No, this is not a political post. This post is part of my ongoing series about Unconditional Election. In it, I intend to briefly discuss the nation of Israel as God’s election nation, His chosen people on earth. In this way, we will learn what is election is for.
Calvinistic author Loraine Boettner was absolutely correct when he wrote that “Throughout the Old Testament it is repeatedly stated that the Jews were a chosen people” (Boettner, Predestination, 88). Repeatedly throughout Scripture, Israel is referred to as God’s elect nation, His chosen people (cf. Deut 7:6-8; 10:14-15; Ps 33:12; 65:4; 106:5; Hag 2:23; Acts 13:17; Rom 9:11; 11:28).
Furthermore, as God plainly states in several of these texts, this sovereign choice of God had nothing whatever to do with Israel being a better nation than any other on earth, or that they were more wise, holy, or rich than any other nation. God’s choice of Israel was according to His own divine purposes.
Is Election Only Corporate Election?
There are some who note the prominent theme in Scripture of God’s election of the nation of Israel, and as a result, argue that there is no such thing as individual election, but that election is always corporate. That is, according to this view, God doesn’t elect individual people, but elects groups of people instead (Klein, The New Chosen People).
R. P. Shedd defended corporate election this way:
Election does not have individual emphasis in Paul, any more than it did for Israel in the Old Testament or the Early Jewish period. Rather, it implies a covenant-relationship through which God chooses for Himself a whole people. This collectivism is of supreme importance for the understanding of “election in Christ” (Shedd, Man in Community, 133).
In his comprehensive book on the subject of corporate election, William Klein summarized his position on what the New Testament teaches about election with these words:
The New Testament does know of the election of individuals to tasks or ministries. But when the issue concerns God’s choice for salvation, he has chosen a community—the body of Christ, the church. … The New Testament writers simply do not entertain the issue of whether God has selected specific individuals to becomes members of that body. The body is chosen; one enters that body through faith in Christ. … Election is not God’s choice of a restricted number of individuals whom he wills to save, but the description of that corporate body which, in Christ, he is saving (Klein, The New Chosen People, 266).
There is undoubtedly a corporate aspect to election, but we cannot say that election is only corporate. There are two main problems with the view that election is only corporate election. Both are mentioned by R. C. Sproul:
Some have argued that Paul [in Romans 9] is referring instead to nations or groups and that election does not apply to individuals. Apart from the fact that nations are made up of individuals, the salient point is that Paul explains election by citing as examples of God’s sovereign election two distinct, historic individuals (Sproul, Grace Unknown, 148).
I agree with Sproul’s overall argument, but disagree with his use of it in connection to Romans 9. We will consider Romans 9 later, but it is enough to note for now that even Paul does refer to “two distinct, historic individuals,” namely, Jacob and Esau, Paul does so in connection with them being heads or progenitors of two people groups: the Israelites and the Edomites. Nevertheless, Sproul’s overall point is valid: God does not only elect nations; He also elects individuals.
Of course, the true salient point is not whether or not God elects nations (He does), but rather, what He elects them for. Since many Calvinists equate divine election with God’s sovereign choice of whom He will regenerate, it is sometimes thought that everyone whom God “chooses” will also be sovereignly regenerated by God. But a moment’s reflection reveals the sheer folly of this idea.
Israel, as God’s elect nation, was not ever composed entirely of regenerate people. Israelites do not get to go to heaven simply because they are members of God’s chosen people. Though God selected Israel as His chosen people, not all end up as regenerate people who will spend eternity with God.
The fact that all Israel can be elect but not all Israel will receive eternal life clues us in right from the start that there is something else going on with election than what the Calvinist claims. For if, as Calvinists teach, God, in eternity past, chose some people to be the beneficiaries of His grace so that they, out of all the people of the world, might alone receive eternal life from Him, then Israel, as God’s elect people, should all unconditionally receive eternal life from God.
