God’s Select ...
1 Peter 1:1
1 Peter Lesson #008
March 19, 2015
“Father, as we look around us, there are so many things that happen that cause us to just scratch our heads. We wonder. We just don’t know why You do certain things. Yet we know Your timing is perfect. We have to just relax and trust in You and know that Your plan is a perfect plan and You’re working things out according to Your schedule. Father, that applies when You suddenly take a faithful servant of Yours to be with You. It applies when we look at things that are happening on the world stage. It is also true when we face situations and crises and surprises in our own lives that we need to learn to trust in You, to walk with You, and to be relaxed because You are in control. Father, we are reminded as we study Scripture that we are here to serve You. You have called us for that purpose that You might be glorified. Our primary mission is to be witnesses to the gospel, a witness in relation to the spiritual life, that those who look at us can see a difference in our lives as we apply Your Word. It’s not just a matter of learning it but applying it so that God the Holy Spirit can transform us from what we were as unregenerate unbelievers following the world to Your beloved children, adopted, justified, reconciled, and redeemed, who are being transformed from faith to faith. Father we pray that You would encourage us from Your Word this evening. Help us to understand it more fully and more completely. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Okay, we’re running ahead this evening into 1 Peter, chapter one, verse one. We’ll be here for a while. This is one of those sections that immediately starts off with a few doctrines that are significant. [Slide 3] The reason I say that is, tonight we’re going to get into the study of the doctrine of election. In verse 2 in the English, it is tied to the doctrine of foreknowledge. But if you look at it in the Greek, the word “elect ones” or select ones or choice ones, we’ll see how we ought to translate it, is actually in the first verse. That’s why I have this down as 1 Peter 1:1, though in English that word actually doesn’t pop up until you get into the beginning of verse 2.
In our previous lessons we’ve been taking our time going word for word. That’s important because the thoughts of Scripture develop from the very words of Scripture. We fully understand that when we talk about the inspiration of Scripture that is a word that means “breathed out by God”. The English word is not used in its normal sense where we may think of a writer as being inspired, the writers of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution being inspired; or Shakespeare being inspired; or some painter or other artist or vocalist giving an inspired rendition of something. These are words that just relate to an elevated talent from the human sphere.
When we look at the word used in 2 Timothy 3:16–17 that “All Scripture is THEOPNEUSTOS”, in the Greek it means “breathed out by God” – not that the writers generate this from themselves. 2 Peter 1:20–21 talks about that, “Men were moved by the Holy Spirit of God.” What they wrote was guaranteed to be free from error by the oversight of God the Holy Spirit.
That inspiration didn’t just apply to the thoughts that they had, but the very words that those thoughts were communicated with. If you just change from one synonym to another synonym as you express a thought, you suddenly change the sense or impact of that thought. The very words are important. There are examples of Jesus, as well as Paul, building or basing a doctrine on the grammatical form of a word, or whether it’s a plural or singular form of a word. Inspiration extends to each word.
Sentences are comprised of words. In grammar a sentence is an expression of a thought. That thought may have multiple levels to it. If you have a compound sentence, then you probably have two distinct thoughts that are combined into one sentence. If you have a compound, complex sentence, then you have a lot of secondary ideas that are expressed by that sentence. So we start off with a sentence, and we have to understand the whole by sometimes breaking down the parts.
That’s true especially when we get into controversial areas of doctrines as we get into in the second verse, controversial areas of doctrine where we’ve heard perhaps an erroneous or popular teaching on a verse. That applies to both the primary verse we’re looking at this evening as well as another one we’re going to get to in Matthew 22 where it has taken on a popular life of its own. Once we start digging down into the Biblical idiom, we suddenly realize that the way it‘s entered into evangelical parlance, or even the idiom of the world, it doesn’t mean what most people think it does.
We saw a great example of that when we were studying in Matthew 5 when we were talking about that we are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. That concept of the salt of the earth has been taken by so many people to have something to do with preservation. If we look at that and how it’s used both in Matthew 5 and the parallel verses in Luke, we see this is an idiom that doesn’t have anything to do with preservation at all.
Salt was often used in the ancient world as a component in fertilizer; and the idea of salt of the earth isn’t the idea of somehow preserving the world. Why in the world would God want to preserve the world? The world is at enmity with God, so why would He want to preserve it? Why would Christians be those who preserve the world when we saw that the word there in the Greek doesn’t have anything to do with the world? It’s always used in reference to the land, many times with reference to Israel, but many times just the land itself as that which is used in agriculture. It’s the salt of the land.
Then we saw that salt was often a component in the manure piles, in the compost piles, and that salt would be a component because it would be used to kill weeds that were in the soil. So it’s a component that was used even up until the 19th and 20th centuries. Salt was a component in natural fertilizers as a weed killer. The idea of that idiom isn’t preservation, but has to do with fruit production. This was what the disciples were called to: to be a light to the world which illuminates through the revelation they’ve been given, but also to be productive as disciples. As Christians, we are to be productive. That’s an important idiom.
We’re going to get to another one today which should change the way we think about this particular idiom; and unfortunately, like salt of the earth, which is so ingrained in our thinking that I need to remind you what it really means every day for the next five years, and then maybe you’ll remember it. It’s so much a part of everyday English idiom. You hear it on the news. You hear it applied to all kinds of things saying, ‘so-and-so, that guy, is just the salt of the earth.’ You’re not using it like the Bible is using it. We’ve taken that idiom out. We didn’t understand it. We’ve misapplied it. And we’re going to see one of those tonight as we get into this whole doctrine related to election.
We’ve studied Peter. We studied his life in three lessons. Last week I looked at the doctrine of apostleship. Then in the English, the text reads, “To the pilgrims”. The Greek word is PAREPIDEMOS. This is an important word in the Greek that is restricted in its usage to the Jews. It was used to refer to the Jews in the diaspora who were scattered. They were viewed as pilgrims or as aliens.
I’ve chosen to translate this word not as pilgrims because most Americans hear the word pilgrims as those in 1620 as the Pilgrims coming over from England. That’s not the idea there. The second idea might be someone going on a spiritual pilgrimage. If they’re Muslim they’re going to go to Mecca on a haj which is a pilgrimage. If they’re a Christian they might go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, or Israel. If they’re Jewish they might go on a pilgrimage to the Temple Mount, to the Western Wall. That’s not what we’re talking about here. Pilgrimage is not the best word.
These are those who are scattered. They’re resident aliens, we might say, who are living throughout the Greek and Roman world and beyond who are outside the land of Israel, and who at this time, the 1st century, the vast majority of Jews, maybe as many as 80% of the Jewish population in the world in the 1st century lived outside of the land. Today we live in a time when about 48–49% of Jews in the world live in Israel. There hasn’t been that high a percentage of Jews living in the land, the historic land of Israel, since 722 BC. This is just remarkable what is going on right now in terms of the Jews returning to the land. They are called pilgrims.
This tells us this has a Jewish tone to it, especially when it’s connected to the next word, and they are “resident aliens of the diaspora”. You will read about 95% of the commentaries, and you were probably taught this wrongly whomever you listened to, because very few people catch this. I was thrilled a couple of months ago when I was reading a biography which I discovered on my laptop that was written in the 1870s by a British pastor on the Life and Letters of the Apostle Peter. This guy understood very clearly that Peter was writing to Jewish background believers, just as James is writing to Jewish background believers, and just as Hebrews is written to a Jewish Christian audience.
The early Church was composed mostly of Jewish background Christians; so we have to understand that his original audience isn’t a bunch of Gentiles. It isn’t even a Gentile-Jewish mix. He’s writing to specifically deal with issues that face a Jewish Christian audience. They were in the diaspora, and we’ll look at the location eventually: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These are all areas in what we call Turkey today and was part of the Roman Empire at that time. We’ll come back and look at that.
In the Greek this reads, “To the EKLEKTOS” or “To the elect resident aliens of the diaspora.” [Slide 4] That word “elect” in the Greek is thrown up into this first prepositional phrase at the beginning of verse 1; so we need to tackle it. For the purpose of translation, it is usually put at the beginning of verse 2. That is because this adjective is modified by three prepositional clauses. Even though in the Greek it is separated by the locations, nevertheless, these three prepositional clauses modify that word EKLEKTOS. So it’s “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit.” That’s the NKJ version, and as you’ll see, that should probably be translated “by”. It is a preposition related to means. It should be translated, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”
Then you have your salutation, “Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” It reads better if you translate it, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” So here’s the structure that we have. I broke it out this way. We have our noun, our adjective elect in the plural, so it’s “elect ones.” It’s talking about a group, elect ones; and then we have these three prepositional phrases. Each prepositional phrase modifies or expands the thought of election. It’s not just one, two, three, and four. That’s not the order. It’s one and then one a, one b, and one c. I’m trying to communicate the fact that these three prepositional phrases all equally modify that word elect.
[Slide 5] The first line, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” is an expression of the Greek preposition KATA which always references a standard. It’s according to the standard of something. That standard is the prognosis, the foreknowledge of God the Father. This is a critical passage for understanding election being related to God’s foreknowledge and what in the world that means.
We’re immediately thrown, in the very beginning of this letter, into an understanding of those doctrines that have so divided many Christians between those who are in the determinist camp, the Calvinists and hyper-Calvinists; and before there were Calvinists, there were other groups. There were groups such as the Augustinians and the Pelagians from back in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. Then you had another group later on in the middle ages that divided between the Jesuits and the Dominicans, and the theological opposition between the followers of the men named Bañez and Suarez.
That gets into another very important issue because Bañez was one of the very first to articulate the position that is close to what we hold, and that is that in foreknowledge, God knew all of the knowable. He not only knew everything that would take place, but He knew everything that could take place. So there was a big debate. Whereas the Dominicans, those in the Dominican order such as Thomas Aquinas, held to a view that God’s foreknowledge and election was not dissimilar from that of Martin Luther and John Calvin. These issues between a free will camp versus what is the determinist camp, to use terminology out of philosophy, has been going on since the early days of Christianity and is an outgrowth and has been influenced heavily by the same arguments that go into ancient Greek philosophy over free will versus fatalism. We have to work our way in detail through some of these issues.
