“Many are Called but Few are Chosen.”

In ‘The Hammer of God’ by Bo Giertz , a Sweedish pastor describes God as a man who walks down the roadway with a pointy stick picking up old rusty tin cans and putting them into his sack.

The pastor was trying to make the point to a young pastor how it is with God, that He is the one that does the choosing of us and not the other way around.

The pastor also seems to be making the point that God likes junk. He likes to pick up something that for all intents and purposes seems trashy, discarded, used up, and worthless. He then cleans it up and gives it new life and puts it to use in His service.DSC00090

Does God pick up every old rusty can He comes across, or just certain ones that He chooses?

The Bible says that God chooses some. Jesus says, “many are called , but few are chosen.”

Is this hard saying, troubling to you?  Comforting? Or puzzling? Or would you prefer to just not think about it?

 

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23 Responses

  1. I have never heard this analogy before.

    Is it a hard saying? Yes.

    Comforting? To the saved it is.

    Puzzling? It has been.

    Troubling? No.

    John 6:37 – All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

    John 6:44 – No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

    John 6:65 – And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

    God is God. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the Heavens and Earth. Who is the clay to tell the potter what to fashion?

    In the same manner:

    1 Timothy 2:4 – God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

    1 Timothy 2:6 – Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all

    The Bible does indeed lay out a ‘formula’, if you will, for men to be saved:

    The Gospel should be preached (Rom 10:14,15). Men should repent and trust the Gospel.

    Now, reason all that with the can in the sack!!

    😉

  2. I have never heard this analogy before.

    Is it a hard saying? Yes.

    Comforting? To the saved it is.

    Puzzling? It has been.

    Troubling? No.

    John 6:37 – All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

    John 6:44 – No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

    John 6:65 – And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

    God is God. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the Heavens and Earth. Who is the clay to tell the potter what to fashion?

    In the same manner:

    1 Timothy 2:4 – God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

    1 Timothy 2:6 – Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all

    The Bible does indeed lay out a ‘formula’, if you will, for men to be saved:

    The Gospel should be preached (Rom 10:14,15). Men should repent and trust the Gospel.

    Now, reason all that with the can in the sack!!

    😉

  3. Wayne,

    Thanks for your thoughts on the matter.

    Excellent Bible passages!

    I guess to many who think that what they’ve done ought to be reason enough for God to ‘pick them’, this hard saying of Jesus could be a more than a little disconcerting.

    The Sweedish pastor was responding to the younger pastors statement that he “had made a decision…for Christ.”

    If you have never read it, ‘The Hammer of God’, by Bo Giertz, (there is another book with the same title by Arthur C. Clarke) is a terrific book with lots of great Reformation theolgy and illustrations like ‘the rusty tin can’ analogy.

    Thanks again Wayne!

    – Steve M.

  4. Good analogy. Your post made me think back to a Bible study a few years back on Ephesians. One comment our pastor made that sticks with me is that all (or nearly all) of the verses and passages on election/called-and-chosen-ness are in the context of addressing believers. In other words, he said, if you believe, then you have been called AND chosen.

  5. I think Wayne has laid out some good passages to consider… It becomes very evident when ruminating on this topic, that the ‘Life of Faith’ is just that, faith. Our lives in Christ our replete with ambiguities and seeming paradoxes. Our ‘reason’ simply fails us when trying to imagine the mind of God and how the Holy Spirit makes faith “work”. How is the unseen wind described? When a person is enabled by the Spirit to confess Jesus Christ as Lord, it is precisely because the Spirit enabled the person. When the cross of Christ is actually ‘done’ to a sinner, the response is, “Thank you Lord, this is a gift not of my own doing”. To imagine coming to God from within our own power and reason is dangerous because it surely skirts the cross (no one would choose to be crucifies along with Christ) it is in the cross and only the cross that God intends to be found. So we sinners coming to Christ is purely a work of God and we have nothing to boast but the glory of Jesus Christ.

  6. Hannah,

    I like that which your pastor said in your Ephesians Bible study, “if you believe, then you have been called AND chosen.
    My pastor says pretty much the same thing. Some of us actually believe him.

    Brent,

    I like that you pointed out the seeming paradoxes and ambiguities that are evident in our Christian lives.

    For while God has called and chosen us to be His children, we are still disobedient in our actions towards Him and our neighbors.

    We are a ‘rusty tin can’ and we are a ‘perfectly righteous believer’, inheritor of the riches of the Kingdom of God at the same time.

    I guess the real mystery is why He chooses some and not others.

    Thanks Hannah, thanks Brent!

