1Pet. 2:9 ¶ But you are za chosen race, aa royal bpriesthood, ca holy nation, da people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you eout of darkness into fhis marvelous light.
Are we special because God seeks us or because he chooses us? That may sound like I’m asking the same question. Let me explain.
Calvinists say that God sovereignly wills everything that happens, even the very choice to accept salvation through Christ Jesus. They say that those who do accept salvation do so because they are incapable of resisting his call. This doctrine is commonly know by the term predestination and the phrase “once saved, always saved.”
Those who reject sovereign irresistibility say that God makes no such predetermination and that man is created to be truly free to decide to accept or reject Christ’s free gift of salvation. By such they are among his chosen.
Which of these two chosens is correct? Who Chooses?
Reference Word Study
In a flexible search for “chosen people” (using the Accordance software on my Mac), the word translated into “chosen” has the following meanings in the Kohlenberg/Mounce Hebrew accordance.
- Kohlenberg/Mounce Hebrew Dictionary
gk H1034 | s H977 r…wjD;b baœhΩur
a. or v.ptcp. [cf. 1047]. see 1047.
gk H1047 | s H977 rAjD;b baœhΩar 172x
v. [root of: 1040, 3295, 4435, 4436, 4437; cf. 1034, 1048]. Q to choose, select, desire, prefer; Qp, N to be chosen, choice, the best, preferred. ˘ choose; prefer; select.
gk H1048 | s H977 rAjD;b baœhΩar
v. [cf. 1034, 1047]. Q to enter into a covenant; Pu be joined.
gk H1040 | s H972 ryIjD;b baœhΩiyr 13x
n.m. . chosen one, one preferred or selected by God with an implication of receiving special favor.
gk H3295 | s H2984 rDjVbˆy yib≈hΩaœr
n.pr.m. . Ibhar, “he chooses”.
gk H4435 | s H4004 rwøjVbIm mib≈hΩor 2x
n.[m.] . choicest (trees); major (towns).
gk H4436 | s H4005 rDjVbIm mib≈hΩaœr 12x
n.[m.] & f. [root of: 4437; cf. 1047]. choicest, best, elite, finest (persons or things).
gk H4437 | s H4006 rDjVbIm mib≈hΩaœr
n.pr.m. [4436; cf. 1047]. Mibhar, “choice”.
gk H7924 | s H7121 a∂r∂q qaœraœ} 739x
v. [root of: 5246, 7926, 7927, 7951, 7952; 10637]. Q to call, summon, announce, proclaim; Qp to be invited as a guest, be appointed; N to be called, be summoned; Pu to be called; “to call on the name of the LORD” means to proclaim or praise the excellence of Yahweh, to worship Yahweh, or to summon Yahweh by name for help. ˘ call; proclaim; summon.
gk H3851 | s H5414 NAtÎy yaœt◊an
v. [root of: 419, 923, 3853, 3854]. Q to be constant, be durable.
gk H7951 | s H7148 ayîr∂q qaœriy} 2x
a. . summoned, called.
gk H2035 | s H3051 bAh hab≈ 33x
v. [cf. 3364]. come!, give!, put!, ascribe!
gk H8011 | s H7200 & 7202 hDa∂r raœ}aœh 1,311x
v. [root of: 2218, 4307, 5260, 5261, 5262, 8012?, 8013, 8014, 8015, 8016, 8019, 8021, 8022, 8023, 8024, 8026 [also used with compound proper names]]. Q to see, look, view; to realize, know, consider; Qp to be selected; N to become visible, appear, show oneself; Pu to be seen; H to cause to see, show; Ho to be shown; Ht to look at each other, meet with; a general word for visual perception; note the many contextual translations in the NIV. ˘ appear; consider; look; perceive; see.
gk H1346 | s H1262 a∂rD;b baœraœ}
v. . see 1356.
gk H1359 | s H1305 r…wrD;b baœrur 2x
a. or v.ptcp. . pure, sincere.
gk H7691 | s H6901 lAb∂q qaœb≈al 13x
v. [root of: 7692; 10618]. P to receive, take; H to match, correspond.
gk H7691 | s H6901 lAb∂q qaœb≈al 13x
v. [root of: 7692; 10618]. P to receive, take; H to match, correspond.
- Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary
977. rAj;Db bachar, baw-khar´; a primitive root; properly, to try, i.e. (by implication) select:—acceptable, appoint, choose (choice), excellent, join, be rather, require.
972. ryIj;Db bachiyr, baw-kheer´; from 977; select:—choose, chosen one, elect.
