Called, and Chosen, and Faithful

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Among the visions seen by John on the Island of Patmos was a scene of conflict in which ten kingdoms were united against the Lamb, Jesus Christ (Rev. 17:12-14). John saw that the Lamb was victorious in that battle because he is “Lord of lords and King of kings”, and that his victory was also shared by those who were with him – though the overcoming is altogether accredited to the Lamb. Those who are with him and share his victory “are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14 KJV). If we share, or will share, in the Lamb’s victory, then that’s who we have to be, the “called, and chosen, and faithful.”

In order to be one of those who are “called, and chosen, and faithful,” we must (evidently) first be called. That is, the call of God must come to us or we cannot be counted among those who stand with Christ and share his victory. Jesus said that he came to “call … sinners” (Matt. 9:13) and Paul reminds us that we are all sinners and dependent on the grace of God for forgiveness and salvation (Rom. 3:21-24). We are further reminded repeatedly that Christians are people who have been called by God (Rom. 1:6-7, Rom. 9:24, 1 Thes. 4:7, Rom. 8:30, 1 Cor. 1:9, 1 Cor. 7:15-24, Gal. 1:6, Gal. 5:13, etc.) and that the calling is by Christ Jesus (1 Pet. 5:10), or by the gospel (2 Thes. 2:14). It is only in being exposed to truth about Jesus Christ, being introduced to him, that we can be called by God, no matter how that exposure occurs. The gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-9) has to touch us somehow in order for us to be called (Rom. 10:17), and unless we are called we cannot be “chosen, and faithful”. We can’t stand with a winning Lord unless we are called, and the scripture shows us that we are wholly dependent on things outside ourselves for the call to be issued. God may call us (by the gospel) through a stranger, a friend, a relative, a book, a recording, a broadcast, or some other means, but until and unless he calls, salvation is remote and unattainable. How fortunate then that God is determined to call many (Matt. 20:16, 22:14), and determined that the call should be heard throughout the world (Rom. 10:18, Matt. 28:19, Acts 1:8, for example). The call of God removes any possibility that we could ever take credit for our own salvation, our own knowledge of God, because without his call we could never know him in a saving way, and so we are seen to be dependent upon God for even the knowledge of salvation in Christ. But not all who are called by God are also “chosen, and faithful.”

Christians are often referred to in scripture as “the elect” (Col. 3:12, Rom. 8:33, 2 Tim. 2:10, Titus 1:1, 1 Pet. 1:1-2), which actually is the same word in the Greek writings as this word “chosen”. The kind of choosing this is talking about is, like the call of God, something beyond our ability to control. When Paul speaks of being “… chosen … in him before the foundation of the world…” (Eph. 1:4) it is evident that he is talking about something we could not accomplish ourselves or in any sense earn, because it was a matter of God’s plan and power before the world itself was created, long before we as individuals came into being. Jesus strongly emphasized this in a personal way to his apostles shortly before his death, saying “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 5:16 KJV). His apostles might have taken issue with this idea, argued that they had in fact chosen to follow Jesus, chosen to leave their jobs and homes. But they couldn’t make that choice in any meaningful, useful, enduring, fruitful way without him choosing them. He may have chosen them because of who they were, where they were, what they could become (John 13:18), but it was still his choosing that counted in giving value to their lives and work. And likewise with us who are called and chosen. Our choice would not matter at all unless he chooses us, unless we were “chosen in him,” a part of the “chosen people” (1 Pet. 2:9) who have been called out of one thing (darkness) and into another (wonderful light) for a purpose (to declare the praises of him who called). We may describe a Christian in terms of one who follows a certain set of steps that lead to salvation, as though salvation were a matter of human choice and human activity, but the scriptures emphatically affirm that salvation becomes available to us only by God’s action. “Called, and chosen” describes the condition of one who is wholly dependent on God’s action, God’s plan and purpose. And so we speak of the fact that the Lord adds people to the church, who are being saved (Acts 2:47). It is beyond human ability to add one to the church (the called out), whether oneself or anyone else. The Lord has to do that.

And then, the ones who are “called, and chosen” need to be faithful, and in this area human choice and activity certainly seems to be the determining factor. God equips those he calls and chooses and no external force can possibly remove them from him (Rom. 8:28ff). God calls people to something, variously described as light, the kingdom of his son, eternal glory, a holy life, the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ, peace, the grace of Christ, and so on. We come to this place or thing or way of life by the power and grace of God, but the call that invites us in is a call that evokes responsibility to stay where we belong, and behave as we ought to behave. Recognizing our responsibility in this regard, the responsibility to be faithful, to stay with the elect in our thoughts and actions, should not diminish our recognition of the fact that it is God who brings us to a place where we can stand, who makes it possible for us to stand, who gives us legs to stand on. We must never limit or undervalue God’s contribution to our being and our salvation by misplacing or over-stressing the value of our own responsibility as those who are called and chosen to be obedient (1 Pet. 1:2). If he didn’t facilitate our entrance into the kingdom, we could never get in. If you count yourself among the elect, the called and chosen, don’t pat yourself on the back for making such a wise choice and doing the right thing. Instead thank God for calling and choosing so that you could become fruitful and by his equipping have a place to be faithful in.

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