  7. I love the idea that God likes junk. Although, I doubt God sees junk… as junk. I believe God sees the soul and heart within, that which He created. Scripture tells us that Jesus came for the sick, the poor and sinners (for all). We are all sinners, even the polished pieces of silver and gold. Inside—all are sinners.

    John 3:13-18

    13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[a] 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.[b]

    16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[c] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.[d]

  8. The passage quoted by Magdalene is great, but you need to include the next section:

    “And this is the judgement – the light has come into this world and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does wicked deeds hates the light and does not come to it, lest his deeds be exposed”.

    God’s ‘call’ goes out to all of us, but the painful reality is that people (you, me, the guy next door) love darkness. It is only when, by pure grace, that awful state is torn away and we are made to see ‘the quickening ray’ of His saving truth that things can be any different.

    Without such mercy, we are all merely a hair’s breath from the eve of destruction.

  9. My understanding of scripture tells me that all the cans (sinners) are gathered. No can is beyond God’s grace or mercy and love.

    God offers His Son as a gift to be received (to the world). Everyone who believes (receives) in the Son of God may have eternal life. “Whoever” believes in Him is not condemned…”

    Whoever does not believe stands condemned… and these are the people God does not “choose”.

    God will know them by their heart.

    The saying is a little troubling, because we so want to be chosen.

  10. Howard,

    A sober reminder of the depth of our brokeness and the awesome mercy of our Lord Jesus.
    As you say , Howard, it is a close and dangerous step into the crevasse of eternal darkness.

    Thanks be to God that He has had mercy on us.

    – Steve M.

  11. Magdalene,

    It seems to me that your understanding of the scriptures boils down to this…’if we are chosen by God it is His doing… and if we reject God it is our doing.’

    That is what I make of the scriptures also. Many, however, reject this view in favor of the doctrine of ‘free will’. They say we have the ability to choose God …or not.
    I think they are correct in the last part of their statement only.

  12. Howard,

    It always comes down to … perfection and living a sinless life. Deeds (doing) again? Walking in light … always? Is it possible? I have never known such a perfect person.

    Can the rusty can become restored in such a way that he/she will sin no more (on earth)?

    Perhaps this is why we feel uneasy (because we are not so sure).

    I have come to the conclusion that the answer is, no. We cannot become “sinless” (until we enter Heaven) … but, of course, we try.

    God sent us more gifts… the Holy Spirit and the Holy Sacraments (the means of grace) that help us (comfort) in our journey. God is with us each step of the way.

    The man who “loves” darkness: I understand him/her to be an unbeliever.

    The believer “hates” darkness, but “struggles” with it and seeks God’s help. Is this your understanding?

    Howard, God knew our journey to Heaven would not be easy. I appreciate your comments – I am always open to correction.

  13. Magdalene,
    I’m really not seeking to advocate any belief in a ‘sinless perfection’ on out part – far from it!
    I’m merely wanting to state one thing real clear – all of us stand in the same condition before God – judged as guilty – just as Paul concludes after his devastating opening in the opening of Romans (Chapters 1&2).

    “And you were dead in trespasses and sins, following the course of this world”. I am, by nature, a child of Adam, a member of a race entirely marked by sin and disobedience. If I amount to any more than that, it is entirely because of grace – because HE died for me, HE rescued me, HE gave me a new nature, HE grants me the faith to trust in His unbreakable promises.

    The old man in me wants to head back to ‘Egypt’ everyday – but because of grace, as we pass through this valley of weeping, our eyes can look higher, and cry ‘you are my sun and my shield’.

    Now is the righteousness of God revealed…through faith in Jesus Christ, our Redemption! Amazing Grace!

    Yours in His imputed righteousness,

    Howard.

  14. Steve,

    ‘if we are chosen by God it is His doing… ‘

    It is all God’s doing. It’s God’s plan, God’s Will and God has already won the war. Your Revelation study will reveal many of these things—it’s an exciting study!

    My understanding: When God sent His Son/Cross, we were chosen then. Jesus is a gift to the world, therefore, God chose us. With that, one must keep in mind, that no one gets to the Father except through His Son (Jesus Christ). God makes it very clear the manner in which His gift is to be received.

    The second part of your question:

    ‘… and if we reject God it is our doing.’

    Again, in your Revelation study, you will notice how God relentlessly tries to get the unbeliever’s attention. God seeks the unbelievers—to repent. Like a father disciplining his children. Some people “love” darkness… they thirst for it… refuse/hate to see the light. Some people are simply evil and their hearts are hardened. This world will not end until everyone has heard the Gospel. Man has to take some of the responsibility here IMHO.

