The good shepherd

The transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua took place shortly before the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and entered the land of Canaan. At the end of Moses’ life, Numbers 27:12-17 tells us:

The Lord said to Moses, “Go up into this mountain of Abarim and see the land that I have given to the people of Israel. When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled, failing to uphold me as holy at the waters before their eyes.” (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.) Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”

Moses’ association of the people of Israel with sheep was due at least in part to the substitutionary process of atonement that had become a part of the Israelites’ daily lives. When a burnt offering was made, it says in Leviticus 1:3-4 that the person making the offering was to “bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.” The people of Israel understood that the burnt offering was being sacrificed in their place and that the sacrifice was meant to pay the penalty for the person’s sin so that the person’s sin could be cancelled or forgiven by God (H7521/H3722). The daily burnt offering consisted of “two male lambs a year old without blemish, day by day, as a regular offering” (Numbers 28:3). Therefore, large flocks of sheep were necessary to sustain the Israelites’ daily sacrifices.

Moses’ depiction of the Israelites as “sheep that have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:17) established the importance of the role of a shepherd in the spiritual lives of God’s people. The Hebrew word that is translated shepherd, raʿah (raw-awˊ) appears in Jacob’s blessing of his son Joseph as a reference to Jesus. It says in Genesis 49:23-24, “The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel).” King David also referred to God as his shepherd. Psalm 23 illustrates how God’s spiritual leadership works in the lives of believers. It states:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever. (Psalm 23:1-6)

The Hebrew word raʿah also appears in the book of Jeremiah in connection with faithless Israel being called to repentance. Jeremiah 3:12-15 states:

“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
    for I am merciful,
declares the Lord;
I will not be angry forever.

Only acknowledge your guilt,
    that you rebelled against the Lord your God
and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree,
    and that you have not obeyed my voice,
declares the Lord.
Return, O faithless children,
declares the Lord;
    for I am your master;
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
    and I will bring you to Zion.

And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.’”

The Apostle Paul identified the shepherd as one of the essential roles in the body of Christ in his letter to the Ephesians. Paul said, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). The King James Version of the Bible states Ephesians 4:12 this way, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Paul identified edification as a key feature of spiritual growth and said, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the whole body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

Jesus told his disciples, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32) and then, he added:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:1-5)

Jesus used the illustration of entering and exiting the sheepfold to depict the process of salvation that God used to make him the Savior of the World and said, “he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1). Jesus’ death on the cross was a critical component in God’s plan of salvation because the penalty for everyone’s sins had to be paid in order for his sacrifice to be sufficient to save us. Jesus said that anyone who “climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber” because some of the Jews’ religious leaders were teaching them that they could be saved by keeping the Mosaic Law and were in essence stealing souls from God’s kingdom.

Jesus told the Jews:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:7-15)

Jesus indicated that the shepherd is the owner of the sheep (John 10:12) and said, “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father” (John 10:14-15). The Greek word that Jesus used that is translated know, ginosko (ghin-oceˊ-ko) means to know in an absolute sense through the perception of the mind and has to do with “what one is or professes to be…with the idea of volition or goodwill: to know and approve or love, to care for” (G1097).

Jesus talked about being the door of the sheep and said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:7, 9). Jesus discussed entrance into the kingdom of heaven at length with a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3) and went on to say, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). The Greek word that is translated lifted up, hupsoo (hoop-soˊ-o) speaks literally “of the ‘lifting’ up of Christ in His crucifixion” (G5312). The belief that gains us entrance into the kingdom of heaven is that Christ died for our sins, not that he is just “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), but that Christ died for me personally and is the atoning sacrifice for my sin, one that satisfies the debt I owe to God completely (Leviticus 1:4; Hebrews 10:1-18).

Jesus said that all who came before him were thieves and robbers (John 10:8). This seems to suggest that all of the Old Testament and even the New Testament priests were intentionally leading the people of Israel astray. Israel’s first High Priest, Moses’ brother Aaron, was responsible for the people of Israel worshipping a golden calf (Exodus 32:2-6) and Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu were killed for offering unauthorized fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-2). The connection between Israel’s priests and Satan’s attempt to thwart God’s plan of salvation is particularly evident in Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Luke’s gospel tells us, “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd” (Luke 22:1-6).

