TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth Edition

I.  Basics

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Chapter 16  Part I

Basics

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.

Prologue: God Draws People to Himself

See also:

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 and Jesus Christ invite all people to come to them and be saved . . .; . . . For God wants all people to be saved, making salvation open to everyone) and in conjunction with this that all people have the choice of whether to respond to him or not (cf. We have the choice of whether or not to respond to God and Jesus Christ). 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).

God chooses people (to be his people) . . .

See also:

Mark 13:20  And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. ▤ 

God’s people are in view here as “the elect, whom he chose”. This is similarly the case with the use of like terms in a number of the following verses.

Luke 18:7  And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? ▤ 

1Cor 1:26-30  For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,o not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29so that no human beingp might boast in the presence of God. 30And because of himq you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, … ▤ 

o Greek according to the flesh

p Greek no flesh

q Greek And from him

It is because God has chosen them (vv. 27-28a) – even though they may be disregarded by the world – that God’s people are in Jesus Christ (v. 30a).

Col 3:12  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, … ▤ 

1Thes 1:4-5a  For we know, brothersr loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. ▤ 

r Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church

Titus 1:1  Paul, a servants of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, … ▤ 

s Or slave; Greek bondservant

1Pet 2:9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ▤ 

1Pet 5:13  She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. ▤ 

“She who is in Babylon” most likely refers to the church in Rome.

2Pet 1:10  Therefore, brothers,t be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. ▤ 

t Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church

2Jn 1:1, 13  The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, ▤ 13The children of your elect sister greet you. ▤ 

Matt 22:14  For many are called, but few are chosen. ▤ 

The invitation into God’s kingdom is extended to “many”, possibly in fact meaning all people. But the phrase “few are chosen” appears to refer to God choosing only certain people – although it does not detract from the onus on all to respond to his invitation (cf. vv. 11-13). Those who do respond in effect show that they are chosen.

John 13:18  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled,u ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ ▤ 

u Greek But in order that the Scripture may be fulfilled

John 15:16, 19  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. ▤ 19If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ▤ 

As per the disciples in v. 16, all believers are likewise chosen and appointed to bear fruit for God’s kingdom. Note that in Philippians 3:12 Paul somewhat similarly speaks of Jesus Christ initiating his coming to Christ, saying that “Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

Ps 22:9-10  Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. 10On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. ▤ 

David appears to attribute his relationship with God (v. 10) – along with his lifelong trust in God (v. 9) – as originating from God. As such it points to God as having chosen him.

Isa 65:22  They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoyv the work of their hands. ▤ 

v Hebrew shall wear out

Note that the messianic age or millennium appears to be in view.

. . . God chooses people to receive spiritual blessings

See also:

Ps 65:4  Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! ▤ 

This points to God choosing his people in part to bring them into fellowship with him.

Matt 11:25-27  At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.w 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. ▤ 

w Or for so it pleased you well

The “things” (v. 25) probably primarily refers to the significance of Jesus’ mission and matters of the kingdom. That God chose the “little children” to reveal these things to but not “the wise and understanding” (vv. 25-26) is reflected in v. 27 by the parallel act of the Son choosing those to whom he would reveal the Father. Note that similar to v. 27, John 17:6a says, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.”

Acts 13:48  And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. ▤ 

The use here of “appointed” speaks of God choosing people for eternal life.

Rom 8:29-30  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. ▤ 

Some understand the reference to God’s foreknowledge (v. 29; cf. 1Pet 1:2 ) to indicate that v. 29 teaches that God predestined or chose those whom he knew beforehand would come to faith. However “foreknew” is understood by a number of commentators to mean more than just prior knowledge, but also to imply foreordination. The term “predestined” (vv. 29, 30) means “destined from the beginning [foreordaining them]” (AMP). Note that in v. 30, the use of the past tense in referring to the glorification of believers is generally understood to be indicative of the certainty of their glorification, as if it had already taken place.

Eph 1:4a  … even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. ▤ 

1Thes 5:9  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, … ▤ 

2Thes 2:13  But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruitsx to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. ▤ 

x Some manuscripts chose you from the beginning

Salvation and sanctification are two associated blessings for which God’s people are chosen.

James 2:5  Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? ▤ 

1Pet 1:1-2  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. ▤ 

Those “who are elect” (v. 1) have been chosen in part for obedience to Jesus Christ and the blessing of being cleansed by his blood (v. 2).

God calls people . . .

