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God Doesn't Choose Like Man Chooses

God Doesn’t Choose Like Man Chooses

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:

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…

1. Israel

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.

2. Gideon

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.

3. David

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:

  1. Whom He predestined
  2. These He also called
  3. Whom He called, these He also justified
  4. 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.

6 Responses

  1. This has been a subject that has long fascinated me. I preached a message along the same concept from the story of David’s mighty men in 1 Samuel 22.2 “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.(NIV)
    “…all who were down on their luck came around—losers and vagrants and misfits of all sorts. David became their leader.” (The Message) They were hardly the men anyone would have chosen for the leaders of his army and later of the nation, yet David saw the potential in these men God sent him. In my imagination, I can see David, sweet singer of Israel, leading his men in psalms of worship and praise around the army campfires. When you read the stories of some of the feats of these men, you can see that David instilled in them the same faith he had went out against Goliath. These men became more than just mighty warriors. They became men of great faith and spiritual leadership as described in 1 Chronicles 11:10 “This is a list of the leaders over David’s warriors who helped make David’s kingdom strong. … These heroes and all the people of Israel made David king, just as the LORD had promised.” (NCV)

    I was just getting ready to preach a message on Jesus choosing his disciples from Matthew 9:35 – 10:6 in a series on one of our church’s core values, “Saved people serve people.” With your permission, I’d like to use your material to preach to our congregation.

    I’m sorry. I didn’t start out to write my own blog here. One last thing – I came across a illustration from a sermon by a Jeff Strite on sermoncentral.com that I liked:
    ILLUS: In the 3rd-century, a skeptic named Celsus made fun of Origen (a Christian leader of day) “When most teachers go forth to teach, they cry, ’Come to me, you who are clean and worthy,’ and they are followed by the highest caliber of people available. But your silly master cries, ’Come to me, you who are down and beaten by life,’ and so he accumulates around him the rag, tag and bobtail of humanity.”
    And Origen replied: “Yes, they are the rag, tag and bobtail of humanity. But Jesus does not leave them that way. Out of material you would have thrown away as useless, he fashions men, giving them back their self-respect, enabling them to stand on their feet and look God in the eyes. They were cowed, cringing, broken things. But the Son has set them free.”

    1. David,
      I completely see the parallel with 1 Sam 22. David is a great picture or type of Christ in many ways, and one of the most dramatic relates to the men he chose and transformed. What David did with those men in 1 Sam 22 is a wonderful illustration of what Jesus can do with His followers today.

      Yes, you definitely have my permission. Would be a blessing! If you’d like, please listen to my recent sermons on Jesus choosing the 12 in Luke 6.

  2. 1. In your list of things you are seeking men to teach in you left out teaching in the worship service. This is specifically what I was talking about when I said “Sunday morning”. It is assumed by the power of tradition that only a specially trained man should attempt this. There is nothing in the Bible that assigns any ministry to be restricted in this way. From Paul’s example, every ministry was to be reproduced into others. 1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17; Philippians 4:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:10. Nothing was to be fenced off for one man, not even Paul.
    2. The Bible does not restrict teaching to only those with the gift of teaching. You would not restrict giving to only those with that gift. You would not restrict evangelism to only those with that gift. There should be no restriction on any gift. Gifting is not for restricting but reproducing that function. The great commission teaches every disciple to “make disciples, … teaching them to observe all I commanded.” Col. 3: 16 tells us the “word of Christ will dwell in us richly” as believers “teach and admonish one another”. Tradition has taught us to view teaching as a 30-45 minute Bible lecture. Teaching does not need to be 30-45 minutes by one man. It can be 10 minutes by 2 or 4 men, of any combination. The more men involved, the more gifting and character strengths are on display with the word of God flowing through them. In the one man teacher, teaching is only talking. The Bible presents teaching as talking and example setting. There is no example setting in the teaching of Sunday morning worship.
    3. You did not respond to the 8 scriptures that Paul teaches his example of teaching and leading as a business man, not as one who never works in the marketplace. I realize there are two scriptures used to nullify these 8. This long standing tradition and contradiction must be addressed if we wish for business men to be deeply involved in church life.

    I realize I am asking you to examine how the scripture confronts very deeply held beliefs about church life, which are actually contradictory to what the scriptures say. You see a large majority of believers being passive about church life. You hear them making excuses to exempt themselves from deep commitments to disciple making. This spectating is driven by a system of church with many corruptions. Professionalizing of leadership and restricting certain ministries for only him that force believers to consume 84% of their giving to hire and provide special facilities for that are the foundation of “easy” church.