But this did not happen, and never will. Quite to the contrary, Israel, as God’s elect nation, has always been composed of both regenerate and unregenerate people. So almost from the very beginning of Scripture, we have the curious situation of having people who are elect but unregenerate.
To get around this, Calvinists have two basic approaches.
1. “Elect” Israel is only Believing Israel
First, some argue that when the Bible speaks of Israel as being “elect,” it is only referring to the regenerate people within Israel; not to all Israel as a whole. In defense of this idea, they point to Paul’s statements in Romans 9:6-13 that “they are not all Israel who are of Israel” and Romans 11:1-4 about the remnant of Israel which God has always reserved for Himself through “the election of grace” (Rom 11:5). We will look at Romans 9–11 later to see what Paul is talking about in these famous chapters. For now, it is enough to note that in the attempt to get around the problem of having unregenerate elect people, some Calvinists must artificially limit the nation of Israel as God’s elect to only include the regenerate people within Israel. Yet this sort of limitation has no basis anywhere in Scripture. In the Bible, Israel is God’s chosen nation on earth—not some of Israel, but all Israel.
2. Israel was Elected to Service; not Salvation
Most people recognize this, and so fall back on the second way to explain the existence of unregenerate elect Israelites. They do this by falling back on the idea of “corporate election” summarized above. Those who do this say that God’s election of Israel, though still a sovereign act of His grace, was not an election unto eternal life, but was an election of a group of people unto a specific task or purpose.
By choosing Israel as His people, God elected the nation, not to eternal life, but to be the vehicle through which the prophets would record God’s Word and Jesus would arrive as the promised Messiah. This sort of view of election allows God to elect Israel as His chosen people, but does not require that every single individual person within Israel receive eternal life from God.
The debate over election would be over if those who adopt this “election to service” approach regarding Israel and certain individuals in the Old Testament would apply the exact same approach to election throughout the rest of Scripture. Just as Israel, as God’s elect nation, was elected to serve God in a specific task, but this does not mean that every individual Israelite was regenerate, so also, election elsewhere in Scripture has nothing to do with whether or not someone has eternal life, but has everything to do with what role God wants them to serve in His plans and purposes for the world.
As we will see throughout the rest of these posts on election, election is never to eternal life. Instead, election is to service and purpose in this life.
Israel as God’s Elect Nation
To summarize then, God election of people or nations is not to receive eternal life, but rather, to play a role or fulfill a purpose in His divine plan. This understanding of election allows God to elect entire nations, not because He plans to get them all into heaven, but because He plans to call that nation to some purpose within world history. God chose Israel, not because He decided to redeem every Israelite, but because He decided to use Israel to play an important role in bringing about redemption for the entire world (cf. Marston and Forster, God’s Strategy in Human History, 139).
This is the view we are going to see throughout the pages of Scripture. Election is not to eternal life, but to service in God’s plan for human history. Often this election involves regenerate people, but not always, as in the case of Israel.If you want to read more about Calvinism, check out other posts in this blog series: Words of Calvinism and the Word of God.
1 Peter 9-10
But ye are a chosen people (Isaiah 43:20; Exodus 6:7), a kingdom of priests, royal priests (Exodus 19:6), a holy nation (Exodus 19:6), a people of treasured possession (Exodus 19:5; Malachi 3:17), for this purpose: that you may declare the wondrous deeds of the One who gave you the calling and summoned you out of darkness into his marvelous light [Isaiah 43:21; 42:12]. You, who once were not My people (Hos 1:9) but now My people you are (Hos 2:25), the people of Elohim, the ones having not received mercy, but now having received mercy (Hos 2:25).
As a Gentile Christian, can I seriously consider that Peter/Kepha is addressing me as part of an elected people since I’m not of Judean/Israelite bloodline?
Election for Service and not Salvation. Hummm. That’s a very good point.
Jeremy Myers says
You raise a good question about Peter’s words.
Of course, if Paul is right that both Jewish believers and Gentile believers are now grafted into the same tree, then yes, I believe Peter’s words apply to us as well.
