Do we choose God or does God choose us?

by Matt Slick

Do we choose God or does he choose us?  There is a sense in which both ideas are true.  God definitely chooses us, but we also choose him. Let me explain.

Within Christian theology, there are different perspectives that deal with the issue of election, predestination, and our free will. I won't get into these here because it can be quite lengthy. But to be elected means to be chosen by God (Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).  That is what "election" means.  Therefore, we find such verses as Ephesians 1:4, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him."  So, God definitely chooses us for salvation. Please consider the following scriptures.

  • John 15:16, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you."
  • Acts 9:15, "But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel."
  • Ephesians 1:4-5, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will."
  • 2 Thess. 2:13, "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth."

Clearly, we see that God chose us for salvation (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13)

But, on the other hand, we do freely choose God because not only does God choose us, but he enables us to choose him granting to us what we need. 

  • John 6:28-29, "Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."
  • Philippians 1:29, "For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake."

There is mystery in how all this works but the Scriptures are clear. God works faith in us (John 6:28-29) and grants that we believe (Philippians 1:29). So, in his work in us, we are then enabled to freely choose him.  Some identify this as regeneration preceding faith. What this means is that God changes us, regenerates us, which enables us to freely choose God. An analogy can be found in the lightbulb. We would say that whenever electricity is present in the lightbulb, light is the result. But it is not the case that electricity is the result of light. Likewise in salvation, when regeneration is present, faith is the result. This would be a logical necessity rather than a temporal one.

So, when people ask whether or not we choose God or God chooses us, there is a sense in which both are true because God chooses us for salvation and then enables us to choose Him.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.