A gracEmail reader asks: “Do we choose God, or does God choose us? Is our will involved?
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The Bible speaks from the perspective of God and also from the perspective of God’s people. Experientially, we choose God (John 1:12), but we learn from Scripture that he chose us first (1 Thes. 1:4-5; Acts 13:48). God energizes his people both to will (choose and decide) and to do (perform, carry out) the things which give him pleasure (Phil. 2:13). Salvation, however, ultimately depends not on our right choices or our correct effort, but on God’s unprompted mercy (Rom. 9:16). There are mysteries here which we cannot fathom or understand (Rom. 11:33-36).
Indeed, Scripture pictures the very same people from three perspectives. Viewed from eternity future, they comprise all those who finally are saved, a multitude far too numerous to count (Rev. 7:9). Viewed from earthly time, they include everyone who does not reject the grace and knowledge of God, however it is offered to them in this life (Rom. 1:18-21; 2 Thes. 2:10-12). Viewed from eternity past, they are the elect, chosen individually by God and given to Jesus Christ (2 Thes. 2:13; John 17:1-3). The first point speaks of God’s faithfulness and power (1 Cor. 1:8-9; 1 Pet. 1:3-5). The second speaks of his mercy and love (John 3:16; Titus 3:3-7). The third speaks of God’s sovereignty (Rom. 9:14-18).
God works in and through these chosen people (“the elect”) by giving them repentance and faith (Acts 11:18; Phil. 1:29), by calling and drawing them to himself (Acts 16:14; John 6:44-45), by pronouncing them righteous and making them holy (Rom. 8:30), by keeping and preserving them (1 Peter 1:5) and finally by glorifying them to be with him forever (Rom. 8:30). God will finish what he starts (Phil. 1:6) and he will lose none of his own (John 10:27-29). What is our response to all this? The answer to that is clear: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31.)