- Prologue: God Draws People to Himself
- God’s People Belong to God
- God’s People Are His Family
- God’s People Are His Church
This chapter looks at the standing or position of God’s people in relationship to God. Probably the most basic aspect of this is that they belong to God, as his people. As such the relationship between believers and God is both a strong one and a close one. This is underlined by them being his family and also his church.
This section contains some teaching which contrasts with teaching elsewhere in the Bible – and has been the subject of much debate. It teaches that God chooses (or elects) some people to be his, and so to be saved. Yet the Bible also teaches that God desires and provides for the salvation of all people (cf. God invites all people to come to him and be saved . . .; . . . For God wants all people to be saved). In coming to terms with this “tension” in Scripture, one should bear in mind that as the Bible teaches both “sides”, the truth lies in both of them, as opposed to a position that is a compromise of both (cf. BBC).
Mark 13:20 [Jesus:] If the Lord had not shortened those days, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect whom he has chosen, he has shortened those days. ISV
Luke 18:7a Won’t God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? NET
God’s people are in view in the above verses as “the elect whom he has chosen” (Mark 13:20) and “his chosen ones” (Luke 18:7a).
James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? NET
Acts 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this [that God had extended his salvation to Gentiles], they began to rejoice and praise the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed. NET
The use of “appointed” speaks of God choosing people for eternal life.
Acts 2:39 [Peter, telling a crowd of the promise of the Holy Spirit:] For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. ESV
This verse supports the assertion that those who are God’s people have been called to be by God.
John 6:44 [Jesus:] No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. NET
Acts 11:20-23 But among them [believers] were some men from Cyprus and Cyrene who came to Antioch and began talking to the Hellenistic Jews too, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. 21The hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 22When the church in Jerusalem heard this news, they sent Barnabas all the way to Antioch. 23When he arrived, he rejoiced to see what the grace of God had done, and with a hearty determination he continuously encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord. ISV
The people’s belief and turning to the Lord (v. 21b) is attributed to neither how the message was presented nor the people’s own initiative, but to the “hand of the Lord” (v. 21a) – evidencing “the grace of God” (v. 23).
Rom 9:10-18 [Paul:] Not only that, but when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our ancestor Isaac — 11even before they were born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose in election would stand, not by works but by his calling) — 12it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger,” 13just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! 15For he says to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17For the scripture says to Pharaoh: “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may demonstrate my power in you, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then, God has mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy, and he hardens whom he chooses to harden. NET
The basic thrust of this passage is that God has mercy on who he wants or chooses to – which he has the right to do. Thus God’s purpose for people and their destiny – in this life (vv. 11-12, 17) and the next (cf. vv. 22-23) – depends on God’s mercy. In illustrating this in the case of Jacob and Esau, “hated” (v. 13) is used in a relative sense (cf. AMP, CEV), to emphasize God’s choice of Jacob over Esau.
1Pet 2:9a [Peter, to believers:] However, you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God. GW
Col 3:12 [Paul, to believers:] God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. CEV
Isa 63:8a He [God] said, “Certainly they will be my people, children who are not disloyal.” NET
2Chr 13:10a [Abijah, king of Judah:] But as for us, the Lord is our God and we have not rejected him. NET
Deut 28:10 [Moses, to the Israelites:] Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. NKJV
Being called by God’s name identifies God’s people as his, showing their unique relationship with him and is reflective of them being part of his family (as per the following section, God’s People Are His Family). Note that references to being called (i.e. named or identified) by God’s name may simply be speaking of being called “God’s” (or “the Lord’s”; cf. Isa 44:5) or “God’s people”.
Rom 14:8 [Paul, to believers:] If we live, it is for the Lord that we live, and if we die, it is for the Lord that we die. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. GNT
John 10:29 [Jesus, referring to his followers:] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. NET
Eph 2:19 [Paul, to non-Jewish believers:] So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, … NET
As members of God’s household, God’s people are in effect his family (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT) – as the following subsections reflect.
Rom 1:7 To all those loved by God in Rome, called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! NET
John 1:12-13 But to all who have received him [Jesus Christ] – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children 13– children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God. NET
Those who accept Jesus and believe in him (v. 12a) are enabled to become God’s children (v. 12b) – born of God (v. 13) into spiritual life.
Rom 8:17 [Paul, to believers:] And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) – if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him. NET
Matt 12:49-50 And pointing toward his disciples he [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” NET
Matt 23:8 [Jesus, to his followers:] But you must not be called ‘Teacher,’ because you have only one Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters together. NCV™
The term “church” denotes an assembly or body of believers that belong to God. Additionally it can be used more generally of God’s people as a whole – the worldwide church.
Acts 20:28 [Paul, to the Ephesian church leaders:] Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. NET
John 13:13-14 [Jesus, to his disciples:] You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. NET
Heb 3:6a But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. NET
This speaks of Jesus Christ being “in charge” (CEV, GNT, NLT) of God’s house or church – i.e. its ruler.
1Cor 3:16 [Paul, to the Corinthian church:] Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? NET
Eph 2:21-22 He [Jesus Christ] is the one who holds the whole building together and makes it grow into a sacred temple dedicated to the Lord. 22In union with him you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through his Spirit. GNT
In v. 21 the universal church appears to be in view. This may also be the case in v. 22, although there Paul may be turning the focus to the Ephesian church in particular. Bear in mind that the assertion in the above subheading is applicable to the universal church and also to individual churches, with each church’s members together forming a spiritual building.
Acts 10:33 [Cornelius, to Peter:] Therefore I sent for you at once, and you were kind enough to come. So now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to say to us. NET