COMMENTARY: Is Israel a Chosen People?

Monday, November 09, 2015 |  Brian Hennessy

To ask whether the family of Abraham was uniquely chosen by God may sound like a foolish question to those who call themselves ‘Zionists.’ Yet entire Christian denominations today hold fast to a theology that denies God the freedom to show special favor to anyone, including the Jews. And I’m not speaking of Replacement Theology. 

The theology I’m referring to is Arminianism. It was named after Jacob Arminius who obviously didn’t take seriously the words of God spoken by the prophet Amos, “You only have I chosen from among all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). Or Jesus: “You did not choose me. But I chose you” (John 15:16). Or Paul: “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

Instead, Arminius’s belief informed him it would be unfair for our Heavenly Father to favor one part of His human creation above the rest. It insisted all should be treated equally. In so teaching, Arminius completely ignored Paul’s response to man questioning God’s freedom to do as He pleases, when he wrote, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?... Does not the potter have the right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?” (Rom. 9:20,21)

Worse, this teaching feeds into the anti-Semitism of Replacement Theology that specifically wants to remove all consideration of the Jewish people from having any favor with God today. It may grudgingly admit God chose Israel for a time in order to bring forth the Messiah. But once Yeshua came it’s believed God did away with the idea of having a chosen people and the Jews are just like every other unsaved person now. 

Of course, when Arminius first promoted his ‘unchosen’ theology in the late sixteenth century the Jews were not uppermost in his mind. Replacement Theology, along with the Jews’ fallen state of affairs, had pretty much taken them out of the running. No, he was mainly trying to counter the teaching of John Calvin who had taught God was graciously drawing to Jesus only those He had pre-chosen to be saved (as John 6:44 clearly states). Arminius insisted God had left it up to each individual to choose his own fate by either his acceptance or rejection of the Gospel. For him man’s free will was inviolable, and God’s free will must bow to it. But that not only undermines God’s sovereignty, it mocks the very definition of a Supreme God…”who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).

I bring up this centuries-old controversy of Arminianism because I believe it is contributing greatly to the confusion among believers today regarding the restoration of Israel. For if God is not hand-picking those who are to be His people in the Israel of God, how can He call forth the remnant of Abraham’s seed? Doesn’t the very word ecclesia mean “called-out ones?”

For me, one of the strongest arguments that shows God reserved for Himself the right to choose who He wants as His people is Paul’s teaching on the twin boys, Esau and Jacob. “Though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said [to their mother], ‘The older shall serve the younger.’ Just as it is written, ’Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated” (Rom. 9:10-13).

Now I don’t believe God actually “hated” Esau. He was just trying to convince Israel of His everlasting commitment to bless them by using strong contrasting language. Malachi even reminds Israel that God’s choice of Jacob over Esau was the proof of His love! (Mal. 1:1-3)

I’m convinced the fact that God has a chosen people has been the underlying cause of anti-Semitism in the world. Look at how angry and jealous Joseph’s brothers became when they saw the extreme favor their father showed towards him.

Nevertheless, that’s how God set it up. That’s why if you have received the gift of faith to believe in Yeshua (of whom Joseph was a foreshadowing) – be in awe! It means you are among those few chosen by Almighty God to be part of the remnant of Abraham and the coming Kingdom of God. 

Just don’t be surprised when the world hates you for no apparent reason. 


Brian Hennessy is the author of Valley of the Steeples, available at: ketchpublishing/BrianHennessyBooks.htm

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