The God of the Bible is a choosing God. He doesn’t explain it or feel the need to apologize for it. When he was ready to begin his work of redemption in the earth, God chose Abram, a man who was worshiping false gods at the time (Joshua 24:2-3). He didn’t announce that he was taking applications for the job. He chose. Then he chose Isaac over Ishmael, and he chose Jacob over Esau. Why? “In order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls” (Romans 9:11). God chose the tribe of Judah to be the tribe of the Messiah, Jesus. Jesus chose his apostles (“You did not choose me, but I chose you” John 15:16). Paul explained to the Corinthian believers that the church is made up of sinners and rejects (not many who are wise, powerful, or of noble birth – 1 Cor 1:24). He then launches into a powerful, repeating chorus of “God chose” (three times in verses 27 & 28). Why? Why has God chosen weak people to be his church? “So that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (v29). God chose, and he alone gets the glory. Paul describes this as God’s “right” as the Potter over the clay (Romans 9:21). God is a choosing God.
So, if God is a choosing God, the question becomes, “Has he chosen me?!” This question may cause some to implode into a philosophical fetal position and question the point of going on. It no doubt causes others to angrily argue with God, or endlessly debate others over this issue. But the Scriptures actually address this as something we can know. According to the Bible, we can know if God has chosen us, based on the evidence in our lives, namely, how we have responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Peter wrote to believers about the evidence of their being chosen by God, their “election.” After a long list describing visible virtues that will be present and increasing in a true believer, Peter writes: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Peter 1:10 ESV). You can be “sure” of being chosen by God, not because of a decision made in childhood followed by a life of sin and selfishness, but by genuine conversion to Christ, followed by the fruit of increasing Christ-likeness.
The Apostle Paul wrote a similar list to the believers in Thessalonica. He had the audacity to declare, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thess 1:4)! This was not just positive energy, or motivational speaking; it was Paul’s conclusion based on gospel theology and on the fruit he saw in the believers’ lives.
What was the fruit Paul saw that told him these believers were chosen by God? How can we know if we are chosen? Let’s quickly walk through Paul’s nine evidences in 1 Thessalonians chapter 1.
The Gospel Came to Them. “because our gospel came to you…” (v5a). In a world full of people who will never hear the gospel, God sovereignly moves and arranges and sends his people into certain areas with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith comes by hearing Christ’s word (Rom 10:17), and, how are people to believe the gospel they have never heard (Rom 10:14)? So, it is a good sign when God brings the gospel to you. Be thankful if you have heard the gospel!
The Gospel Bore Fruit Among Them. “Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (v5b). The good news did not just come to the Thessalonians, but it was anointed by God’s Spirit! The gospel was received, as God bore fruit among them. It transformed lives! Has your life been transformed through the gospel?
God Sent Faithful Ministers to Them. “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (v5c). Leaders are gifts of God to his people (I will give you good shepherds – Jer 23:4) and gifts of Christ to his church (He gave shepherds and teachers for the equipping of the saints – Eph 4:11-12). It is a blessing when God gives us faithful men to pour into our lives, to disciple us, mentor us, teach us, and point us to Christ! Paul says the character and ministry of himself and his missionary partners was “for your sake.” Has God placed faithful ministers in your life?
They Received the Leaders God Gave. “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord…” (v6a). Some people despise authority and refuse to submit to leaders in the church. They want to follow Christ without following the ministers Christ has placed over them. But Paul knows these believers are chosen and loved by God, because they became imitators “of us and of the Lord.” It is not possible to follow Jesus and, at the same time, refuse to receive the local church leaders Jesus has given you. It is a good sign when you see people following godly leaders. What is your attitude to the leaders God has given you?
They Received God’s Word with Joy, Even in Suffering. “for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (v6b). Fake Christians can appear to receive God’s word when things are easy, or convenient, or when they agree with it; but it is another thing altogether to continue joyfully in God’s word when suffering or persecution come (Jesus’ parable of the sower – Mat 13:20-21). The real test comes when we are challenged by God’s word. How we respond then speaks volumes of the condition of our heart towards God. It is a sign of genuineness when a believer endures through trials with joy in the Lord. This is a work of the “Holy Spirit”! Are you enduring with joy in the Lord, not giving up in times of suffering?
They Grew and Became Examples to Others. “so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (v7). We are born, and then we grow. We mature. That is the normal and healthy process for physical life. Similarly, if someone is not growing, not maturing in the Lord, it may mean they were never born (again). Are you growing in the grace of the Lord?
They Engaged in Gospel Mission. “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (v8). Concern for the spread of the gospel is a healthy sign. Churches full of true believers are concerned about the gospel going out, through praying, sending, going, preaching, etc. What is your attitude about the spread of the gospel? How are you seeking to make Christ known?
They Repented of Sin and Idolatry. “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to sere the living and true God” (v9). One of the truest and clearest signs of being chosen by God is repentance. No repentance means no salvation. Turning from the idols in our lives to serve God is a sign of true salvation! Are you giving yourself to the love of others things above God? Has God granted you repentance of sin to serve him?
Their Lives Centered Around Christ! “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (v10). The lives of the Thessalonian believers became Jesus-centered. They began to long for Christ – they were waiting for the resurrected Jesus to come back! Christ became their treasure. The one who rescues us from God’s wrath became their focus! Is your life centered around Christ?
These nine signs are evidence of being chosen by God. Simply put, God intervened in their lives to transform them through the gospel into Jesus-loving, God-serving believers! According to Paul, when we see this in our lives, or the lives of others, we can be sure that God has truly acted with grace; we belong to him. We are loved and chosen by God.