Some Christians believe God chooses people. Some Christians believe people choose God. Which is it?
As we learned in the previous post, God love us. Paul called the Christians in Thessalonica, “Brethren loved by the Lord.” Paul continues to prove that God loves them by talking about salvation. He says that God chose them as the first fruits for salvation through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. Typical Paul. Packing tons of theology into a few words. Let’s try to understand what he is saying piece by piece.
In this post we’ll talk about that first part, that God chose them. In the next post we’ll look deeper into the rest of what Paul said.
What does Paul mean when he said that God chose them to be saved? Some people believe that this is one of the passages in the New Testament that proves that God chooses individuals, some for salvation and some for damnation. This is called the doctrine of election. The denomination to which I belong disagrees with the idea of individual election. We do not believe that God is in heaven saying “Hmmm…I chose you, but not that neighbor of yours.” The idea of individual election is like a heavenly playground where God is picking his team, and people have their hands raised, jumping, “Ooo…ooo…choose me, choose me, God.” God says, “Uh…no…sorry…I don’t want you on my team.” And people walk away disappointed and dejected on their way to hell, crying, “I wanted to get into heaven, but God didn’t choose me!”
Instead, in my church believes in corporate election, the idea that God chooses to bring his salvation through a group. In the Old Testament, the group he chose was the nation of Israel, and he gave them the mission to reach the rest of the world. They pretty much did a terrible job of that, so he sent Jesus, God in the flesh. Now God chose the group of people to be in Christ. The church. And just like Israel, he gave the church the mission to reach the whole world, because all those who are in Christ can be saved.
In 1 Timothy 2:4 we read that God “wants all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Or there is 2 Peter 3:9, which says that God “does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” This is why Jesus himself said to his disciples that they “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on [them]; and [they] will be [his] witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Another famous teaching of Jesus is the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, where he instructs “Go and make disciples of all nations.” We can summarize this by saying that Christians should be globally-minded. God so loved the world!
So in conclusion, God’s choosing or election is best seen not as individual, but as corporate. In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul does not say that God chose individuals. Paul says God chose them all. Paul’s intent is to say that God loves the world, he wants all to be saved, and all have the opportunity to choose him. Of course, not everyone will choose him. So how do we choose him? Check back to the next post as we learn what Paul has to say about this.