What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
God is already calling them, "My people." What had they done? Had they pledged themselves to God? Had they repented? They had not done a thing yet, and God is already calling them His own.
Does He have a similar feeling of possessiveness toward those that He is going to deal with in terms of salvation? Definitely! "They are Mine!" What will He do for His own? Who will hold back the hand of God? Nobody, and that is the story. Israel got out of Egypt because God set His mind to do it. He said, "I have chosen them, and they are Mine" and they had not done a thing yet. In fact, it would be weeks before they even knew that Moses existed anymore than just what they had heard about what occurred forty years before.
There is no indication that Moses had any contact with anybody in Egypt during those forty years. He was not sending letters every couple of weeks saying, "Get ready—I am just about to return now." No, he was in the wilderness learning what it is like to be a shepherd, tending sheep, because he was going to pastor a whole nation of millions of people. He was getting his attitude straightened out. God had sent him to school to prepare. The wilderness was the school of hard knocks for someone like Moses who had been reared in a cushy palace. God probably had to knock a great deal of pride, vanity, and cockiness out of him before He could use him.
Thus, the salvation of Israel was already underway. Who does the Bible say is in charge? Who does the Bible show to be the one who has the answers to their problems? Who took the initiative? Who is doing the leading? Who is doing the providing? Even at this point, we can see that God is the One doing all these things.
By the time they begin to realize that God is involved, we find that all they needed to do is to agree with what He wanted them to do, and He would do the work to bring them out of Egypt.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost
This could be called the preface to the Old Covenant, as it presents in stark terms what the covenant is about. He lists its three main facets:
1. They were to obey His commands and keep His covenant. Recall that God chose Abraham because he would teach his children how to keep His way. The covenant set out the terms for their doing this. This was the Israelites' primary responsibility under the agreement.
2. They were to be a special treasure to Him—a people unlike all others in their relationship to God. The Israelites were to submit to God, and He in turn would help them, blessing and protecting them as only the great Creator God could. Thus, the covenant contained reciprocal responsibilities and benefits.
3. They were to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. This implies two additional concepts:
a. As a kingdom of priests, they were to fill the role of mediator or liaison between God and the other peoples of the earth. Just as He would work through the Levitical priesthood to the children of Israel, God would work through the people of Israel to the rest of the world.
b. As a holy nation, they would be set apart or separate from all other nations. He would require of them, as the people with and through whom He would work, that they be different, a cut above, of a higher standard. They had a responsibility to be a model for the Gentiles to observe and emulate.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part One)
Since God is holy, the people He chooses for Himself must also be holy, a principle that continues under the New Covenant. As God lives by high standards, so must His people keep those same high standards as an example to the rest of the world. Just as a human government sends out ambassadors to other nations to represent it in its affairs within those nations, God chose Israel to represent Him. What were His reasons?
» He chose Israel to be His own people, a special treasure for His own purposes.
» He chose them to demonstrate His love for them. He simply loved them. When God loves someone, He puts a great deal of responsibility on him.
» He chose them to keep His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with whom He also had a special relationship.
» He chose them to make a covenant with them, under which they were to keep His commandments and obey Him in everything. In return, He would bless them immensely.
God's choice of Israel was an act of love for them, even though He knew from the start that they would ultimately fail. God knew from the foundation of the world that all mankind would need a Savior (I Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 13:8), including Israelites. Yet, if any people were to succeed as God's model nation, it would be the children of Abraham. This is not because they were better, but because they of all people had a relationship with God, which had begun with Abraham. They had examples in their own ancestry that they could study to see that it could be done if they remained close to God.
To help them to succeed, God gave them His laws, another act of love. Moses writes:
Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)
Even in their laws they were to be a model nation for the rest of the world, not just for the Gentiles to notice, but to emulate. The Israelites should have made a great impression on the Canaanites, Philistines, Edomites, and all the nearby nations. This respect and admiration should have then spread beyond them to other nations.
Yet, because they failed to live by those good and righteous laws and to take advantage of God's nearness to them - in reality, they failed in just about everything He asked of them - their influence as a model nation rarely stretched beyond their borders. Too often, Israel was instead outright pagan!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part Two)
Being chosen to be God's special treasure and become holy had nothing to do with any of our accomplishments, race, nationality, gender, IQ, or academic training. We are special and thus blessed because God loves us and because He is faithful to His promises to the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He reinforces these points by emphasizing that He is faithful, as well as by warning us that He is a God of justice.
Therefore, He is clearly stating that the foundation of this relationship is based completely in what He is within Himself, otherwise the relationship would have never gotten past the casual stage of mere acquaintance. The vast majority in the world who call themselves Christian are merely acquainted with God. By God's personal calling (John 6:44, 65), we have been made special—to have an intense and intimate relationship with Him. The very character of God, not any excellence in those He has chosen, is the basis for our being special.
This gives us no room for pride. He was not somehow attracted to us because we had been seeking Him all our lives, were so attractive, or had done so many good things. On the other hand, this blessing gives cause for a great deal of gratitude, and just as in a marriage, this specialness brings responsibilities.
