It should be understood that God is the one who initiates salvation; for apart from God initiating salvation we are all like sheep gone astray. This is not to say that man does not exercise his free-will in choosing to reject or receive salvation, but only that it is God’s arm throughout history which continually stretches forth unto us; and thus salvation is ultimately born out of God’s will and not from the desire of man. In John 1:12-13 we are to understand this relationship between God’s will and man’s free choice.
“But as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”
While we know that God extends his call to everybody, It should also be understood that he sovereignly elects people for his divine purpose; such as the apostle Paul and the nation of Israel. This doesn’t mean that God forces them into submission (as the history of Israel clearly illustrates), but rather he persuades them of his prevailing majesty by various different ways and methoods e.g. divine revelation or supernatural encounter; thus “to everyone who has been given much, much will be required.”
How then are we to reconcile the idea of God’s elect with the call of salvation extending unto all men? In order to understand this we first need to understand more about the elects purpose, for this we turn to John 1:6
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might be saved.”
We see that God does not elect people in order that they might simply enjoy salvation from a private booth; rather, they are vessels of mercy that bear witness to the glory of God. The elect are beacons of light through which God initiates salvation unto the world. We see how even Jonah in his day was sent to the Assyrian capital Nineveh to preach repentance among’st the gentiles. God’s election is ultimately reserved for more than that of a remnant, the elect of God are to bear the image of Christ and offer themselves as living sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel.
Now we know that God initially elected Israel as his chosen people, and yet through them rested the abundance of the world:
“Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the gentiles, how much more their fulness!”
Was it not also said unto Abraham?
“And in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed
In the scripture the word elect is used interchangeably for two different Greek words: Ekloge and Eklektos. Up until now we have only been dealing with Ekloge. Ekloge occurs a total of 9 times in the NT, and is used to describe those that are specifically selected out by the grace of God for a divine purpose, those “whom he set apart while they were still in the womb” if you would. Ekloge is used primarily throughout Romans describing the election of Israel and is also used in Acts to describe Paul as a chosen vessel “for a vessel of Ekloge(choice) is this man to me.”
The word Eklektos occurs 23 times throughout the NT and can be used to describe those who become God’s choice by freely receiving his general call which is extended to all. For example, in the parable of the wedding feast Jesus says
“so go to the street corner and invite to the banquet anyone that you can find.. for many care called, but few however are Eklektos(chosen)”
this refers to man’s ability to partake in the election of God by freely responding to the gospel, which is the power of salvation to all that believe.
Both Ekloge and Eklektos represent the body of Christ, as such we are to be extensions of the Lord himself, we are his mouth piece, his instruments for publishing salvation unto all the world. God so closely identifies himself to his followers that we are in essence ambassadors for the Kingdom of Heaven, we are emissaries for the King himself that whoever will believe our message shall be saved.
“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
God has never excluded any from salvation; we must never think in this way, for God shows no partiality to men, but He is gracious unto all. Rather it is man that takes side against God; in doing so God allows the wickedness of man to be carried out, giving them over to depravity. Even so He is constantly stretching forth His hand in mercy, sending His Son that all might be saved.
2 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”