Some of you are going to get a little bored with this because you’re just happy knowing whatever you know, and it makes sense to you and that’s just fine. Others of you ask me all kinds of technical questions, so I have to answer those as well. We’re going to work our way through this. It will probably take two or three weeks to go through these doctrines related to election and related to the foreknowledge of God. It’s important to look at this in terms of what the Bible says here.
Election, whatever that means, is according to a standard. It involves a specific means of accomplishment, and it has to do with a specific purpose. It’s according to the standard of God’s foreknowledge. It’s by means of the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. And just to give you an understanding that this is talking about positional sanctification, which is important for relating this back to the meaning of EKLEKTOS, it’s by sanctification of the Spirit, not experiential sanctification. That would then make election predicated upon good works. It’s going to be based on positional sanctification which takes us to imputed righteousness which we receive at justification by faith alone.
Then it is for the purpose of obedience. See, “elect” can’t be related to experiential righteousness because it’s for the purpose of obedience, which is experiential righteousness. The sprinkling of the blood of Jesus is a word used over in Hebrews and that relates to on-going cleansing from sin. That’s talking about confession of sin, ongoing cleansing by the blood of Christ. We’ll connect that over to 1 John 1:7 and 1:9. In 1 John 1:7 we’re cleansed continuously by the blood of Christ. That’s the sprinkling of the blood of Christ. That’s the on-going process. Now the way the mechanics of that works is in 1 John 1:9 saying that we confess sin. So the reason the confession of sin works is because the death of Christ on the Cross is continuously applied to the sin in our life. When we sin, when we’re confessing our sin, what we’re saying in effect is that Jesus died for this sin, therefore God is required on the basis of the paid penalty of sin by the work of Christ on the Cross to cleanse me from this sin. That’s the basis for me telling you what I’ve done. That’s our introduction.
We get to this word that we find here. [Slide 6] It’s the plural form of the second word EKLEKTOS, which is the dative plural and it is EKLEKTOS in singular form as related to the adjective [I said noun earlier]. The noun form is EKLOGAT. We’ll look at the details of this later on. I just want to start off looking at the words and understanding their significance. We have the first word EKLEKTOS which is used 22 times in the New Testament. We’ll do an analysis of that later on. It’s generally translated elect or chosen. The first word on the slide is the verb, EKLEGOMAI. It means to pick out for oneself, to choose out of the group, to select a person or thing from a sizable number.
There are many places in ancient Greek where it’s related to what we call election. You’re going to go and select from a bunch of candidates just like the Israelis did this last Tuesday when they went to the polls. They selected from a group of 10 candidates which party they wanted to represent them. Then 30% of them selected the Likud Party. The head of the Likud Party is Netanyahu and it gave him the biggest victory, the largest number of seats, 30 seats in all, in the Knesset. This was a huge victory for them. They were expecting a tie with the Zionist Union. This really gives him a mandate, a conservative mandate, to run the government in Israel.
It’s interesting that his election, I think, is going to have a lot of positive consequences; but I think it’s going to have some unexpected negative consequences because I think there are certain people in politics in this country that had a vested interest in trying to change what’s been going on in Israel. They wanted to give up everything to the Iranians. Trust me, when I came back from AIPAC and talked about that, if you weren’t here and heard that, you need to go listen to that. This has really shaped what has been going on in Israel the last three weeks.
Since then, there’s this letter that Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas authored. That really irritated the president and a lot of the Democrats because he’s basically, along with the Republican senators who signed it, reminding a foreign power that ultimately any agreement on the U.S. law must be signed off on, and they must approve it. I’m not going to ask you to embarrass yourself, if it is an embarrassment, but I don’t know how many of you watched Mika Brzezinski interview Ted Cruz the day before yesterday on Morning Joe on MSNBC. It was interesting because he was emphasizing this very point. She was trying to skewer him as one of the signatories of this letter, saying that what he’s doing is trying to undermine the negotiations. He made an excellent point. He’s been part of a negotiation team, back in the Bush Administration on something like this. Frequently, he said, negotiators, in order to avoid wasting their time, will say to a person they’re negotiating with from a foreign country, say they can’t put something in the treaty because it won’t pass Congress. They won’t approve it, so let’s not waste our time with that. In effect, what the Republican senators were informing them was that the administration’s negotiators were telling the Iranians that they shouldn’t put everything into an agreement because if it’s there, Congress won’t approve it.
The president wants to do an end run around Congress. He doesn’t want Congress to have to approve it. He wants to act like he’s a dictator like the Ayatollah Khomeini and just pass it and ignore Congress. The senators were saying, “No, no, no. It doesn’t work like that. According to the Constitution, foreign treaties have to be approved by Congress. “So Iran, don’t waste your time fighting to get things that you know we’re not going to approve of.” They weren’t trying to undermine the negotiations. They were trying to strengthen the backbone of the negotiators to get something that can actually be approved and will actually work.
Of course the comeback from the liberal Democrats’ side was that, “Well, there are only two options: some kind of agreement, bad, good, or indifferent; or war.” I’m going to get in trouble because someone here is going to fall in love with Huckabee. I can take or leave Huckabee. He’s a believer, and he’s a nice guy, but I’m not sure he’s presidential material. He said something that I think is absolutely brilliant the other day. He said that Netanyahu is a Churchill in a room of world leaders that are Chamberlains. And he nailed it. That is exactly right. What we’ve got is a lot of people in Washington, D.C. who want to come out of Geneva, i.e., Munich or anything, so they don’t have to face the harsh realities of a positive way of doing something really tough that could have negative consequences. Chamberlain did the same thing in Munich in 1938 with Hitler. He got an agreement and came back saying there would be peace in our times. If he had just held his ground in Munich in 1938 and been tough, it wouldn’t have led to war. Hitler, like any bully, would have backed down. That’s exactly what needs to happen now.