Gerrie Malan says
The first important aspect to consider in this regard, is who that first audience/readership was. The Holman Illustrated Study has the following observation based on the five Roman areas Peter’s letter was addressed to: “Evidence within the letter suggests that these believers were primarily Gentile (and therefore pagan, 1:18) in background, although there was probably also a Jewish minority (accounting for the frequent Old Testament references).” See Acts 11:19-21 for example.
Dan Wallace also declares in this regard: “…these too were probably predominantly Gentile with a Jewish element as well. The references to their pagan background would be appropriate if the majority were Gentiles, and the heavy use of the OT would not go unnoticed if some were Jewish.”
Paul is actually talking about the gentile nation of Israel he was a minister to them. There was a separation between the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel remember what jesus said Matthews 15:24 I was not sent except to the lost sheep of Israel. And he commanded the 12 matt. 10:5-6
Brian Dougan says
Mr./Ms. “ntjufen”: The term “gentile” is not capitalized. It’s a genetic term; mostly translated “nations.” It is never used to describe an individual. Moreover; It can apply to both Israelites, and non-Israelites. Consider: (1) In Genesis 25:23; God says to Rebekah–“Two nations [Jacob and Esau] are in thy womb.” Would it be correct to replace the term “nations” with “non-Israelites”? “Two non-Israelites are in thy womb”? (2) In Genesis 48:19; Jacob blesses Joseph’s second son Ephraim: “He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of [non-Israelites.]” The Hebrew word “goyim” is not as narrow as we are led to believe. How about a New Testament example? John 18:35–“Pilate answered, am I a Judahite? Thine own [non-Israelites] and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what has thou done?”
For a fuller; well researched; biblical; copiously referenced/scripture indexed book on the subject….I highly recommend *The Mystery of the Gentiles: Who Are They and Where Are They Now?* Authored by Ted Weiland. I’ve read it three times; it covers a lot of ground. I’m well grounded in scripture; Weiland stays true to the Word, and history.
Most importantly Jeremy; You will find a wholly biblical answer to your last question. It will surprise you.
Election to service (there goes church politics). What a great article. It also reconciles the new and old testaments beautifully on this point.
Does this set up God as a utilitarian God who enlists us to serve for His own selfish purpose? I don’t think so (service is for the other, not for the self; as God served/loved us, we serve/love each other etc), but I’d be interested to hear your view on it.
Jeremy Myers says
Great point. I didn’t really emphasize that, but you make a good point. This reconciles the Old and New Testament teachings on election.
Interesting that you raise the point about God using us for His purposes. I have often taught this, but someone recently challenged my thinking on this. Like you, I am beginning to think that God doesn’t want to “use” us. That is not how love talks or thinks.
If I say I love my wife, but later I say I want to “use her” to raise my kids, you would rightly raise your eyebrows.
Brian Midmore says
The orientation of so much Reformation theology is towards the question ‘how can I be sure that I will go to heaven when I die’. The Bible answers the question ‘How is God redeeming mankind and creation after the Fall’. God chose Abraham to put right what Adam got wrong. Abraham and his people were part of the problem too and proved unfaithful to the task. God chose Jesus to redeem mankind and creation through his faithfulness. Now God’s elect are redefined as those who have faith in the Messiah Jesus. God’s elect are chosen to right the wrong of Adam and begin the redemption of humanity and the wider creation. We don’t have to chose between evangelism and social concern.
“The orientation of so much Reformation theology is towards the question ‘how can I be sure that I will go to heaven when I die’. The Bible answers the question ‘How is God redeeming mankind and creation after the Fall’.” That is a very interesting statement… I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series.
Brian Midmore says
Evangelism is consequently the proclamation of the kingdom God (Matt 4.17) and a call for individuals to submit to the Lordship of Jesus the Messiah. It is not offering a way for people to avoid hell and gain heaven when they die. The message is ‘Jesus is Lord’ and not ‘You’ll be OK when you die’. Jesus is not preaching a different Gospel to Paul.
