Peter said to the “elect exiles” — that is, to Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire — “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
He meant it as an enormous encouragement for a tiny, beleaguered, persecuted minority in a vast sea of unbelief and growing hostility. The adversaries may seem powerful and numerous and dangerous and dominant. But look again. You are God’s chosen ones: “a people for his own possession.” O dear suffering Christians, Peter would say, do you feel what that means? Revel in being God’s chosen ones! There are so many reasons!
1. Your faith is not the basis of God’s choosing you, but the result of it.
This means that your faith is a wonder — more wonderful than any of the seven wonders of the world. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). And there was a deeper choosing going on here than just the selection of the Twelve. We know this because Judas was part of the Twelve, and he was not “chosen.” Jesus said, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me’” (John 13:18).
If you have come to Jesus, the wonder is that you already belonged to the Father, and the Father gave you to Jesus. You were not chosen because you came; you came because you were chosen. That’s what Jesus said: “All that the Father gives me will come to me. . . . Yours they were, and you gave them to me” (John 6:37; 17:6).
“Your roots, as a child of God, are in eternity — in the infinite mind and heart of God.”
If you have believed on Jesus, the wonder is that you were first appointed to eternal life. You weren’t appointed because you believed; you believed because you were appointed. When the Gentiles heard that the gospel actually included them, “they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).
Revel in the wonder that you are a Christian because God chose you to be one. Your roots, as a child of God, are in eternity — in the infinite mind and heart of God. Your faith, and all its fruits, are God’s eternal gift.
2. Therefore, the basis of God choosing you is not in you, but in grace.
Take God’s Old Testament people Israel, for example. Why did God set his favor on Israel above all the peoples of the earth? What was the basis of God’s calling them “my chosen” (Isaiah 45:4)? Here’s Moses’s answer:
The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers. (Deuteronomy 7:6–8)
This is amazing: “The Lord set his love on you and chose you . . . because the Lord loves you.” He loves you because he loves you! That’s the deepest, and ultimate, basis of God’s choosing Israel.
Paul underlines the wonder. Why was Jacob, the father of the nation of Israel, chosen over his twin brother Esau? Paul answers, “Though they were not yet born, and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose to choose might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls — their mother was told, ‘The older will serve the younger’” (Romans 9:11–12).
And the principle holds today. Paul would say, “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace” (Romans 11:5). So it is with every true Christian. Behind our believing — behind our coming to Jesus — is grace alone. There is no ground for our being chosen beneath the all-wise and incomprehensible love of God. Oh, the vastness of the repercussions of this unfathomable truth!
3. Since our faith and obedience is owing to God’s choice of us, we can know we are chosen.
It is a wonder that God’s unfathomable, eternal choice of who will be his children can be known by those he chose. Paul said that he knew the Thessalonian believers were God’s chosen ones. “We know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thessalonians 1:4).
“Calvinism is the end of racism among Christians.”
How can he know this? And how can they? Paul explains, “We know . . . because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. . . . You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:4–6).
Only God’s eternal resolve to save his chosen people can explain the miracle of faith that receives the word of the gospel with joy in the midst of affliction. This is the work of God, and God does this saving work for his chosen ones. If it has happened to you, you may know that you are chosen.
Let the wonder of this sink in. Your faith is not a witness to any prior power in you. It is a witness to God’s choosing you. It is not a testimony to something so small as self-determination. It is a testimony to the same power that created the universe. God chose to raise you from the dead (Ephesians 2:5).
4. Being chosen by God means no charge against us can finally stick.
The multiplied wonders of God’s choosing a people include the unfathomable fact that God sent his Son into the world to cancel all the debts of his chosen ones — to nullify every damning accusation against them, and to give them a righteous standing in the court of heaven.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:31–34)
The reason no charge can stick to God’s chosen ones is that God “gave [his Son] up for us,” and it necessarily follows that God will “graciously give us all things.” The wonder is not only that there is “no condemnation,” but that this was all planned in eternity to be omnipotently successful. He did not do this great work like a fisherman throwing a net to see who might swim into it. We did not just happen to swim into God’s salvation. This was planned and performed with a special view to us, the chosen ones. This is a wonder to revel in.
5. Being chosen by God is designed to secure for us the sweetness of humility.
The more we consider being chosen, the more the wonder of it grows. And Paul tells us to consider it. The reason he wants us to think about being chosen (Do you? — With joy?) is that it will make us humble. Here’s the passage that makes this point. He starts by telling us to consider our “calling,” because this calling — from death to life — is the way we actually experience in time the choice he made in eternity. Then he mentions three times our being chosen.
Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26–29)
Do you see the point? God is free to choose who will become Christians. And in his freedom he explodes all worldly expectations of who is “special.” Just when we think we may have him figured out in his choosing, we see he has gone another way. Paul doesn’t leave us to guess what the point is. It is this: “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” God’s choosing is designed to remove our boasting.
“Your faith in Jesus is a wonder more wonderful than any of the seven wonders of the world.”
Any group, or any person, who boasts that there is something in them that justifies God’s choosing them, has not experienced what the choosing is for. It is for the annihilation of self as the basis of God’s favor. We did nothing — absolutely nothing — to qualify for being chosen.
Revel in this. You carry no burden to measure up to the merit that qualified you for being chosen. There is no such thing.
6. Being a chosen race is the end of racism among Christians.
It is a wonder that in God’s choosing a people for himself, he nullified the self-exalting effects of all races and ethnicities. “You are a chosen race . . . a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). The chosen race is not white or black or Asian or any other natural grouping.
The chosen race are people who are “born again to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Their new identifying DNA is from the Holy Spirit. Race and ethnicity are not unimportant in our common cultural life. But they are not what unites us to God or to each other in Christ. We are a new creation, a new humanity. Peter even says, a new race! A “chosen race.” A race taken from all races.
God chose us freely — without respect to race — to be in this new race. Then he sent his Son to purchase us from all the ethnic groups of the world: “You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). In this way, he nullified all racism. For he bound together every race and every ethnicity into one new family, with one glorious Father. And he did this in eternity when he chose to make a people from every race into one new race.
Revel in your freedom from racism. And if you can’t, then come learn who you are. Learn what it means to be a “chosen race.”
7. Being chosen by God means being destined for everlasting, all-satisfying praise of the infinitely beautiful God.
The wonder is that the ultimate aim of being chosen is the ultimate joy of being satisfied. And the wonder deepens as we realize that we human beings were designed to find our fullest satisfaction not in front of a mirror, but in front of God. We were made to be mirrors, not see mirrors. Mirrors with eyes. And the joy of seeing all-satisfying Beauty was meant to find its consummation in the reflection of that beauty to God and man in praise.
This is what Paul says in Ephesians 1:4–6. God “chose us” and “predestined us . . . to the praise of the glory of his grace.” And in case we missed it, he says in verse 12, “ . . . to the praise of his glory.” And again in verse 14, “ . . . to the praise of his glory.” We get the joy of admiration. He gets the glory of exaltation.
Revel in the wonder that you were chosen in eternity past for the endless joy of praise in eternity future.
8. Being chosen by God means that God will use all necessary means to bring you to this eternal glory.
The wonder of being chosen includes the wonder that God has chosen means to bring us home. Glory is not immediate and not automatic.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come,
’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
We do not travel from new birth to new earth without the trials of a traveler. And if God had not chosen for us to be helped by many fellow travelers, we would not make it. That’s why Paul says, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the chosen ones, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).
Paul himself was a God-chosen means of saving the chosen ones. So are you. You are one. And you need others. For God’s chosen ones, the means are necessary, and they are certain. For God has chosen them as surely as he has chosen you.
Revel in the wonder that you must fight your way to heaven, and God will see to it that you win.
9. Being chosen by God means that God shapes history on your behalf.
This wonder may be too much for us to comprehend, but here it is: “If those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the chosen ones those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:22).
The flow of history will be altered. For the sake of the chosen ones. The world of unbelievers, who reject God and his Son, have no idea how the world is run. They do not know what true significance is. They will be stunned someday to learn that the Christians, whom they despised or ignored, were the linchpin of history.
10. Finally, being chosen by God means he will gather us when he comes, and give us justice.
The wonder of vindication is coming. It may be that in this life the chosen ones were treated just like Jesus — a stone which the builders rejected. But in God’s sight that stone was “chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:4, 6). And that very stone became the cornerstone of the kingdom of God (1 Peter 2:6–8). He rose from the dead. There was a glorious vindication.
“We were designed to find our fullest satisfaction not in front of a mirror, but in front of God.”
So it will be with all God’s chosen ones. “He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31). Finally, it will come true: “Will not God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry to him day and night?” (Luke 18:7). Yes, he will. And everything hidden will come to light.
Revel in this promise. You may feel like a rejected stone for now. But when he comes, he will make you a pillar in the temple of God (Revelation 3:12). He will triumph over every enemy of your soul and you will reign with him — you, the chosen ones. “For he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).