When the Bible speaks of those who are “chosen” in Christ before the foundation of the world, many people are confused by this statement. Salvation begins with God and not with us. Jesus said “you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). Left to our own we would never seek God and be able to achieve our salvation (Romans 3:10-11).
It is God who has sought us, before He created the universe (Luke 19:10). This means that the entire work of salvation is completely in His hands and by His Grace. There is nothing that any person can do to make themselves acceptable to God.
The doctrine of being chosen by God is based upon what Jesus has done for us and not because God saw anything is us that would cause Him to offer us salvation. God chose each one of us to be holy and without blame because of what Jesus has accomplished for us. We, in turn, by our decision to trust in Jesus for our salvation, reveal the reason God chose us. We are not saved or chosen against our will. It was partly because of God’s foreknowledge where He knew in advance that we would respond to Jesus’ offer of salvation that He chose us.
In this we see the Sovereignty of God in His choice and our own responsibility in making a choice, to believe, working together. In John 6:37, we see Jesus expressing the sovereignty of God; “all that the Father gives Me will come to me.” and the will of the person He is saving; “and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. ~John 6:37
The fact that God alone decides who will be saved is true except that He will not forcibly save anyone who does not want to be saved. Every person who decides to trust in Jesus for their salvation is saved, but this decision was known to God before He made the universe, so He can say before we exist that He “chose us.”
There is no example anywhere in the Bible where we see that Jesus forced someone to believe in Him. What we do see is a partnership of God’s sovereign will and foreknowledge in what will happen, working in cooperation with the actions of people.
Jesus, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. ~Acts 2:23-24
Peter describes the “determined purpose and foreknowledge of God,” which allowed Jesus to be crucified and the “Lawless hands of men who exercised their own will to put Jesus to death. This perfectly illustrates how God’s knowledge of all things in choosing certain people who He knew would believe, works together with the decision that every person will make during their life—whether to trust Jesus for salvation or reject Him.
A person does not respond to God’s grace against their will, he responds because the Grace of God causes their heart to be willing and respond.
If we seek to make salvation entirely about God, we have problems. If we make salvation entirely about us, we also have problems. If we make salvation about God’s knowledge of all things and our decision to believe, working together, we have almost no problems.
- If only those who God wills to be saved, are saved, regardless of their will; we make God a monster.
- If we make salvation entirely a matter of the person who is making the decision and none about God, then we make ourselves little god’s and God our servant.
When we allow God the rights that He already has; to know what is going to happen before it will happen, then it is easier to see how He can describe a person who trusts in Jesus as “chosen before the foundation of the world.” Even this idea presents a minor problem. If God only chose us because we would chose Him. what does that say about God’s sovereignty?
The only way that we can survive this ordeal of understanding that God allows us our choice, but He also make His own choice, is to see the two working together to make our salvation a reality. The entirety of this subject can never be fully understood on this side of eternity. For now, we can all be glad that God does give us a choice and when we say yes to Jesus, He saves us.