Elections are important. Elections have consequences, and one way this word “elect” is used is when we go to the polls and we make choices of one out of the group. As we see, that is only one area in which this word works. Let me give you a preview of coming attractions. This word is applied to Jesus. Did God select Jesus from a group of people? Did God select Jesus from a group of Jews to be the Messiah? No, of course not. Did the Trinity have a holy huddle in eternity past, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and God said, “Okay, I’m going to select Jesus. Holy Spirit, you’re out. Jesus, you’re in?” Is that how it’s applied? Not at all.
The word “elect” does not necessarily entail this idea of selecting one and rejecting others, or selecting one out of a much larger group of others. That’s just one way in which the word is used, so we have to get to the core meaning. These are the three meanings: the verb EKLEGOMAI, the adjective EKLEKTOS, and the noun, EKLOGE which is only used 7 times. It’s interesting to see how these words are used.
What’s interesting is that I try to teach how these words are used. I try to teach pastors this. It’s important to know what these words mean in English. You look a word up in a Greek dictionary and it will say, EKLEKTOS means elect or chosen. Now those are two different words with two different fields of meaning in English. The next thing you need to do is go to the English word and find out what is the meaning of the English word elect. What does the word chosen mean in English? What are the various synonyms for those two words in English which give us the field of meanings, the nuances, that each of those words mean? The Greek word isn’t necessarily restricted to just using those two words to translate. Those just represent the whole range of meaning that this Greek word represents in terms of two English words.
[Slide 7] That’s why in other dictionaries you might have six, seven, or eight different words used. So in this light, what I’ve given you is various other related English word meanings, synonyms, so that elect has as its meaning the word “appointed.” That means someone appointed to a task. If you were to translate EKLEGOMAI or EKLEKTOS with the word appointed every time it’s used, you would get some screwy results, but it would really change the way you read and understand a lot of these passages. For example here, “To the appointed ones…” That gives you a totally different concept and idea than the idea of elect ones. Why? Because as evangelical Christians who’ve always heard this word election understood within a Calvinistic sense of unconditional election, when you change that word to “appointed ones”, it changes your whole understanding of that concept. Appointed is a legitimate way of translating the word, designated or determined.
The word “choice” according to the Oxford English Dictionary means something of a very good quality, so you can also translate this word, “the choice ones” or “the choice one”. I think we’ll see that’s how it’s applied to Jesus. He’s the choice one, not the chosen one, two different ideas. Choice has the idea of something of very good or excellent quality. It’s referring to something that is the best, something special, and something valuable. If you translate the word as choice, you’re focusing on a qualitative idea.
Now I’m going to tell you that’s where we’re headed. The word choice is a qualitative idea. It’s talking about the character, something special, about this group, which makes them choice. Not chosen, but choice. They are excellent. Select is another word that’s used. In the verb it means to carefully choose something as being the best or the most suitable. The adjective has the idea of something that’s carefully chosen from a larger number as being the best. That just gives us the range of meaning of those words.
Then we have to go into the text and understand how these words are actually used in the text. Word meaning is determined by usage, not by what the dictionary says, no matter what you try to tell your kids when they use a word like “ain’t”. I remember when I was a kid, ain’t wasn’t in the dictionary. By the time I got out of high school, ain’t was in the dictionary because people used it. Therefore, it had meaning. There are a lot of new words that come out every year, like “selfie.” Five years ago, no one knew what a “selfie” was. Now it’s a big word. Everyone uses it. There are other words that are now in the dictionary because the language changes over time. That just gives us a basic focus.
We’re going to look at usage. First of all, we’re going to look at Old Testament usage. We’re going to look at Romans. Somebody laugh! We’re going to look at Romans for Old Testament usage because Romans points us to the Old Testament. The Greek word is used here in Romans 9:11, so turn over there for just a minute before we go further, and we’ll just look at this context and read it a minute. This is one of the key passages for the doctrine of election.
Let me just put a foil out there for everybody. [Slide 8] In the standard way in which people understand election and the concept of unconditional election, is that God chooses those who will be saved and either passes over the rest, and they will not be saved or in double predestination; or God chooses those who will be saved, and God chooses those who will be condemned, and without reference to their faith, or anything that they do. Frequently you will find people go to Romans 9, and if you want to get the details of this, you can go back and listen to the lesson I did on it; but from Romans 9:6 down through Romans 9:24 or 25, you will find that this is a critical passage that theologians will use in talking about election.
The place where that word is used is in Romans 9:11, “For the children not yet being born [the children of Isaac, referring to Esau and Jacob] nor having done any good or evil, for the purpose of God according to election might stand not of works but of Him who called.” That election, that choice, which God made in choosing Jacob over Esau is the focal point of this particular passage. It’s really talking about God’s choice of Abraham and his seed and descendants for His purpose and His plan.
