How Does God choose the Elect?
by Rod Jackson

All verses are quoted from the NASB anything in [square brackets] is added by me for clarity.

"You are My [Jesus'] friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you 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. This I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." John 15:14-19

Here we see that Jesus appointed us to bear eternal fruit and He chose us out of the world. This means when Jesus says, "You did not choose Me but I chose you" he is talking about choosing us for salvation (i.e. Unconditional Election).

Given the fact of election, we may ask - how does God choose the elect?

"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Here we see that God does not do things the way we do things. A human nation that sends a team to the Olympics sends their best athletes. If God was sending a team to the Olympics He would send cripples!

In the above verses, Paul is using an argument from experience. He says that the Corinthians church should "consider their calling". In other words - what were you like before you became a Christian? So I will use this form of argument and look at some biblical examples.

e.g. Gideon (Manasseh)

Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him,`The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.' Then Gideon said to him, `O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, "Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?" But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.' The LORD looked at him and said, `Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?' He said to Him, `O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's house.' " Judges 6:11-15

Here we see that Gideon does not believe God is with him. Also we see that Gideon is the least in his family and he comes from an unimportant family.

"Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and named it The LORD is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. Now on the same night the LORD said to him, "Take your father's bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it;" Judges 6:24-25

So Gideon grew up in a household of idolaters. His father has an altar to the false "god" Baal. We already saw that Gideon did not believe Yahweh the Israelite God was with him. So it is likely that Gideon himself was an idolater.

"When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the LORD, he said, `Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.' " Judges 6:22

Gideon realises that he was chosen by the only true God.

"And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets," Hebrews 11:32

Gideon is listed among the Heroes of the Faith. So he was definitely saved despite his resume of being weak and an idolater.

e.g. Abram / Abraham

"Joshua said to all the people, `Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, "From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods." ' " Joshua 24:2

So Abram was an idolater.

"You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, and gave him the name Abraham." Nehemiah 9:7

God chose Abram, despite his resume of being an idolater.

e.g. Rahab (Canaanite)

"Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, `Go, view the land, especially Jericho' So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there." Joshua 2:1

Rahab was a Canaanite who was a prostitute (harlot).

and said to the men, `I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father's household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.' " Joshua 2:9-13

Rahab the harlot expresses faith in Yahweh the Israelite God.

"By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace." Hebrews 11:31

Rahab had faith.

"In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?" James 2:25

It was a genuine/living faith (one that results in works).

"Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse." Matthew 1:5

God chose Rahab to be in the genealogy of Jesus, despite her resume of being a prostitute and an idolater.

e.g. Ruth (Moabite)

"They [Mahlon and Chilion] took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years." Ruth 1:4

Ruth was a Moabite.

"Then she said, `Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.' " Ruth 1:15

Naomi encourages Ruth to return to her false Moabite gods. So Ruth was an idolater.

But Ruth said, `Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.' " Ruth 1:16

Ruth accepts the only true God as her God.

"Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse." Matthew 1:5

God chose Ruth to be in the genealogy of Jesus, despite her resume of being an idolater.

e.g. Moses (Levite)

"It was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God, and he was nurtured three months in his father's home. And after he had been set outside, Pharaoh's daughter took him away and nurtured him as her own son. Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian." Acts 7:20-24

Moses murdered an Egyptian. Moses was also educated in "all the learning of Egypt", which would have included their false gods.

"The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, `I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.' When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, `Here I am.' Then He said, `Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.' He said also, `I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob' Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God." Exodus 3:2-6

God chooses Moses.

"God spoke further to Moses and said to him, `I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.' " Exodus 6:2-3

God reveals more of Himself to Moses than Moses' forefathers.

"Then Samuel said to the people, `It is the LORD who appointed Moses and Aaron and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt.' " 1 Samuel 12:6

God chose Moses, despite his resume of being a murderer and possibly being an idolater.

e.g. Saul/Paul (Benjamin)

"Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word." Acts 8:1-4

Saul agreed with the death of the Godly Christian Stephen.

