“You Too Were Chosen Out” ( Ephesians 1: 3-14, KNOX ) by Carley Evans


Recently I’ve had more difficulty with the idea that some will spend eternity in hell. Always bothered me that a god with infinite power to save would then allow some to perish. I know there are Christian sects ( cults? ) that believe all will be saved. After all, God so loved the world – the whole world, it seems. Yet, the Word clearly teaches the reality of a hell, of an eternal separation from God.

I also believe the Word teaches that God ultimately is the one who decides. This is so obvious to me I find it hard to understand how others push against this truth. God chose Abel over Cain, Joseph over his brothers, Abram and Sarai over every other couple ( and this despite their age! ), Moses over Pharaoh, Jacob over Esau, Mary over every other young woman in all of human history. That God chooses specific individuals is clear. Yes, I hear you. You argue that God chose these people for specific tasks. I argue God just chose them, period.

Paul writes so eloquently of God’s sovereign desire to save.

3Blessed be that God, that Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us, in Christ, with every spiritual blessing, higher than heaven itself. He has chosen us out, in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be saints, to be blameless in his sight, for love of him;marking us out beforehand (so his will decreed) to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ. Thus he would manifest the splendour of that grace by which he has taken us into his favour in the person of his beloved Son. It is in him and through his blood that we enjoy redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. So rich is God’s grace, that has overflowed upon us in a full stream of wisdom and discernment, to make known to us the hidden purpose of his will. It was his loving design, centred in Christ, 10 to give history its fulfilment by resuming everything in him, all that is in heaven, all that is on earth, summed up in him. 11 In him it was our lot to be called, singled out beforehand to suit his purpose (for it is he who is at work everywhere, carrying out the designs of his will); 12 we were to manifest his glory, we who were the first to set our hope in Christ; 13 in him you too were called, when you listened to the preaching of the truth, that gospel which is your salvation. In him you too learned to believe, and had the seal set on your faith by the promised gift of the Holy Spirit; 14 a pledge of the inheritance which is ours, to redeem it for us and bring us into possession of it, and so manifest God’s glory.

We are God’s possession. We have the promised Holy Spirit. We are washed clean and blessed by His Son’s blood. We are chosen out from before the foundation of the world to be saints!

Everything is summed up in Christ, all things in heaven and on earth.

“By God’s Choice” ( Luke 1:26-28, KNOX ) by Carley Evans


Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin ...
Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. Painting by El Greco, 1575 (Museo del Prado, Madrid). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gabriel doesn’t come to Mary under his own power or by his own decision. He is sent, rather, to Mary by God. God sends Gabriel to a specific town, to a specific girl betrothed to a specific “man of David’s lineage.”

God doesn’t look down through time and see a young girl He knows will choose Him and then say to Himself, “Well, she’ll do.” Rather, He chooses Mary. She, by His choice, becomes the woman blessed above all women by God Himself.

“When the sixth month came, God sent the angel Gabriel to a city of Galilee called Nazareth, where a virgin dwelt, betrothed to a man of David’s lineage; his name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name was Mary. Into her presence the angel came, and said, Hail, thou who art full of grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.”

Mary does not resist God’s call. She does question Gabriel, asks ‘how can this be?’ But God’s call is irrevocable as the author of Hebrews tells us.  And Isaias (Isaiah) muses:

“What a strange thought is this! As well might clay scheme against the potter; handicraft disown its craftsman, or thing of art call the artist fool.” (Isaias 29: 16)

So, Mary is the Mother of God from before time.

“His Own Choice” ( Romans 9: 8 – 23, Knox Bible ) by Carley Evans


Isaac Blessing Jacob, painting by Govert Flinc...
Isaac Blessing Jacob, painting by Govert Flinck (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam).

Does Paul mean to say that God chooses whom He blesses? Paul may as well say, “Of course I do!” Paul pulls out some ammunition from the old covenant scriptures. He mentions the clear division between Pharoa and Moses – one an object of God’s wrath, the other an object of His mercy. Paul briefly tells of Abraham’s two sons; he says, “You know them; you know how that all came down.” Then he fleshes out the story of Rebecca’s two sons: Jacob and Esau. He writes:

“God’s sonship is not for all those who are Abraham’s children by natural descent; it is only the children given to him as the result of God’s promise that are to be counted as his posterity. It was a promise God made, when he said, When this season comes round again, I will visit thee, and Sara shall have a son. 10 And not only she, but Rebecca too received a promise, when she bore two sons to the same husband, our father Isaac. 11 They had not yet been born; they had done nothing, good or evil; and already, so that God’s purpose might stand out clearly as his own choice, 12 with no action of theirs to account for it, nothing but his will, from whom the call came, she was told, The elder is to be the servant of the younger13 So it is that we read, I have been a friend to Jacob, and an enemy to Esau.”

