Does God Choose who will be saved, or does He simply Ratify our Choice?
As I listen to people, it’s not uncommon to hear that someone could have been saved were it not because they were untimely victims of a disease or even murdered before someone could share the gospel.
That begs the question – how much of salvation is our responsibility?
If we fail to hear the message and take action, or if the message is inadequate or the messenger is remiss in conveying the message promptly, and someone dies – did they potentially miss their opportunity for salvation and go to hell?
In other words, they could have been saved, but God just lost them.
Put another way, is salvation by human will, with God in His omniscience simply looking forward in time to ratify our choice, or does God in His sovereignty specifically choose those who are to be saved?
Now, most would agree that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. The concept of works is not the issue. The issue is – does God sovereignly select or simply ratify?
The Bible is Clear About Salvation
As Acts 13:48 conveys, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”
Many were glad and gloried the word, but who believed? Only those who were ordained. Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “For He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. Chosen before the foundation of the world in the act of selecting that we may be holy. In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will."
In verse 4, “He chose us” in the Greek is the aorist of eklegomai, which means “to select or choose out of.
The aorist means that “at one particular time in the past, God chose us in Him, which ties in with “before the foundation of the world.” It is also in the middle voice, which means this was His own decision. In verse 4, “predestined” is a compound Greek word – proorisas. Pro means “before” and horizo means “to determine.” Simply, to “determine or decree beforehand.”
Finally, John 1:12-13 states, “But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children—children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.” Here, it is not man’s will that saves us but God who gave us the right to become his children.
This theme is repeated over and over in the bible – chosen, elected, called, ordained, predestined…
In other words, God sovereignly chooses us, and our responsibility is to confess and believe. As Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God:”
Both grace and faith are gifts from God. Salvation is all of God.
Does God lose some?
But what about someone who dies before hearing the gospel? Do they miss out? And does God simply lose them?
John 6:37,39 answers that question “Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away. Now, this is the will of the one who sent me—that I should not lose one person of everyone he has given me but raise them all at the last day."
If God the father gives someone to his son, that person will not be lost, neither from salvation nor from glorification, period. And neither voluntarily (abdication) nor involuntarily.
Why is this difficult to accept?
Why is this concept so difficult for some to understand and believe?
Why do many continue to believe that God simply looks into the future and ratifies someone’s choice to be saved?
They do not understand that humans will still play a role.
Remember, John 6:37 says “…and the one who comes….” We are not robots. There is a divine calling to which those who are elected will respond. Our response will be 100% effective because God made it that way, even though it will still be our response. Conversely, our refusal of the gospel is also 100% our own will, determination, and responsibility.
They misunderstand the meaning of “foreknowledge” in Romans 8:29-30.
Romans 8:29-30 “because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified."
Here it is, the one verse that shows God looked into the future – He foreknew.
But “know” in the bible doesn’t mean look into the future – it means to create a love relationship. This verse simply states that those whom God loved (foreknown) predestined, he called, He justified, and He Glorified. This is the complete cycle from the election (or foreknowledge) to an effectual calling or hearing the gospel, to justification, and finally to glorification.
Remember he will lose none, neither in salvation nor ultimately in glorification.
Amos 3:1-2 “…O children of Israel 2 You only have I known…” Certainly God knew of other nations, however, he had a love relationship only with Israel.
What about Genesis 4:1 “And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…” Knew speaks of a love relationship with Eve, not simple knowledge.
God’s foreknowledge was part of God’s love election or choice of those who would be saved before the earth's foundation through God’s sovereignty, it is not seeing ahead and ratifying those who become believers. Such an understanding is hollow and inconsistent with the pattern of God’s choice throughout the bible.
They want more credit for those whom they share the gospel with and who ultimately become saved.
Could it be true that if someone is chosen and their time is now, that our effort to share the gospel, even if weak, will still be effective?
In other words, we are simply servants of God’s command to share, and the only credit we get for doing so is our obedience to God. I believe that is hard for some to swallow, especially when this is a full-time occupation.
They don’t believe God is so cruel as to save some and send everyone to hell.
If you understand that “we all sinned” and “the wages of sin is death,” then all of mankind is destined to hell were it not for the intervention of Jesus and the sovereign election of God, who graciously saved some.
It’s also biblical that everyone accepts or rejects God and is individually responsible.
Romans 9:14-15 address this issue when it states, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
Still not satisfied?
Romans 9:19-20 presents a final response – “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who has ever resisted his will?” But who indeed are you—a mere human being—to talk back to God? Does what is molded say to the molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
Who else is elected?
If, as Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” wouldn’t it make sense that other situations exist where God sovereignly chooses?
Is this not a biblical pattern?
It is. Israel was chosen, and the Apostles were chosen as John 15:16 “6 You did not choose me, but I chose you…”.
Was Mary chosen? Or did God just look forward and serendipitously find a young believing virgin? (and related to the mother of John the Baptist). Of all the coincidences.
No, Mary had to be chosen before the foundation of the world both in salvation and as the mother of Jesus.
God has to be given credit for putting this all together.
What about the 144,00 Jews in Revelation?
Modern Jews are unaware of their family heritage, let alone precisely 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes suddenly becoming raving evangelists during the horrible tribulation to share the gospel.
This cannot be happenstance – it has to be the sovereignty of God.
No other explanation is even remotely plausible. God chose the 144,000 in salvation and their calling during the tribulation as evangelists.
God is entitled to sovereign choices.
He puts all things together.
If he consistently chooses throughout the bible, isn’t it unreasonable to believe that something so important as our salvation and glorification is the exception, that God doesn’t choose us; He simply ratifies our decision?
May it never be!
None of them diminishes our responsibility to God’s command in Matthew 28:19 to “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Only God knows who is chosen. Our command isn’t to discern the elect before we share the good news; it is to share God’s gospel with the world.
If God’s sovereignty is not understood in salvation, it leads to various perversions in understanding the bible.
God is sovereign. He works all things together for good. We have to understand and believe that basic premise.
Without it, we start to slide down the slippery slope of works. We start giving men more credit and responsibility for salvation in a way God never intended.
Matthew 22:14 says, “many are called, but few are chosen.
”If God simply looked into the future and ratified man’s decisions, this passage would have to read:
“many are called but few choose.“Back to top of page