Are believers called or are they chosen? What is the difference between these two? Do they conflict with one another?
Chosen by God
R.C. Sproul wrote an outstanding book called “Chosen by God” and I highly recommend this book from one of the greatest theologians in the last 100 years. He sees a believer’s election as an effectual one. That is, when God calls someone He enables that person to respond to that call in faith. Jesus Himself chose the disciples and God’s word also says that we are called. Which is it? Is being called the same thing as being chosen? Do we choose Him or does He choose us? It is actually both of these because God chooses those to who He will save and then He calls those same.
You are Chosen
Jesus called His disciples and He says that we are chosen. There are dozens of Scriptures that testify to this fact. Here are a few Scriptures that I have selected and after which will be followed by a commentary.
John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
Jesus clearly chose the disciples, they did not choose Him. He even says “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”
John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
The way Jesus says this is that “no man can” meaning that no man, at any time, can, or is able to, of himself or herself come to Him. The word “come” in the Greek is “erchomai” which means “to come from one place or another.” So, no one can come to Christ unless something happens first. That something is not a little nothing but a huge something. That something is unless the Father…draws them. The word for “draw” in the Greek is “helko” which means to literally “drag” or to “draw by an inward power.” I believe that “inward power” is that of the Holy Spirit. So this sentence, if we insert the original Greek, should read “No one can come from one place (being unsaved) to the other (to Christ Who saves) me (Jesus) unless the Father who sent me (Jesus) drags him as by an inward power.
There are dozens of other Scriptures that show that God is the One Who calls and has even predestined us before the earth even existed (Eph 1) but this theme of being called by God is not restricted to the New Testament but is found throughout the Old Testament. God called Abraham out of paganism, God called Israel out of Egypt, God called Moses out of shepherding and when God calls, all follow, with no exceptions, showing that God has the power to bring about what He purposes.
God called Israel specifically as we read in Isaiah 41:4, 8-9
“Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he. But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off.”
Nowhere here is the idea that Abraham said, “Hey, I think I’ll give God a try” or Israel voted collectively and by an overwhelming majority vote, voted to choose God. No, God says that “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph 1:4-5). How clear that is!
You are Called
There is no doubt that God does the choosing and we don’t really choose Him but are we also called by God? Is our calling the same thing as being chosen? Here are Scriptures that emphatically state that we are also called and the conclusion must be that being chosen by God results in being called by God and so if you are chosen by God you must be called.
Matthew 22:14 “Many are called but few are chosen.”
This seems to contradict what the Scriptures say that you can be called but not chosen but that is not what Jesus is saying here if you read the entire chapter. Many are called and many come to Christ but only a few are chosen. Why so? Remember in the Parable of the Sower that many did come and were called to the knowledge of God but some fell on stony ground, others on thorns, while others never took root. Some fell away after persecution, some got entangled in the affairs of the world while riches chocked the others from being saved. They professed saving faith at one time but they really never possessed saving faith. They may have been called but if they were not saved and fell away as the seed never took root and this reveals that they were never really chosen.
Second Timothy 1:9 “God, who saved us and called us to [literally “with”] a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”
This seems to match what Ephesians 1:4-5 say that we are called with a holy calling but this calling began “before the ages [or time] began. “ God, the One Who saved us was also the One Who called us to a holy calling. He is the One that initiated this calling, before the ages began (or time began), meaning before the earth even existed.
First Corinthians 1:26 “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.”
Here we see that we are called and to consider (ponder, think about) that calling and most of those who are called are not the powerful or born of nobility or in places of great power or prominence.
Romans 8:28-30 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
This is called the golden chain of salvation by many. God works all things out for the best but only for those who are “called according to His purpose.” He does not say that all things will always work out for good but they will always work out for our good but this good is only for those who are “called according to His purpose” and not according to our purpose. He foreknew us and those Who He foreknew He also predestined to be saved “and those whom He called He also justified.” The theme of being called is repeated in these verses and anytime words are repeated in the Bible, it is always for emphasizing something that is very import. In this verse there is nothing about us or we or that we chose Him or we participated in this call.
When I was called to dinner as a child, I was chosen to have dinner and that we always sat in the same place at the dinner table. We didn’t choose our parents any more than we chose God. God chooses us and those He chose He calls. They are like the left hand complimenting the right. They go together. One comes first…being chosen, like in predestination. Next comes the calling, calling those who were chosen. If you are not sure if you are chosen then please read Romans 10:9-13 or Acts 16:30-31 and if you believe this, then you have been chose and perhaps today God the Father is calling you to Christ (John 6:44) so that you might believe and be saved.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon