Called and Chosen
by Ted Schroder
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29,30 NIV)
“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.” (Romans 8:29,30 The Message)
God has a plan for the world and for us individually. God has had a plan since before the beginning of time. It has now been revealed to us through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:9,10) That plan of salvation is to deliver us from the realm of death and condemnation, to redeem us from sin: frustration, fear, despair and failure, to make us into the likeness of Christ, the fullness of humanity in the kingdom of heaven. To that end he calls us to faith in Christ, he invites us to follow him, and he gives us the grace to accept that invitation. He makes it possible for us to believe, to respond to his call to us. He breaks through our ignorance, our reluctance, our blindness, to enable us to have faith. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)
God knew what we would do in response to his call, but we did not know. There is therefore no loss of responsibility on our part, or any compulsion on God’s part. God is sovereign in his will and he gives us freedom to make choices. Christianity is a relationship between a loving and just God, who is fulfilling his eternal purpose of creation and salvation, and finite, fallen men and women who have been given the liberty and autonomy to make moral choices. This belief, in a balance between God’s action and human response, is different from secular Darwinians who are determinists, or devotees of other religions who are fatalists.
The Bible tells the story of God calling and choosing people to privilege and service. Abraham was called and chosen to become a blessing to many. “I will make your name great and you will be a blessing….and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2,3) God selects some to reach all. He chooses Israel to be a light to the nations. His choice falls on the tribe of Judah from which the Messiah comes. Jesus chooses the twelve disciples, and then the seventy, to proclaim the kingdom of God. He chooses Moses and all the prophets and apostles to fulfill his purpose. He is still calling and choosing people to be his disciples and messengers. He is still choosing the children of Abraham, who live by faith, to be a blessing through their service. God’s choice, and election of people is not for exclusion, to give them a sense of being superior to others who are lost. They are chosen to bring a wider blessing to others. They are chosen to be earlier entrants into the kingdom of God, but only so that others may later enter themselves. Those who first believed are to be followed by those who come in later. “In Christ we were chosen having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11,12)
To be called and chosen for this privileged service is a cause for gratitude and for accountability. As I look back on my life I am humbled and grateful for the privilege of knowing Christ, of being called and chosen to enjoy God’s grace of salvation. There is no earthly reason why I should have become a Christian, or been called into the ordained ministry. There is no human explanation why a boy from a small country town in New Zealand should have studied theology at Durham University in England, been ordained into the Gospel ministry in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, on September 29, 1967 and chosen to serve in one of the most famous churches of that city (All Souls, Langham Place), under a world-renowned preacher (John Stott), where he met a Southern belle from South Carolina who became his wife. I came from no devout family. No one that I knew of in my family had any living faith. No one prayed. No one read their Bible. My parents were not regular church goers. Yet God put a hunger in my heart for eternal life, and questions in my mind about the meaning and purpose of life. My parents sent me to Sunday School, and I was confirmed. God gave me a minister who preached the Gospel and taught from the Bible. God gave me a desire to read the Scriptures, and other Christian books. My minister gave me books from his library: biographies of missionaries, and other devotional classics. I went away to Christian camps in the summer, not because my parents wanted to send me – they had no idea what they were about. God gave me a thirst for Christian teaching and fellowship that, on looking back, was extraordinary. I am sure that my parents were worried about the interest I was exhibiting in my faith. What is amazing about it all is that, apart from my minister, and the local Anglican church, I was on my own. But I wasn’t. God had a plan and purpose for my life that had taken hold of me. He knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He was shaping my life along the same lines as the life of His Son. He called me through the witness of a mission team in my church when I was fourteen years old. He set me on a solid basis with himself through my opening my life to the indwelling of Christ, who called me to become a blessing to others. God did all this in me. It was all because of his grace and mercy. I merely responded in faith.
Here we see parallel lines of divine sovereignty and human freedom and responsibility. St. Bernard of Clairvaux famously quipped: “Take away free will and there would be nothing to save; take away grace and there would be nothing to save with.”
We cannot save ourselves. Exhorting people to take responsibility for themselves without the provision of God’s grace is worthless. Unless we open ourselves to God’s call and respond to his invitation in faith, we cannot be blessed or be a blessing to others. There is no favoritism with God. There is no injustice or interference with human freedom. The Gospel is available to all people. God’s sovereign purpose and human freedom are complementary truths. They are parallel lines, two poles of the magnet. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6:44,45)
The practical application of knowing that you are called and chosen by the sovereign will of God is to strengthen you in God’s service. You know that it is not entirely up to you. God has a stake in your life. He has a purpose to fulfill through you. He is doing his work. People who knew this truth did amazing things. The seventeenth century Puritans, like the Pilgrims who settled New England, believed that they were called and chosen. W.H. Griffith Thomas concluded his exposition of this doctrine with these words, “the realization that we are predestinated and elected to life is one of the mightiest incentives to true Christian living. It humbles pride by putting God first; it encourages faith by making God’s grace real; it rebukes unbelief by reminding us of God’s foresight and provision; it elicits earnestness by the consciousness of God’s wonderful thought and love; and it emphasized holiness by the remembrance of what manner of persons we ought to be who are the subjects of this Divine and glorious purpose.” (The Principles of Theology, 257)
September 27, 2009
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