    Steve, I believe we are in agreement. 😉

  15. Howard,

    Amen. I am in full agreement. You wrote it so much better… (thank you). 😉

    “all of us stand in the same condition before God – judged as guilty – just as Paul concludes after his devastating opening in the opening of Romans (Chapters 1&2).”

  16. Magdalene,

    Yes, our God is patient and merciful. He does indeed ‘do it all’.

    I’m going to the Revelation Bible study tonight. If the opportunity arrises, I’ll try and bring up this issue. If not, then maybe next time.

    I have enjoyed our discussion on this topic very much.

    Thanks!

    – Steve

  17. Hi Steve,
    Follow is an excerpt from a post of mine on predestination:

    “A common objection to Calvinism, to predestination, refers to our responsibility, or inferred lack thereof, in regards to the Great Commission, the going out into the world and making disciples. The argument goes that if God has already chosen those who will spend eternity with Him, where is the need for evangelism? What we do with and how we feel about the doctrine of election predestination is, in the final analysis, irrelevant in regards to what I perceive to be the biblical veracity of predestination. The fact remains that Christ chose His church to be the primary means, the vector, for bringing the Gospel to the chosen brothers and sisters who are in the world, spread across the centuries and across the continents. He tells his church to go to the nations and make disciples, and we, out of love, obey. It is ultimately the work of the Father to bring fruit from our evangelical efforts that the praise should be directed to Him and the power of His Word, not our methods.

    I have tried to think of an analogy that would be helpfully illustrative. Perhaps this is it: the church can be thought of as the tool that holds the magnet that attracts and separates the ferrous from the non-ferrous. God uses the church to sweep over the world the message of redemption through the resurrected Christ. Those that respond are the misshapen and broken bits of iron and steel that will be, over time in the cauldron of discipleship, molded to the image of Christ. Iron has no choice in how it reacts to the magnet. The world has no hold on it.”

    Also, I quite enjoy your blog. Too, thank you for your thoughtful comments on my blog.

    In His grip,

    Ron

  18. Ron,

    Thanks for giving us quite a lot to think about with respect to prededstination and the doctrine of election.

    Your ‘magnet’ analogy is quite interesting. I have never heard this doctrine described like that before. It is a very attractive way to look at the matter. (sorry about that)

    It’s late, so I won;t try and anaylize it right now. but I’m going to take a look at it again tomorrow and see what I think about your idea.

    Thanks agin, Ron!

    – Steve

  19. Steve,

    Yea, I am quite open to input. If I am found to be in error, I need brothers to help me. As with the doctrine of the Trinity, good analogies for the doctrine of predestination are difficult to find and usually have some point that could use clarification. I will be away from my PC till Monday, but I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    In His grip,

    Ron

  20. Some comments from a Christian whose beliefs include – the depravity of man, salvation by grace, election, and predestination.

    When we are physically born into this world we all are spiritually dead in trespasses and sin. God looked down on the earth and saw that none were righteous, no, not one. None sought after God.

    The degenerate cannot understand or do spiritual things – they are all foolishness to him. Just as it was impossible for us to contribute in any way to our physical birth, we cannot contribute to our spiritual birth either. When we are physically dead, we can’t do physical things such as walk. Since, when we are born, we are spiritually dead, we cannot do spiritual things (having faith in Jesus) nor do we want to do them.

    So, God draws His children, whom He chose before the foundation of the world, to Himself. HE CHOSE His children – they did not choose Him. We love Him because He first loved us. He did not look down in time to see who would choose Him and based on the choosing of man, He was then able to make His choice. That gives man the glory for his own salvation, not God. God’s choice was not based on the works of man. Choosing to have faith in God and recognizing Jesus as one’s personal savior, would be a work because it would be something that man does.

    It is impossible for man to have faith in Jesus without having spiritual life because, until his rebirth, man is spiritually dead. Having faith in Jesus is a spiritual, not physical, act.
    It is AFTER God’s irresistible calling of his elect people that they are reborn and then have faith. Faith is a fruit of the spirit. Just as an apple is a fruit of a tree and comes after the tree is planted and grows, faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us AFTER God gives us spiritual life. The tree has to exist before the apple. The spirit has to exist in us before we can have faith. Having faith is a sign that one IS a child of God who has already been reborn and was saved by the shed blood of Jesus. Jesus did not shed His precious blood for the ones that God had not chosen.

    Those that God foreknew, he predestinated to spend eternity with Him. (Foreknew does not mean He knew who would choose Him. It means He knew who His elect were before the foundation of the earth. He knew them as a people set apart from the rest of the world. )

    Because God is sovereign, He can choose whom He pleases. Who are we to question Him or to say that it is not fair that some were elected and others not? We were all doomed to hell. So, anyone that goes to hell is getting what he deserves despite the fact that others are spared from that destination.

