The Doctrine of Election found in the New Testament actually has its roots in the Old Testament within the history of the Israelite people. The Israelites were God’s Chosen People because of God’s love and faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Deuteronomy 4:37 explains that God chose and rescued Israel out of Egypt because of God’s love and favor for their Fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). The Hebrew verb behar means “to choose or select.” When choosing, God is described as making a choice or picking from various options. In the case of God’s choice of Israel, the qualifying excellence (not sinless perfection) was found in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exod. 3:6, 6:3, 32:13), not the collective Israelite people. Although it appears that Abraham was the most unique, they were all called servants of God (Exod. 32:13). Nehemiah explained that God chose Abraham because Abraham was faithful to God (Neh. 9:7-8). Uniquely, Abraham was called the friend of God (Isa. 41:8). Abraham was chosen to teach his children to follow the way of the Lord (Gen. 18:19). Abraham was invited to both receive a blessing and be a blessing (Gen. 12:2). On the other hand, the Israelite people were repeatedly called a disobedient and obstinate people (Exod. 32:9; Deut. 9: 13, 27; Neh. 9:16; Ps. 78: 8; Jer. 5:23). In leading the people, Moses pleaded with God, “Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not turn Your attention to the stubbornness of this people, or to their wickedness, or their sin” (Deut. 9:27). The vast majority of those who escaped from Egypt were not allowed to enter the Promised Land because they did not follow the Lord fully (Num. 32:11). It was only the Fathers or a select few who grew in faith, continued to trust in God, and changed world history. Israel was chosen by God to be God’s special possession and a holy people because of the spiritual excellence of a few, not the many (Duet. 7:6, 10:15, 14:2). Notable believers of the Exodus Generation included Moses, Caleb, and Joshua. The vast majority of the rest of the Israelites were disobedient and repeatedly failed.
As another example of election, God anticipated that Israel would eventually want a King like the other Gentile nations. However, God commanded Israel to only appoint a King who was chosen by God (Duet. 17:15). Ultimately, only God should pick the leaders of the Israelites. The reader might recall how the Prophet Samuel reviewed all of the sons of Jesse, but only David was chosen by God (1 Sam. 16). Many are quick to point out the sins and failures of David, but the Scriptures declare that the thrust of David’s life was one of obedience to God’s commandments and statutes (1 Kings 11:34). And God’s choice of David was directly related to David’s obedience and faithfulness (1 Kings 11:34). In fact, every Israelite King was compared to David, who was the standard of excellence to which every king was ultimately compared (2 Chron. 29:2; 2 Kings 14:3; 2 Kings 18:3).
Psalm 106:23 described Moses as being the chosen of God. In fact, if Moses had not stood in the gap between God and Israel, the Israelites would have been destroyed by God (Ps. 106:23). Aaron, his brother, was chosen as the High Priest because of his relationship to Moses. It was God who chose the family of Aaron and the Levites to minister before God and Israel (Duet. 18:5). Deuteronomy 21:5 explained that God chose the Priests and Levites to bless and serve the Lord. For example, only the Levites were allowed to carry the ark because they had been specifically chosen by God (1 Chron. 15:2). In one of our earlier blogposts, we pointed out that the Levites were chosen because they had supported Moses during a time of open rebellion by the Israelites (Exod. 32:21-27).
King Hezekiah (who was compared favorably to David) enacted various reforms during his reign (2 Chron. 29:2). He instructed the Priests and Levites to consecrate the Temple and worship only in the proper way. Hezekiah explained that the wrath of God had come upon the Israelites because of the Israelites’ failure to worship God in accordance with God’s laws (2 Chron. 29). Hezekiah said that the Priests and Levites were chosen by God, but they were negligent in carrying out their duties (2 Chron. 29:11).
On the other hand, the Israelites were told to make a choice of whom they would worship and serve. The Israelites were told to make a choice between the false and inferior gods of the Gentiles versus the one true God, Yahweh (Josh. 24:15; Judg. 10:14). My point is that the Doctrine of Election does not abrogate the issue of our free will and personal responsibility. In fact, God is making His choices while taking into consideration human free will and responsibility. God instructs us in the way we should choose (Ps. 25:2). Those that fear the Lord choose the right path (Ps. 25:2). Ultimately, God will choose to bless certain believers in a fabulous way (Ps. 33:12). These special believers will be God’s special possession (Ps. 33:12), they will receive a unique inheritance from God (Ps. 47:4, 65:4). These unique believers are described as having “chosen the faithful way” and as having followed God’s laws (Ps. 119:30, 173). Such believers are the authentic servants of God (Isa. 41:9).
In contrast, others will be embarrassed by the gardens (blessings) they chose to pursue (Isa. 1:29). As to disobedient Israel, God said that they “chose that in which I did not delight” (Isa. 65:12). Disobedient Israel “chose their own ways” (Isa. 66:3), and God will “choose their punishments” (Isa. 66:4). Jeremiah said that disobedient Israel chose death, instead of life (Jer. 8:3).
In the New Testament, God clarified and reemphasized the Doctrine of Election (being selected as one of the chosen). In fact, God reemphasized the issue of our free will and human responsibility. This clarification and reemphasis was delivered by Jesus Christ in His Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matt. 22). As the reader may recall, the ministry of Jesus Christ was focused on the lost sheep of Israel, who were God’s chosen people by virtue of their relationship to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus Christ’s ministry announced the arrival of God’s chosen King. At Matthew 22:1-14, we read the Parable of the Wedding Feast, and even the casual reader can discern that the parable placed great emphasis on human free will and individual responsibility.
