Each year I grow courgettes from seed. Most people think courgettes are about 10 or 15cm in length, mine usually go wild and end up 30cm monster marrows. This year during lock down with garden centres closed, new packets of seed were not available. I searched the cupboards and found a packet of opened, old, out of date seeds. I only wanted two or three plants so I chose the six fattest seeds to plant in pots thinking with luck two or three would germinate. A week or so later five small plants popped their heads out. As every (well almost every) school child knows, for a seed to grow into a plant you have to do more than choose it. You have to provide water, warmth, food and light in a host environment.
Paul was God’s gardener. Paul opens his letter as a servant or slave of God. It is the only time he uses that term, usually preferring to be known as a servant of Jesus. By identifying himself as a servant of God he was also directly connecting himself to Old Testament greats also known as servants of God, Moses, David and the prophets. Why was this? Perhaps because the root of much of the false teaching in the church of Cyprus was coming from Jewish breakaway groups such as the circumcision party. He also calls himself an apostle of Jesus. An apostle is one who is sent, however in the New Testament it also referred to eye witnesses of Jesus’ ministry who were given authority by Jesus himself. Paul did not fit that description but he had met Jesus personally on the Damascus Road and in subsequent visions, Jesus had chosen and sent him to be an apostle to Gentiles. Paul then uses a term that has divided the Christian church over generations, he was an apostle, ‘for the sake of the elect.’ v1 Elsewhere the New Testament uses the term chosen.
Many have taken a strict interpretation of the term and pushed the meaning to the extent that the elect will come to faith regardless of their own will or the actions of others. God will enforce his will. It then becomes a recipe for complacency and inaction both on the part of the believer and the church. However later in Titus, Paul writes, ‘the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,’ v2.11 and in 1 Timothy 2.3-4 ‘It is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’
The notion of being chosen in the New Testament is much more nuanced than a coach picking a team and simply leaving everyone else out. Jesus spoke to his disciples and said, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last (converts) and so whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.’ John 15.16 Paul knew he was chosen to go to all with the gospel and nurture faith until it produced righteous lives that then went on to repeat the process with others. We are part of that apostolic tradition.
May the Peoples Praise you – Keith and Kristyn Getty