Who are God’s “Chosen People" Today? (continued)
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord foresees and rejects the idea that Israel is a nation for only one people.
In the story of Esther, when the Lord has delivered his people from their enemies, we learn that the Jewish community welcomed newcomers of other ethnicities:
In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them. (Esther 8:17 NIV)
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord foresees and rejects the idea that Israel is a nation for only one people:
Let no foreigner who is bound to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” . . . And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants . . . who hold fast to my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain . . . for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. (Isaiah 56:3, 6–7 NIV)
In the New Testament
In the New Testament the term “chosen” is never used to describe the Jews as a race. As the apostle Paul says in Romans:
A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. (Romans 2:28–29 NIV)
It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. (Romans 9:6–8, quoting Genesis 21:12 NIV)
God’s covenant purposes are fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ. This is most fully explained in Ephesians 2:
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. . . . His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross. (Ephesians 2:14–16 NIV)
A chapter later, the oneness of God’s people is described as the “mystery of Christ”:
. . . the mystery of Christ . . . is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 3:4, 6 NIV)
The letter to the Colossians describes “God’s chosen people” as a wide variety of people:
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:11–12 NIV)
And Paul’s letter to the Galatians highlights the diversity of the new community of Christ’s followers:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NIV)
What Does It Mean to Be Chosen by God?
In both Testaments, being chosen clearly means to be called by God for a particular mission, for certain responsibilities. It’s not about privilege or status, but about the work God asks of us.
All human beings are beloved by God. All are created in the one image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). As the apostle Peter states, “God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34–35 NIV).
While the image of God resides in every person without exception, different people are chosen to perform different types of service to our one Lord. For varieties of gifts and service among Christians, see 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12:4–7.
Here are just a few examples of Biblical figures chosen for unique missions:
- Abraham was called to leave his homeland and to establish his family in the place that God would reveal to him. In so doing, he was commissioned to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth (Genesis 12:2–3) and to be “a father of many nations” (Genesis 18:5 NIV).
- Upon Moses was conferred the enormous task of liberating his people.
- Jeremiah was chosen from the womb to prophesy to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).
- Esther was chosen to save her people from genocide.
- John the Baptist was called to be the herald of Christ’s advent.
- The young maiden Mary was chosen to give birth to the Savior.
- Jesus chose his disciples to carry the cross in imitation of their Lord and to be his witnesses throughout the world.
- Paul’s special commission was to serve as apostle to the gentiles.
- There were also Samuel, David, Hezekiah, the Persian ruler Cyrus, Nehemiah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, all the evangelists and apostles, and many others.
None of these servants of the Lord received special advantages; instead, they faced danger and suffering. They were not asked to think of their possessions or their reputation, but to “value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV). Peace with justice will dawn upon the Holy Land when God’s will is honored above our own desires, and when the welfare of every person—regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed—is valued.
God’s chosen people today are not those who grasp land and prosperity for themselves—rather, the chosen ones are those who answer God’s call to servanthood.
Quotations from Scripture are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION©. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.