See also:

Acts 2:39  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. ▤ 

Particularly with the phrase “calls to himself”, this verse clearly supports the assertion that those who are God’s people have been called to be by God.

Rom 1:6-7  … including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ▤ 

Rom 9:23-24  … in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? ▤ 

Gal 1:15-16  But when he who had set me apart before I was born,y and who called me by his grace, 16was pleased to reveal his Son toz me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;a … ▤ 

y Greek set me apart from my mother’s womb

z Greek in

a Greek with flesh and blood

This speaks of God both choosing Paul – in setting him apart from birth – and calling Paul. 2 Peter 1:10a and Revelation 17:14 below also speak of God both choosing and calling his people.

1Thes 4:7  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. ▤ 

1Thes 5:24  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ▤ 

1Pet 1:15  … but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, … ▤ 

1Cor 1:24, 26  … but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. ▤ 26For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,b not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. ▤ 

b Greek according to the flesh

Heb 9:15  Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.c ▤ 

c The Greek word means both covenant and will; also verses 16, 17

2Pet 1:10  Therefore, brothers,d be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. ▤ 

d Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church

Jude 1:1b  To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept fore Jesus Christ: … ▤ 

e Or by

Rev 17:14  They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. ▤ 

Joel 2:32  And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls. ▤ 

. . . God calls people to the blessings and other aspects of the faith

See also:

1Cor 1:9  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. ▤ 

Eph 1:17-18  … that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, … ▤ 

Eph 4:4  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call ▤ 

Phil 3:14  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ▤ 

1Thes 2:12  … we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. ▤ 

2Thes 2:13-14  But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruitsf to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. ▤ 

f Some manuscripts chose you from the beginning

This indicates that God calls people to salvation.

1Tim 6:12  Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. ▤ 

Heb 3:1  Therefore, holy brothers,g you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, … ▤ 

g Or brothers and sisters; also verse 12

Similar to Philippians 3:14 above, the “heavenly calling” may have in view a call to heaven (cf. NLT) – hence the verse’s inclusion here. Alternatively it may refer to the call from God in heaven (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV) to be of his people – which would make the verse more applicable to the previous subsection.

1Pet 2:9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ▤ 

1Pet 2:20-21  For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. ▤ 

God’s people are called in part to endure any suffering that they may experience for doing good.

1Pet 3:9  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. ▤ 

The clause “to this you were called” refers to what precedes it, but can be construed to be inclusive of the subsequent “blessing”.

1Pet 5:10  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. ▤ 

2Pet 1:3  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us toh his own glory and excellence,i … ▤ 

h Or by

i Or virtue

  • God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable:

Rom 11:29  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. ▤ 

God’s choice and call were determined before creation

Eph 1:4a  … even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. ▤ 

2Thes 2:13  But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruitsj to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. ▤ 

j Some manuscripts chose you from the beginning

If the rendering in the text note is to be preferred (cf. NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV), then this verse is pertinent to the theme of this subsection.

2Tim 1:8-9  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9who saved us and called us tok a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,l … ▤ 

k Or with

l Greek before times eternal

Rev 13:8  … and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. ▤ 

This indicates that the names that have been written in the book of life, were written before creation.

Matt 25:34  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ▤ 

This verse and 1 Corinthians 2:7 below are not necessarily meaning that individual believers themselves have been chosen for these things since creation, with the emphasis being on these things being prepared or destined since creation. However, the verses may be implying that it is the case; hence their inclusion here.

1Cor 2:7  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. ▤ 

The “secret and hidden wisdom of God” is the gospel of salvation.

God’s choice and call are in accordance with his purpose

See also:

Rom 9:10-12  And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” ▤ 

God’s purpose in his election of Jacob rather than Esau would become clear in the creation of the nation of Israel (from Jacob) and God’s dealings with it (cf. vv. 4-5).

Eph 1:4b-5  In love 5he predestined usm for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, … ▤ 

m Or before him in love, having predestined us

Eph 1:11  In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, … ▤ 

Rom 8:28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,n for those who are called according to his purpose. ▤ 

n Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good

John 5:21  For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. ▤ 

The fact that Jesus Christ “gives life to whom he will” points to the role of his will and purpose – even possibly his choice – in people receiving eternal life.

God enables people to believe

See also:

God and Jesus Christ enable people to respond to God’s call, by enabling them to believe and to turn to God in repentance (the latter being discussed in the following subsection).

John 6:60, 64-65  When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” ▤ 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” ▤ 

Verse 65 appears to refer back to vv. 60, 64. This would indicate that Jesus was meaning that the teaching of faith in him is not easy to accept (v. 60) and so people do not naturally accept or believe it (vv. 60, 64a); they do so only on the Father’s initiative (v. 65). Note that in the preceding passages (cf. vv. 25-59) Jesus had spoken in figurative terms of the need to believe in him, referring to the need to “eat” of him, the “the bread of life” (v. 35). The inability or unwillingness of many of his listeners to look beyond the figurative expressions – reflecting the need for God’s enablement (v. 65) – would have contributed to such teaching being hard to accept.

Acts 16:14-15  One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. ▤ 

These verses imply that Lydia believed Paul’s message, with the Lord opening her heart to the message and her subsequent baptism; in the context, the expression “faithful to the Lord” (v. 15) also suggests this (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV). The Lord enabled Lydia to respond to Paul’s message of the gospel in believing it and acting accordingly. Note that the reference to “God” earlier in the verse makes it likely that “Lord” is referring to Jesus Christ.

Acts 18:27b  When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, … ▤ 

For more discussion of the role of God’s grace in people responding to him (cf. Eph 2:8 ; Acts 1:20-23 ) see Salvation by Grace, through Jesus Christ.

1Cor 3:5-7  What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. ▤ 

The final clause of v. 5 is generally understood to be referring to the Lord assigning to each believer – here Apollos and Paul in particular – the work he has for them (cf. AMP, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT). However, it could be speaking of the Lord assigning belief to each of those who had believed (cf. CEV) – as per the theme of this subsection. In vv. 6-7, the references to God giving growth are quite possibly speaking of God’s pivotal role (v. 6b) in people coming to believe (v. 5b), enabling his word that has been planted in people to grow into faith. Alternatively, God’s role in the subsequent growth or maturing of believers may instead be primarily in view.

Eph 2:8  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, … ▤ 

The “gift of God” may be referring to faith or to the whole process of salvation. If the latter is in view it would still be inclusive of faith. This and the following two references portray faith as a gift from God.

Phil 1:29  For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, … ▤ 

1Jn 5:1  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. ▤ 

This may well be implying that people can only believe because they have first been born of God – i.e. people can only come to belief because of God’s work in them.

God enables people to come to him, in repentance

See also:

John 6:37, 44-45  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. ▤ 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me ▤ 

Verse 37 implies that it is only because God gives a person to Jesus that they can “come to” him – which is consistent with the teaching in the latter verses. Verse 45b points to the individual’s part and responsibility in coming to Christ, in conjunction with the essential role of God (vv. 44-45a).

Acts 11:20-23  But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenistso also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, … ▤ 

o Or Greeks (that is, Greek-speaking non-Jews)

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 “the hand of the Lord” (v. 21a) – evidencing “the grace of God” (v. 23a).

Rom 2:4  Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? ▤ 

Arguably this suggests that God’s kindness enables people to repent, without which at least some people would not.

2Tim 2:24-25  And the Lord’s servantp must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, … ▤ 

p Greek bondservant

  • Only with God is salvation possible:

Mark 10:24-27  And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it isq to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,r “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” ▤ 

q Some manuscripts add for those who trust in riches

r Some manuscripts to one another

No one can enter God’s kingdom and be saved through their own efforts – only God can accomplish this. The fact that it is God who brings about salvation is also reflected in Acts 2:47 – “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Note: God’s mercy and people’s destiny

Rom 9:10-24  And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 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 depends not on human will or exertion,s but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? ▤ 

s Greek not of him who wills or runs

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 (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. In v. 21, the illustration of the potter and the clay is used to set forth the principle that God as the creator of people has the right to have mercy on whom he wants; this is further illustrated in vv. 22-23.

Note that commentators generally qualify the phrase “prepared for destruction” (v. 22). It is not necessarily saying that it is God who does the preparation – in contrast to those who are prepared for glory (v. 23) – although this does fit the context. Some think that Paul means that such people prepare themselves for destruction by their actions. Another possibility is that it means that such people’s lives deem them fit for destruction, for which God prepares them. Whatever the case it certainly should not be interpreted in such a way as to diminish either God’s sovereignty over people’s lives and destiny, or people’s responsibility for their own actions.

1Pet 2:7-10  So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”t 8and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. ▤ 

t Greek the head of the corner

The term “stumble” (v. 8) quite possibly alludes to condemnation. Verse 8 speaks of those who disobey God’s gospel and are thus condemned, as being destined for this. In contrast, those who are of God have been chosen (v. 9), having received God’s mercy (v. 10).