- Ephesians 1:4 ESV
Eph. 1:3 ¶ eBlessed be fthe God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing gin the heavenly places,
Eph. 1:4 heven as he ichose us in him jbefore the foundation of the world, that we should be kholy and blameless before him. In love
Eph. 1:5 lhe predestined us2 for madoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, naccording to the purpose of his will,
Eph. 1:6 oto the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in pthe Beloved.
Eph. 1:7 qIn him we have rredemption sthrough his blood, tthe forgiveness of our trespasses, uaccording to the riches of his grace,
Eph. 1:8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
Eph. 1:9 vmaking known3 to us the mystery of his will, naccording to his purpose, which he wset forth in Christ
Eph. 1:10 as a plan for xthe fullness of time, yto unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.The word “chose” in verse 4 is shown here in the Kohlenberg/Mounce Greek dictionary.
gk G1721 | s G1586 e˙kle÷gomai eklegomai 22x
to pick out; in NT to choose, select, Lk. 6:13; 10:42; in NT to choose out as the recipients of special favor and privilege, Acts 13:17; 1 Cor. 1:27 ˘ choose; elect; set apart.
- This is a very interesting scripture where the use of chose is not transliterated at all, but implied and added by the translators in order to make the common sense rendering of the passage. This is not problematic until we begin to think about two different meanings of “chosen.” Subjective interpretation of the word chosen breaks down here.
You are the Lord
and brought him out of Ur of the
him the name
Notice the meaning of the two most commonly used words translated as chosen. They account for 2,050 occurrences in scripture where the word is translated as chosen. Looking carefully at their meanings, it is obvious that there are two parties equally involved in this thing called choosing.
I was most impressed by the transiteration in Nehemiah where God chose Abram. If anyone is in the predestined elect of Calvin, certainly Abram was. Yet the word chose in Nehemiah 9:7 ESV is not transliterated from any word in the Hebrew text. It is implied based on the context of the verse.
This evidence presents a serious problem from those who think God is choosing people for either salvation or otherwise. The subjective nature of these scriptures give the reader of a translation a wide birth to lean in either direction if the original text is not taken into account.
This is one of the first problematic points for Calvinistic predestination and it is no case a minor issue.
Ephesians 1:4 is often the first of scriptures used to support the doctrine that there are a predetermined set of man created for and destined to be in the elect All others are created to be excluded.
Most Old Testament usage where the word is translated into a form of chose, chosen, etc. is similar to this scripture which has the largest scope. Most of the usage refers to smaller numbers of people and has a narrow scope. The following verse however refers to Israel as the chosen people! This context is very important to study closely.
Psa. 33:12 xBlessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has ychosen as his heritage!
From the Old Testament view and the New Testament view there are two large chosen groups of people. The one above pertains to Israel as his chosen people. This is very problematic for predestinationists because the great majority of Israel now and in times past do not believe in Jesus Christ. Believing in Jesus Christ is requisite for salvation. How can Israel be his chosen people when they don’t believe?
The word elect used in New Testament scripture possesses in its definition the word chosen. Thus when you see these translations for chosen and elect, they really have the same meaning. On particular notice that these elect are described as beloved and set apart.
Matt. 24:22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for ethe sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
gk G1723 | s G1588 e˙klekto/ß eklektos 22x
chosen out, selected; in NT chosen as a recipient of special privilege, elect, Col. 3:12; specially beloved, Lk. 23:35; possessed of prime excellence, exalted, 1 Tim. 5:21; choice, precious, 1 Pet. 2:4, 6 ˘ chosen; elect; set apart.
All understanding of the word chosen must account for both the Old and New Testament contexts. They are all his words. How can Israel then be the chosen people and then the Christians of Matthew 23 be his chosen elect also? This is very problematic for predistinationism.
At the heart of this is the idea from Calvin that God decided that some people would be created so that they would be destined to love God. These are the elect or the chosen. The others he created with a destiny that doomed them to be apart from God.
This doctrine of election in reformed Christian circles or Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS) in the Southern Baptist realm stems directly from Calvin. It has never been recognized or proferred in prior church history (according to Steve Witzki in the article The Inadequate Historical Precedent for “Once Saved, Always Saved” at http://www.fwponline.cc/v21n1/v21n1witzki.html).
Context scriptural consistency of phenomenal importance. Most of the Old Testament “chosen” verses are really more equated to “seeking.” Scriptural context is profoundly impacted by the numbers of people or things from which “chosen” come.
Here is an example of that for the choosing of the twelve apostles. It is the same word used in Ephesians 1:4. How can one verse be the basis for a selection of mankind predestined for eternal life and the other not? Why not say that only the twelve apostles were predestined for eternal life too?