Jeremy Myers says
I agree with Brian on that point, but I probably won’t be mentioning in much in this series. Maybe I will. I suppose as I explain various texts, this theme will come out… We’ll see! (I am as interested as you are to see how this series progresses. Ha!)
Jeremy Myers says
Yes! I often think that simply trying to debate Calvinism requires that I adopt a set of presuppositions about the Bible that I don’t accept.
I think if we read the Bible as you say, the whole issue of Calvinism just fades away.
Brian Midmore says
Do not answer a fool according to his folly lest you be like him.
RICHARD RALA says
You have partially misunderstood “the Doctrine of Grace”. Since you have quoted a “bit” of thought from RC Sproul, why don’t you try to grasp for more on his Biblical insights of Gods Election. Please study further what is Salvific Election is all about, it is not for service( Rom 8:29-30 / Eph 1:4) but for Eternal Salvation.
Isaiah 49, Israel is God’s Servant Christ, which includes his body. The goats who hate God are not part of his holy nation, holy people. Did you read Deut 7. Covenant only to those who love him and keep his commandments. It was never the nation of Israel. It was always the remnant. It was never the Jews only. It was anyone who believed in Christ, God’s rest, God’s sabbath, Heb 3,4. Read Isaiah 56. He has always been the God of all people but his people have always been the faithful. God never was of the flesh. The Jews were never by birth his holy people. You are not understanding Paul. Calvinism is just plain wrong. They teach a gospel without love, without obedience of faith. The faith of Abraham that saved the whole world, because you obeyed my voice. His works made his faith perfect, James 2. Not to gain but of love.
Peter Lia says
Every country, city, and region in Scripture is feminine. Israel, every time it occurs- every single time is masculine. There is a reason. Israel is the name God used to rename Jacob. God’s Israel is defined by Paul in Galatians 6 and has nothing to do with a physical country. Too many people believe that Israel is a country of jewish culture. That Israel uses a stolen or at least borrowed name and did not exist until it was sanctioned and established in 1948 AD. That is NOT God’s Israel. The “jew” in bibles is an improper translation and God NEVER had any special or exclusive fondness for a religious culture or physical land mass. In fact, religion has no place in Scripture, in the ministry of Christ, or the Kingdom of God. Religion is a contaminant and an enemy of divine absolutes. The terms “nation of Israel” and “country of Israel” are never spoken nor written by God. The “house of Israel” is used by God and indicates members of the same family. A nation is just that, a family, tribe, or clan, and can even be a herd or a swarm. It has nothing to do with a land fill with UN sanctioned borders and a geopolitical name. Christianity has become terribly judaized to the point where basic and fundamental common sense doesn’t exist. Most “christians” believe that Passover is a traditional jewish festival ignoring that God assigned Passover centuries before anyone knew jews existed. While most people hyperfocus on their conduct and visible practices, they ignore the deception and delusion which grossly infects what they believe. That is what happens when the natural mind attempts to interpret Scripture ignoring the essential need of the illumination of the Holy Ghost. Israelites, Judahites, and Judeans are NOT the same a religious jews. Religious jews are NOT descendants of Judah, nor does their heritage originate in Judea. A person cannot serve the One True God in any capacity when they believe God’s chosen people are a religious cult of self-righteous Jesus hating, Christ slandering individuals. God’s Israel in no way is a cult of people who glory in their own ancestry. The Israel of God are those who, along with faithful Abraham, believe the promises of God offered in Christ. Religious jews think more of dirt than they do Christ. Nor is the “church” (another diabolic translation) the Israel of God. The so called “church” is presented in the feminine. Israel is always masculine. They cannot possibly be the same.
Billy Bob Cox says
Please send me a pdf copy of the book when it is complete.
