Word Study #56 — The Chosen

In the final conflict, with all the forces of evil arrayed against him, “The Lamb will conquer them, because (1) he is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and (2) those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Rv.17:14).
It is no surprise that the Lord’s identity should be the primary cause of his victory: but how incredibly gracious, that his faithful followers should be not only included, but credited, as well!

A large segment of “Christian teaching”, sadly, neglects to take into account the order of the words describing “those with him.” Its advocates insist that only the “chosen” are ever “called” to be his. The overwhelming evidence of the New Testament, however, as well as the simple vocabulary, yields a very different scenario. Thayer (see Appendix) notes, in his rather ponderous treatment of kaleo, that only those who have responded to an invitation are considered to be among the “called”, or the invited guests. Those who have refused are not included in that terminology. ( See Jesus’ parable in Lk.14:24).
The invitation is exceedingly broad. It is the choice that is crucial, and even after it is made, faithfulness is required. Mt.22:14 and II Pet.1:10, the only other places where “called” and “chosen” are used together, maintain the same order.

The primary words which are translated “choose” eklego, and “chosen” eklektos, are really quite straightforward. Liddell/Scott defines the verb form as “to pick or single out, to select or choose”, and even on occasion “to levy taxes or tribute”, and the noun/participle/adjective as “selected, choice, chosen.” Even in New Testament usage, they frequently refer simply to the everyday choices of life, whether of associates (Ac.1:2, Jn.6:70, Ac.6:5) or of prestigious seats (Lk.14:7). The choice by the KJV translators to change the English word to “elect” in reference to believers, is a reflection of their theological presuppositions, not of the text. The word in the text is identical, in every case.
Paul uses eklektos (Rom.8:33, Col.3:12, II Tim.2:10, Tit.1:1) in a manner almost synonymous with “saints” or “brethren”, as does Peter (I Pet.1:2). It is a “label” of the identity of those who belong to Jesus, and it is used to urge persistence in faithfulness. Peter, likewise, uses it first of Jesus himself (I Pet.2:4), then (v.9) to re-define the concept of “God’s chosen people”, which in turn also becomes an impetus for faithful living.

In the Gospels, the “chosen ones” (the faithful) are singled out for both protection (Mt.24:22,31; Mk.13:20,22,27; Lk.18:7) and responsibility (Jn.15:16-19). Disciples are not “chosen” to sit around and bask in the glory of their “election”, but to get busy about bearing good fruit for the Kingdom, actively loving each other, and enduring any resultant persecution with patience and faithfulness born of their identification with the Lord Jesus! Jesus himself, of course, is identified as “chosen” – scornfully by the Jewish leaders (Lk.23:35), and honorably by Peter (I Pet.2:6), and it is “in him” (Eph.1:4) that we in turn are “chosen.” The deliberate extension of this term to Gentile believers (Eph.1:4, Col.3:12-15) is extremely significant, in view of the prevailing assumption that it applied only to ethnic Jews (appearing in the LXX more than 100 times). Here again, it is essential to bear in mind that a person’s response is the critical factor.

This also sheds much-needed light on the complicated, much-debated schemes that people have concocted concerning Paul’s “arguments” (actually, explanations) in Romans. Reading chapters 9-11 in the light of understanding the importance of one’s response, reveals, not some sort of divine “shell game”, but simply the affirmation that regardless of one’s ethnicity, his response to God’s call is the critical component of his “chosen” status. Neither Jew nor Gentile has been categorically either excluded or included. “All Israel” has been re-defined as all who embrace Kingdom citizenship. Please notice the conditional clauses in 11:22 “if you keep on staying in his generosity”, and 11:23 “if they do not keep on in unfaithfulness.” The calling has not changed, nor been rescinded (11:29), but it IS conditional.  People’s responses can and do change.
I am well aware that folks prone to proof-texting can string together disconnected “verses” from these chapters to make elaborate systems (usually to exclude someone), and conflicting claims. But our brother Paul did not write “verses” to be rearranged like puzzle pieces. He wrote a letter, and at least to this translator, it is neither complicated nor exclusionary, if viewed as a whole.

The same principle applies to those who find in-group vs. out-group “destiny” in Romans 8. Read the whole paragraph (18-30). Paul’s point is to encourage the brethren to remain faithful, in the midst of severe opposition. He reminds them of the glorious prospect of the consummated Kingdom, of the Spirit’s gracious provision and intercession in our weaknesses and ignorance, and the ultimate power of God to use everything to which life subjects us for eventual good – both his and ours! V.29 is an encouragement, not a threat! These hassles do not catch God unawares: he knew it all along, and is quite capable of using everything for the benefit of those he “predestined” – NOT, please note, to be “saved” or “lost”, but to be “conformed to the image [likeness] of his Son”! It it these whom he chose, called, made just, and glorified! All four verbs are cast in aorist tenses (see grammatical information in Translation Notes), denoting action that is already accomplished in/by the Lord Jesus! Accomplished, in the same, all-too-human people who still need the Spirit’s intercession and instruction, and each other’s mutual support! This is the impetus for the paean of praise with which the chapter closes.

Regarding the “destiny” aspect of “choice,” as noted in W.S.#48,  proorizo, only once associated with choice, appears only 6 times in the entire New Testament, and two of them are in the passage just cited. The others are Eph.1:5 – we are “destined” for adoption as sons of God, and Eph.1:11 – to be a part of God’s glorious plan for all his creation! In the frightened disciples prayer in Ac.4:28, they saw the circumstances of Jesus’ death as pre-determined (notice that we are not told if that was an accurate assessment or not). In I Cor.2:7, Paul again emphasizes God’s plan for his people to share his glory!

This is the sum-total of New Testament references to “predestination”!

All who have answered the “call” and enlisted in the Kingdom, are “chosen”, and “destined” to be with the King! These are the called and the chosen!
May we also prove faithful!

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