“It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them. And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.”
Romans 11:5-6 NLT
Paul concludes that in his day there were still a remnant of the “people of Israel” who were faithful to God. And this because they had accepted God’s grace and kindness, and not because of the “good works” that they might have been doing. Once again Paul reminded his readers that God’s grace was “free and undeserved”.
But there is a contentious thought embedded within Paul’s writings – that the faithful few had been chosen by God. Once again we come into contact with the doctrine of predestination. We read Romans 8:29 and perhaps draw the conclusion that God selects certain people, not all, to join His family. We read, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters”. But we balance this verse with another from 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent”. So from a backdrop of Romans 3:23 – “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” – we find that God’s invitation has to be responded to. God choosing any one of us matters little unless that person repents and turns to Him. And anyone who becomes a Christian will join the family of God. Another son or daughter.
But regarding the thought that God chooses some people rather than others, we have to accept that there are verses in the Bible that support this doctrine. Because He knows the end from the beginning, perhaps God knows who will accept His kindness and grace and who won’t. Of course, He never gives up on people. And He is always fair. Perhaps someone who responds to Him has, in effect, proved that God’s universal invitation of grace means that they were chosen.
Some people were, and are, obviously chosen by God in a high profile way. The writer of this epistle, Paul, once called Saul of Tarsus, knew that God had chosen him. We read in Galatians 1:15-16, “But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvellous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being”. Many faithful people in his generation were also chosen by God, some like Paul to undertake a high profile and demanding role in God’s Kingdom, others just to go about their business as an example to those around them. Every generation has been blessed by a selection of “Paul’s”, men and women who have faithfully served God by extending the Gospel into new places and nations. We think of Jackie Pulling, or Billy Graham. But the majority of God’s chosen people find themselves in lower profile roles, as a remnant of God’s grace, fulfilling their calling as “salt and light” in their families and communities, schools and workplaces. God has no favourites and treats all people equally. We will all one day be saved and join Him in Heaven.
In some Christian circles today we wonder if there will be a “faithful few” in a generation’s time. But as with the “people of Israel”, the life of the church flows and ebbs over the years. But God never changes. He is always faithful and kind. Always freely accepting repentant sinners through His grace and mercy. Never turning anyone away. Paul realised, along with Elijah many years before, that God will always keep a remnant of faithful people. People who will never abandon their faith. And we pilgrims count ourselves in that number, faithful God-followers who never forsake Him.
Father, we echo the words of Peter, who said to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life”. Where else could we go? We will never abandon You. Thank You. Amen.