Paul hears the protests. He realizes how this sounds to the human ear. God is unfair. How dare He pick and choose us like that. How dare He send some of us to eternal hell while rescuing only a few of us! Paul counters:

14 What does this mean? That God acts unjustly? That is not to be thought of. 15 I will shew pity, he tells Moses, on those whom I pity; I will shew mercy where I am merciful;16 the effect comes, then, from God’s mercy, not from man’s will, or man’s alacrity. 17 Pharao, too, is told in scripture, This is the very reason why I have made thee what thou art, so as to give proof, in thee, of my power, and to let my name be known all over the earth.18 Thus he shews mercy where it is his will, and where it is his will he hardens men’s hearts.19 Hereupon thou wilt ask, If that is so, how can he find fault with us, since there is no resisting his will? 20 Nay, but who art thou, friend, to bandy words with God? Is the pot to ask the potter, Why hast thou fashioned me thus?21 Is not the potter free to do what he will with the clay, using the same lump to make two objects, one for noble and one for ignoble use? 22 It may be that God has borne, long and patiently, with those who are the objects of his vengeance, fit only for destruction, meaning to give proof of that vengeance, and display his power at last;23 meaning also to display, in those who are the objects of his mercy, how rich is the glory he bestows, that glory for which he has destined them.

Do you believe in destiny? Do you know God’s sovereign power? Do you protest against His own choices? When you recognize and accept God’s mercy in the light of Romans 9 and John 1 and Ephesians 1, to name a few, then you may find yourself melting away, or as Job puts it so well, “repenting in dust and ashes.”

“Chosen Into Heritage” ( Psalm 33: 12, WYC ) by Carley Evans


What is the problem with acknowledging that God chooses – that God has the final say, so to speak? Why does this truth bring us up short, if it does? We know from scripture that God chooses Abram from whom He creates an entire people – people He identifies as His own and who are identified by Paul as the original olive tree while the remainder of God’s people are grafted into this original vine.  We know God chooses Moses over Pharaoh, Joseph over his brothers, Jacob over Esau. He chooses Mary over all other women to be the mother of His Son, Jesus. We acknowledge these choices of people, and do not balk.

“Blessed is the folk, whose Lord is his God; the people which he chose into heritage to himself.”

We recognize that ultimately God’s blessing is what sets these people and us apart from others. To think it is anything else – especially to think it is anything we do or say that is somehow better than what others say and do – is an erroneous belief. God chooses us “into heritage to Himself.”

And all the people say, “Amen.”

 

“Chosen By God” ( 2 Thessalonians 2: 13, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


“God chose you for salvation.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13) “He calls you to this through [the] gospel, so you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:14)

“For He chose [you] in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined [you] to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself.” (Ephesians 1:4-5)

“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. [You] are justified by faith.” (Romans 3:27,28) “Therefore, since [you] are declared righteous by faith, [you] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) “Rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:2)

“His To Use” ( Job 12: 16, NEB ) by Carley Evans


“In God’s hand are the souls of all that live, the spirits of all human kind. Wisdom and might are His, with Him are firmness and understanding. If He pulls down, there is no rebuilding; if He imprisons, there is no release. If He holds up the waters, there is drought; if He lets them go, they turn the land upside down. Strength and success belong to Him, deceived and deceiver are His to use.” (Job 12:10-16, NEB)

In the midst of his suffering, Job says it best — all belong to God. All are His to use in whatever fashion He deems perfect.

“He leads people astray and destroys them, He lays them low, and there they lie.” (Job 12:23) Look at Pharaoh if there is any doubt.

“What shall we say to that? Is God to be charged with injustice? By no means. For He says to Moses, ‘Where I show mercy, I will show mercy, and where I pity, I will pity.’ Thus it does not depend on man’s will or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for this very purpose, to exhibit My power in My dealings with you, and to spread My fame over all the world.’ Thus He not only shows mercy as He chooses, but also makes men stubborn as He chooses. You will say, ‘Then why does God blame a man? For who can resist His will?’ Who are you, sir, to answer God back? Can the pot speak to the potter and say, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Surely the potter can do what he likes with the clay.” (Romans 9:14-21)

“In God’s Hand” ( Job 12: 10, NEB ) by Carley Evans


Job argues, “In God’s hand are the souls of all that live, the spirits of all human kind. Wisdom and might are His, with Him are firmness and understanding. If He pulls down, there is no rebuilding; if He imprisons, there is no release.” (Job 12:10-14) “Deceived and deceiver are His to use.” (Job 12:16) “Will you quibble with Him as you quibble with a man?” (Job 13:9)

 

Job warns his friends that God “is not a man as I am, that I can answer Him or that we can confront one another in court. If only there were one to arbitrate between us and impose his authority on us both, so that God might take His rod from my back, and terror of Him might not come on me suddenly. I would then speak without fear of Him; for I know I am not what I am thought to be.” (Job 9:32-35)

