I was brought up in a church which taught many good things from the Word of God, for which I thank God. But as we grow and seek God, we may discover that many of the things that we were taught are systems of INTERPRETATION of the Word of God, and not the Word of God itself. There is a difference, and the difference is important. What is at stake here is nothing less than the knowledge of the character of God. Is God a capricious tyrant who planned that most of humanity should be lost and damned by His own choice, while blaming the victims, or is He is holy and loving Father, who invites wilful rebels to repent, be adopted into His family and to be part of His plan of eternal salvation through a specific role which He has chosen? The answer to this is important, for it affects our view of God.
Perhaps there is no subject which has been made as mysterious as the subject of “divine election”. The term “elect” and its derivatives are frequently found in the Scriptures, and so it is important to understand what is meant. To elect means to choose, and the choice spoken of is GOD’s choice. God makes choices, and the Scripture plainly teaches that He makes choices in relation to people. What I believe is vitally important is to realise what KIND of choices God makes concerning people. There are many who teach that it is God, not you, who choose whether you will be eternally saved, or lost. They say the choice about your destiny is all made by God. At the same time they say that you are fully responsible for your choices, for your lostness. Thus God is the one who chooses you to be lost or saved, but if He chooses you to be lost, or merely creates you a helpless sinner and then leaves you unhelped in your lostness, YOU are to blame for that. Is it right to blame a lemon tree for producing lemons? The more you think about such a scenario the more you can’t help rebelling against it, but there are millions of people who have embraced this very idea about God over the years. Indeed it IS possible to interpret portions of Scripture to support such an unpleasant scenario, and on the internet you will find hundreds of people who do exactly that. What I am to show is that these interpretations of Scripture are based on certain false ASSUMPTIONS that it is the eternal salvation of individuals that is being referred to, rather than something else – which would be the specific task or assigned role in God’s plan of individuals or nations.
If like me you have been brought up in these systems of theological thought which I now oppose, you are likely to reject each and every alternative explanation of the Scriptures I offer, no matter how plausible and reasonable the interpretation seems. This is because you will believe that all the other Scriptures which I have not treated so far in your reading can only be interpreted in another light, and thus “the whole of Scripture” by which you actually mean “the whole of your theological system” is not in harmony with the particular interpretation I am bringing forth. It will take some time to dismantle this system, piece by piece, and it cannot be done in one short article. But if God wills, I will write more and more on this subject. I believe it is important because it is actually very hard to love a God who manifests indifference and/or enmity to the vast majority of His created children, whilst showing favor to a tiny majority who continue pretty much in their wretched selfishness anyway. It is hard to love a God who it is claimed, does everything from start to finish in the Christian life, and yet who seems to do such a poor job in cleansing his children from the power of sin, whilst simultaneously demanding perfection of them (see Matthew 5:48). But all these ideas are based on a false understanding of God and salvation, and it is my purpose to show this through showing another way of viewing the texts which are commonly used to support it. Even so, I do not suppose that I have all the answers, far from it. And there are many areas no doubt where my own knowledge is lacking and I have much to learn.
Having said all that, let us now look at some of the Scriptures, which are the subject of these discussions. We will start with the words of Jesus.
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. John 15:16
Here Jesus is talking to his apostles. He says that “You did not choose Me, but I chose you”. Is Jesus talking about salvation here? Is he saying, “You did not choose to follow me, but I chose you to be saved”? No, I do not believe so. These disciples did choose to follow Jesus. Did Jesus argue with Peter when he said:
Mark 10:28 Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” ?
Jesus is not talking about His choice of them to be believers, but His choice of them to be apostles who would bear much lasting fruit. Jesus chose them and appointed them that they should be spiritually fruitful in their ministries.
There are different roles and assignments God has for people, and these are a matter of God’s choice, not ours. God calls people to a ministry, or a role, but the only people who God chooses for the role, are those He appoints, because they prepared themselves for the role and made themselves available to do it.
“Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17). That is God’s Word concerning salvation, which is in Jesus. Do you desire God? Come and drink! No matter how dirty or spiritually bankrupt you are, you may come. But once you are in Christ, it is not for you to choose your calling, or whether you will be put into ministry or not. Not so simple. God has a plan, and He has a calling for you. You cannot change your calling. You cannot choose your calling. These are the choices God makes, according to His master plan.
To illustrate: as a believer, you cannot DECIDE to be a prophet. You cannot decide for yourself to be an APOSTLE. You cannot decide to be a PASTOR, or an EVANGELIST. You cannot even decide to be a president, or a wealthy giving businessperson. God has a calling for your life’s work and ministry, and you must seek Him and serve Him in order to find out what that is. Once you find out, you can take steps of obedience and preparation, and ultimately God will choose you or appoint you into that ministry to which He called you. Or you could neglect your calling, and never be chosen or appointed to operate in it. In that case, you would lose your eternal rewards for service at the Judgment Seat of Christ for believers.
The choice of what role you can potentially play in the Body of Christ and in God’s Kingdom is decided by God, not by you. God makes that calling and choice. This is what Jesus was talking about in relation to the apostles. Jesus stayed up all night praying one time and found out from the Father who He had chosen to be His special apostles. The choice was God’s. No one else could have put up their hand and said, “I would like to be one of the twelve apostles, Jesus”. It just doesn’t work that way. So you and I cannot choose to enter a ministry calling that God has not given us. If we attempt it, we will miss God’s plan for our lives and our works will be burnt up.