  • Further reference to people being destined for condemnation:

Jude 1:4  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

God’s People Belong to God

God’s people belong to him

See also:

Lev 20:26  You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. ▤ 

Verses which speak of Israel belonging to God and/or being his people are readily applicable to believers.

Deut 26:18  And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, … ▤ 

Ps 100:3  Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his;u we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. ▤ 

u Or and not we ourselves

Isa 43:1  But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. ▤ 

Isa 44:5  This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel. ▤ 

This may well be alluding to the conversion of people from among the Gentiles. The clause “another will call on the name of Jacob” appears to speak of aligning oneself with Israel, as per the final clause. These two clauses are indicative of becoming God’s people – as clearly are the other parts of the verse.

John 17:9  I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. ▤ 

Acts 27:23  For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, … ▤ 

Eph 1:14  … who is the guaranteev of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,w to the praise of his glory. ▤ 

v Or down payment

w Or until God redeems his possession

Most other modern translations support the alternative rendering in the ESV text note, which refers to God’s people as “his possession”.

Col 3:12  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, … ▤ 

1Pet 2:9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ▤ 

They are God’s people . . .

See also:

Heb 4:9  So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, … ▤ 

1Pet 2:10  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. ▤ 

Here and in Romans 9:25-26 immediately below, Paul refers to passages from Hosea to show how God has now taken people from among the Gentiles to make them also his people, bringing them into a covenant relationship with him.

Rom 9:25-26  As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” ▤ 

Ex 6:7  I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. ▤ 

Here God promises to make Israel his own people, the fulfillment of which is attested to in the following verses.

Deut 27:9  Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Keep silence and hear, O Israel: this day you have become the people of the Lord your God. ▤ 

1Ki 8:43  … hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name. ▤ 

Isa 51:16  And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishingx the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’ ▤ 

x Or planting

Isa 63:8  For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior. ▤ 

2Ki 11:17  And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people, that they should be the Lord’s people, and also between the king and the people. ▤ 

Here Jehoiada the priest in effect renews the Mosaic covenant between God and the people (and the king), signifying their commitment to be faithful to God as his people.

. . . and God is their God

See also:

Num 15:41  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God. ▤ 

Deut 29:5-6  I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. 6You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God. ▤ 

God showed himself to be the Lord their God by his miraculous preservation of the Israelites in their forty-year desert journey, bereft of many of life’s basics.

Ps 50:7b  I am God, your God. ▤ 

Isa 40:9  Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news;y lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news;z lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” ▤ 

y Or O herald of good news to Zion

z Or O herald of good news to Jerusalem

Jer 31:33  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. ▤ 

Zec 8:8  … and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness. ▤ 

Heb 11:16  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. ▤ 

Ex 15:2  The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. ▤ 

2Chr 13:10a  But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him. ▤ 

Ps 31:14  But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” ▤ 

Ps 22:10  On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. ▤ 

Ps 48:14  … that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.a ▤ 

a Septuagint; another reading is (compare Jerome, Syriac) He will guide us beyond death

  • Blessed are those whose God is the Lord:

Ps 144:15  Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord! ▤ 

Similarly Psalms 33:12a says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord …”

God’s people belong to Jesus Christ . . .

Mark 9:41  For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. ▤ 

Rom 1:6  … including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, … ▤ 

Rom 7:4  Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. ▤ 

Rom 14:8  For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. ▤ 

2Cor 10:7  Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. ▤ 

1Cor 3:23  … and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. ▤ 

Note that most other modern translations render the clause in question as “you belong to Christ”.

Titus 2:14  … who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ▤ 

. . . The Father gives his people to Jesus Christ

One could infer from this subsection that God’s people belong to Jesus Christ (as per the previous subsection) in part at least due to God giving his people to Jesus Christ.

John 6:37-39  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. ▤ 

As reflected in v. 37, “all that he has given me” (v. 39) refers – primarily at least – to all those people whom God has given to Jesus (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT).

John 10:29  My Father, who has given them to me,b is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. ▤ 

b Some manuscripts What my Father has given to me

John 17:1-2, 6, 9, 24  When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. ▤ 6“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. ▤ 9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. ▤ 24Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. ▤ 

Jesus Christ is the speaker throughout this passage, including in vv. 1-2 where he speaks of himself in the third person. Note that in v. 9 Jesus makes the point that those whom God has given him are still in a real sense God’s.

Heb 2:13  And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” ▤ 

Here OT passages are applied to Christ.