 

Job laments that “man born of woman is short-lived and full of disquiet. He blossoms like a flower and then he withers; he slips away like a shadow and does not stay; he is like a wine-skin that perishes or a garment that moths have eaten.” (Job 14:1-2)

 

Job pleads, “I tell you, God Himself has put me in the wrong, He has drawn the net round me. He has walled in my path so that I cannot break away, and He has hedged in the road before me.” (Job 19:6,8) “Pity me, pity me, you that are my friends; for the hand of God has touched me. Why do you pursue me as God pursues me? Have you not had your teeth in me long enough?” (Job 19:21-22)

 

That Job is in deep despair is evident; he knows he is essentially innocent of wrongdoing and yet has lost all  for no good reason he can fathom. He only knows God has set him as His target. He is weary of the disloyalty of his friends; and longs not to have been born. Nevertheless, Job hopes for “one to arbitrate between” himself and God; someone who can “impose His authority on us both, so that God might take His rod from my back.”

 

Job says, God “decides, and who can turn Him from His purpose? He does what He determines, that He carries out; His mind is full of plans like these. Therefore I am fearful of meeting Him; when I think about Him, I am afraid; it is God who makes me faint-hearted and the Almighty who fills me with fear.” (Job 23:13-16)

 

Yet, Job maintains his innocence. He says to his friends,”God forbid that I should allow you to be right; till death I will not abandon my claim to innocence. I will maintain the rightness of my cause, I will never give up; so long as I live, I will not change.” (Job 27:5-6)

 

Then, surprisingly, God Himself speaks to Job. God asks, “Is it for a man who disputes with the Almighty to be stubborn? Should he that argues with God answer back? (Job 40:2) “Dare you deny that I Am just or put Me in the wrong that you may be right?” (Job 40:8)

 

Job finally understands. He answers God, “I know that Thou canst do all things and that no purpose is beyond Thee. But I spoke of great things which I do not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. I knew of Thee then only by report, but now I see Thee with my own eyes. Therefore I melt away; I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)

“His Own Chosen Purpose” ( Philippians 2: 13, Daniel 5: 23; NEB ) by Carley Evans


“You have not given glory to God, in whose charge is your very breath and in whose hands are all your ways.”

 

“You must work out your own salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, inspiring both the will and the deed, for His own chosen purpose.”

 

Paul assures “it is impossible that the Word of God should prove false.” (Romans 9: 6) God does not lie; He is not the author of evil. Yet, all our ways are in His hands, says Daniel. And, Paul writes that “it is God who works in you…for His own chosen purpose.” Paul explains God’s sovereignty in his letter to the Romans. He writes of Rebekah’s children, Jacob and Esau. Despite having the same father, “in order that God’s selective purpose might stand, based not upon men’s deeds but upon the call of God, [Rebekah] was told, even before they were born, when they had as yet done nothing, good or ill, ‘The elder shall be servant to the younger’; and that accords with the text of Scripture, ‘Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.’ ” (Romans 9: 11-13)

 

“Thus He not only shows mercy as He chooses, but also makes men stubborn as He chooses.” (Romans 9: 18) Paul refers us to Pharaoh — how God hardens this man’s heart repeatedly so that he does not let the Israelites leave Egypt.

 

Paul acknowledges that this does not, on the surface, appear fair. But he answers the objection: “But what if God, desiring to exhibit His retribution at work and to make His power known, tolerates very patiently those vessels which are objects of retribution due for destruction, and does so in order to make known the full wealth of His splendour upon vessels which are objects of mercy, and which from the first are prepared for this splendour?” (Romans 9:22-23)

 

“God’s choice stands.. for the gracious gifts of God and His calling are irrevocable.” (Romans 11: 28, 29)

“Knowledge Too Wonderful” (Psalm 139: 13 – 14, ESV) by Carley Evans


God knows “even before a word is on my tongue” what I am going to say. He “knows it altogether.” (Psalm 139: 4) God knows “my path and my lying down.” He knows “all my ways.” (Psalm 139: 3) He “knows my thoughts from afar.” (Psalm 139: 2) To say it simply — God knows me!
He knows me because “[He] formed my inward parts; [He] knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” God not only knows me, He knows “the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139: 16)
I am unable to hide from God. “Where shall I go from [His] Spirit? Or where shall I flee from [His] presence?” (Psalm 139: 7) Wherever I go, “even there [His] hand shall lead me.” (Psalm 139: 10) “[God] hems me in, behind and before, and lays [His] hand upon me.” (Psalm 139: 5) Nothing covers me from God’s sight. He “knows when I sit down and when I rise up.” (Psalm 139: 2) He “is acquainted with all my ways.” (Psalm 139: 3)
“Wonderful are [God’s] works; my soul knows it very well.” “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” (Psalm 139: 6)