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Called, Chosen and Faithful (Part 3)
by Jody L. AppleIntroduction and Review
In our first articles in this series we started a study of the identity and character of Christ's army in Revelation 17:14. More specifically, we began to examine the phrase used to describe that army "called, chosen and faithful." These soldiers not only enlisted in His army, they were faithful in fighting alongside Him in the heat of battle, and so shared in the glories of victory. If we can know how these souls became part of Christ's army and how they remained faithful in service to Him, then we can imitate their behavior today. Our purpose in studying this descriptive phrase is simple: we want to understand (1) what is involved in becoming a Christian, and (2) what is involved in remaining faithful as a Christian. Our goal is to know what they knew and to do what they did.
After an overview of Revelation's major themes and a survey of the book up to chapter seventeen, we looked into the meaning of the phrase "called, chosen and faithful." Though we will ultimately examine each term, so far we are still investigating the first one. To guide us in our study of the word "called" we posed five questions:
(1) How are we called?
(2) What is the gospel and what does it do?
(3) How does the gospel call us?
(4) What do we do in response to the gospel?
(5) What happens when we respond to the gospel?
We have already answered questions one and two: (1) we are called by the gospel; and (2) the gospel is the totality of God's revealed will for man, the focus being the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. As part of our answer we also learned that the gospel message saves us from sin and its consequences.
We resume our study by turning to the question "how does the gospel call us?"
How does the gospel call us?
In answering the first questions we introduced two passages of scripture: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The first plainly declares that God calls us through the gospel. The second clearly defines the gospel. But there is something else we need to know. Though these passages teach what the gospel is and what the gospel does it is God's message and it calls us neither passage teaches exactly how the call of the gospel operates. It is not enough to know what it is and that it saves if we do not know how it calls and how it saves. How does the gospel "call" us?
The answer to this question is quite simple: The gospel calls us when we hear the word of God. To emphasize this grand truth we will cite four passages and let them explain the role of God's word in salvation.
1 Peter 1:22-25
"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because "All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever." Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you." (1 Peter 1:22-25, NKJV)
The expression "born again" is frequently used to describe the conversion process. Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to "see the kingdom of God" that is to be saved from sin he would have to "be born again." (John 3:3) He repeated that point in slightly different language two verses later when he told Nicodemus that in order to "enter the kingdom of God" another reference to salvation he would have to be "born of water and the Spirit" (vs. 5).
Peter addresses the same subject matter in 1 Peter 1:22-25 cited above. This passage declares that when we are "born again" (vs. 23), we are born through the Spirit in obeying the truth (vs. 22; cf. Jn 3:1-5; 2 Th 2:13-14). We are also born of the word by the will of God (Jn 1:13; 6:44-45; James 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23), born of the gospel (1 Pet 1:25; 1 Cor 4:15), and begotten (or born) by incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:23; cf. 1 Jn 3:9; Mk 4:14; Lk 8:11).
The relationship between God's word, the gospel, and the new birth is clearly taught in this passage. The words "truth" (vs. 22), "seed" (vs. 23; cf. Lk 8:11), "word of God" (vs. 23), "word" (vs. 25) and "gospel" (vs. 25) refer to the same thing. All of these are sown, or taught, in anticipation of, and prior to, the new birth. In fact, they cause the new birth. When the seed, the word of God, takes root in the souls of men, it germinates just like literal seed does, and it creates new life. The seed, the word of God, can create faith within the hearer and that faith can lead to salvation, the new birth (cf Lk 8:12).
The thrust of the above passage is obvious: The new birth involves a begetting of the word, the truth, the gospel and the seed. These expressions demand that the gospel is inherently message based, and the message is the record of the divine plan concerning the salvation of mankind. It is tremendously important to learn that there is never any person "coming" to God and Christ except that they come because of, and based on, a message. Though there are a number of passages that reflect this salient truth, consider the principle as set forth by Jesus Himself in John 6:41-48.
The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus therefore answered and said to them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life." (John 6:41-48, NKJV)
A partial summary of this passage yields the following: Jesus told his audience He was the bread of life. Their failure to grasp the real meaning of this truth caused some to murmur (6:41). They wondered how Jesus, whom they knew to be the son of Joseph and Mary (vs. 42), could claim to have come from heaven (vs. 41). Jesus, knowing their thoughts and what concerned them, first told them to quit murmuring (vs. 43; cf Jn 2:24-25). He then stated that no one could come to Him unless His father, who sent Jesus, draws him (vs. 44).
Since Jesus said we are drawnto God by God, we must understand how God draws us to Him.
The term "draw" rendered in this passage occurs eight times in the new testament. By examining its usage we see two distinct senses. It is obvious from a brief study of the term that "draw" is used with reference to physical things: Peter drew a sword (Jn 18:10); the apostles drew fish in a net (Jn 21:6, 22); and people can be drawn into or out of a place (marketplace Acts 16:19; temple 21:30; judgment seat James 2:6). But the term is also used in a spiritual sense. John 6:45 uses the word with reference to how God draws us and John 12:32 uses it with reference to Christ's crucifixion. In this latter spiritual use of the term, Jesus says: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." (John 12:32, NKJV) Jesus' crucifixion accomplished when he was "lifted up" - would draw people to Him (Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:32-34).
In both references to spiritual drawing, what happens is based on truth. In the second instance (Jn 12:32), we see that the cross of Christ is to be the focal point of the message which draws us. The message of the gospel is cross centered: (a) Jesus carried his own cross (Jn 19:17); (b) upon that cross was the designation placed by Pilate identifying Jesus as the king of the Jews (Jn 19:19); (c) Jesus died on the cross (Jn 10:31ff; Acts 2:23; Phil 2:8); (d) the cross is the center of Paul's preaching (1 Cor 1:17-18), in fact he refused to glory in anything else (Gal 6:14); (e) the cross is foolishness to those who refuse the message (1 Cor 1:18) and even offensive to some (Gal 5:11); (f) the message of the cross reconciles Jew and Gentile in one body (Eph 2:16); (g) the message of the cross demands that we live a certain way (Phil 3:18); (h) the message of the cross brings peace and reconciliation to God (Col 1:20); (i) the death of Jesus on the cross took away the law that was against us (Col 2:12ff); and (j) Jesus endured the cross for the joy (our salvation and reconciliation with God) that was accomplished in his death (Heb 12:2).
Surely we can see that the message of the cross salvation paid for by the blood of Jesus draws us when we come to understand both what it signifies and what it accomplishes.
But remember: there were two spiritual uses of the word draw. In the first spiritual use of the term draw (Jn 6:44), we learn that God draws people to Himself. Without thorough Biblical consideration of how God draws souls to him, one might assume that it happens by means of feelings, intuitions and inexplicable notions. Relying on emotional and intuitional assumptions, however, allows every person to feel and believe what he wants to believe, thus creating a scenario where beliefs and practices vary widely. The text of John 6:44-45 teaches something quite different. The means by which God actually draws us does not allow for such a subjective interpretation and implementation of God's will for us. Read the next verse and discover that Jesus tells us how we are drawn to God.
"It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me." (John 6:45, NKJV)
It is written that tthe those who come to Jesus will be "taught by God." Furthermore it says that they "heard" and "learned from the Father." All three of these expressions are content centered and message based. We are not drawn to God by means of intuition, feeling or some oth
TheBible.net: Called, Chosen and Faithful (Part 1)
TheBible.net: Called, Chosen and Faithful (Part 2)
TheBible.net: Called, Chosen and Faithful (Part 3)
TheBible.net: Called, Chosen and Faithful (Part 4)