  • Jesus Christ makes them his own:

Phil 3:12  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. ▤ 

God’s people are called and identified by his name and Jesus Christ’s name

See also:

Verses which refer 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 4:5 ) – or “God’s people”.

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 (cf. God’s People Are His Family). Possibly it also indicates that they uniquely reflect characteristics of God. See also the comment below on Numbers 6:22-27.

Deut 28:10  And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. ▤ 

2Chr 7:14  … if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ▤ 

Isa 43:6-7  I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. ▤ 

Isa 44:5  This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel. ▤ 

Writing “The Lord’s” on one’s hand appears to be in imitation of the practice of a master’s mark being branded on a slave’s hand. Being identified as such by God’s name underlines the fact that one belongs to him.

James 2:7  Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? ▤ 

The “name by which you were called” appears to refer to Jesus Christ’s name being invoked over them (cf. NRSV), typically in baptism (cf. AMP). As such believers bear Christ’s name (cf. GNT, NLT)

Rev 14:1  Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. ▤ 

Rev 22:4  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. ▤ 

  • With the Aaronic blessing, the priests “put” God’s name on the Israelites:

Num 6:22-27  The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23“Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24The Lord bless you and keep you; 25the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26the Lord lift up his countenancec upon you and give you peace. 27“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” ▤ 

c Or face

Here the placing of God’s name on the Israelites (v. 27) appears to designate them as God’s people (cf. NLT), showing that they were identified with him, belonged to him and were in a close relationship with him. However there is a different interpretation. Instead of speaking of putting God’s name on the people, v. 27 may be referring to invoking God’s name on the people (cf. NASB). As such – bearing in mind that a person’s name was often used to signify the person themselves – the meaning may simply be that in so blessing the people (vv. 23-26), the priests would invoke God’s presence accompanied by his blessing on the people.

Pray for persecuted Christians

God’s People Are His Family

See also:

Each believer belongs to the household of God

See also:

John 8:34-36  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slaved to sin. 35The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. ▤ 

d Greek bondservant; also verse 35

Jesus implies that those he – “the Son” (v. 36) – sets free from being slaves to sin become members of God’s “house” or household – a “son” (v. 35) – forever.

Gal 6:10  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. ▤ 

The term “household of faith” is akin to “God’s family” (AMP).

Eph 2:19  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,e but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, … ▤ 

e Or sojourners

Note that similar to being “members of the household of God” or family, God’s people are “citizens” of God’s kingdom.

1Tim 3:15  … if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. ▤ 

Heb 3:6  … but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.f ▤ 

f Some manuscripts insert firm to the end

1Pet 4:17  For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? ▤ 

Note that Peter is referring to persecution that believers experience (cf. v. 16) as a form of disciplinary or purifying judgment.

God is their Father

See also:

As creator, God is the father of all people (cf. God is the Father of all things, notably of all people). But he is also the Father of Christians in a spiritual, more personal sense (cf. God’s people are spiritually reborn of God . . .).

Matt 6:8-9  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.g ▤ 

g Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence

Matt 6:26  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? ▤ 

Matt 13:43  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. ▤ 

Matt 23:9  And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. ▤ 

Note that the instruction to not call anyone “father” is part of an exhortation against the seeking of titles of authority and status (cf. vv. 8-12).

John 20:17  Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” ▤ 

Gal 1:4  … who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, … ▤ 

Rom 1:7  To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ▤ 

The phrase “God our Father” occurs eleven times in the ESV, nine of them in the clause “Grace to you and peace from God our Father”. Similarly the phrase “our God and Father” (cf. Gal 1:4 ) occurs five times.

Heb 12:9  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? ▤ 

The expression “the Father of spirits” is generally understood to be speaking of God as “our spiritual Father” (CEV, GNT), pointing to him as the one who gives us spiritual life.

Deut 32:6b, 18  Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? ▤ 18You were unmindful of the Rock that boreh you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. ▤ 

h Or fathered

This is speaking primarily of God fathering Israel as a nation, but it is applicable to him being the spiritual father of each of his people. A similar comment could be made regarding the following references from Isaiah, though arguably they more likely also have in view God’s role as the spiritual Father of his people, particularly 64:8.

Isa 63:16  For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. ▤ 

Even if their human fathers – or ancestors – would disown them, God would still remain their Father (cf. NLT).

Isa 64:8  But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. ▤ 

Heb 2:11  For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.i That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,j … ▤ 

i Greek all are of one

j Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verse 12

This refers to the fact that God’s people – and Jesus Christ – “have the same Father” (GNT, NLT; cf. AMP, NASB, NRSV).