Jesus said that, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Jesus’ reference to the thief in this instance might be construed to mean Satan or the devil who are considered to be the enemies of our souls (1 Peter 5:8). In his explanation of the parable of the sower, Jesus indicated that Satan is able to stop people from being saved by preventing the gospel from taking root in their hearts. Jesus told his disciples, “The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them” (Mark 4:14-15). The Greek words that are translated steal, kill, and destroy in John 10:10 have to do with the eternal state of a person’s soul. The Greek word that is translated destroy, apollumi (ap-olˊ-loo-mee) means “to destroy fully” and is “spoken of eternal death, i.e. future punishment, exclusion from the Messiah’s kingdom…This eternal death is called the second death (Revelation 20:14).” With respect to sheep, apollumi means “to be lost to the owner (Luke 21:18; John 6:12)” and is “spoken of those who wander away and are lost, e.g. the prodigal son (Luke 15:24); sheep straying in the desert (Luke 15:4, 6)” (G622).

In his first letter, Peter talked about straying sheep returning to the Shepherd. Peter said of Jesus, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25). When Jesus sent out his twelve apostles to preach the gospel, he instructed them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6), but later Jesus relented when a Canaanite woman asked him to heal her daughter. Matthew 15:24-28 states:

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep further illustrated the great lengths to which God was willing to go in order to save a lost soul. Luke’s account of this parable states:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:1-7)

Jesus portrayed the shepherd as rejoicing because he had found his lost sheep, but clarified what had actually happened when he said that there was joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. One of the ways we know we are saved is that we experience God’s presence through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When we repent of our sins, we make it possible for our fellowship with God to be restored. The Apostle Paul explained the reconciliation that takes place when we are saved in his letter to the Ephesians. Paul said:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:11-16)

After he told the Jews that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). The Greek word that is translated abundantly, perissos (per-is-sosˊ) is derived from the word peiro in the sense of going beyond the boundaries of ordinary existence. Peiro “means ‘on the other side, across,’ is used with the definite article, signifying the regions ‘beyond,’ the opposite shore” (G4008). From that standpoint, the abundant life that Jesus was talking about may have been a type of heaven on earth, an ability to experience eternal life in the here and now.

Jesus told the Jews, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11), and then, went on to say, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:17-18). Jesus indicated that he was laying down his life for the sheep of his own accord. In other words, Jesus wasn’t being forced to sacrifice himself for the sins of the world. Jesus had the same free will that we do and was given the ability to decide for himself whether or not he would go through with the crucifixion. The reason why Jesus did it was because he knew he would be resurrected three days later. Matthew’s gospel tells us:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:21-23)

Jesus rebuked Peter because he was looking at things from a human perspective. The only way we can really comprehend and truly appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is by looking at things from an eternal perspective.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:24-28)

Chosen by God

Jesus used the parable of the wedding feast to teach his disciples the difference between being saved and being sanctified. He said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come” (Matthew 22:2-3). The invitation to the wedding feast represented God’s divine call to partake of the blessings of redemption. Even though the invitation could be refused as was stated in their response “they would not come,” attendance at the wedding feast was not optional with regards to participation in the kingdom of heaven. After a second invitation was sent out, Jesus said, “But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city” (Matthew 22:5-7). The similarity between what happened in Jesus’ parable and what happened to the nation of Israel when they rejected God and were sent into captivity seems to suggest that the invitation to the wedding feast was an open one that could be accepted at anytime because God brought the Israelites back to the Promised Land and gave them a second chance.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians stated that “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved…For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9). Paul explained that the reason why some people reject God’s invitation to be saved is because of their dulled spiritual perception. He said, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Ephesians 4:17-18). The Greek word that is translated alienated, apallotrioo (ap-al-lot-ree-o’) means “to be non-participant” (G526). In other words, the reason why people are not saved is because they choose to not participate. As was stated in Jesus’ parable, “they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business” (Matthew 22:5).

