Why does the Bible say that some are called and chosen in this day and age? (Part 1)


The apparent distinction between being called and being chosen has confused many people. As we will show in this new series, these words are addressing different aspects of the same concept.

We will, in this installment, concentrate on people who are called and chosen for salvation; that is, who have been elected by God long before they were born to be given an opportunity in their lifetime to inherit salvation when Christ returns.

Quoting from our free booklet, “Are YOU Predestined to be Saved?”, https://www.eternalgod.org/booklet-605/ we say this on page 52:

“The Bible teaches that in this day and age, God calls just very few to salvation. Those who respond to the call and become converted are referred to as the firstfruits (compare James 1:18; Revelation 14:4). Some try to defeat the Biblical concept of predestination, as explained in this booklet, by stating that God does not know ahead of time whom He will call and choose. Rather, they claim that God ‘calls’ many, based on their prior conduct in this life, and that He then decides to choose or accept those who respond to His call, while rejecting those who reject His call.

“However, those who are truly called today have been first foreknown and predestined by God (Romans 8:28)…”

Notice the wording of Romans 8:28-30:

“(28) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

Paul says here that God foreknew and predestined those whom He called. The next step in the process would be justification—upon repentance and belief in Christ’s sacrifice, they would obtain forgiveness and would thereby become justified in God’s eyes—their former sins were blotted out—and if they remain faithful to God and His Way of Life, they would be glorified—obtain glorification—being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. In God’s eyes, those who were foreknown and predestined to be called would make it into His Kingdom—only they could prevent this from happening.

Continuing with our quote from the above-stated booklet:

“They were singled out BEFORE they did right or wrong—that is, they were NOT called because of their works (compare Romans 9:11; 2 Timothy 1:8–9).”

Let us focus on the exact wording of Romans 9:10-12:

“(10) And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (11) (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), (12) it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger.’”

We read here that God’s purpose according to election must stand regarding those whom God calls.

Also notice the wording in 2 Timothy 1:8-9:

“(8) Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, (9) who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began…”

According to this passage, those who are called with a holy calling were not called because of their works, but according to God’s purpose and grace which was given to them “before time began.”

In Romans 8:28, the Greek word for “called” is “kletos.” In Romans 8:30, the word is “kaleo.”

In Romans 9:11, the Greek word is also “kaleo,” So is the word for “calls” in 2 Timothy 1:9, whereas the word for calling, in “holy calling,” is “klesis.”

Regarding the meaning of the verb “kaleo,” W.E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words writes:

Kaleo is used… with a personal object, to call anyone, invite, summon…; it is used particularly of the Divine call to partake of the blessings of redemption… of vocation… Thus it suggests either vocation or destination; the context determines which…”

Vine’s defines the adjective “kletos” and the noun “klesis” as a calling and is used “especially of God’s invitation to man to accept the benefits of salvation.”

We see, then, that God has called some for salvation before they were born; in fact, before time began. He foreknew them, predestined them, called them.

We continue with quoting from our before-mentioned booklet:

“Those who are truly called are also chosen and faithful (compare Revelation 17:14). The Bible does not teach that God calls many today to salvation, but that most reject their calling and that only a few will respond and become chosen and faithful. If that were true, then those who have rejected their spiritual calling to eternal salvation would have committed the unpardonable sin—and this is decisively not correct. Today, God only calls and chooses the few (compare 1 Corinthians 1:26–29), and when He brings them to true conversion, they, for the most part, will stay loyal to Him (although it is possible, that some, who are truly called to salvation, will commit the unpardonable sin).”

Many have stumbled over the fact that those who were predestined to be called were also predestined to be chosen—and that, long before they were born. If we wanted to draw a distinction between being called and being chosen by saying that some would be called first, and only later, after having proven themselves to be worthy, they would become chosen, then we would also have to say that God, even though He foreknew and predestined some to be called in this day and age, engaged in a big gamble as to who would also advance to become chosen, and that most of those whom God predestined to be called would not make it, and would fall away, and that God knew this ahead of time; in fact, before time began. This is truly a preposterous concept. Why would God call those whom He had foreknown and predestined, knowing that they would not make it, but fall away? After all, we read Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6: “… being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…”

God did not call the firstfruits so that most would fail; rather, He called them “before time began” so that they would succeed. God calls [“kaleo”] us into His own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12). We are also told: “He who calls [“kaleo”] you is faithful, who also WILL DO it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). We are “the called [“kletos”] of Jesus Christ”—the “saints” (Romans 1:6, 7; 8:28). Jude 1 refers to us as “those who are called [“kletos”], sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ.” In Hebrews 3:1, we are referred to as “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling [“klesis”].” And 2 Peter 1:10 admonishes God’s true disciples “to make your call [“klesis”] and election sure.”

