Word Studies

The Examination of Biblical Words in Their Context

by James T. Bartsch

""For many are called, but few are chosen." Matthew 22:14


    "Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: (Jude 1:1)

    Jude 1:1 - the called: I am uncertain as to why the editors of the NASB placed this pronominal adjective first in the triad of terms describing the recipients of the letter. It should be last. Literally, 1:1 reads this way, “Jude, of Jesus Christ a slave, brother, moreover, of James – to the ones in God the Father having been loved and by Jesus Christ having been kept, called.” “Called” or “invited” is the dative plural of klÍtos (2822). In this context it refers to those who have been effectively invited to be in fellowship with God through Jesus. All three features of this triad were performed at some time in the unspecified past. The last one, however, "called," probably refers to the process in time in which God, through His Spirit, effectively called that person in such a way that he responded affirmatively with faith in Jesus.

    The Blackabys -- Henry, Richard, Thomas, Melvin & Norman, in their Bible Study book, Encounters with God: 1, 2, 3 John & Jude Small Group Study, copyright 2008, p. 80, comment as follows on the word “called”:

Called. Jude, like the other New Testament writers, believed that those who followed Christ had been chosen to do so – but with this understanding: the called are those who have accepted God’s calling to them, and the chosen are those who choose to be chosen.”

    The quotation above, interpreting Jude 1:1, recognizes that there are two calls of God – a general call and a special call. There is a sense in which God calls everyone to His kingdom. This can be illustrated from Jesus’ Parable of the Marriage Feast as recorded in Matthew 22:1-14. A king gave a wedding feast for his son. The first call was to those who had been invited to the feast (i.e. the nation of Israel). Some simply ignored the call of the king’s slaves to come to the wedding feast. Others seized the slaves and killed them. The king was understandably enraged, and sent his armies to destroy the murderers and set their city on fire. (This probably refers to Rome’s sack of the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.) The slaves were asked to go out into the highways and invite anyone, whether good or evil, to come to the wedding. (This probably refers to extending the call to Gentiles to enter the kingdom.) The hall was filled with wedding guests. But a man was found not dressed in wedding clothes. He was speechless when asked why he had not properly dressed for the occasion. The king had him bound and thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (A reference to eternal suffering in the Lake of Fire.) Jesus concluded (Matt. 22:14), “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

    This parable represents a general call that was rejected by most, and accepted only by the few chosen. Most of the time in the NT, the word “called” represents the special call that goes only to those chosen. So the first part of the Blackabys’ statement is true in Jude 1:1 – “the called are those who have accepted God’s calling to them.”

    The second part of their statement, however, in my opinion, is not true – “the chosen are those who choose to be chosen.” That cannot be demonstrated from Scripture, but it is the view of many within the Southern Baptist persuasion, such as the Blackabys. The truth of the second part of the statement above is better phrased as follows: “The chosen are those who choose because they have been chosen.”

    This latter understanding of choosing (a.k.a. election) does several things: (1) It acknowledges the utter depravity of fallen man, unable to choose unless God first chooses, taking the initiative (Eph. 2:1-3). (2) It acknowledges that salvation is of God’s grace and mercy, completely apart from any human merit or anticipated response (Eph. 2:4-10; Rom. 9:10-13). (3) It acknowledges that God has the right to extend mercy and compassion only to those whom He wishes, and that He cannot then be charged with injustice (Exod. 33:19; Rom. 9:14-18). He has the inherent right, as Owner and Creator, to act with greater favor toward some than He does toward others (Matt. 20:1-16; Rom. 9:19-24). (4) It more accurately acknowledges Jesus’ relationship to His disciples when He said to them, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you ...” (John 15:16). Can you imagine the incongruity of insisting that Jesus chose His disciples because He knew they would choose Him in return? It is so much more accurate to say that they chose Him because He had chosen them. (5) It more accurately reflects the statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John that only those whom the Father draws will come to Him (John 6:44, 65). (6) It understands that the statements about God’s foreknowing (proginōskō, 4267) His elect (Rom. 8:29; 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:20) do not mean merely that God knows in advance certain facts about people, but rather that He knew them as His own from eternity past. In other words, God did not predestine people to sanctification on the basis that He foreknew they would accept His invitation. Rather He knew them intimately as His own from eternity past, and thus was able to guarantee, or predetermine their conformity to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). Jesus said that He knows (ginōskō, 1097) His own (John 10:14, 27). Foreknowledge simply states that God knows His own not only in the present, but that He knows them from eternity past.

    A few of the instances of the NT use of the adjective “chosen” or “chosen ones” (eklektos, 1588) in the NT include Matt. 22:14; 24:31; Luke 18:7; Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 5:21; 2 Tim. 2:10; Tit. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1; Rev. 17:14. A few of the instances of the NT use of the verb “choose” (eklegō, 1586) include Mark 13:20; Luke 6:13; 9:35; John 6:70; 13:18; 15:16, 19; Acts 1:2; 13:17; 15:7; Eph. 1:4; James 2:5.

    For additional information on election see "God's Part in Salvation -- Election."

(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)

Published December 7, 2013

Updated November 9, 2019

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