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.
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.