About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Divine Election


I was raised in an Evangelical world that believed Jews were God's chosen people.  When I would ask if the "elect" people seen in Matthew 24:21 and 22 were Jews or the church, no one seemed to know.  I guess that was to be expected.  It's a confusing issue.  "Divine election", as theologians call it, has been debated for centuries.  I suggest you consider what I say as you study the issue for yourself.


As Christians we often begin our study of Biblical issues in the New Testament.  Both hermeneutics and common sense dictate we start any study in the Old Testament.  So, I begin in Genesis where our English word "chose", and other related words, are translated from the Hebrew word "bachiyr".  There's no religious significance about this word.  It simply means to pick or choose. 


Right after God judged humanity at Babel , the Bible introduces us to Abraham (Genesis 11:27 - 32).  He lived in the land of the Chaldeans, which today is southern Iraq.  We know little about Abraham prior to his introduction in Genesis, but since the Chaldeans worshipped many gods, it's assumed he was a polytheistic pagan.   


It's no coincidence that the Bible introduces Abraham right after God judged the newly formed nations of the world.  These nations needed divine help.  For this reason God chose, or elected, Abraham to be the father of a great nation we know as Israel (Genesis 12:1).  In case you're wondering why God chose Abraham over other pagans, don't bother wondering.  It's a futile endeavor.  The Bible doesn't provide the answer.     


To birth this promised great nation God chose Abraham's son Isaac over his son Ishmael.  God then chose Isaac's son Jacob over his son Esau to continue on the path to nationhood.  The Apostle Paul explained the reason for these choices in Romans 9:11 and 12.  "In order that God's purpose in election (His choices) might stand: not by works but by Him who calls (NIV).  In other words, God's choices in this matter were based on His sovereign will, not on any goodness Abraham, and Isaac may or may not have possessed.  Being God, He can choose whoever He wants for whatever He wants.  


Further to God choosing Abraham as Israel's father, He appointed, or chose, Israel to be His priest or representative to the ungodly nations (Exodus 19:6 - Isaiah 49:6).  This choice is confirmed throughout the Old Testament as seen in these two of many examples.  "Israel, whom I have chosen (Isaiah 44:1)."  "Israel, my chosen (Isaiah 45:4)."  


The above Old Testament facts should form the foundation for our thinking concerning divine election.  They're critical when figuring out who the elect people are in Matthew 24:21 and 22.  Here, Jesus spoke about a time of great distress, unequaled in human history, which would overtake the world.  I believe this distress will occur during what many call the Great Tribulation.  Jesus then said that if those days weren't cut short, no one would survive, but, for the sake of the elect, those days would be shortened.   Like its Hebrew counterpart, the Greek word "eklekios" that's translated as "elect" in this passage has no religious significance.  It simply means to pick or to choose.  So, who are these elect people that God chose to rescue from this distress?


Both Jesus and those listening to Him were Jews.  They would have believed that Israel was God's elect nation as stated in the Old Testament.  It makes no sense that Jesus would deviate from this traditional Jewish thinking without informing His disciples.  In fact He would have misled them if He had deviated without an explanation.  It's thus clear to me that the elect in this prophetic passage is Israel, which is important when studying Biblical prophecy.       


The debate heats up even more when we read Colossians 3:12.  The Apostle Paul called the Colossian believers, which included both Jews and Gentiles, God's chosen or elect people.  Contextually speaking, Paul used the word "elect" to refer to that which we call church, not to the nation of Israel.  We should realize, however, that even though Paul's use of the word "elect" in this verse differs from Jesus' use of the word in Matthew 24, that doesn't permit us to rethink what Jesus said and make Him say something He didn't say.      


The Apostle Peter also used the word "elect" in 1 Peter 1:1.  Here, scholars are divided.  It's debatable whether Peter was addressing Jews, Gentiles, or both Jews and Gentiles.  Because of this uncertainty, we can't use 1 Peter 1:1 to support any position on this issue.


In one sense of the word, the New Testament community of Christ is God's chosen or elect people for the age in which we live.  That being the case, we cannot disregard the long standing Old Testament fact that I believe Jesus confirmed: Israel is God's chosen or elect nation with respect to prophetic history. 


I conclude the following.  New Testament believers are God's special chosen people for this age, not because of any goodness they may or may not possess, but because of God's sovereign choice as seen in the cross of Christ.  Abraham was God's special chosen man, not because of any goodness he may or may not have possessed, but because of God's sovereign choice to make him the father of a great nation.  Israel is God's special chosen nation, not because of any goodness it may or may not possess, but because of God's sovereign choice for it to some day be His priest to the nations.  It's called "divine election", and for that reason, I as a chosen New Testament believer choose to support God's chosen nation of Israel. 

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