In focusing now on the fact that those who are called were chosen by God, we continue with quoting from pages 52 and 53 of our before-mentioned booklet:

“Those who are called by God and whose names are written in God’s Book of Life are God’s ‘chosen’ generation or people (1 Peter 2:9; Acts 9:15; James 2:5). They are ‘the elect’ or ‘chosen ones’ (Matthew 24:24, 31). We read in Ephesians 1:3–5 that ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… chose us in Him before the foundation of the world… having predestined us… as sons [the rendering “adoption as sons” is incorrect] by Jesus Christ to Himself.’

“We also read in 2 Thessalonians 2:13–14: ‘But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

“Christ says in John 15:16, 19: ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain… I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

“When the Bible talks about the predestination of those truly ‘called’ to salvation in this day and age, it includes the concept that they are also ‘chosen’ to be numbered among the ‘elect’…

“At the same time, we read in Mark 13:20 about the coming Great Tribulation: ‘And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.’”

Rather than teaching that some are called first, and if they overcome and don’t fall away, then they are also chosen, the Bible teaches the exact opposite.  Remember, we read that those whom God foreknew and predestined, He also called them before time began.  We also just read above, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, that God from the beginning chose us for salvation to which He called us. So, if anything, the order would be reversed. But the Truth is that some were preordained or elected or chosen to be called in this day and age. And that, before the foundation of the world (compare again Ephesians 1:3-5).

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 uses the words “calling” and “chosen” interchangeably:

(26) For you see your calling [Greek: “klesis”], brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called [Note that the words “are called” are not in the Greek and were added by the translator]. (27) But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; (28) and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, (29) that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

We need to review the different Greek words, all being translated as “chosen,” to get a clearer picture of their meaning.

In 1 Corinthians 1:27-28, the Greek word for “chosen” is “eklego.” It is also used in John 15:16, 19 (see above), and in Ephesians 1:4 (see above). It is also used in James 2:5: “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom…?”). According to Vine’s, it means “to pick out,” “select”, “to choose for oneself.”

The Greek word “eklego” is also used in Mark 13:20, where the words “elect” and “chosen” are used interchangeably: “… for the elect’s sake, whom He chose…”

The Greek word for “chosen,” “eklektos”, is used, for example, in 1 Peter 2:9 (“you are a chosen generation”). It means “chosen out, select.” It is rendered as “elect” in Matthew 24:22, 31. The New King James Bible includes an annotation to Matthew 24:31 (“they will gather together His elect,” “chosen ones”).

Vine’s says:

eklektos, lit. signified picked out, chosen (ek, from, lego, to gather, pick out) and is used of… believers… Believers were ‘chosen before the foundation of the world… The source of their election is God’s grace, not human will…They are given by God the Father to Christ as the fruit of His Death, all being foreknown and foreseen by God.”

The Greek word “ekloge” in Acts 9:15 (“a chosen vessel”) has a similar meaning; it refers to choice and selection. It is sometimes rendered “election.” It is used in Romans 9:11 in reference to the election of Jacob, which can also be rendered, according to Vine’s, as “that which is chosen.”

So, the firstfruits were selected or picked out, before the foundation of the world, to be called in this age. To put it differently, if we belong to the firstfruits, we were called before time began; that is, God had already decided before He created anything physical, that He would call us in our lifetime for salvation.

An unusual word is used in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, where we read that God chose us from the beginning. The word is “aireomai” and means, to take or to lift up for oneself. Again, the thought is conveyed that God, for Himself and for His plan, predestined and chose certain elected ones to be called in this age, for His purpose.

In this context, how are we to understand Revelation 17:14, which says: “These [10 nations] will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called [“kletos”], chosen [“eklektos”], and faithful.”

Barnes Notes on the Bible gives the following explanation:

“Are called – That is, called by him to be his followers; as if he had selected them out of the world to maintain his cause…

“And chosen – … In their steadfast adherence to the truth, they had shown that they were truly chosen by the Saviour…

“And faithful – They had shown themselves faithful to him in times of persecution, and in the hour of darkness.”

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible adds:

“… are called, and chosen, and faithful; they are chosen in Christ from all eternity… and though their calling is here set before election, as in 2 Peter 1:10, yet it does not precede it; the Arabic version reads, ‘chosen, called, faithful’; first ‘chosen’ by God the Father, then ‘called’, … being called they remain ‘faithful’:..”

The Geneva Study Bible speaks here about “those that are elected, called, and are his faithful ones in Christ.”

Rightly understood, this passage does not convey the thought that the firstfruits are called, and only when they have proven themselves, then they become “chosen.” Rather, our calling and election (being chosen) were determined by God before the foundation of the world—before time began.

We are admonished to make our calling (“klesis”) and election (“ekloge”) sure (2 Peter 1:10) because even though we were predestined and chosen to be called in this age, we must make sure that we do not receive our calling in vain. We prove to God through our conduct that we, having been foreknown and predestined for the Kingdom of God, are fulfilling our destiny of becoming immortal God beings when Christ returns.

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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