Jesus and Election

By Christopher Fisher

1Pe 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1Pe 1:2 Elect [eklektos] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

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”.

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 odd story:

Mat 22:2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,
Mat 22:3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.
Mat 22:4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ‘
Mat 22:5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.
Mat 22:6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.
Mat 22:7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up 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 invitation is made on several occasions. Eventually some individuals even kill the messengers; the king extracts swift vengeance on the murderers.

Mat 22:8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.
Mat 22:9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’
Mat 22:10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And 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. But some who came to the wedding, were not suitably dressed:

Mat 22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.
Mat 22:12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
Mat 22:13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The “rich” man, who could afford to dress nicely but declined, that is the one who was thrown out of the banquet. It is in this context that Jesus states:

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

This is not at all what the Calvinists think of when they talk about election.

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.

6 comments

  1. Your last paragraph is awesome except. I totally agree and think you hit the nail on the head concerning the interpretation of the parable, concerning salvation.

    What does not seem to follow is the conclusion. This parable and your interpretation does not support your conclusion. Moreover it would be unwise to use a parable to contradict a clear teaching found elsewhere.

    The big question is can your interpretation of this parable still work within the reformed tradition? The question is a resounding yes. You see, we would start with the understanding that we are all like the Jews, we are all guilty and unresponsive not wanting to attend the wedding feast. Romans 1-3 makes this clear. We are all guilty. It would follow then, HOW or WHY do some turn? Said another way if Romans 3 is actually true, that No One seeks for God, how is it that many do?

    The reformed faith would affirm that it is the power of the Holy Spirit, regenerating and granting faith to a rebellious sinner. While we were yet sinners at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. This faith produces the fruit of repentance. God’s pursuit of all of those whom He gave the Son, will be pursued and rescued from the slaughter.

    I also find it awesome that we agree on what the passage clearly teaches but come to vastly different conclusions concerning its application.

    Grace and Peace
    -Anon

    1. Sir,

      I think one thing we always need to keep in mind is the authorial intent. We have two authors and two audiences. One: Jesus spoke these words to an audience. What was he communicating and why was he communicating it? If Jesus’ message was or incorporated “you are totally depraved”, what is he trying to accomplish? Two: Matthew recorded these words and placed them in a book to a separate audience. What was he communicating and why was he communicating it? If Matthew’s message was or incorporated “you are totally depraved”, what is he trying to accomplish?

      The Calvinist interpretations on verses often ignore authorial intent. They tend to read the Bible outside of the context of when it was written, the purpose of the writing, and what the audience was to understand. The Calvinist method of reading text is very unnatural.

      The parable speaks directly against TULIP.
      T = there were people who volitionally chose to attend the feast.
      U – Their act of showing up ensured their place at the dinner.
      L – After the initial invite, all were invited.
      I – The initial guests refused, and angered God.
      P – One of the attendees is thrown out.

      The parable mirrors Jesus’ ministry. Note that Jesus’ ministry never included the gentiles. Jesus reached out to the Jewish sinners (not the Jewish kings, not the Jewish religious, not the Jewish rich). Jesus labels the Jewish religious class as those who are heirs of those who killed God’s prophets (think back to the parable):

      Mat 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

      Mat 23:31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

      Mat 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

      So God turned to a new group (think back to the parable):

      Mat 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
      Mat 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
      Mat 5:5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
      Mat 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

      Mat 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

      Mat 20:16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

      But not all of them will enter the Kingdom (think back to the parable):

      Luk 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
      Luk 13:25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’
      Luk 13:26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’
      Luk 13:27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’

      The entire passage counters TULIP. It is all about people freely rejecting God, God becoming angry (killing some), and then turning to a new group. This is the message of the Old and New Testaments.

  2. There is so much you say that we totally agree on. Again, its odd to me how we seem to see the conclusion to vastly different.

    I don’t understand you needing to try and use an acronym to decipher a parable. As I stated initially, it is far better to use a clear text over a parable. But that is besides the point. As you so eloquently illustrated and established (I mean that sincerely) there is an intended audience and an intended “purpose”.

    What was the intended purpose of this parable? Was Jesus using this parable to illustrate the volition of the will? Certainly not. Was He using this parable to illustrate how God is a reactionary God responding to evil as He is informed of it? Of course not. Why then try and establish a cardinal doctrine when according to your very teaching it has a specific purpose?! This passage was NOT intended to defeat tulip.

    This is was amazes me. You seem to be guilty of the very thing you are trying to accuse the reformed faith of. You are reading into the text and theorizing based on an aversion to an acronym.

    I submit to you that the purpose of this text was the very same as Romans 1-3. It was the very same as the conclusion of the beatitudes. It was the very same as the solution for the Rich young ruler. It was the same as the Law of God. It was to demonstrate that we are woefully sinful and not capable of the reaching and obtaining the kingdom of God. We are not capable of fulfilling the law. We stand condemned. NO worse we are murderous haters, lovers of evil.

    Lets move back to Peter, tell me again how the original hearers would have heard and understood this? What was its purpose?

    Here is what I believe about free will:
    1. God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil.
    2. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.
    3. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good;yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he does not perfectly, or only, will that which is good, but does also will that which is evil.

    So to conclude, even if you want to make this about the TULIP your mischaracterization still falls short. Based on what Reformed actually teaches there is no conflict in the very thing you are trying to disprove. Work with what we actually teach and confess, not a truncated version of TULIP.

    -Anon

    1. It is good for people to test out reading Bible verses on neutral third parties. Sometimes people get wrapped in a mindset and then start operating in a systematically incorrect manner. If an atheist read the passage quoted, would they come to a Calvinistic interpretation, an Open Theist interpretation, or some other interpretation? If atheist Christian scholar Bart Ehrman were to comment on this passage, would it mirror the principles of TULIP?

      The best way to read the Bible is to understand what the author was trying to communicate to their audience. When we make this goal subservient to forcing theological implications, then we lose track. Malachi 3:6 and 2 Peter 3:8 being prime examples of verses that the Calvinist interpretation makes no sense.

  3. The interesting thing about the reformed doctrines is that their adherents can interpret any passage as confirming their beliefs. All they have to do (and in fact what they have to do) is dismiss temporal human responses depicted. If characters respond, they were chosen. If they rebel, they weren’t. Thus, it is useless to debate them.

Leave a Reply