  • God’s fatherly nurturing and care of Israel:

Hos 11:1, 3-4  When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. ▤ 3Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. 4I led them with cords of kindness,k with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. ▤ 

k Or humaneness; Hebrew man

God’s people are his children

See also:

Deut 14:1  You are the sons of the Lord your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead. ▤ 

Isa 43:6  I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, … ▤ 

Isa 63:8  For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior. ▤ 

Matt 5:44-45  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. ▤ 

Luke 6:35  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. ▤ 

John 1:12-13  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ▤ 

Those who accept Jesus Christ and believe in him (v. 12a) are enabled to become God’s children (v. 12b) – born of God (v. 13) into spiritual life.

Rom 8:14-16  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sonsl of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, … ▤ 

l See discussion on “sons” in the Preface

This passage – particularly vv. 14, 15b – associate being God’s children with having God’s Spirit (cf. Gal 4:6 ), “the Spirit of adoption as sons” (v. 15b). As such they suggest even imply that believers are God’s children because they have his Spirit – somewhat akin to having a key hereditary “trait” from God, distinguishing one as being God’s offspring.

Gal 4:4-6  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” ▤ 

Verse 6 implies that as the Spirit who calls out “Father” is in the hearts of believers, they participate in calling on God as “Father” (cf. Rom 8:15b ) – reflecting that they are God’s children.

Rom 9:26  “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” ▤ 

2Cor 6:18  … and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. ▤ 

Eph 1:5  … he predestined usm for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, … ▤ 

m Or before him in love, having predestined us

Eph 5:1  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. ▤ 

1Jn 3:1a  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. ▤ 

1Jn 5:18-19  We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. ▤ 

In saying that Christians are “from God” (v. 19a), John appears to be referring to them being “been born of God” (v. 18a), reborn spiritually of him.

Luke 20:36  … for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sonsn of the resurrection. ▤ 

n Greek huioi; see Preface

Particularly given the context (cf. vv. 27-38), this most likely is meaning that after being raised to life by God at the resurrection believers “will be God’s children” (CEV), with him having given them life. But note that the present tense may mean that it also alludes to the present status of believers as “God’s children” – in view of the fact that God will give them life at the resurrection.

  • The adoption of believers will be consummated at the end of the age:

Rom 8:19, 23  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. ▤ 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. ▤ 

As God’s children, they are heirs of God

See also:

Rom 8:17  … and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. ▤ 

Gal 4:7  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. ▤ 

Eph 1:11  In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, … ▤ 

Eph 3:6  This mystery iso that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. ▤ 

o The words This mystery is are inferred from verse 4

This speaks of Gentile believers sharing in “the riches inherited by God’s children” (NLT), in Jesus Christ.

Titus 3:7  … so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ▤ 

Rev 21:7  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. ▤ 

As a child of God – “he will be my son” – each believer who overcomes will “have this heritage”. This appears to refer to inheriting all the blessings of the new Jerusalem in the afterlife.

Gal 3:26, 29  … for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. ▤ 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. ▤ 

In v. 29 “heirs” speaks primarily of being heirs of Abraham (cf. Heb 6:13-20 – “the heirs of the promise”, v. 17) rather than of God. But in view of the prior reference to “sons of God” in v. 26 – coupled with what is said about Jesus Christ in both verses – one could argue that it may also in part allude to the latter.

God’s people are Jesus Christ’s brothers and sisters

Matt 12:49-50  And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he 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.” ▤ 

John 20:17  Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” ▤ 

Rom 8:29  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. ▤ 

Heb 2:11-12  For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.p That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,q 12saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” ▤ 

p Greek all are of one

q Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verse 12

Heb 2:17  Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. ▤ 

God’s people are brothers and sisters of each other

See also:

Matt 23:8  But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.r ▤ 

r Or brothers and sisters

Rom 16:1  I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servants of the church at Cenchreae, … ▤ 

s Or deaconess

Eph 6:21  So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. ▤ 

1Thes 3:2  … and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworkert in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, … ▤ 

t Some manuscripts servant

Philem 1:2  … and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: … ▤ 

Philem 1:15-16  For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16no longer as a slaveu but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. ▤ 

u Greek bondservant; twice in this verse

1Pet 2:17  Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. ▤ 

The “brotherhood” of believers is composed of “the brothers and sisters of God’s family” (NCV™).