"and he [Saul/Paul] fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, `Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' And he said, `Who are You, Lord?' And He [Jesus] said, `I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,' " Acts 9:4-5

Saul persecuted Jesus.

"But Ananias answered, `Lord, I have heard from many about this man [Saul/Paul], how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.' " Acts 9:13-14

Saul persecuted Christians.

"So then, I [Saul/Paul] thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities." Acts 26:9-11

Saul put Christians in Jail and was hostile to them.

"circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless." Philippians 3:5-6

Saul was a Pharisee.

"But the Lord said to him [Ananias], `Go, for he [Saul/Paul] is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;' " Acts 9:15

God chose Saul, despite his resume of being a persecutor of Christians and of being a Pharisee.

ok, that is enough of those examples, now I want to change the argument slightly.

The Zero Age argument
e.g. Isaac

"But God said, `No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son [Isaac], and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.' " Genesis 17:19

Before Isaac was born God had established His covenant with him. Hence Isaac was saved before he was born. But what can one do before they exist to earn their existence? The answer of course is "nothing". Therefore one cannot deserve to exist. This means that before one is born one cannot do anything either good or bad to merit their salvation either.

e.g. Jacob (Israel)

"Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, `If it is so, why then am I this way?' So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, `Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.' When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them." Genesis 25:21-26

Here we see twins, Jacob (Israel) and Esau (Edom) while still in the womb. Jacob, the younger by a few seconds, was chosen over Esau.

"He [Jacob] blessed Joseph, and said,`The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my [Jacob's]shepherd all my life to this day,' " Genesis 48:15

God was with Jacob all his life.

e.g. Samson (Dan)

"Then the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, `Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son [Samson]. Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.' " Judges 13:3-5

Before Samson was born he was dedicated to God from the womb.

"Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the LORD blessed him." Judges 13:24

"And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets," Hebrews 11:32

So Samson was saved as he is listed among the heroes of the faith.

e.g. Samuel (Ephraimite)

"She made a vow and said, `O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him [Samuel] to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.' " 1 Samuel 1:11

"So I have also dedicated him [Samuel] to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD " And he worshiped the LORD there." 1 Samuel 1:28

"Then Elkanah went to his home at Ramah But the boy ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest." 1 Samuel 2:11

So Samuel was chosen from before he was born. He could not have done anything good or evil to deserve his salvation.

e.g. Jeremiah (Benjamin)

"Before I [God] formed you [Jeremiah] in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

Jeremiah was chosen by God to be God's prophet from the womb.

e.g. John the Baptist

"But the angel said to him, `Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.' " Luke 1:13-16

John the Baptist had the Holy Spirit from the womb.

"just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will," Ephesians 1:4-5

All Christians are elected before creation. Hence before any of us could do anything good or bad.

"That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: `AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.' And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, `THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.' Just as it is written, `JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.' What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, `I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.' So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." Romans 9:8-16

Paul uses this "zero age" argument. When he talks about God choosing someone before they are born and before they could have done anything to merit God's choice.

e.g. Pharaoh

"For if by now I [God] had put forth My hand and struck you [Pharaoh] and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go." Exodus 9:15-17

Pharaoh was a wicked king of Egypt. He deserved to die, but God says here that he did not kill Pharaoh straight away as he deserved. But rather allowed him to live longer, so that God could display His miracles.

"For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, `FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.' So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, `Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?' On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, `Why did you make me like this,' will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles." Romans 9:17-24

Paul uses this argument about Pharaoh and applies it to the non-elect.

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things To Him be the glory forever. Amen." Romans 11:33-36

God's thoughts are not our thoughts. God chooses the weak when we would chose the strong. I remember hearing about a Godly Christian [Martin Luther?] who would pray a few hours each day. The more work he had to do in the day, the longer he would spend in prayer. And yet he would always have enough time to get all his work done. We think that if there is more work to do then we should spend less time in prayer so that we will have more time to do the work. But God's ways are not our ways...

How does God choose the elect? I don't know, but I do know that God is holy, just and righteous. He does what is best.

God does not owe us anything. He is our creator, we are the creatures. We owe God everything.

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