Do We Choose God Or Does God Choose Us?

So which is it? Do we choose God or does he choose us? 

It’s a sticky question – one that has divided people for centuries. If God chose me, does that mean that I don’t have any free will? Does that mean that my choices aren’t really choices at all? Does that mean that I’m nothing more than a puppet on a divine string?

On the other hand, if I chose God, does that mean that God isn’t really sovereign? Does that mean that salvation is the one area that falls outside of God’s total, sovereign control?

It’s tricky. So what does the Bible say? Surely the Bible makes one or the other clear.

We Choose God

Well, sort of. Scripture makes it clear that God chooses us for salvation. And scripture makes it clear that we choose God. It’s not either/or, it’s both. John 1:12-13 is a perfect example of this.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Who received the right to become children of God? It was those who believed in Jesus. Those who made a real choice to put their faith in Jesus Christ. This isn’t a trick verse. Those who believed in Jesus made a real choice to really believe in Jesus as the Son of God.

So do we choose God? No doubt about it.

Helpful Resource:

Chosen by God

R. C. Sproul - Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. - Kindle Edition - English

God Chooses Us

But something else is going on here. Those who believed in Jesus were born again. How? Not of blood, meaning not of any sort of natural birth. They also weren’t born again by the will of the flesh or the will of man. I understand this to mean that they weren’t born again because of anything they did. They absolutely could not cause themselves to be born again. Being born again is something that God and only God does.

Now, here’s the crucial question: did they choose God and then were born again, or were they born again and then chose God?

Acts 16:14 is very helpful in answering this question. Speaking of Lydia, it says, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” In other words, God made her spiritually dead heart come alive so that she could hear and respond to the gospel message. Another helpful verse is John 6:65, where Jesus says, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

So do we choose God? Absolutely. We make a real to choice to repent of our sins and choose to follow God. But, scripture is also clear that God chooses us before we choose him. The Bible doesn’t try to reconcile these two truths, but instead presents them side by side.

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Stephen Altrogge

I'm a husband, dad, writer, & Mixed Martial Arts Salsa Dancing Champion. I created The Blazing Center. I've also written some books which people seem to like. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook

15 comments

  • Thank you, Stephen. We were just discussing Romans 8:29 and the mis-focus on the word “predestined.” Before I read this commentary, I already answered the title question the same way you do. It’s both. God chose us, but we also must choose Him. After all, that’s what bride and bridegroom picture is there for, correct? If one of them are forced to be one, where is the love?

    Keep serving Him, from your brother in Christ.

  • In reading the comment above about the bride and bridegroom, I see the simplicity in that, but it also raises more questions. In the day that that was written, most of the bride and bridegroom scenarios were arranged, with little choice, except after the fact of the bride accepting that that would be the way it was and that husband was who he would be. Scripture also speaks about being a slave to one or the other Master, yet in either “choice” one is a slave, still.

  • God chooses us because He first loved us. God wants all men to repent (2Peter 3:9).
    I have a feeling this author is a calvinist.

  • I believe that the Holy Spirit is always working on people when they hear God’s word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God Romans 10:17 although that verse is talking toward not working for our salvation it still makes a good point. God chooses ALL to be saved but we have to feel the conviction of our sin thru the Holy Spirit. Some people respond some do not. If God chose who he wanted to be saved or set our hearts to believe we would have no free will. Is God looking for that one lost sheep? Yes. Well we are all lost sheep. Until all come into His fold He will continue to look for us ? We are lost He is not..

  • A very big thanks to this author….yes! we choose God. The choice of who to serve lies in our arms…Joshua 24:15 says ”…Choose ye this day who you shall serve…”
    Truely, God first chose us but in reality, not all that he chose chose Him!

  • Good article. It’s true that we do not choose God, He does the choosing. We respond to His choice of us, not vice versa. It’s sad that clear bible truths are attributed to John Calvin instead of the Author of the holy scriptures. Consider John 6:63-65 > “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe…therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”?? (John? ?6:63-65?). The person who wrote the Book of John was not John Calvin (wink). Notice that Jesus said “no one can”. He also indicated that the Spirit gives life, and unregenerate man is lifeless. He’s explaining a spiritual process. Until we are born again of the Spirit, we are spiritually dead. The spiritually dead can’t choose God, and can’t go to Heaven (John 3:3-8). Also, consider the crucial question posed in Luke 18:26-27 > “And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?” But He (Jesus) said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Regarding Joshua 24:15: “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…”. Joshua was speaking to a whole nation of people. In verses 1-13, he reminded them of all God had done for their ancestors. He was suggesting that they demonstrate gratitude and wisdom by putting aside false gods to serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was not suggesting that they make a spiritual decision, but one of logic/common sense (i.e. gold or lead?). Personally, I’m OK giving the Sovereign full credit for gifting saving faith/salvation. We agree with Him *after* He gives us His Spirit. Without the Spirit, we can only perform lip service and dead works. All the glory belongs to Him.

  • Its not for a man to choose his God. It is for the God to choose his own people.

  • I find humorous how people can say this is the truth and state a bible verse backing them saying this is the truth. You don’t know squat but what your quoting. Why would there have been a fall of man in the beginning or even a rebellion of an Angels. Did God say whoa what’s going on here I didn’t see this coming. Um how could that be God to not know. If he did know then it seems to me there is most certainly a choice, unless for man to realize his choices can be destructive. If I struggle with The concept of God my whole life and one day choose to serve who cares about if we choose or not. Let it be. Serve or don’t serve. If your moved to change by God good. Anyone who is transformed would know it was God. Works is not grace works is trying to please God and say look what I did. Don’t question where you’ve been but where you are. if you decide to give an opinion your thinking of yourself to be heard, God doesn’t need you to argue for him but let it be. If God chooses we don’t need to minister. Duh. I say live by action not words. Thanks Stephen blaze on brother.

  • I agree with M which wrote, God chooses us because He first loved us. God wants all men to repent (change of mind /direction).
    When God created man he didn’t create them Jewish or Gentile he just created our father Adam. We were all predestined before the foundations of the earth. We tend to limit God as all knowing. God knows the future and knew that man would fall into unbelief (sin) which for this reason WE WERE ALL CREATED IN CHRIST. Unbelief is the original sin and still remains today the original sin. Jesus said the father will send the comforter and he will convict the world of SIN(singular) because they BELIEVE not in me.. Jon 16:9. If you exist and are alive is because God deposited his image in you (spirit). We have all been chosen but not all believe… Grace n peace to all…

  • Do you think maybe He chose us because he knew we would choose him? He knew we would respond to the calling of the Spirit? So we in a sense, simultaneously chose each other? Then there is no violation of free will nor capriciousness on God’s part; merely a foreknowing of his children’s choices. He knows we’ll accept when he reaches his hand out to us. So he reaches, and enables us to make the choice he knows we want to make and will make when we are able to after he makes alive our dead hearts.

  • I used to think He knew who would choose him so he choose us. But, that is a “I think” or “I believe” thought. The scriptures must be used and interpreted by other scriptures in harmony if we believe the Bible is truth. Not the will of man nor flesh… did I not choose you all… all who the father gives will come. Whomever will confess with their months and believe in their hearts that jesus is lord will be saved. Preach like a Baptist, believe like a Presbyterian, and live like an Arminianist?

  • John 15:16 says all that needs to be said on this issue, as do all the verses in Exodus involving Pharaoh’s heart being hardened BY GOD. Jeremiah Chapter 18 is the quintessential refutation of human “free will” when he tells us the parable of the potter and the vessel.

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