Often people go to this passage and look at it as if it is talking about God’s choice of those who will be justified and those who will not. The first example Paul uses has to do with the patriarchs, with Abraham, Esau, and Jacob; and then for the second illustration he goes on to talk about Moses, which comes out of Exodus 33:19 where God is saying, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” We looked at that, and we said that didn’t have anything to do with justification either.
The third illustration had to do with Pharaoh’s heart. Once again we looked at that passage, and that doesn’t have anything to do with justification or salvation either, and neither does the first example. We have to go back in the Old Testament to understand what was going on with Abraham in terms of this election of Israel. First of all we’re reminded of God’s call of Abraham, which is found in Genesis 12:1–3 when God calls Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees to leave his family and to go to a land that God will show him and will give him. That calling of Abraham is connected to God giving Abraham a special covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, which promised him a land, promised him innumerable descendants, and promised that he would be a blessing to all the peoples, all of the nations. The call of Abraham is directly related to the giving of the covenant to Abraham and marked the beginning of the elect people of God in the Old Testament.
It’s interesting that the word elect is never used in reference to anyone who is a believer prior to Abraham. You never have it used of Noah, or those who were saved prior to the flood, or those who were saved from Noah to Abraham. Therefore, it’s not a term that is necessarily soteriological. You don’t have it applied to Abraham until God calls him. When God calls him in Genesis 12, guess what? Abraham is already justified. He’s already a believer. That calling of God of Abraham didn’t have anything to do with Abraham’s eternal destiny. It had to do with the role that God was going to give him in history.
Abraham was not the only believer of his generation. He wasn’t even the first believer in the Old Testament. His nephew, Lot, was a believer. Melchizedec, who is the King of Salem, or Jerusalem, that we went into in Genesis 14, was a believer. Job lived at approximately the same time as the patriarchs. Job was not a descendant of Abraham, but he was also a believer. There’s nothing that connects election to salvation, to justification, or to individual justification. God was calling Abraham long after he was saved to execute a new purpose of God in human history.
Abraham and his descendants would have a new role, a distinct role, in human history. This is based on the covenant God gave Abraham, which was that God promised He would bless Abraham and his seed or his descendants, and this would descend through only one of his sons, Isaac. It would not go through Ishmael or through any of the sons born to him by his wife in his old age, who was Keturah. It was only Isaac. It’s very clear that physical descent in the line of the seed did not guarantee individual justification and salvation because there were those who were physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were not necessarily individually justified. Physical descent did not guarantee individual justification or salvation. God’s choice of Abraham and his seed was not for salvation purposes. It was for this new direction God was going to take in history.
The passage that we see in Romans 9:6 and following isn’t related to individual justification, but to God’s selection… Now pay attention to this. Most of you were with me when we went through Romans, and it focuses on Israel as a corporate entity. That’s a huge and important idea, this idea of treating Israel as a corporate entity. As a corporate entity, Israel is chosen to be, first of all, the line of the Messiah, the line of the seed. The first use of the word seed we saw back in Genesis 15 is where God promised that the seed of the woman would ultimately defeat and destroy the seed of the serpent. That’s the line of the Messiah. Now it’s going to go through the seed of Abraham.
The second reason God called out Abraham was so his descendants would be the custodians of divine revelation. God was going to reveal himself through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they would be responsible for recording that revelation and preserving it and passing it on down through the generations. Then third, they were to be a light to the world, a witness to the idolatrous, pagan, polytheistic world around them. They were to have a missionary impact on the world. So those are the three reasons that God called out Israel as a corporate entity.
Abraham wasn’t called to salvation, and was called after he already became a believer. Why was he called? What was his purpose? His purpose was to serve God. So the calling of God, which is a doctrine I went through a lot when we were in Romans 8:28-19, is related to election. God called out Israel for a purpose, to serve Him. Not for salvation, but for service.
There’s another important idea we get going back and looking at what happened in the Old Testament. First of all, the idea that it’s a corporate purpose that God has. If you remember when we studied Romans 9–11, I kept saying that every time you have the word Israel in Romans 9, Romans 10, and Romans 11, God is dealing with them as a corporate entity. They were chosen by God for a purpose to serve Him. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were to have a unique role of service to God in human history.
Ultimately, that role of service finds its fullest expression in who? In the Servant of Yahweh. Where do we learn about the Servant of Yahweh? We learn about the Servant of Yahweh in the last part of the book of Isaiah. When we go to the end of Isaiah, chapter 40 to chapter 66, one of the verses which we find at the very beginning relates to what I just taught about Israel being corporately a servant of God. [Slide 9] That doesn’t mean every Jew was saved. It doesn’t mean every Jew fulfilled that mission of being a servant to God. We know they didn’t. Many of them were idolatrous, polytheistic, and committed horrendous child sacrifices.
Many of them failed to fulfill their purpose, but corporately, Israel was still the servant of God. They were still called God’s son in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 41:8 God says, “But you, Israel, are my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham, my friend.” So that tells us that God calls out Israel, not to justification purposes, but for service, to serve God and to further the plan of God. In Isaiah 41:9 he says, “You, whom I have taken from the ends of the earth and called from its farthest regions and said to you, ‘You are My servant. I have chosen you and have not cast you away.’”