    God’s ways are different than ours – higher than ours. His ways are perfect. So, however He decided who He would elect, it was a perfect choice because God made it. Just as the potter may make one one vessel to honor and another to dishonor, because the clay is his to do with as he pleases, God can do as He pleases with his clay. No one has the right to ask Him why or how He does so. He is a perfect, sovereign, loving God. What He does is right.

    God loves His chosen people so much that He sacrificed His own Son to die for the sins of His elect. What a sacrifice! What love! Every child of God that Jesus died for will be saved. God will call them to Himself and they will be regenerated. God would not let His beloved Son suffer needlessly, that is, to suffer the punishment for anyone who was not going to be saved. Jesus did not die for everyone – just those that His Father gave HIm.

    God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should have everlasting life.

    The word “world” doesn’t always mean the entire human race. There are many places in the Bible where the word “world” means only a group of people – the Roman world, the Jewish world, the Gentile world, etc. The world of his elect, the ones Jesus suffered and died for, is the meaning of the word “world” in this verse. God did not love the whole world. Among other passages, the one where He says that He loved Jacob but hated Esau, neither one having been born nor having done good or evil, shows that He did not love everyone and that He did not send Jesus to die for the whole human race.

    Believeth means one is already believing. It is present tense. It does not mean “will believe”. So this text from the Bible means that God loved His elect (the ones that He gave to His Son) so much that He sent Jesus to die for them. Those who believe, are believing, in Him will have everlasting life. That is because the believing indicates that they have been reborn and therefore are one of His chosen.

    What comfort it is to know that ALL of salvation is in the hands of our Lord who is perfect in all that He does. He does not need man’s permission or his acceptance or his help in order to save His chosen people. ALL of the glory belongs to Him. Blessed be the name of our Lord.

  21. Brenda,

    Excellent comments! Thanks for a terrific overview of how God makes all this happen.

    He truly is an amazing God!

    People often ask me why we have to preach and teach and baptise, if God has already chosen His people. I tell them because God wants it that way. Jesus commanded that we do so. This is the way that God has decided to impart His faith to His chosen.

    The I usually say, You got a problem wit dat!?

    Thanks a lot, Brenda!

    – Steve

  22. Steve,

    Thanks for the positive feedback.

    You are certainly right in saying that Jesus told us to spread the Word. God also told us to “take my yoke upon you, and learn of me . . .” We learn about Him through reading the Bible and hearing the Word preached.

    God wrote us a “How to Live” manual. In the Bible God instructs His children on how they are to live to be faithful disciples. Hearing the Word preached does not save anyone eternally but, hearing the Word and then living by it as best we can, will save us from many pitfalls here on earth. Much of the text in the Bible that refers to salvation is referring to salvation here in time not the eternal salvation as many misinterpret it. If these verses are taken out of context and are not rightly divided, they can confuse God’s children.

    The Bible was written to God’s chosen people, His elect, His children. Of course, the moral laws set forth in the Bible are for all people in order to keep some law and order here on earth. God’s chosen people need to hear and want to hear about our triune God, not only to know how we are to live to please Him, but also to feel the joy, comfort, and peace that one gets from hearing about the salvation He has provided for us through His Son. What comfort one can feel just knowing that God is in control, that He will save His chosen people, and that everything that He does is right and perfect whether man understands it or not.

    As you stated, Jesus told His chosen to be baptized. It is a public expression of one’s belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and a commitment to follow after Him in faithful discipleship. It is pleasing to the Lord for His children to do this as they are told in the Bible.

    Your response to those who question why preaching, teaching, and being baptized are needed, if God has already chosen His people was a very good reply. They must not know yet that after one of God’s children has been reborn, he wants please God. The regenerated person wants to hear about God and to serve, worship, and glorify Him in the manner laid out in His Book – this is because he has already been saved eternally not so he will be saved eternally.

    God has blessed ministers with an understanding of the Word so that they can feed their flocks. The preaching of the Word is for His chosen people. They are the only ones (after rebirth) who truly want to hear about God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. The unregenerate cannot understand the preaching of the Word because it is spiritually discerned. The preaching of the Word is foolishness to those who have not been given spiritual life. The Bible is for God’s chosen people because they want to hear the Word preached.

    May God richly bless you,
    Brenda

  23. Brenda,

    You are a wise woman. You realize that this whole enterprise depends on Jesus saving work for us on the cross, and that there is nothing we can do to add to that.

    It is my hope and prayer that you will continue to share this with others.

    God bless you!

    – Steve

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