The Apostle Paul explained said God doesn’t choose like man chooses:
God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things (most translations say “lowly”) of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are that no flesh should glory in His presence.1 Corinthians 1:27-29
This is the opposite of the way man chooses!
Why would God choose foolish, weak, lowly, and despised?
We’re given the answer: so He gets all the glory! Whether it’s God choosing Israel, Gideon, David, The Twelve, or any of us, God chooses the way He does so it’s obvious it’s all Him. There’s no human explanation.
God Chooses the Right People
Miracle is one of my favorite movies, depicting the true story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic ice hockey team winning the gold medal by defeating the Soviet Union in one of the greatest upsets in history. The head coach, Herb Brooks, is very familiar with the players through coaching, scouting, and watching film. So he’s able to choose his team very quickly. The assistant coach, Craig Patrick, comes to talk to Herb on the first day of tryouts:
- Herb: Take a look at this.
- Craig: What’s this?
- Herb: Twenty-six names. The tough part will be getting it down to twenty before the opening ceremonies.
- Craig: This is the final roster? You’re kidding me, right? This is our first day, Herb. We’ve got a week of this. You’re missing some of the best players.
- Herb: I’m not looking for the best players, Craig. I’m looking for the right ones.
Coach Brooks wasn’t looking for the fastest, strongest, or most experienced. This makes me think of the way God chooses. He isn’t looking for the smartest, the best speakers, the most experienced, or the most religiously trained. He’s looking for the right people.
The difficulty is what we might think are the right people, God might think are the wrong people. And vice versa. We wouldn’t choose the people God chooses, and He wouldn’t choose the people we choose.
Consider these three examples of God choosing…
Consider all the nations God could’ve chosen. Did He choose Israel because they were going to be so obedient and submissive? The Old Testament reveals they were largely disobedient and rebellious.
Did He choose them because they were so large and powerful? It’s actually the opposite:
The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.Deuteronomy 7:7
Definitely not the way man would choose.
When God chose Gideon to save Israel, did He do so because he was so great and powerful? Upon learning he was chosen, Gideon said,
“O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”Judges 6:15
Again, not the way man would choose.
Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”1 Samuel 16:11
David’s own family didn’t choose him. They left him out in the field watching the sheep, because they thought there was so little chance of him being king. That’s how “least” and “weakest” he was, but he was God’s choice.
I Didn’t Choose as Jesus Chose
I taught elementary school before becoming a pastor. During that time I also did some coaching: high school and middle school wrestling, and elementary school boys’ flag football and girls’ basketball.
As much as I disliked losing, the one thing I disliked even more was tryouts; I hated having to choose some kids and not others. I think about this when considering Jesus’ “winning” team:
- They were sent out with the Gospel (Matt 10:5-15).
- They laid the foundation for the church (Eph 2:20).
- They will sit on thrones ruling the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28).
It wouldn’t be too much to say few people have ever been more important than these men. So of course the Lord would choose men who:
- Are tremendous, amazing, and powerful.
- Are humble, patient, and righteous.
- Never quarrel, instead working together like a well-oiled machine.
- Are the most religious and spiritual.
Nope! Consider these four things about the way Jesus chose…
1. Jesus Chose Men Who Lacked Humility
The disciples were proud, self-centered, and self-promoting.
- In Mark 9:34 they argued about who would be the greatest. You couldn’t have anything further from Jesus’ teaching. While some people might think they’re great, they certainly wouldn’t argue about it.
- In Mark 10:35-41, James and John sent their mother to Jesus (played the “Mom Card”) to request that they be the two individuals to sit on His right and left in His kingdom. The other ten were upset, but not because they had a righteous indignation against such actions; instead they were afraid James and John would receive more than them.
2. Jesus Chose Men Who Lacked Faith
Throughout the Gospels Jesus commended people’s faith, saying “Your faith has made you well.” At one point He even applauded the faith of a Roman centurion (Rom 8:10). The Lord wasn’t opposed to complimenting people’s faith!
But as much as Jesus seemed to compliment the faith of others, He seemed to just as frequently rebuke the unbelief of The Twelve:
- When the disciples were caught in a storm, they woke Jesus and told Him they were going to die. He said, “Why are you fearful, of you of little faith?” (Matt 8:26a).
- When Jesus invited Peter to walk on water to Him, Peter saw the waves and storm, became afraid, and began to sink. The Lord stretched out His hand, caught Him, and said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matt 14:31).
- When the disciples thought they didn’t have enough food (even though Jesus recently fed 5,000), He said to them, “O You of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?” (Matt 16:8).
- When the disciples were unable to cast a demon out of a child, Jesus said,“Because of your little faith” (Matt 17:20).
