“For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Called and chosen for what? What is God’s calling? Are you sure you are among the called?
Can you imagine your telephone’s caller ID displaying “God calling,” when your phone rings? Of course, His calling is much more subtle than that, but it is just as real. Jesus plainly stated, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws [calls or invites] him” (John 6:44, also note verse 65). Clearly, Christ is saying that no one can come to Him—that is, no one can become a Christian—unless the Father first calls that person.
Jesus’ teachings were shocking—so much so that John said many of Christ’s disciples took offense at His words and walked away for good (verse 66). God’s calling refers to the process by which the Father draws (or calls) a person. It includes God’s opening a person’s mind to understand spiritual truth, and it is literally an invitation to salvation for that individual.
There is much confusion about the meaning of salvation, so let’s simplify it. In the physical sense, salvation means being rescued, usually from death. A person pulled from a burning building has been saved from a terrible death. Similarly, spiritual salvation means being rescued or saved from eternal death. The difference is that spiritual death is a death from which there is no return, literally ceasing to exist. The saved, even if they experience physical death before Christ’s return, will be changed to spirit and live forever when He comes.
The Bible shows not everyone is called now
One of the passages in the Bible that clearly explains that God is not calling everyone to salvation at this time is Christ’s parable of the sower. “Behold, a sower [a farmer] went out to sow [plant seed]. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.
“Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear [who can understand] let him hear!” (Matthew 13:3-9).
Do you know what Jesus meant?
Jesus explains the parable
In the parable, a story with a spiritual lesson, a farmer planting seed is likened to the work done by Jesus Christ and His Church. The seed is the gospel of the Kingdom. Notice how Jesus explained it: “Therefore hear [understand] the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.
“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23, emphasis added throughout).
“God calling” for the people in the story means the Father opens their minds so they can understand the good news of the Kingdom of God. This knowledge of the Kingdom includes knowing the King of this Kingdom (Jesus Christ), its territory (this earth), its constitution (the law of God) and its citizens (those over whom Christ and the saints rule on the earth). For further study, see the section on the “Kingdom of God.”
“Many are called, but few are chosen”
Not everyone who heard this parable [teaching] understood what Jesus was talking about. Although the entire multitude heard the same words, different reactions were taking place in those who heard the message. Some did not “hear” the call. Some did hear, but chose not to respond to the call.
The seed only grows in those God the Father is calling and who choose to follow His way of life. It is important to note that within the context of God’s plan of salvation for humankind, He is not opening everyone’s mind to the truth at the same time. Jesus had to explain this fact to His disciples, and He does so in the context of this parable of the sower (Matthew 13:11-17).
Another biblical example helps explain the fact that some are called ahead of most of mankind.
This is critically important
Another example of God calling only some during this age is found in the book of Acts. At the conclusion of Peter’s powerful sermon on the Feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given, many who heard him were sorrowful and repentant, realizing that their sins required the death—the sacrifice—of Christ. Notice their response; “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart [they were repentant] and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37).
This is critically important: Real repentance requires the person to act on the knowledge he or she has received. Conversion is much more than an emotional reaction.
Real repentance requires the person to act on the knowledge he or she has received. Conversion is much more than an emotional reaction.Peter responded, “Repent [turn your life around], and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (verses 38-39).
Notice the phrase “as many as the Lord our God will call.” Did everyone who heard the call positively respond that day by repenting and being baptized? No. “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized” (verse 41). To be sure, God added about 3,000 people to His Church that day; but even so, many others who heard the call chose not to respond.
Only some chosen as the elect
Does the idea that God isn’t calling everyone today strike you as strange? It shouldn’t, for it is a truth you have most likely read many times—even though you might not have realized it! You are familiar with the phrase the elect. Have you thought through its meaning? An election is a means of choosing people for specific jobs or offices. The result of any election is that some are chosen or selected, and some are not. The biblical use of “the elect” has a similar meaning, only a spiritual application. Only some people hear God calling in their lifetime. Because of their repentant reaction, they are selected by God to receive His Holy Spirit in this age.
But this does not mean that most people are lost! God is working through a carefully laid-out plan whereby every individual who has ever lived will eventually be called and those who respond in faith and obedience will be saved from eternal death. It is not by giving eternal life to those who did the best they could with whatever creed they practiced! When, where, how and why are answered in our article “Resurrections: What Are They?”
Are you being called now?
How can you know if “God calling!” applies to you—if you truly are a Christian? Answering the following thought-provoking questions will help:
- Have I accepted Christ as my personal Savior (for salvation from the death penalty for sin—breaking God’s laws)?
- Do I understand the Bible when I study it?
- Does God hear and answer my prayers?
- Do I recognize that my natural inclination is to do things contrary to what God expects?
- Has my mind changed from resenting God giving me laws to appreciating those laws as standards to live by?
- Do I recognize the need to live according to God’s laws in response to Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins?
- Do I put knowledge I gain from the Bible into action?
- Am I striving to obey God in every area of my life as I learn how He wants me to live?
- Have I discovered that the more I learn and act on biblical truths, the more I desire to learn still more?
The first awakening to this need for personal change often begins with the discovery of some element of God’s comprehensive truth in the Scriptures. Paul explained it this way: “God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification [setting apart] by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
A person being called might suddenly find himself or herself understanding part of the Bible that he or she never grasped before.
You can know if God is calling you
If you understand what you are learning from the Bible and you see the need to change your life, God is beginning to work with you. If you see a need to obey His Commandments at the same time that you see how hard it is for you to do so, God is working with you. He is drawing you—calling you—toward His Son and His way of life. He is showing you that you, too, need to repent, just like those who heard Peter’s instruction (Acts 2:37-38).
“God calling!” does not mean that God will force anyone against his or her will. He never does that. It is up to you whether you will respond to His invitation to be part of the “firstfruits,” the first group of humans who will be changed to spirit and enter His Kingdom. If you do not respond, God will eventually stop working with you in this age. If you respond, God will open your mind even more, and you will begin to build a strong bond with Him.
Salvation not a momentary giving “your heart to the Lord”
We mentioned above that there is more to conversion than a fleeting emotional reaction to hearing God’s Word. It truly is a process that requires time, prayer, study, effort, change—and more. But every step you take is greatly rewarding! Your actions don’t earn your salvation any more than the process of a stalk of grain growing from a seed (Christ’s parable) earns life for the plant. But the growth process is still necessary, or else there would be no grain—or in terms of our subject, no salvation.
We explain the process in articles listed in the section titled “Change.” There you will find detailed biblical instructions on conversion, repentance and baptism. You will find specifics about how God wants you to live as a Christian.
We encourage you to read and study these articles to get a more complete picture of what God expects of you. If you have additional questions after reading this material, please contact us. We are always here to help.