1Pet 5:12  By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. ▤ 

2Jn 1:13  The children of your elect sister greet you. ▤ 

The “sister” of John’s readers was elected or chosen by God as such, a “sister” in God’s family.

Some of God’s people have parent-child relationships

1Cor 4:14  I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. ▤ 

Gal 4:19  … my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! ▤ 

The term “my little children” (cf. 1Cor 4:14 ) alludes to Paul’s role in the Galatians coming to Christ. Paul appears to speak of having again to go through such “pains of childbirth” following their waywardness so as to lead them back, to a greater maturity.

1Thes 2:7, 11-12  But we were gentlev among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. ▤ 11For you know how, like a father with his children, 12we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. ▤ 

v Some manuscripts infants

Note that here and in Philippians 2:22 below, Paul is not actually calling his readers his children, but the similes involving parent-child terminology suggest this.

Phil 2:22  But you know Timothy’sw proven worth, how as a sonx with a father he has served with me in the gospel. ▤ 

w Greek his

x Greek child

Titus 1:4  To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. ▤ 

In 1 Timothy 1:2 Paul similarly addresses Timothy as “my true child in the faith”.

Philem 1:10  I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus,y whose father I became in my imprisonment. ▤ 

y Onesimus means useful (see verse 11) or beneficial (see verse 20)

1Jn 2:1, 12-13  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. ▤ 12I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. 13I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. ▤ 

“My little children” (v. 1a) is quite possibly a reference to John’s readers being his spiritual children, and so implies that the latter uses of “children” have the same sense. This then suggests that “fathers” is being used to allude to spiritual parents or elders. However “fathers”, “young men” (v. 13a) and “children” may simply denote various stages of spiritual maturity or possibly chronological age groupings – or even just be emphasizing that John is referring to all of his readers.

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God’s People Are His Church

See also:

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.

God’s people form his and Jesus Christ’s church

See also:

The following verses contain references to groups of believers as God’s and/or Jesus Christ’s church. References are made both to local churches and to the worldwide church.

Acts 20:28  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,z which he obtained with his own blood.a ▤ 

z Some manuscripts of the Lord

a Or with the blood of his Own

God’s “own blood” refers to that of his own Son, which thus in a sense is his own. Church members have been bought or redeemed by God with “his own blood” and so they belong to him as his church – “the church of God”. But also note the rendering in the text note, with the alternative use of “Lord” suggesting that Jesus Christ is in view.

1Cor 1:2  To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: … ▤ 

1Cor 11:16  If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. ▤ 

1Cor 15:9  For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. ▤ 

1Tim 3:15  … if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. ▤ 

1Thes 1:1  Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. ▤ 

This reflects the fact that the church in Thessalonica comprised “the people of God the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (CEV).

Matt 16:18  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rockb I will build my church, and the gates of hellc shall not prevail against it. ▤ 

b The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar

c Greek the gates of Hades

Rom 16:16  Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. ▤ 

Eph 5:25-27  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.d ▤ 

d Or holy and blameless

The clause “that he might present the church to himself” points to the fact that the church belongs to Jesus Christ (cf. CEV, NCV) – and so that God’s people are Jesus Christ’s church.

Jesus Christ is the church’s Lord and ruler

See also:

John 13:13-14  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. ▤ 

Here Jesus refers to himself as his disciples’ “Lord” – which is indicative of the fact that he is the church’s Lord.

Eph 5:24  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. ▤ 

Heb 3:6  … but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.e ▤ 

e Some manuscripts insert firm to the end

This speaks of Jesus Christ being “in charge” (CEV, GNT, NLT) of God’s house or church – i.e. its ruler.

Heb 13:20  Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, … ▤ 

References to Jesus Christ being the “shepherd” (cf. 1Pet 2:25 ; 1Pet 5:4 ) of God’s people are indicative of him being their Lord and ruler.

1Pet 2:25  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. ▤ 

1Pet 5:4  And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. ▤ 

Rev 1:12-13, 16, 20; 2:1-3  Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. ▤ 16In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. ▤ 20As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. ▤  2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. ▤ 

The vision showing Jesus Christ as the one who holds the “angels” of the churches (vv. 16, 20; 2:1) and who “walks among” the churches (2:1; cf. 1:13), portrays him as the ruler of the churches. The “sharp two-edged sword” (v. 16) alludes to his power to execute judgment, one aspect of his rule. His role as ruler is further illustrated by his subsequent rebukes and exhortations to the churches (cf. chs 2-3), extracts of which follow below. The Ephesian church’s endurance for Jesus Christ’s sake (2:3; cf. Rev 3:8 ) reflects its allegiance to him as Lord.