It’s the Hebrew word bachir which is the counterpart to EKLEKTOS. It is the verb form here, I have chosen you, not for salvation, but for service, to be the servant of Yahweh. [Slide 10] Now in Isaiah 42:1, this idea of the servant shifts from relating to corporate Israel to the Incarnate Son of God who becomes the Messiah, who becomes the Servant of God. Here we read in this verse, “Behold My Servant, whom I uphold, My Elect One.” I want you to pay attention to how that is translated in the English. I’m going to change the translation so we get the sense of what this is saying. The word elect is a simple and superficial choice, but it misses the point. It says, “My elect One, in Whom My soul delights. I have put My spirit upon Him. He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.”
So he calls the Servant “My Servant”, which is a Messianic title. It is played out in the rest of the section from Isaiah 42 on through Isaiah 66. He’s called the elect or the choice one, “in whom My soul delights,” or takes pleasure. We’re going to see that that verse is the background for something that God the Father says in the gospels. Remember when Jesus goes up on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter and James and John when Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus? Peter puts his foot in his mouth and says, “Let’s just build a little cabin for each one of you up here.” What he’s really doing is elevating Moses and Elijah to the same standard or level as Jesus. God, the Father shuts him down right away saying, “Listen to My Beloved Son.” Beloved connects the dots there to this idea of the One in Whom I delight.
We’ll see that there’s other language that slips into that there. The Luke account on that shows this connection here. [Slide 11] What we have here is this word bachir that shows up here. It’s a noun form that can be translated “the chosen one”, “the choice one” in the sense of the most excellent one. When it comes to Jesus, as I pointed out already, God isn’t choosing Jesus from among other options. He’s not choosing Jesus from other divine options instead of the Holy Spirit. He’s not choosing Jesus instead of other Jews to be the Messiah. The focal point here isn’t on election in that sense of the word. It’s on the idea of the most excellent one, the choice one of God. If we translate it that way, then it has more significance.
[Slide 12] Now here I want to give you a quote on this word bachir from the Theological Word Book of the Old Testament. The writer for the article on this word explains, after going through several different examples and uses, by saying, “On the one hand God chooses a people (Psalm 135:4, His choice of Israel). He chooses certain tribes (Psalm 78:68). He chooses specific individuals (1 Kings 8:16, 1 Chronicles 28:5, 1 Samuel 10:24, 2 Samuel 6:21).” Notice none of those choices are soteriological. They have to do with God choosing people or tribes or a group for a purpose, not necessarily to go to Heaven. Then he says “he chooses a place for his name.” In all of these cases, this is what needs to be emphasized: serviceability, rather than simple arbitrariness, is at the heart of choosing. That’s an important statement. He’s choosing for service. It’s not just an arbitrary decision.
So often when we hear the words “unconditional election”, then what do you hear? You hear that God has no conditions on why He chooses. If God chooses this person to be saved rather than that person, and there’s no condition that’s the foundation for His choice, then it sounds pretty arbitrary. He’s just making a choice for His own pleasure without taking into account anything else. What we’re going to see is that no, God does take into account a host of information in making that choice. As we see in 1 Peter 1:2, it is “according to the standard of His foreknowledge”. This is a word that is often misused and sometimes translated as predestination even. That’s not the idea of that word at all.
The author of this word study in TWOT says, “In all these cases, serviceability, rather than simple arbitrariness is at the heart of choosing. Thus Yahweh chose Israel to be holy [His purpose] and thereby, to serve as His witness among the nations. [Isaiah 14:2] Her election is not based on her own greatness but on the greatness of the Lord’s love.” This writer also goes on to say that the participial form is used in one example to refer to the choicest of our sepulchers.
Okay, let’s have another grammar lesson tonight. Some of you are not happy with that. If you have a verb in English, let’s say “to run”, how do you make it a participle? You add an “ing” to it and it becomes running. You can use that participle like a noun. Running is a miserable thing to do when it’s cold. We’ve used running not in a verbal sense, but as a noun to stand for the act of running. That’s important. I’m making a point here because the same thing happens in Hebrew and in Greek, that when you take a participle, it functions as a noun. A participle is basically a verbal adjective. It functions sometimes like a verb and sometimes like a noun.
When you have the verb bachir and you want to make it a participle, you don’t add “ing” to it because it’s not English. In Hebrew you put an “m” at the beginning and it becomes mobecharim. [Slide 13] That’s exactly what we have on a Magnum Bar! Okay, so we’re back to the Doctrine of the Magnum Bar. I’ve pointed this out to you many times that when I was in Israel, when we had these Magnum Bars with almonds in them, I asked our guide to help me with modern Hebrew. When I go in, we have these ice cream freezers in the places where we go with fifteen different varieties of Magnum Bars, and everyone in the group is asking me what they are. I can’t read Hebrew, so I had to learn how to read these labels and build up my modern Hebrew vocabulary a little bit.
The first word here sheqadim is the plural word for almonds. The second word here is mobecharim which is what I’ve got transliterated up here. The bchr is the root for bachir which is the word for elect or choose or select. I asked our guide what it meant, and he said it meant choice almonds. Big flash of light goes off. This is the word for election. Here it’s a participle. You can look it up in TWOT which I quoted earlier, or in any Hebrew lexicon, and you’ll see that mobecharim is the participle which will be translated choice. But guess what? When you’re looking at Isaiah 42:1, it doesn’t use the participle when describing Jesus. It says “my elect one” but it has that same idea.