Brian Dougan says
“Boettner… wrote that “Throughout the Old Testament it is repeatedly stated that the Jews were a chosen people.” That’s only half right. Heretical? No. Although claiming to “rightly divide scripture;” most Christians miss the “Israel” thrust of the Old Testament. Before I begin; “Replacement Theology” is a red herring, and unnecessary. To explain this; Several points need to be made: (1) The Bible makes a clear distinction between the house of Judah, and the ten tribes of the house of Israel. They are not synonymous; nor are they interchangeable. They had/have separate histories/politics/prophecies. (2) Jacob had twelve sons; not just Judah. His fourth son Judah was the patriarch of the tribe of Judah; also known as Judahites; or Yehudis. His genetic descendants were known as the Judahites; also a tribal name. The ten tribes were NOT “Jewish.” a descendant of Dan was a Danite; of the tribe of Dan. Were his descendants Judahites? No. Therefore; they were not Jews. Note well–Judahite/Jew signifies tribal identity, and a connection with the house of Judah. Jesus descended from Judah. Was he a Danite; from the tribe of Dan? Obviously; no.
None of the descendants of the ten tribes were Judahites–A descendant of the patriarch Judah. Therefore: They could not be Judahites; aka Jews. (This name originated in Babylon.) They were Hebrews, and Israelites. But; not Jews. This ought not to be a bone of contention. It is fully supportable biblically. Additionally; despite erroneous teaching; –as should be obvious by now–The twelve tribes were not “All Jews.” The Bible nowhere teaches this fixed false belief. Nor was Abraham a Jew. Descendants do not name their ancestors. The Judahites came into existence with the descendants of Judah; Abraham’s great grandson. Abraham was a Hebrew. Period.
After the death of King Solomon; God divided the twelve tribes–Into two families. Judah, and the ten tribes of non-Judahite Israel. Both of them descended from Shem; from whence comes the term Semitic. Final point; with several underlying truths. God exiled/divorced the ten tribes for their unrepentant unfaithfulness. Read all about it in Hosea. Do not be like so many expositors, and leave them in a state of estrangement from God; their Shepherd/Husband/Redeemer. He promised to greatly multiply them, and draw them back to himself. Where? In the appointed place. When? at the appointed time. How? Through the shed blood of their God, and Shepherd. “I have not come but for the lost (dispersed) sheep of the house of Israel.” He was surrounded by the house of Judah. Jesus to his disciples: “Do not go into the way of the [non-Israelites], and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6, KJV). Not Judah; but to the dispersed descendant of the ten tribes.
The first century Jewish historian Josephus informs his readers that “There are but two tribes subject to the Romans, The ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates (river), an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers” (*Antiquities of the Jews* 11:133). “Beyond the Euphrates”–Indicating that they were to be found in proximity to the Caucasus Mountain range. The had formed the mighty Parthian Empire; twice defeating the Romans. This is a huge part of history not commonly taught in todays’ classrooms.
Eventually; Parthia’s days were numbered. God had preordained plans for his other family. The (non-Judahite) latter day descendants of Joseph’s two sons were inherited Joseph’s birthright promises–Including this one: Ephraim and Manasseh’s (latter day) multitude of descendants would form a [Great] “Nation, and Commonwealth/(or company) of (blood related) Nations.” Indeed; ALL twelve tribes would be very active in the latter days. (“Latter days” KJV and others.) Read Genesis 48 and 49; where Jacob blesses his sons. Their defining characteristics are detailed; reaching fruition in the “latter days” (Gen. 49:1.) Far from having “disappeared” or being permanently rejected by God; he greatly multiplied the descendants of the ten tribes. They would have great wealth/military power/world influence/spiritual blessings/physical blessings/choice countries. In short; inheritors of the birthright. Judah did NOT inherit the birthright. “The birthright was Joseph’s” (and all of his descendants.) These unified nations would also “possess the gates of their enemies.” (strategic military chokepoints around the world.)