Luke 6:13 And when day came, khe called his disciples land mchose from them twelve, whom he named napostles:
While context and consistency and the numbers of persons being chosen from are important, there is one facet that I’ve never seen discussed. That is time. With the proper understanding of time you cannot see that predestination is possible or necessary theology. Without its proper understanding, you are missing out on a better understanding of God in the worst way.
Timelessness and Creation
We must remember one very distinct difference about God and his creations. God is timeless. All of his creations are bound to time and space, even the angels.
It is a mystery how a timeless God can exist, much less communicate with his time-bound creation. How does God language in timelessness carry over when he communicates to mankind in the stream of time? Sometimes we mess that up very well as you can see from the word studies.
The word chosen brings up subconsciously a period of time before being chosen, the specific point in time when the choosing occurred, and the period of time beyond that choosing. Can there be any such thing as before, during, or after for a timeless God?
We often use the phrase eternal God but what does that really mean? Eternity by definition imposes a timeframe to God. Eternity is not timelessness but that is what everybody sort of implies and comprehends. The word eternal and God, however, mix like oil and water.
When we say “eternal God” we unconsciously mean “timeless, everlasting God.” However eternity, i.e. time, has a specific beginning, there is no such beginning in timelessness. The word beginning has no meaning in the language of timelessness.
Everything in time is present for God all at once and he has no before or after. That’s why scripture says he is the same yesterday, today and forever. Those poor, inadequate words of time are the best that we have for him to use to relay the concept of a his timelessness. The stream of our time is contained within his timelessness.
Scripture clearly acknowledges however that he knew us before the foundation of the world. The only thing before the creation was his timelessness. We were present in his thoughts not just before physical creation but in his engulfing timelessness.
In light of timelessness, doesn’t it seem silly to think that we could doubt any prophetic prediction he give us about our future? Why do thing that every scripture was fulfilled about Jesus to the dot and title? His timeless perspective makes it impossible for him to be mistaken.
It also seem silly to me to think that God should even have to appoint men to accept him or reject him. Why would he need to do that if he knows everything about time anyway? Predestination is a useless doctrine.
But this all begs a much better question which fascinates me much more. If God knows who will accept and reject him, why would he go to the trouble of sending Jesus Christ into the stream of time to be born, live, die, and rise again?
The next question is then if God is good, how could he knowingly create evil men? That simple act means that he is not good because spoiled good is not just partly bad, it is all bad. Good and bad can never mix.
So how could a good God create any man or angel for that matter if he knows they are being created good or bad? An all-knowing God can only beings with choice, if he knowingly hides their choice from himself. There are two scriptural precedents for exactly this.
When God declares that he remembers our sins no more it is even qualified by saying that we are separated from our sins as far as the east is from the west. What he is relating in the language of timelessness is that God knowingly forgets…forever…our sins.
Remember also that Jesus Christ who is God in the flesh is the miracle of a timeless God that has invaded our stream of time. How could Jesus say that only the Father knows when he will return if he and the Father are one? Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, has chosen not to know when his Father will tell him to return for us.
How does a timeless and all-knowing God forget something. It is a mystery that can only be answered with the statement that “He is God Almighty.” That has be enough explanation.
See how especially silly predestination is? I’ll go one step beyond it to tell you that I believe the doctrine of predestination is a doctrine of demons design to deceive God’s people into sloth and inaction.
There is an interesting scripture that tells how a man who has never heard the truth of Jesus Christ comes to be a believer. God says that if he does the things from his heart that are contained in his law, that is the Law of Human Nature, this he has become a law unto himself. Why would God say that if all that mattered was whether God predestined that man to eternal life or hell? He wouldn’t need to, but clearly he makes that statement.
The difference between a predestined human creation and a mankind that has a real choice is the difference between robots and men and between an evil God or a good God. There is no in-between.
All this hinges on timelessness. Is timelessness real?
The Mathematical Basis for Timelessness
Timelessness is not just a theological concept. If timelessness exists then there must be a timeless God. The math for timelessness is actually quite spectacular and not really that complex, and it proves that timelessness exists.
With Einstein’s original publication of the special theory of relativity in 1905, the formula E=mc2 was born. The concept of time dilation is a key foundation of the theory. Simply stated it says that to every object in motion, the speed of light is constantly the same. That means for an object in motion that time must change since the speed of light cannot.
The faster that an object moves, the slower time passes. The classic thought experiment is of twins, one who remains on Earth while the other who rockets to a far distant star at some speed much, much closer to the speed of light.
Upon the return from his astronautical trek the adventurer will have seemingly remained young while his brother on Earth will have gotten much older. How much older depends only on how fast the rocket was.
The equation for time dilation and has been proven. In order for the time on satellites to all be synchronized with each other and the earth, each satellite has to use this equation to properly adjust its own time as it orbits at different speeds around the earth.
