If God Chose Me to Be Saved, Did I Ultimately
Have No Choice?
by J.W. Hendryx
The question at issue here is the apparent contradiction between God’s sovereign election and man’s responsibility. I believe that the best way to solve this is to take a close look at the various passages that speak of these issues to see if they can be reconciled as friends. Too many evangelicals have the tendency to be unwilling to take the time to meditate and think on the whole counsel of Scripture and thus quickly (and falsely) conclude we have to wait to resolve this when we get to heaven. But I want to challenge your thinking and prove to you that this isn’t impossible to understand. The Bible speaks extensively about this topic and is actually quite revealing.
The difficulty, I believe, arises when people automatically conclude that our responsibility to believe the Gospel necessarily means that we therefore have the moral ability to do so. This is our natural way of thinking when using our reactive human reason. However, when we put our minds to it we will discover that this is not true. Responsibility does not necessarily mean ability and here’s why: Imagine a CEO of a big corporation who borrows $5 billion for investment purposes. Instead of using the money to grow his business he succumbs to his old habit of gambling. In a short period of time he manages to squander the entire amount. He now is not only faced with the sheer horror or embarrassment he must endure from his colleagues but must find a way to pay it back. Unfortunately $5 billion is more than he could ever pay pack even if he had many lifetimes to do so. In this case he is responsible to pay back his debt but is unable to do so. His inability does not alleviate him of responsibility because it is a moral responsibility. I would argue that this is our situation before God. If it were a physical inability that hindered us then we would not be culpable but we are culpable for our moral inabilities. We have sinned against an infinitely holy God and have fallen into spiritual death as the consequence of our actions. We have squandered the beautiful life that God gave us by trading it for a lesser glory. Our inability to do anything to please God does not alleviate us of the responsibility to do so. God’s requirement of holy perfection still stands even though we are impotent to carry it out. If we suppose that somehow we have the power to do what God requires of us, and that includes exercizing our faith, then we render the grace of God and Jesus’ work on the cross void.
God requires repentance of faith but the Scriptures also testify that these are above our capacity to produce on our own. “…A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor 2:14) “…the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” (Rom 8:7) To claim that we can create a right thought, generate a good affection, or originate a right volition, without being born again is to misapprehend the purpose of the gospel. God does not compel us to be so hostile toward Him; we choose to reject God of our own free volition. As fallen creatures we naturally incline toward loving sin and hating the light.
Now if we could go back to the original question: If God chose me to be saved then ultimately did I have no choice in the matter? To answer this we must consider what an unregenerate man does when given such a choice. When we were merely left on our own to choose then clearly none would be saved because there is no person who fits the description of desiring God while still in his graceless, fallen state. Sure, I believe God has the perfect right to leave us to our own devices – He could justly pass over us all and let us grope around in the darkness. But our end would be the lake of fire; all of us without exception. God is also a merciful God, however, and He is not willing that we suffer the lake of fire so He extends his gracious offer of salvation to all. But since none come, or create a right affection for God on their own when left to themselves, He seeks out His own, the people He has set his affection on and delivers them from His wrath. He graciously and mercifully bestows on his people His lovingkindness. God, therefore, gives to us freely, what He demands from us. What we had to have, but could not create or perform or supply (faith and righteousness), God grants us freely. He reveals, as a gift in Christ Jesus, the faith and righteousness that was once only a demand. This does not mean that we do not choose God of our own volition. We make choices based on who we are by nature. Jesus said, "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit." The nature of the tree that determines the fruit that comes out of it. When left to our old fallen natures we naturally and freely chose to rebel against God. But when we heard the word of Truth, the Holy Spirit disarmed our hostility by granting us the new birth. With new eyes and a new understanding we most freely desired to embrace Christ as our Savior. Our affections and dispositions were changed so that this is what we want and all those who God chooses will desire Christ. No one comes kicking and screaming. Jesus teaches that without exception all whom God called from eternity will infallibly come to faith and repentance:
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
John 6:37 (emphasis mine).