:13

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

This is the only one of those Paul lists in his greetings whom he calls ‘chosen’, or ‘elected.’ This presumably does not mean the others weren’t believers, for he asks for all to be greeted as fellow believers, with the possible exception of Herodian, in verse 11, of whom he simply says “my relative.” As far as Rufus is concerned, though, if he is the same Rufus who was Simon of Cyrene’s son (see Mark 15:21) there may be a special reference here from Paul to the others which we are simply not aware of.

Colossians 3:12 [v. 1 is included to identify who is being spoken to]

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God…Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved….

Again, as in Romans 8:33, it appears this address is to all believers.

1 Thessalonians 12:5

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

This letter, as the second one to the same church at Thessalonica, was a letter of encouragement. It is part of a reassurance that they are indeed chosen and loved by God as believers.

James 2:5

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him?

In his warnings against showing favoritism, James is here showing how God chooses to use certain believers, not that He chose them to believe. This is roughly parallel to Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. The note is here made, though, that those who inherit the kingdom will be those who love Him. It does not say, ‘those whom He chooses to have love Him.’ And there is a big difference.

1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

First, Peter is writing specifically to the Jews dispersed, as mentioned above. Secondly, they, as a people, were those titled “God’s Elect”, or the ‘chosen people.’ Thirdly, the church as we know it is Christ’s Bride (2 Cor. 11:2, etc.). Thus, there seems to be a distinction here between Israel, whose believers are part of a royal priesthood, and the church of today, which is listed as Christ’s bride. This is not how this passage is usually seen today, but if it is taken in context, that may very well be the meaning. Whatever the final conclusion on this matter, the context and recipients of the letter clearly indicate that it is Jews who are being spoken to and about as being ‘a chosen people.’

2 John 1:1

The elder,
To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth – and not I only, but also all who know the truth – because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:

The identity of the ‘chosen lady’ is not known here. It may have been an individual and her biological children or it could have even been a church and the believers involved. The letter was written during a time of persecution and the designation may have been left obscure to protect the recipients. But without knowing exactly who it was to, it is very hard to identify the use of the word ‘chosen’ here.

2 John 1:13

The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.

It is this reference which does make the two ‘women’ involved seem more like John may have been addressing two different churches. The designation ‘chosen’ in both cases could have then been a key word to indicate two Christian churches or two churches made up of believing Jews in particular.

Revelation 17:4

They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with him will be his called, chosen, and faithful followers.

Are ‘called,’ ‘chosen,’ and ‘faithful’ all the same category?

Perhaps not. A quick study of the word ‘called’ will reveal that. The word translated ‘called’ here in Revelation is kletos. It is used ten times in the New Testament, and only once by Jesus. Here are those ten times:

Matthew 22:14: This is the one time Jesus uses the word in the Bible. It is the famous “For many are called, but few are chosen”

Romans 1:1 – Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…

Romans 1:6-7 – And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints…

Romans 8:28– And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who have been called according to his purpose.

1 Corinthians 1:1-2 – Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours:
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 – Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Jude 1:1-2 – Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ:
Mercy, peace and love be ours in abundance.

Revelation 17:14 – as quoted above.

The word ‘kletos’ in the Greek means ‘invited’ and is from the root word meaning ‘an invitation.’

Why has this been ignored? Those who are called are those who, as in the parable of the wedding feast, have been INVITED to come. Obviously, many refuse.

It is clear that not all are invited. That is another study. However it is quite clear here that not all the invited respond positively. This was Jesus’ point in his parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22.

So if we go back to the verse in Revelation where we have the ‘kletos’ (invited), chosen, and faithful followers, we find there is a distinction between invited and chosen as delineated by Christ Himself in Matthew. This also means there may be a warning for all of us, for evidently those who are chosen have a sub-class that Christ considers the faithful. A clue to this may be found in Matthew 5:19, in which Christ says, “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” There is a distinction between the greatest and the least in Heaven. Thus, the believer who either came to Christ too late in life to have lived a faithful life, or the believer who, like a stubborn sheep who nevertheless belongs to the Good Shepherd, required much more discipline than usual by the Holy Spirit to bring him into line, may not be considered to be among the ‘faithful.’

But that is another study, too.

To conclude this one, the term ‘elect’, especially as in “God’s elect,” is consistently and clearly used for the Jewish people and them only, in terms of humans. Only once is it used another way, and that refers to a class of angels.

However, to be fair, it was necessary to go back to the original Greek words meaning some form of ‘elect’, and see how else they have been translated. The term ‘chosen’ or one of its variants is the other choice for that word and there is clear indication that ‘chosen’ can also refer to Christians in general, although there are a few times when it, also, is specifically referring to the Jews.

Finally, and importantly when discussing Calvinist doctrine, it is necessary to note that the word most often translated as ‘called’ in the New Testament literally means ‘invited,’ and that Christ’s parable shows that this calling, or invitation, is certainly refusable by the people invited.

The argument being made here from Scripture is not that God does not choose. It is, rather, that He does not choose before the person is born for reasons that are unknown to us. That He chooses those who have responded to Him is made quite clear. Thus, contrary to both Arminianism and Calvinism, the Bible presents a mutuality of choice – God’s choice being based on His foreknowledge of the person involved, and the person’s choice being based on his or her response to the truth presented in his or her life.


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