In the example below, t‘ is the time that passes for the earth-bound twine. Let that be 10 years. c is the speed of light. v‘ is the velocity of the astronaut twin in the rocketing to a far distant star. t is the time that passes for the astronaut.
As the velocity of the rocket gets closer and closer to the speed of light, the time that the astronaut sees pass shrinks over the ten years experienced by his twin brother on earth.
What is significant is that if the rocket could reach the speed of light the astronaut would see no time pass not only for the ten years that his earth-bound twin experienced. The astronaut would see no time pass for any amount of time that his brother experienced! That is mathematical timelessness.
Let me state again that because God is timeless, he knows no such thing as a before or after. Because we are creatures of time and God must use our language based in time, it is easy to see how confusion arises on our part about timelessness.
When God calls Israel chosen, there is no point from his timeless perspective at which they are chosen or that they were not chosen. To us there is a before and after. They were timelessly chosen.
That’s also why nothing changes God’s mind. God does not change because he is timeless. He just is the same always. When Jesus is praying to the Heavenly Father who loved him “before the foundation of the world” it doesn’t mean that at some point before creation God the Father “discovered” his love for God the Son. He loves the Son timelessly.
John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be ewith me fwhere I am, gto see my glory that you have given me because you loved me hbefore the foundation of the world.
When the language of timelessness is communicated into the stream of time and space, we distort God’s perspective when we forget where the message sender exists. We try to shackle his message with the bonds of time and the results are not always pretty.
Choosing, Sovereignty, and the Character of God
Herein is the problem. When God states that we are his elect and chosen ones, we think that happen at a distinct point in time. Without understanding timelessness, it is easy to see why. Naturally pondering this and also confusing the sense of the words “chosen” or “elect” we formulate in our minds that God somehow respects one part of mankind over another.
God clearly states that he loves all men and gives no more respect to one over another. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He loved us first…all of us.
1John 4:19 eWe love because he first loved us.
What then about God’s sovereignty? If he is all powerful can he just do what he wants like any other king or emperor or tyrant in history? This is the final pitfall in the whole argument of predestination.
Is God’s sovereignty the same as Henry VIII of England who simply changed the rules and manipulated to accumulate multiple wives?
It is key to understand God’s sovereignty does have limits. Scripture says that because there none higher than God, he can only swear by himself. That means his character and nature never changes.
Heb. 6:13 ¶ For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, ehe swore by himself,
Heb. 6:14 saying, f“Surely I will bless you and multiply you.”
What is God’s nature then?
Take 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, and replace every “love” with “God” and you have clearly delineated the character of God. God’s sovereignty does not allow him to act in ways that are outside his character. His love is never superseded by his power Rather his power is bounded by his love.
1Cor. 13:1 ¶ If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not God, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
1Cor. 13:2 And if I have aprophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, bso as to remove mountains, but have not God, I am nothing.
1Cor. 13:3 cIf I give away all I have, and dif I deliver up my body to be burned,1 but have not God, I gain nothing.
1Cor. 13:4 ¶ eGod is patient and fkind; God gdoes not envy or boast; God his not arrogant
1Cor. 13:5 or rude. God idoes not insist on God’s own way; God jis not irritable or resentful;2
1Cor. 13:6 God kdoes not rejoice at wrongdoing, but lrejoices with the truth.
1Cor. 13:7 mGod bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, eendures all things.
1Cor. 13:8 ¶ God never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
1Cor. 13:9 For nwe know in part and we prophesy in part,
1Cor. 13:10 but owhen the God comes, the partial will pass away.
1Cor. 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
1Cor. 13:12 For pnow we see in a mirror dimly, but qthen face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as rI have been fully known.
1Cor. 13:13 ¶ So now faith, hope, and God abide, these three; but the greatest of these is God.
God cannot willfully ignore his character when he deals with man, angels, or any of his creation. Let me repeat that. Just because we say that God is sovereign does not mean that we can apply the word “sovereign” to him as we know it. God cannot sovereignly act in any way that is outside of his nature! His love does not allow him to hate some men and love others, no matter how much he hates their sinful ways.
Matt. 22:14 For many are fcalled, but few are fchosen.”
God is timeless. His sovereignty is bounded by his love. There is no shadow of turning in him, and he is no respecter of any person.
While his prescience means that he knows all our choices, it does not mean that he in any way forces one to make those choices. We cannot merit his favor or call him to task for our evil ways. We cannot credit God with making us love him. We and we alone are responsible for our choices, but it is our acceptance of his gift makes us his chosen.
Only if we ask can his love invade our heart. But then what else would we expect of a God who is pure love?