Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:15, NKJV)
Those who stand victoriously with Jesus Christ are “called, chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). This relationship with Christ is precisely what the apostle Paul began to lay out for why he gave thanks to the Lord for his brethren (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Today’s verse concludes his point with an exhortation to be faithful by standing fast and holding the apostolic traditions. We are not faithful to the Lord when we fail to seize and retain the teachings of His apostles. Their teaching (first spoken, then written) is the doctrine of Christ in which we must stand fast and not go beyond (2 John 9). It is the “pattern of sound words” from the apostles that is our standard of faithfulness (2 Timothy 1:13). To relinquish it for the creedal confessions men developed through the centuries (and the diverse doctrines they generated) is to abandon faithfulness to the “word of the truth of the gospel” that the apostles preached under Christ’s authority (Colossians 1:5-6; Matthew 28:18-20). Who ever said “church traditions” establish truth? Not the Lord Jesus, and not His apostles. Neither do we. Let us not be Catholic or Protestant, but simply Christians like followers of Jesus were in the New Testament. Like them, let us be faithful to Jesus by standing fast in the teachings of His apostles. Called by the gospel, we are chosen by God for salvation in Christ, and faithful to apostolic traditions.
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28–29, NKJV)
The gospel of Christ makes no fleshly distinctions when identifying the chosen people of God. The text before us is very clear. The gospel of Christ does not identify a Jew by outward circumcision, but by the inward circumcision of the heart. In Christ “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). God’s “chosen generation” today is His church that is composed of Christians, whether Jew or Gentile in the flesh, it makes no difference to God (1 Peter 2:9; Acts 15:9). Scripture says, “nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham” (Romans 9:7). Any doctrine that elevates any race of people above another has distorted the gospel of Christ and the salvation it extends to all, regardless of whether they are a Jew or a Gentile (Romans 1:16-17). Fleshly Israel was told to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16). In Christ, it is the circumcision of Christ – the cutting away of “the body of the sins of the flesh” (which occurs in baptism) – that identifies a person as a child of God (Colossians 2:11-13).
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
Peter describes Christians in vivid contrast to those who, “being disobedient to the word,” stumble upon Christ and His gospel (1 Peter 2:8). These descriptions drive to the heart of who we are as disciples of Christ. First, we are a “chosen generation” (“elect race,” ASV). Just as God chose Jesus Christ to be the “chief cornerstone” in Zion, a generation has been chosen to precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 2:4, 6). With foreknowledge, God elected this generation of “living stones” that compose God’s “spiritual house” (1 Peter 1:1-2; 2:5). Calvinist (Reformed) theology says God unconditionally chose (elected) the individuals who are saved. Millions have adopted and adapted this false teaching. Scripture says God “chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world,” not that God unconditionally chose each individual (Ephesians 1:4). God desires all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Those who meet His conditions are “accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35). These are saved in Christ and are a chosen race of people, “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13; 3:1-5). All who believe in Jesus Christ have the power to become a child of God, and thus be among this chosen generation (John 1:12).
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,” (Ephesians 1:3–5, NKJV)
Notice in this wonderful passage the unsearchable riches granted Christians. God has “blessed us” (v. 3), He “chose us” (v. 4), and He “predestined us” (v. 5). All of these spiritual blessings are “in Christ.” None of these spiritual benefits are possessed without Christ, and unless one is “in” Christ. Every blessing is spiritual, existing in the “heavenly places” in Christ. Christians are not promised “health and wealth” in this material realm; our treasures are found in the “heavenly places.” Because He laid the foundation of the world, God chose those in Christ as His own heritage. He thus purposed that Christians be holy and blameless in His sight. Before creation, He determined that those in Christ would be adopted into His family. The children of God are not so due to flesh, but faith (Rom. 2:28-29). All flesh shall see the salvation of God (Lk. 3:6; Isa. 52:10). Believe and obey the gospel of Jesus, and all these rich blessings of forgiveness will be yours. Ah, “seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19; 2:38)!
26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26–29, NKJV)
Arrogance before Almighty God is indefensible. Yet, since the days of Noah to the tower of Babel, from the defiance of the Pharaoh to the presumption of King Nebuchadnezzar, from the unbelief of Pilate to the contempt of the Jewish Sanhedrin and the disdain of the Greek philosophers, men and women have raised themselves up against God. Without fail, sinners have succumbed to the righteous judgments of God. Still, through His Son Jesus Christ, God calls every sinner to come to Him. Yet, only those who completely humble themselves to Him will be counted as the “called, chosen and faithful” (Rev. 17:14). God’s redemptive plan in Christ assures that nobody can boast before God. We are thoroughly dependent upon His mercy and grace. That is why we put our faith in Jesus and do His will, not our own.