Jesus and election


1Pe 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1Pe 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

In 1 Peter 2, Peter writes that people were “chosen” or “elect” according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. In the Augustinian mindset, this is some sort of predetermination of people, almost like a guest-list of people that will be saved. But this is not at all how Jesus uses the word “elect”, so we should take caution before believing Peter thought of election in this sense.

Two times in Matthew, Jesus states “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Context is key to understanding this phrase. In both contexts, Jesus illustrates with a parable. In no context does the events indicate the Augustinian interpretation of election.

In Matthew 22 is found the parable of the wedding feast. It is a very interesting story:

Mat 22:2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son,
Mat 22:3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.
Mat 22:4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”‘
Mat 22:5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business,
Mat 22:6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.
Mat 22:7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

A rich man is hosting a wedding for his son and invites all the guests. The feast is prepared and waiting for the guests. All the guests had to do was show up. The rich man sends out servants to retrieve the guests. The invitation is made on several occasions. Eventually some individuals even kill the messengers; the king extracts swift vengeance on the murderers. They even go so far as to raze the city of the murderers.

The King is to be taken as God in this parable. The servants are to be taken as God’s prophets. The key people invited seem to be the leadership and the upper class of Israel. This entire first part of the parable mirrors much Old Testament literature on God’s vengeance against Israel. Jesus (and the writer, Matthew) are attributing strong emotions to God. God is rejected. God sees His messengers killed. God’s temper flares. God then springs to action, swiftly extracting vengeance. Not only does God destroy the murderers, but God razes their city. The reaction seems a little disproportionate.

God then attempts to build a new guest list:

Mat 22:8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.
Mat 22:9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’
Mat 22:10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The banquet is prepared, but was been refused by the normal guests. The king has to change his plan and then outreach to the masses in order to fill his banquet table. He invites anyone and everyone. This parallels the Old Testament concept of God’s remnant. Several times in the Old Testament, God states that He will destroy Israel, leaving a remnant which will be His true people. Jesus could be describing this very concept and coupling it with God’s election.

But just because someone is part of the remnant, this does not mean that they will also not be cut off. Jesus continues. Some who came to the wedding were not suitably dressed:

Mat 22:11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.
Mat 22:12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
Mat 22:13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The King enters the banquet. The banquet hall is filled with an entirely new assortment of individuals rather than had initially been invited. But even though these people were invited off the street, they were still expected to be dressed appropriately. The King sees an individual who is not dressed properly. The King confronts him. The King asks him why he is not dressed appropriately. The guest does not respond. From here, the King binds him and throws him out.

Jesus is saying that although there may be a new people group who replaces the initial people group that even they are not secure in their status. They need to act appropriately. Notice how the King questions the guest. This exchange did not have to be included for the story to make sense. But it does illustrate that the King is willing to entertain a defense from the guilty party. When there is no defense, the King acts decisively. Jesus is saying that people’s own actions dictate their rise and fall. He is rejecting the idea of group privileges.

It is in this context that Jesus states:

Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen [eklektos].”

In the context, most people who are called reject the calling. The leaders of Israel rejected the calling and even members of the remnant. These people chose to reject God, both killing his prophets and rejecting God’s requirements. The “elect” or “chosen” then are those who accept God’s invitation.

The parable mirrors Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom. God reached out to convince mainstream Israel to be saved, but they declined. God reached out to them time and time again. But they responded with rejection and murder of God’s prophets. God then responds by broadening His invitations for salvation, reaching out to all classes of society (Jesus’ primary ministry was to the sinners). Some of these people respond, but not all of them in an acceptable fashion. God casts those individuals out. The remaining are “elect”. Election is not a guest-list filled with approved names. The idea is the exact opposite. Election is about individuals choosing God.

Matthew depicts God as merciful, preparing a free banquet for people to share. God even extends that invitation to strangers. God is shown as dynamic. God innovates solutions when His original intentions do not materialize. God is also shown to be prone to strong emotion, exacting swift and cruel vengeance when He is rejected. God destroys not only cities, but also individuals. God is shown as willing to entertain defenses for slights. God is reasonable. God expects people to choose Him. It is pretty clear that election, in this passage, has nothing to do with the Classical ideas of predestination or omniscience, but is a dynamic process of weeding out the unfit.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, Calvinism, God, Jesus, Open Theism, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Jesus and election

  1. Pingback: Apologetics Thursday – The Calvinist Dictionary | God is Open

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