“So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” (Mt 20:16 KJV)
I have been thinking about the terms being “called” and “chosen” for a long time now. Already many years ago, I heard people say that they were called by Jesus
(1) due to the testimony of other people or
(2) because they were listening to a preacher’s sermon or
(3) since they felt God speaking to their own heart
And I have been wondering what the Bible really means by being “called”
(I) as a disciple of Jesus, for example:
“And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.” (Mk 1:17-20 ESV)
(II) or as a disciple with an apostolic ministry:
“And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” (Mk 3:13-15 ESV)
In these cases above we see that Jesus called His disciples personally. And He did not change that way of acting. Even today, He draws believers closer and closer until they can hear His voice for real, calling them, “Come, follow me!” Also, the rich young ruler would hear that call at the end of his dialogue with Jesus (Lk 18:22). But his very problem was that he wanted to follow Jesus as he saw fit. He was convinced that he had kept the commandments on his own and thus he thought following Jesus were as “easy” as not stealing, not killing, or not committing adultery, for instance.
What the rich ruler did neglect then was that God sees the covetous heart first, not the deeds springing from the hidden evil. And God saw that the ruler loved riches more than anything. Therefore Jesus confronted him with something the rich man could NOT do on his own. That was the reason why he eventually left Jesus so sad. He could not yet grasp that it is God’s Spirit power ALONE which sets us free to do everything God wants from us, as we saw it regarding those 12 disciples and apostles in the Scriptures quoted above. Jesus called them to Himself, was with them, taught them what they needed to know, and finally would give them the (spiritual) power to preach and to cast out demons.
Or to put it the other way round, “If we experience no real transforming spiritual power, then there was no genuine call by Jesus before.” In fact, even the “bad boys” hear the call and receive the power to do supernatural works, as we can see in Judas Iscariot’s case or there,
“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Mt 7:22-23 ESV)
I believe that those who are finally chosen – the royal priesthood – are those who reveal themselves to be faithful and obedient toward God. Not that they could ever do so on their own, however, they rely solely on God’s power (Mt 5:3) which changes their hearts as God sees fit. They “know” God and He “knows” them – which is the mystery of divine love that can be revealed in Christ alone (Col 2:2-3).
Sometimes I thought by myself that Jesus’ command “Follow me!” was not a command but a gift of grace since He draws us to Himself with His LOVE. To use an illustration here, I’d compare God’s gracious love with a huge electromagnet irresistibly attracting some tiny iron filings (= us).
Immediately they stick firmly and they cannot help but loving Him again. I assume you could refer to this “God forced love” as to a special kind of “bondage of the will” – reserved for the beloved but thus also enslaved children of God. He simply transforms our self-will according to His superior will without any intervention of us. All out of His Love and Grace…
When God chooses man, then man will not only get a way better eternal life from Him in the future, but a delightful foretaste of what is to come as well.
Maybe, some of His disciples will be executed for following Jesus as the apostles who had been put to death, but I believe that they were very happy to die for Jesus’ sake. Rejoicing while dying of a ferocious death – as for example Stephen did – was a gracious gift Jesus secured on the cross (Isaiah 53:4). Or as Paul put it,
“My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Phil 1:23)
Dear reader, feel free to weigh in and add your own thoughts so that the Body of Christ may build itself up – in love (Eph 4:16). Every commenter is welcome on my blog, that means, Christians as well as non-Christians. I will try to reply to you as the Lord leads me and I am curious to know what God is speaking through you. The only things I do not like are when someone attacks God and utters blasphemous statements or when others (esp. commenters) are being attacked. Furthermore, I am going to delete comments which flood my blogs without any reference to my articles or poems or to the replies of other commenters on here. Thank you for your understanding!