The idea of choice isn’t limited to the participle. It’s also part of the meaning of the noun and the verb. It means that which is excellent, that which is beyond comparison. It is a superlative. That’s developed in the lexicons as well. The idea is clearly expressed in Judges 20:16. We talked about that Sunday morning with the civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and all the other Israelites because of the way the Benjamites abused the concubine of the Levite in Gibeah. We went through that whole thing on Sunday morning, and in the midst of that description of the civil war, the writer of Judges talks about the excellent marksmanship of the left-handed archers in Benjamin. It says, “Among all these people were seven hundred choice men.” That’s how it’s translated. I’m just showing that this shows that within the range of meaning of bachir in the Old Testament, which is the background for the word EKLEKTOS in the New Testament, we have this idea of that which is excellent, or that which is choice.
Third point. All of that was part of the second point which was the Old Testament background. [Slide 14] Third point is just to be reminded of the importance of corporate identity in relation to Israel and the Church. Just to remind you that when we went through Romans 9–11, I made that point over and over again. In Romans 9–11 every use of the word Israel had to do with God’s corporate plan for Israel, not individual selection. You and I as a bunch of individualistic Americans don’t have a sense of corporate identity like most people in the world do. Most people in the world come out of arenas where they have basically homogenous societies, at least through the ancient world they did. You had tribal groups and clans and ethnic groups. If you went to Egypt, everyone’s an Egyptian except for some slaves. If you went to Japan, everyone was Japanese. They had an ethnic homogeneity, and they thought of themselves as a corporate entity. That was very clear how the Japanese thought of themselves leading up to World War II. They viewed themselves more as a corporate entity. They had more of a sense of their teamwork than anything else. We even see that in Japanese business up into the late 20th century. They think of themselves as part of that corporate entity, not just as individuals. This is very important to realize that the background of this word also emphasizes this corporate entity.
It’s not just a cultural concept, but God calls this entity of Israel. It doesn’t mean everybody is going to play the right game or be part of the mission. I’m going to try to wrap this up and tie all the pieces together. [Slide 15] Here we have these words that are used. EKLEGOMAI the verb that is used; EKLEKTOS the adjective; and EKLOGE the noun. The verb is used some 20 or 21 times which isn’t a lot depending upon how you take a couple of textual variants, so there are a few problems, one of which we’ll look at in a minute. Most of the time it’s talking about Jesus or God choosing something that’s totally unrelated to salvation.
[Slide 16] Jesus chose His disciples. That’s one of the places where the verb is used. “When it was day He called His disciples to Himself.” Now, are they already saved? Yes, they’re already saved. From them He chose, that’s our verb again, EKLEGOMAI, the twelve whom He also named apostles. There’s a whole lot of verses where EKLEGOMAI is used, and it’s talking about Jesus choosing His disciples for whatever purpose. [Slide 17] One of those is John 15:16, which is usually abused by Calvinists because of their lordship salvation. Talking to His disciples [just 11 because He got rid of Judas already], “You did not choose Me but I chose you.” This didn’t have anything to do with salvation. Jesus didn’t choose them until after they were saved. It was almost a year into His ministry before He chose them, The Twelve, to be His disciples. The choosing of The Twelve wasn’t soteriological because one of them wasn’t saved. Judas wasn’t saved. He was an unbeliever. It’s very, very clear. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you [has to do with a mission] that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”
Another passage is Luke 9:35. [Slide 18] This is the episode on the Mount of Transfiguration when God speaks out of the cloud and says, “This is My Son.” In Luke there’s a textual variance. If you have an NASB, this is how it reads, but I don’t think it’s right. I think the Majority Text is better; and what you read in your NKJV is better. It’s exactly the same wording you have in Matthew and Mark and says, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.” In the textual variant you have, “My chosen one.” The reason I go there is not because I believe it’s right, but it helps us understand how this word is used. It’s referring to Jesus, and it’s translated “The Choice One”. It makes much more sense there.
We find that particular word used in Luke 9:25; and the verb is also used in Ephesians 1:4, which we’ll get to later on, “Just as He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world.” We’ll have to deal with that in terms of the doctrine of election, so we’ll get back to that later. The adjective is used some twenty-two times. Nine times it relates to Tribulation saints. Two times it’s used in Peter: once in 1 Peter 1:1–2, and once in 2 Peter1:10.
It referred to Christ as the Choice One of God here in 1 Peter 1:2, 4, 5, and 6, “Coming to Him [Jesus] as a Living Stone which has been rejected by men but is choice.” [Slide 19] See, the writers recognize that Jesus is choice. He’s the Choice One, going back to Isaiah 42:1. He’s not the elect one. He’s the Choice One. That’s the best way to understand that. He’s choice and precious in the sight of God. That’s building right out of Isaiah 42:1. 1 Peter 2:5, “You also as living stones being built up in a spiritual house as a holy priesthood offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Jesus Christ for this is contained in Scripture, ‘Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone…’” This is emphasizing the quality, the excellence of Christ again. This is emphasizing quality, not selection.