    May you have a rich time deepening your relationships with men at camp, so deep that you engage in true mutuality. This is well known to be a big problem between those who are paid to lead and those who work in the marketplace. I commend you for your openness and dialogue with me.

    1. Hi Tim,
      I’m actually at Beach Camp with my church, but I wanted to try to get a response to you.
      1. You’re right that I didn’t mention the worship service. That’s in another category than smaller, more intimate settings. The sheer preponderance of verses regarding false teaching makes it clear elders have a responsibility to be careful with those they allow to address the church. This is one of the most important ways for elders to protect/shepherd the flock from wolves.
      2. We disagree on your thoughts about the gift of teaching. Once I encouraged someone to teach who didn’t have the gift of teaching, even though he was fairly reluctant. It was a disaster for him and everyone present. The entire time I kept saying, “This is all my fault. I want to learn from this and never do this again.” No, I wouldn’t restrict giving or evangelism to only those with that gift, but that’s b/c giving/serving and evangelism are commanded of every believer. Public teaching is not commanded of everyone. For example, the requirement of elders to be “apt to teach” implies not everyone can (and thereby should) do so.
      3. When men work full-time and have responsibilities as fathers and husbands, serving the church full-time would be an impossibility without these other more important ministries (to their homes) suffering. This is why Paul said preachers should be paid well (1 Cor 9, 1 Tim 5:17), so they don’t have to try to have two full-time incomes.

      Tim, I pastor WCC. I can’t speak for other churches. I’m not responsible for them; therefore, it’s hard for me to respond to your sentiments b/c they seem to be generalizations of the church at large. While I agree with your third paragraph about many in the church not serving, I will also say one reason I’m very thankful for WCC is we have a larger percentage – especially perhaps compared to other churches – serving faithfully.

      In Christ,
      Scott

  3. Point 4 is very profound. So why is it today that church leaders who do all the teaching, feeding, or equipping on Sunday must all have “religious training”? Why is it that men who sit and listen to 1000+ sermons in their life are never considered taught enough, fed enough, or equipped enough to teach, feed or equip others during this time, even for 5 minutes? I know you did not invent this system of church that keeps Christ’s disciples perpetually dependent on one hired man to lecture the Bible (otherwise called preaching or teaching) for their whole lives. Jesus expected these business men to reproduce to others what Jesus taught them so that those people would reproduce to others. Paul did the same thing. “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Phil 3:17. Paul did all this as a businessman. Acts 18:1-5; 1 Cor. 4:11 – 20; 1 Corinthians 9: 1 – 27; 2 Corinthians 11: 7 – 13; 2 Corinthians 12:11 – 19; 1 Thessalonians 2: 9-12; 2 Thessalonians. 3:6-15; Acts 20:31-35. How can someone who is “full time” in only church work be imitated by those who combine both marketplace work and ministry leadership? The example of Jesus and Paul was to fully define ministry in such a way that any brother could lean to do it. Paul led the Ephesian elders to to full reproduction in 3 years. We have all been designed and enabled by God to practice a form of church far different than what we are currently doing. It may seem impossible to change it, but nothing is impossible with God. What do you think about bringing point 4 into the practice of the local church?

    1. Hi Tim,
      Thanks for your thoughts and questions.

      First, I wouldn’t say “today that church leaders who do all the teaching, feeding, or equipping on Sunday must all have ‘religious training’?” There are other churches – like WCC – where this isn’t the case. It might happen too much in the church today that people look for religious training, but I know there are plenty of church that look for the three things required: calling, willingness, preparedness. And by “preparedness” I don’t necessarily mean “religious training” but I do think there should be preparation for ministry, even if it’s just diligent study of God’s Word. Jesus prepared the disciples before they “laid the foundation for the church” (Eph 2:20).

      The other problem I see – which you didn’t mention, but I suspect you’d agree with – is belief people are called to do something simply b/c they’ve received some religious training; often going through seminary. Having religious training doesn’t mean someone is called or gifted.

      We’re heading to church camp next week and I invited a handful of other men to teach. At WCC we’re regularly looking for men w/ the gift of teaching to have them exercise their gift in Sunday School, home fellowships, providing devotionals for the Lord’s Supper, etc. I’ve been in a church where it’s a one-man-show and I know it’s unbiblical. I’d like to think we strive to see everyone active and serving at WCC. We confront those uninvolved members of the body.

      I agree with you that church is being made “easy” for people. Just come and listen. Don’t worry about serving or being involved. It’s an attractive model, but an unhealthy and unbiblical one.

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