The lives of Jacob and his twelve sons were also somewhat of a parable in that they illustrated the various ways that people become alienated from God. Jacob described his son Joseph as being “set apart from his brothers.” That meant that Joseph was consecrated, “separated from his brethren to become the savior of his father, his brethren, and their families” (H5139). Initially, Joseph’s brothers rejected his role in God’s plan of salvation, but when there was a famine in the land and they had no food to eat, “Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground” (Genesis 42:6) just as it had been revealed to them in a dream (Genesis 37:9). Joseph’s brothers accepted his invitation to come and live with him in Egypt so that their families wouldn’t starve to death and although Jacob was at first stunned by the news that his son Joseph was still alive, he too accepted Joseph’s invitation and went to live in the land of Goshen, a fertile valley where his family was able to thrive and multiply in numbers over hundreds of years so that God could make them into a great nation (Genesis 46:3).

Jacob’s twelve sons all participated in God’s provision for their physical needs, but their destinies with respect to the eternal kingdom that God planned to establish on earth were not the same. Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph resulted in him receiving the blessing that was bestowed on Abraham and Isaac, the blessing that Jacob had stolen from his brother Esau (Genesis 27:18-23). Rather than passing the blessing to Joseph, Jacob gave his blessing to Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim. He said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” (Genesis 48:15-16). Jacob’s mention of the angel who redeemed him from all evil was a reference to the man he wrestled with until the breaking of the day (Genesis 32:24), the preincarnate Jesus Christ (Genesis 32:30). Jacob had struggled all his life to prevail, first with his brother Esau and then, with his uncle Laban; but as he was about to reenter the land of Canaan, “he was shown that it was with God that he must ‘wrestle'” (note on Genesis 32:24, KJSB). It was at that time that Jacob’s name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28), which means “he struggles with God” (note on Genesis 32:28, KJSB).

The Greek word paliggenesia (pal-ing-ghen-es-ee’-ah) which means “(spiritual) rebirth” (G3824) is translated as the new world in Matthew 19:28-30 where it states:

“Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Paliggenesia is translated in the King James Version of the Bible as regeneration and refers to “that free act of God’s mercy and power by which He removes the sinner from the kingdom of darkness and places him in the kingdom of light; it is that act by which God brings him from death to life. In the act itself (rather than the preparation for it), the recipient is passive, just as a child has nothing to do with his own birth” (G3824).

The Greek word paliggenesia is related to the word pale (pal’-ay) which means to wrestle and “is used figuratively in Ephesians 6:12, of the spiritual conflict engaged in by believers (G3823). Paul said that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” It seems that the struggle that every believer engages in is first to overcome his or her own resistance to being saved by God and then, to overcome the attempts of the devil to undermine that decision. “The new birth and regeneration do not represent successive stages in spiritual experience, they refer to the same event but view it in different aspects” (G3824). Anakainosis (an-ak-ah’-ee-no-sis) means “‘a renewal’ and is used in Romans 12:2 ‘the renewing (of your mind).’ i.e. the adjustment of the moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God, which is designed to have a transforming effect upon the life; and stresses the willing response on the part of the believer” (G342).

In his parable of the wedding feast, Jesus pointed out that there was more to the process of salvation that just accepting God’s invitation to enter his kingdom. The king who prepared the banquet for his son told his servants, “‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as your find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:8-14). The wedding garment that was required to be worn by every guest was likely symbolic of the regeneration that is expected to place when a person is born again. Regeneration is an outward manifestation of being chosen by God. Paul said that God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4) and that the purpose of salvation is to “unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).

The Greek word that is translated unite in Ephesians 1:10, can also be translated as “gather together as one” (KJV), but the primary focus of this word is to identify the main point or objective God had in mind when he decided to save the world. According to Jesus’ parable, the servants of the king “went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good” (Matthew 22:10). When the king came in to look at the guests, he didn’t evaluate them based on their character, but focused his attention on a man who wasn’t wearing a wedding garment (Matthew 22:11). The wedding garments that were worn by the guests unified the bad and the good and made them appear to belong together, but the man who wasn’t wearing a wedding garment didn’t fit in, he was actually an imposter like the weeds that were sown among the wheat by the landowner’s enemy while he was sleeping in Jesus’ parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:25). When the king discovered the man without a wedding garment, he asked him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12). The Greek word that is translated friend, hetairos (het-ah’-ee-ros) refers to a comrade or fellow clansman (G2083). Jesus used this word when he greeted Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane after he had been betrayed by him (Matthew 26:50). Judas was one of Jesus’ disciples and yet, he was never regenerated, he never adjusted his moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God (G342).

