A gracEmail subscriber writes: “I can’t reconcile the idea of God’s arbitrarily choosing some for salvation with the exercise of our will. Didn’t God choose a ‘class’ of people (those who believe) rather than selecting individuals?”
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God’s choice of his people is always consistent with the exercise of their will. God makes his people willing (Ps. 110:3, KJV). He himself energizes them “to will his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). God gives his people new hearts and new spirits (Ezek. 37:26-28) and renews their minds (Rom. 12:1-2). He gives faith in place of distrust and unbelief (Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29). He gives repentance, which is a complete mental U-turn (2 Tim. 2:25-26; Acts 11:18). He reveals spiritual truth and illuminates the inner heart and understanding (Matt. 11:27; Acts 16:14; 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 1:17-18; Phil. 3:15; Col. 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:7; 1 John 5:20).
God’s choosing us and our choosing him always coincide. However, we must make no mistake which is the cause and which is the effect. God’s election of his people is not based on anything he sees in them but on his own inherent grace (2 Tim. 1:9). It is not capricious, but constant and full of purpose (2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 8:28). “Do you wish to live in fellowship with God?” we may ask every person, confident that God will never turn away anyone who answers “Yes” (John 6:37). And we may know that those who consistently say “No” also express their own true decision, for which they finally can blame only themselves.
Did God select actual individuals, you ask? The apostles do not hesitate to speak of his having chosen “us” (Eph. 1:4) or “you” (1 Thes. 1:4; 2 Thes. 2:13) addressing specific people in particular places (1 Pet.1:1). The New Testament never speaks of God’s having chosen a “plan” or a theoretical group. Jesus died for actual people with names and faces. And real people may rejoice to know that their salvation is in the mighty hands of a loving and faithful God.
Read “What Calvinism and Arminianism Have in Common,” as published in Christianity Today, here.