In the Parable of the Wedding Feast, Jesus explained that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who held a wedding feast for his son (Matt. 22:2). The king sent out his servants to announce the wedding feast to those who had been invited (Matt. 22:3). As explained by Scholar Craig Keener, the king’s invitees had insider status and were analogous to the Israelites during the time of the ministry of Jesus Christ. While most Israelites believed that Yahweh was the God of Israel, many (perhaps most) rejected God’s anointed Son. As prophesied by Jesus in the parable, the invitees (the Israelites) rejected the king’s invitation. The invitees were unwilling to come to the wedding feast. Most invitees paid no attention to the invitation and went their separate ways (Matt. 22:5). They just went about their normal activities, working on their farms or working in their businesses (Matt. 22:5). However, some even mistreated the emissaries of the king (Matt. 22:6). They abused or even killed the king’s agents. The king then said that the invitees were not worthy of the invitation (Matt. 22:8). In retribution, the king sent his armies to destroy the murderers and set their city on fire (Matt. 22:7). This prophecy was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Thereafter, in the parable, the king instructed his agents to go out into the streets and invite anybody and everybody to come to the wedding feast (Matt. 22: 9-10). This prophecy was fulfilled in God’s invitation to the Gentile world through the Apostles and disciples of Christ. In the parable, the wedding feast then became filled with guests. However, all of the invitees were still required to wear proper wedding clothes, and it was noticed that one of the guests was not properly dressed (Matt. 22:11). The improperly dressed guest was immediately thrown out of the wedding feast (Matt. 22:12-13). This part of the parable emphasizes that every believer, whether Jew or Gentile, is required to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14). Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ is equivalent to taking hold of or putting on the New Covenant Spiritual Life (Rom. 13:14). In the Book of Revelation, Jesus instructed the believer to “buy from Me white garments so that you may be clothed” (Rev. 3:18).
Ending the parable, Jesus then declared, “many are called but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14). The Greek word kletos means “to be called or invited.” Those with insider status (the called) are those who are initially invited. Every believer has received the call or invitation, and they should immediately see the significance of the invitation. All are required to demonstrate loyalty to their king and come to the wedding feast of his son. However, both in the parable and in fulfillment of the prophecy of the parable, those with insider status were rebellious and insulting to the king. At the time of Jesus’s earthly ministry, the Israelites were the invitees with insider status. Now, every Christian has insider status, and we are all called to come to and enjoy the wedding feast. However, most Christians do not have the proper scale of values, and they reject the true King’s invitation.
The Greek word eklektos means “picked out or chosen.” We have been invited to enjoy an existence in the Kingdom of God, a place of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Matthew commonly used the phrase “kingdom of heaven,” which is equivalent to the phrase “kingdom of God,” which was more often used by the other Gospel writers. The Kingdom of God is a present spiritual reality and a future political reality. Considering this future political reality, a few are being groomed to rule with Christ in Christ’s future political Kingdom. They will also receive a unique inheritance and special future blessings. Many are called (invited), but few are chosen. It has been God’s will from the beginning that certain humans would assist Him in the rule over His creation (Gen. 1:26-28). At the Last Supper, speaking of His disciples in contrast to Judas, Jesus said, “I know the ones whom I have chosen” (John 13:8). This has been a redundant message from the beginning. In his last letter, Paul emphasized, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12). In the Book of Revelation, John the Elder instructed the “overcomers” that they would receive special blessings that included ruling with Christ. At Revelation 2:25-29, we read,
Nevertheless what you have, hold firmly until I come. The one who overcomes, and the one who keeps my deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations; AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE SHATTERED, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
God has appointed the “chosen” to go and bear fruit, and whatever they pray for according to the will and authority of the Son will be fulfilled by God (John 15:16). They are chosen out of the world and mostly hated by the world (John 15:19). God has chosen the foolish and weak to shame the wise and strong of this world (1 Cor. 1:27). Such believers were chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in love (Eph. 1:4). Such believers were chosen to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom, which God has promised to those who love God (Jas. 2:5).
Some have distorted the Doctrine of Election to diminish the importance of human free will. Some have argued that God is arbitrarily choosing some to be saved, while choosing others to be condemned or damned. To the contrary, God’s choices take into consideration human free will and responsibility. This does not negate the importance of grace. We cannot please God without His Word, Providence, and power via His Holy Spirit. We cannot be what we are designed to be without His help. The full realization of our human potential can only happen when we live in complete dependence on and in continual fellowship with Him.
On the other hand, in my opinion others have wrongly concluded that every Christian has been “chosen.” Perhaps, this is largely influenced by the idea that Israel was said to be God’s chosen people, and therefore, every Christian should be considered as God’s chosen people. It can be argued that every Israelite was chosen because of his or her relationship to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In a similar way, every Christian is spiritually related to Jesus and is a part of His family, and therefore, also one of the “chosen.” This is a very reasonable argument, but the primary New Testament idea (as shown in the Parable of the Wedding Feast) of being “one of the chosen” focuses upon the idea of individual faithfulness and qualification to receive his or her inheritance. In my opinion, every Christian has been called, but only a few will be chosen to rule with Christ and receive his or her full inheritance. The alternative interpretations have unduly diminished the importance that God places on human free will and individual responsibility.
 “H977 – bāḥar – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Jul, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h977/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Second Ed. InterVarsity Press, 2014, pp. 80-101.
 “G2822 – klētos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Jul, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g2822/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 For further discussion regarding the Parable of the Wedding Feast, see my blog post, The Kingdom of God, No. 8: The Parable of the Wedding Feast. https://eyestoseetherevelation.com/kingdom-of-god-no-8/
 “G1588 – eklektos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Jul, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1588/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Leland Ryken, et al, InterVarsity Press, 1998.