- Even though Jesus repeatedly told The Twelve that He’d be raised from the dead (Matt 16:21), He “appeared to [them] and rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen” (Mark 16:14). This was the end of their ministry with the Lord, after they received all the teaching and witnessed all the miracles, and their faith was still so weak.
3. Jesus Chose Men Who Lacked Commitment
Jesus graciously warned the disciples they were going to forsake Him, but Peter argued and so did the others:
Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ And so said all the disciples.”Matthew 26:35
But after Jesus’ arrest:
They all forsook Him and fled.Mark 14:50
As long as Jesus performed miracles and things looked good, they were committed to Him. But as soon as He was arrested and they were afraid for their lives, they abandoned the Lord. And again, this is after they were discipled!
4. Jesus chose Men Who Lacked Religious Training
There are lots of interesting observations that can be made about The Twelve:
- They were not well-known or prominent men. The only reason we know anything about them is the Lord chose them.
- There’s no record of them having strong natural talents or abilities.
- There’s no record of them being orators or public speakers.
But probably the oddest thing about the Twelve is none of them were religiously trained. We’re so familiar with them we don’t think much about this, but consider Jesus was choosing men to carry on His work in His absence. If Jesus owned…
- A fishing business, you’d expect Him to choose 12 fishermen.
- A farm, you’d expect Him to choose 12 farmers.
- A construction outfit, you’d expect Him to choose 12 builders.
But even though Jesus’ work was entirely spiritual, He didn’t choose one rabbi, scribe, Pharisee, Sadducee, or priest. He chose men that were going to build the religion of Christianity, but He didn’t choose one recognized religious leader. He chose four fishermen, one tax collector, and other than that we don’t know their occupations. But we can see He chose very common, ordinary men to do the work.
Imagine you’re one of the religious leaders of the day and the Messiah has finally arrived. He’s the most popular individual in history. He chooses His closest associates, and you’re not one of them. Would’ve been very insulting and had to be at least one of the reasons the religious leaders hated Jesus so much.
Few Are Chosen
While preaching the Parable of the Wedding Feast, Jesus said:
Many are called, but few are chosen.Matthew 22:14
That verse doesn’t seem to fit. It seems like Jesus should’ve said, “Many are called, but few respond” because the parable is primarily about people unwilling to accept the King’s invitation (call to salvation).
The many called are those who hear the Gospel. It’s the second step in God’s wonderful plan of redemption in Romans 8:30:
- Whom He predestined
- These He also called
- Whom He called, these He also justified
- Whom He justified, these He also glorified
The call itself takes place:
The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who…sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding.Matthew 22:2-3
The call is to see yourself as a sinner, stop trusting in your own righteousness, embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior, and receive His righteousness by grace through faith.
Of the many called, it’s a much smaller number that actually respond to the Gospel and are saved. They are the few. The “many” and “few” Jesus discusses in Matthew 22:14 are the same “many” and “few” in Matthew 7:13-14:
- Matthew 22:14 MANY are called, but FEW are chosen.
- Matthew 7:13-14 Wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and MANY who go in by it. Narrow is the gate which leads to life, and FEW find it.
The few chosen in Matthew 22:14 are the same few that enter by the narrow gate in Matthew 7:14, are they’re the same few that are predestined, justified and glorified in Romans 8:30.
The Tremendous Balance
In verse 3 after the call goes out it says, “they were not willing to come.” It’s not that they weren’t able to come it’s that they weren’t willing to come.
The call goes out again in verse 4: “Again, [the King] sent out other servants, saying, “Come to the wedding.” But in verses 5 and 6 it says, “They made light of it and went their ways…the rest seized his servants…and killed them.” This group’s rejection is even worse than the first as you again see the people choosing not to come, choosing instead to reject the wonderful love and grace of the King. Then after their rejection, you see that they weren’t “chosen,” looking to the sovereignty of God in choosing the elect.
The finer details of how people are chosen, and why few are chosen instead of many, looks to the very center of the tension between:
- Calvinism and Arminianism
- Unconditional Election versus Conditional Election
- God’s Sovereignty versus Man’s Free Will
This has caused a debate that has raged in the church for centuries, but the truth is if you want to be one of the few chosen as Matthew 22:14 says, and be justified and glorified as Romans 8:30 says, enter by the narrow gate as Matthew 7:13 says by confessing Jesus as Lord.
Would Jesus Choose You?
Are you common and ordinary enough to be chosen and used by the Lord? Do you lack humility, faith, commitment, and religious training?
Then you might be a perfect choice for Jesus!
The Twelve Jesus chose should be a great encouragement to us. They should convince us the Lord can, and wants to, use us too.