After he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, “Then Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come” (Genesis 49:1). Jacob spent the last moments of his life revealing how each of his twelve sons fit into God’s plan of salvation. The Hebrew word that is translated called, qara’ (kaw-raw’) refers to God’s election of Jacob’s twelve sons to become his chosen people. Jesus correlated the twelve tribes of Israel with his twelve disciples when he said, “Truly I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). Jesus may or may not have intended Judas to be included in that promise, but it seems that Judas’ initial calling entitled him to special privileges that he may have forfeited by not conforming to God’s will. Jacob’s instruction to “gather yourselves together” meant that his sons were being addressed collectively and could be considered to be a single unit as when Jesus’ followers are referred to as “one body” (Ephesians 4:4). In that sense, Jacob was addressing not only his family, but also the nation of Israel and the course it would follow for the rest of its existence.

One of the most notable aspects of Jacob’s discourse was the messianic prophecy that was associated with his son Judah. He stated:

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be obedience of the peoples. Binding a foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes.” (Genesis 49:8-11).

The King James Version of Genesis 49:10 states, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Shiloh is an epithet of the Messiah and indicated that when Jesus was born, a gathering of God’s people became possible. Therefore, the uniting of God’s people was contingent upon Jesus coming to save the world.

Paul talked about believers being one in Christ and said, “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:11-16). The Greek term that is translated reconcile, apokatallasso (ap-ok-at-al-las’-so) is derived from the words apo (apo’) which signifies a reversal, “away (from something near)” (G575) and katallasso (kat-al-las’-so) which means “to change mutually” (G2644). Katallasso means “to change, exchange; hence of persons, to change from enmity to friendship, to reconcile. With regard to the relationship between God and man, reconciliation is what God accomplishes, exercising His grace toward sinful man on the ground of the death of Christ in propitiatory sacrifice under the judgment due to sin (2 Cor. 5:18-20). By reason of this men in their sinful condition and alienation from God are invited to be reconciled to Him; that is to say, to change their attitude, and accept the provision God has made, whereby their sins can be remitted and they themselves be justified in His sight in Christ.”

Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast illustrated God’s genuine desire to be reconciled to all of mankind by the king instructing his servants to “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find” (Matthew 22:9). The servants “gathered all whom they found, both bad and good” (Matthew 22:10). The designation of both bad and good being gathered together indicated that the guests were not all in the same state of regeneration when they came to the feast. Jesus pointed out that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14), suggesting that regeneration only occurs if a lost person is both called and chosen. After many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him, Jesus asked his twelve apostles, “Do you want to go away also?” (John 6:66-67). Peter answered that they had no where else to go for salvation and then, Jesus responded, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil” (John 6:70). Like the man who refused to put on a wedding garment before he entered the feast, Judas Iscariot wasn’t interested in accepting Jesus’ righteousness in place of his own. After Judas left the upper room to betray him, Jesus told the eleven apostles that remained, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 1516).

Jesus’ statement to his disciples suggests that being chosen by God is not enough to participate in his kingdom’s activities. The Greek word that is translated appointed, tithemi (tith’-ay-mee) is used by Paul in reference to his service in the ministry of the gospel (G5087). Paul said, “I thank him who has given me strength in Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13). Paul stated in his second letter to the Thessalonians, “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Paul indicated that we are saved through sanctification and belief in the truth. The Greek word Paul used that is translated sanctification, hagiasmos (hag-ee-as-mos’) is properly translated as “purification, i.e. (the state) purity” (G38). “Hagiasmos signifies separation to God and the resultant state…Sanctification is thus the state predetermined by God for believers, into which in Grace He calls them, and in which they begin their Christian course and so pursue it.” The only way this can happen is for a person to believe in the truth of the gospel “that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).