That takes us up to Matthew 22:14. That’s the punch line for tonight. If you’ll bear with me, I’ll try to hit it very fast. We’ll come back and review it later. You don’t want to tell the joke without getting to the punchline. Otherwise it just goes flat. In Matthew 22:14, Jesus gives a parable about a wedding feast. I’ll start with this next time but I want to get the point across now. He says, “The king of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son.” King of heaven is important because Jesus is coming to Israel and saying what? “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Now He’s going to talk about why this is not going to happen and what is going to happen. So He compares this, saying this is what the kingdom of heaven is like.
“There’s a king who’s going to have a marriage for his son.” The king of course, relates to God, and His son relates to Israel. “And he sends out servants to call those who were invited to the wedding.” So all of those who are friends of his son, which would be Israel, are invited to the wedding. They’re all given the call. Okay, all are given an invitation. They are invited to the wedding and what? They’re not willing to come. The issue isn’t that they weren’t called or selected. The issue is that they didn’t want to come. It’s their volition that’s determinative. It’s not their election that’s determinative. They’re not willing to come.
He sends out other servants, and they get abused and beaten up and everything else. That’s in the next few verses. Then he says to his servants that the wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. That’s Israel that rejected Jesus when He came to offer the kingdom. The Jews aren’t qualified. That generation is not qualified.
In verse 8 He tells his servants, “Now go out into the highways.” Go beyond the initial group, and as many as you find [the Gentiles], invite to the wedding. “So the servants went out into the highways and byways and they gathered together all they found, both bad and good.” Isn’t that interesting? They’re bad and good people who were gathered together to come to this wedding feast. They’re coming. They’re gathered together, and the wedding hall is filled with all these guests, including all these people who are bad and good.
Most of them have on the right clothes, the right garments. What’s the right garment? Positional righteousness. You can’t get into Heaven without Christ’s righteousness. That’s what happened. When the King came in to see the guests, He saw a man there. He doesn’t say He saw a lot of people there, meaning the bad ones, without the right clothes on. It says He saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. Implication in terms of being consistent with the story is that everyone else has on the right wedding garment. But this one man doesn’t have righteousness. He doesn’t have the right wedding garment. “So he, [the king] says, ‘Friend, how did you come in without a wedding garment?’”
[Slide 20] The man was speechless. He doesn’t have the right kind of righteousness or the right clothes. So the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot. They took him away and cast him into outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then you get the punch line. “Many are called and few are chosen.” That’s the line I was leading up to early on. That’s the line we mostly apply in a wrong way. Many are called and few are chosen.
This is a verse that’s taken to refer to election. It’s usually translated ‘as many are called and few are elect.’ So there’s this invitation to everyone, but few are elect. Let’s apply what we’ve learned so far about this word elect or chosen. It’s choice. What did I just say choice means? Choice emphasizes quality, not selection. What makes them choice? The ones that stayed there are choice because they are wearing the wedding garments. What are the wedding garments? Positional righteousness. They’ve got on the right clothes.
[Slide 21] Isaiah 61:10 shows this is not just a New Testament thing. It gives us this in the Old Testament. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord. My soul shall be joyful in my God for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation.” Imputed righteousness. The people who are in the wedding feast who stay there have positional righteousness. They’ve got on the right clothes and that makes them choice. Choice doesn’t mean experiential righteousness. It doesn’t mean they’re select. It means they are quality. They have the righteousness of Christ, the Choice One. So when the Scripture says this group is choice, they’re choice because they possess the righteousness of Christ, not because God selected them ahead of time. They’re choice because they have the righteousness of Christ.
[Slide 22] Matthew closes out in verse 43 when Jesus says, “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you [because you don’t have the right kind of righteousness and are not choice] and be given to a nation.” It should be translated here as people. God isn’t saying He’s not going to work through the nation of Israel. Now I’m going to work through another nation. That’s replacement theology. He says He’s not going to work through this nation anymore because this generation has just rejected the offer of the kingdom. I’m going to work through another people. It’s the church for a temporary period of time until the end of the times of the Gentiles.
So what have we learned? We’ve learned that elect doesn’t focus simply on the idea of selection, but it also emphasizes the idea of quality, or being choice. It means Jesus is the Choice One. Jesus is the Choice One that the Father delights in; and one of the reasons He is beloved [not the only reason] is because He is perfectly righteous. He is the Righteous One, the Choice One, and when we accept the invitation of God, then we become choice because we get that wedding garment that is the perfect righteousness of Christ, and we are now choice ones. Not because we were picked out of a lottery in eternity past, but because we have and possess the perfect righteousness of Christ. We’ll come back next time and develop this further.
“Father, thank you for this opportunity to work our way through this word usage and to try to tear apart this doctrine and come to understand it and the word usage to see how it applies, especially in its usage and its context in this epistle. Especially as it connects to the fact that these are Jewish background believers. They’re the true remnant of Israel, so this idea of being the choice ones has multiple layers of significance and meaning. Father, may we be reminded that we are choice, not because of selection by you and not because of any other reason other than we’re choice because we possess the righteousness of Christ. Therefore, like Israel of old, we have a mission and a purpose in Your plan. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”