Jesus said, "For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). What is the difference between being called and being chosen? The Greek word kletos, translated "called," can also be translated "invited." A calling by God is His offer, His invitation, to repent and enter into a relationship with Him.
In Romans 8:28-30 we read: "We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people he called [kletos, invited], because that was his plan . . . And he decided that they would be like his Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of many brothers. God planned for them to be like his Son; and those he planned to be like his Son, he also called; and those he called, he also made right with him; and those he made right, he also glorified" (Romans 8:28-30, New Century Version).
Yes, God must first call, or invite, us to enter into a relationship with Him. He does this by opening our minds to a basic understanding of the Scriptures and our need to repent.
Why must God invite us to have a relationship with Him? Christ answers that question in John 6:44: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day." If God did not place some understanding of His Word into our minds and provide us an incentive to repent, we would never recognize how much we need to change.
But recognizing a need for change is only recognizing God's calling. Only those who respond and repent are chosen for a special relationship with Him in the spiritual Body that is His Church. Paul addresses those who have accepted God's invitation as "the church of God . . . , those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called [invited] to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:2). Those who repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38) are then chosen "for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
God invites many more into this special relationship than respond. However, the Bible reveals that most people who are called do not respond to their invitation for several reasons. That is why many more are called than are chosen for salvation today.
In the parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:18-23) Christ explained that the sower (God) casts the seeds of invitation to many people. However, for various reasons, including deception by the "wicked one" (the devil), lack of spiritual roots, pressure from friends and relatives and the distraction of the physical cares of this life, most do not accept God's invitation to have a close, personal relationship with Him. Only a few do and eventually bear fruit.
We must keep in mind that God sets terms on our relationship with Him. Millions of people claim to have a relationship with God, but in reality they have ignored the terms He set for us to enter into a relationship with Him. They want to have a relationship with God, but one based on their terms, not His. Thus we must clearly understand the terms of the relationship God wants to have with us.
Let's examine that relationship. We will also review some historical relationships and see the lessons we may learn from them. Then we will consider what God expects from us and offers us through a relationship with Him.