God proclaims Himself to be the faithful God, and in Deuteronomy 7:11, He broadly states the means by which we are expected to prove our faithfulness in return: We are responsible to keep His commandments, statutes, and judgments. As in a marriage, because the parties have become special to each other, they are responsible to be faithful to each other above all others. A covenant made before God binds us to this intense, marital faithfulness.
I Peter 2:9 states this responsibility in a somewhat different manner: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him, who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." Notice his sentence begins with "but," introducing an explanation of why the chosen are to be different from the disobedient of verses 7-8, and of what they are obligated to do.
As stated here, the responsibility of God's own special people is to proclaim—to show forth (KJV)—the praises of Him who has called us. The proclaiming is accomplished through speech and conduct. We show forth His praises in our witness through faithful obedience, just as is commanded in Deuteronomy 7:11.
I Peter 1:13-16 shows that being a special treasure and holiness are inextricably linked:
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."
God emphasizes "special treasure" to impress us with the magnitude of His blessing in making us special and the critical importance of our difference from others expressed through holy conduct.
It is important to consider our calling as God's peculiar treasure a tremendous blessing that we never allow to slip from our minds. It opens the door to the knowledge of God, faith, forgiveness, His Holy Spirit, access to Him, transformation to be like Him, and an endless supply of other things He provides, besides everlasting life. However, there are specific things we must do and cannot do because we are special.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift
In a sense, everybody is called to recognize God through the natural world, but the word "chosen" shows that God must personally rescue us from our self-centered blindness. Using the term "elect," Titus 1:1 reinforces the idea that God separates some few from the many who are called: "Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect. . . ."
Romans 9:11, 14-16 confirms God's active participation in this process of separation:
. . . (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). . . . What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
Satan has done his work so well that even God declares that he "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). Thus, God mercifully separates some away from their blindness. He directly and personally favors a small number for His purposes. Jesus tells us in John 6:44 that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him. Many other scriptures show that God personally separates a few from the masses of humanity for His purposes.
"Election" is the noun form of the verb "to elect." To elect means "to select, pick, choose, determine, or separate." Romans 9:11 tells us that God personally determines whom He will favor for His purposes. In the example Paul uses, He favored Jacob, but the same is true of all whom God calls.
Such people are named the "elect" in the Bible. Romans 11:5, 7, 28 clarifies this term further by revealing that "elect" becomes the title of a distinct people.
Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. . . . What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. . . . Concerning the gospel [Israelites] are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
The "chosen" and "elect" are synonymous terms designating the group with whom God is personally working through Jesus Christ. In Matthew 24:24, the term "elect" appears, as it almost always does, as a favorable reference. However, we need to realize that elect does not mean "better than others," though it certainly implies one more blessed because of something for which God is completely responsible.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)
1 Corinthians 1:26-29
This passage, a New Testament parallel of Deuteronomy 7:7, removes any doubt about the qualifications of those God has chosen to call. Twice in verse 27 and once in verse 28 Paul says, "God has chosen." We did not volunteer. He did not choose us for any skill, ability, or social quality we had. Even those who are "wise," "mighty," and "noble" are not that way through godly spirituality.
Instead, God, with deliberate forethought, chose those who were foolish, base, despised, and nothing. What a rag-tag outfit we are! God certainly has not surrounded Himself with the elite to give Himself an advantage in His battle against Satan! He has given Himself, it seems, a great disadvantage in dealing with us when better people may be readily available.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven
Walk according to this rule means "understand and apply this principle."
After Jacob's name was changed to Israel, through the centuries Israel gradually became a code name for the called and chosen of God who had made a covenant with Him. Here in Galatians 6, that code name is transferred openly and clearly to the church, and Paul attaches the prepositional phrase "of God" to show possession to differentiate it from the physical nation also named "Israel." God is creating a new nation—a New Covenant people—whose citizenship is in heaven and whose people owe their loyalty to the Kingdom of God, its laws, and its purposes.
The Israel of God—the remnant, the elect, the vessels of mercy, the children of promise—is a spiritual body, the Body of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18). There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. In one sense, there is no nationality, for we are being transformed into a new "nationality"—the Kingdom of God! God is doing a new thing.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Eleven)
He did not necessarily choose us as individuals before the foundation of the world, but He did decide that He would have a church, a group of people impregnated by His Spirit, a unique Family of His who would be in the image of His Son. The word "choose" suggests taking a smaller number out of a larger. In this case, the larger is the population of the earth, and the smaller number is that tiny remnant God has been working with - His church, His group, His family. The word "holy" implies the choosing had a moral aim in view. In other words, God was choosing a small number out of a large number, and the reason He was choosing this smaller number is to make this small number holy - holy as He is. He had a moral purpose in mind.
The apostle is saying we have been called, elected, become a part of this small group with a definite purpose in mind - that we should become holy. In order for us to become holy, God had to reveal some things to us, which Paul discusses in verses 5-12.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation
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