The descendants of the ten tribes of the house of Israel would be God’s “Servant people.” In other words; his ambassadors. They would proclaim the Word of the living God to a non-Israelite world. note also that the descendants of Israel were to be God’s “battle ax” in the world. Draw your conclusions. The Lord speaks in places of “the isles of the West.” In those days; the (now) UK was as far west as one could travel. Only one of God’s two Jacob descended families have been obedient, and “gone into all the world; proclaiming the Gospel.” Re-read the story of the Prodigal, and the two sons; one who said he would obey his father’s wish, and didn’t. (Judah.) The second son said “no;” but later fulfilled his father’s wish. The latter day descendants of one son have obeyed. The other one rejected the Messiah; to this very day.
There is no need for a bogus “spiritual Israel.” Multitudes of the flesh and blood descendants of the ten tribes of Israel are living in the wealthiest; most blessed “Nation, and Commonwealth of Nations” ever to have existed; bar none. Until now; when they are experiencing a massive decline–due to their rejection of the God of their fathers.
Their identity as Israel was lost over the many centuries of migration, and name changes. The tiny 1948 Israeli nation are not descended from the biblical house of Israel. They are Judah. See Zephaniah 2. God promises to bring a “remnant of Judah” back into the land of their fathers. When? “In the great day of God’s anger.” Biblical historians/theologians concur that this began to take place in 1917; culminating in the Judean nation of 1948. Even President Harry Truman expressed surprise–That they didn’t name their new nation Judah.
The non-Judahite; Israelite descended multitudes–That formed the “Nation, and Commonwealth of (latter day) nations–Are also Semitic. Therefore; they are also part and parcel of God’s chosen people. Ask yourself: Chosen for what? To become the most virulently anti-Christian people on earth?? God forbid. He has his faithful witnesses to his Son. Their masked identity is right under our collective noses. In fact; likely reflected in your mirror.
If this whetted your appetite; there are dozens of sources; ancient, and modern. This is not news; just not politically acceptable today. It has a big pedigree of people who have recognized this truth; in the Bible, and from historical/linguistic/historians/archaeology/folklore. Experts who study the Western past have finally recognized what any person with open eyes would know instinctively: The Western family–The Irish/English/Scottish/Welsh/French/Scandinavians have ALL descended from a common ancestor. Nor did they “suddenly appear” out of the “mists of time.” Historians traced the movements of the (Israelite descended) Parthians through the Caucasus Mountains. Then; “poof” they vanish. Miraculously; a “Parallel People” appear at very nearly the same time–On the (now Europe) side of the Caucasus. Question: Have you ever wondered about the origin of the identifier “Caucasian”? Caucasus + Asia. If God’s Word be true; the conclusion should be fairly obvious. He has kept his many promises to the descendants of the ten tribes. That kills “Replacement Theology.” God did not “replace” the descendants of the non-Judahite tribes. Nor are they JUDAH. Confusing of Old Testament Israel; the ten tribes–With the Jews; or Judah/Judahites–Is a terrible case of mistaken identity. Honest Jewish scholars, and their many lay publications–Admit this.
DNA evidence. What does it add to the thesis? https://www.associationcovenantpeople.org/the-biblical-dna-of-the-british-isles/
What were the ancient Israelite facial/physical characteristics? What does the Bible say? (1) Israel’s Nazarites are described as being “purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies” (Lam. 4:7 KJV). Ruddy; Hebrew “awdome” translated fair complexion; able to blush; rosy red cheeks. (2) “My beloved [husband/Solomon] is white and ruddy….” (Song of Solomon 5:10 KJV). Jesus; descended from David through his son Solomon; would have inherited their features. (3) The (Seventh)Dead Sea Scroll gives its readers a description of Sarah; Abraham’s wife, and half-sister: “And how beautiful the look of her face . . . And how fine is the hair of her head, how fair indeed are her eyes and how pleasing her nose and all the radiance of her face . . . How beautiful her breast and how lovely all her whiteness” (TIME (magazine) November 19, 1956). “Religion: The Beauty of Sarah” https://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,867284,00.html