Rev 2:5, 16, 20-23  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. ▤ 16Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. ▤ 20But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servantsf to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. ▤ 

f Greek bondservants

Jesus Christ’s authority over the church is underlined here – and in Revelation 3:3, 19 below – with him not only rebuking wayward churches but speaking of executing judgment on unrepentant ones.

Rev 3:3, 19  Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. ▤ 19Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. ▤ 

Rev 3:7-8  And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. 8“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. ▤ 

As the one who “has the key of David”, Jesus Christ has sole authority over entry into the kingdom of God and so also the church.

  • Jesus Christ is pre-eminent among God’s people:

Rom 8:29  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. ▤ 

The term “firstborn” is indicative of Jesus Christ’s pre-eminence among God’s people. It also may allude to the fact that he is “the firstborn of the dead” (Rev 1:5).

The church is God’s temple or house, in which God dwells by his Holy Spirit . . .

See also:

The church is in effect God’s temple or house, in which God dwells by his Holy Spirit. This is true of the universal church and also individual churches, with each church’s members together in effect forming a spiritual building.

1Cor 3:16-17  Do you not know that youg are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. ▤ 

g The Greek for you is plural in verses 16 and 17

Here “you” refers to the Corinthian church. God’s Spirit lives in and plays a role in the corporate life of each church. Note that later in 6:19a Paul refers to each individual believer as a temple of the Holy Spirit – “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”

2Cor 6:16  What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. ▤ 

Eph 2:19-22  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,h but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God byi the Spirit. ▤ 

h Or sojourners

i Or in

As perhaps is suggested by the alternative rendering in the text note, quite possibly v. 22 speaks of the church being a dwelling place “where God lives by his Spirit” (NLT; cf. GNT, NCV, NIV). Note that in vv. 19-21 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.

1Tim 3:15  … if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. ▤ 

The phrase “the church of the living God” arguably points to God’s presence amidst his church (cf. ESB).

Heb 3:6  … but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.j ▤ 

j Some manuscripts insert firm to the end

Heb 10:21  … and since we have a great priest over the house of God, … ▤ 

1Pet 2:5  … you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. ▤ 

The church is a “spiritual house” – in effect a “spiritual temple” (GNT, NCV, NLT), a term which correlates well with the subsequent description here of church members as “a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God”.

1Cor 3:9  For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. ▤ 

Similar to the terms “God’s temple” and “God’s house”, the church is also referred to as “God’s building”.

1Cor 14:24-25  But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. ▤ 

One can infer from this that the exercising of spiritual gifts in the church (v. 24a) is evidence of the Holy Spirit, indicating that God is present in the church (v. 25b).

Isa 63:11b  Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, … ▤ 

Although referring to Israel and the Jews rather than the church, this verse and Haggai 2:5b below have been included as further verification that the Holy Spirit is present amongst God’s people as a whole – indicative of God’s presence – as well as individually (cf. God’s Holy Spirit in His People).

Hag 2:5b  My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. ▤ 

. . . As such, God’s people meet together in his presence

That God’s people meet together in his presence reflects the fact that the church is God’s temple or house, in which God dwells.

Acts 10:33  So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord. ▤ 

Deut 31:11  … when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. ▤ 

The requirement for Israel to meet or come together before God (cf. Deut 12:18 ) is applicable to the life of the church.

Deut 12:7, 18  And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you. ▤ 18but you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you undertake. ▤ 

This is speaking of the people being gathered together in the presence of God, celebrating and rejoicing over everything that they had done or worked for (cf. GNT, NCV).

  • When believers meet together in his name, Jesus Christ is with them:

Matt 18:20  For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. ▤ 

Being God’s, the church is holy

Things belonging to God characteristically are holy (cf. Things of God are likewise holy). The fact that the church is holy is indicative of it belonging to God. Moreover, it is essential that the church be holy for God in his holiness to dwell in it.

Eph 5:25-27  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.k ▤ 

k Or holy and blameless

1Cor 1:2  To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: … ▤ 

The terms “sanctified” and “saints” both speak of being holy, with the latter basically meaning “holy people” (GNT, NCV, NLT).

1Cor 3:17  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. ▤ 

Eph 2:21  … in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. ▤ 

1Pet 2:4-5, 9  As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. ▤ 9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ▤ 

This speaks of the church as the holy people of God.

Pray for persecuted Christians