March 14, 2004: Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen

Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, You have called each of us into Your kingdom of grace by Your Word of holy truth. You have bestowed on us the highest honor in the universe: to be Your children, Your ambassadors, Your disciples—all this through the forgiveness for our sins. Today move and inspire us to live up to that high calling by living our lives in humble faith. Amen

TEXT: I Cor. 10: 1-13

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Many years ago the sainted Prof. Otto of our seminary told my class: “It’s not your job to figure out exactly who in your congregation is one of God’s elect, a saint, and who is not. No, only God can read human hearts. Your job is to preach His Word and let the chips fall where they may.” That’s really good advice for any parish pastor. For it prevents us from playing personal favorites thereby letting personalities get in the way of God’s grace. Indeed, church history is replete with people who appeared to be weak, flabby and apathetic in their relationship with God, but whom God worked on and eventually turned into saintly heroes—by His grace alone.

I cannot read any of your hearts, and I don’t want to. That’s too great a responsibility for any one human. But, I do want to direct your attention to the history of God’s people. I do want you to examine yourself and your life over and against what has happened in the past. Why? Well, since the human heart has not changed since Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, history both can and does repeat itself. With that in mind, let’s examine today’s text with this thought in mind:


St. Paul is writing to the congregation in Corinth. A congregation that he started. Apparently some of the members were under the opinion that simply belonging to a church insured their salvation. That is, mere membership was more important than actively believing and living their allegiance to Christ. Now, this view is very common today, too. Well over half of the people in America who call themselves Christian don’t go to church, don’t pray except in times of terrible trouble, and basically view their membership somewhere as their rabbit’s foot, their good luck charm against the possibility of hell. Am I reading hearts here? Well, no, not individually. And neither is St. Paul when he goes on in our lesson.

To counteract this pervasive apathy, Paul goes on to talk about the children of Israel when God was leading them out of Egypt toward the promised land. “For I do not want you to ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank from the same spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”

God graciously provided deliverance from Pharoah’s army by causing a cloud to blind them as His people walked to safety on dry ground through the Red Sea. In so doing, God “baptized” them, He called them into His fellowship of grace. Now they were to follow Moses, God’s representative. Now they were to follow and obey what God said through Moses. Likewise, when God provided them with quail and manna to eat along with miraculous water from a rock in the desert, that food and water not only fed their bodies, it fed their souls. It was a reminder of just how dependent they were on God, alone. Then, too, Paul informs the Corinthians that that Rock was Christ—the Rock of Ages.

In view of all these signs and wonders, you’d think that most would have clung to Christ and hung on His every word that came through Moses. But, alas, they did not. Like many today, they tried to outthink and outguess God. Like many today, they tried to impose their will and their ideas on God. And as result, they were lost. They started out on that race to the promised land, but they never got there. Just as many today start out on that journey to heaven and never get there.


When you hear those words: Many are called, but few are chosen, the common reaction is to somehow blame God. But, the blame doesn’t rest with God for lost souls. No, the blame rests solely on those wayward souls. Christ died for all people. He even died to pay for the sins of those bodies scattered in the Sinai desert that are but dust today. He wants to save all people. He wants to welcome them into His fold. He wants to take them into heaven. “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And yet, we humans have the awesome power to reject God’s grace and walk away. We do that by clinging to and remaining in sin.

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” The essence of human sin is human pride. It is embracing self-righteousness. It is looking at our own lives, the externals of our lives, and comparing them to others and concluding: “Well, I don’t do such and such, so therefore I’m more holy, more strong in the Lord!” Yet, the moment we engage in such behavior, we’ve succumbed to pride. The point is: it is easy to fall into temptation. And it is easy to think we can beat temptation off all on our own. But, if that is true, than Christ becomes superfluous, doesn’t He?

“And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Many of you know that I quote that passage a lot. I love that passage. For it breeds hope and joy in our confused and sorrowful hearts. It says that Christ, our forgiving Lord, will not allow the devil to get the better of us. And even when we’re about to fall, Christ will show us a way out, if we but listen. And when we do listen, the glory belongs to God alone. It is He who gives us the patience, the strength, and ability to stay on that narrow road to heaven.

As I look out on you this morning, I see marriages that have gotten off on the wrong foot, I see careers that have had to do a 180, I see dreams that have been crushed, I see people who have been hurt either by their own sin or the sin of others. I see a whole congregation of struggling sinners. But, that’s not all I see. I also see people who have been led to repentance, people who learned, by God’s grace, to change their attitudes and aspirations, people who are stronger today on account of their suffering. This day God has called each of us to embrace His life-changing forgiveness for our many sins. And by His grace, He has also chosen us to receive that grace with humble hearts, thankful hearts, kind hearts. Yes, this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! Amen