Does God Choose or Man?

Written by Josiah Nichols

April 8, 2023

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Does God choose men to be saved or do men choose God? Is it a yes or no question?

Text

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (Ephesians 2:8, ESV).

Introduction

Does God choose man or does man choose God in salvation? This war has been going on for a long time in Christianity. Those who teach God’s sovereignty teach God chooses men before the foundation of the world. Those who teach man’s responsibility teach that men “make the decision” – “choose” to be saved. Which is it, theologically speaking? Maybe the best answer is to not make the two oppose each other. In fact, it might even be a both/and situation. Andrew Rappaport believes he has solved this tension in his book What Do We Believe: A Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith.

Rappaport’s Solution

“The doctrine of inspiration teaches us that God works through people so that the choices they make are God’s choices. So, God works through people to make the choices that He desires, but it is still the man’s responsibility for his choices. … You see the struggle over this doctrine is a struggle over our theological understanding and our experience. We have just seen that theologically it is of God, and God alone, who elects to show mercy on whomever He chooses. However, when we got saved, what did we experience? We remember someone presenting the gospel to us and we believed. Therefore, experientially we remember our choosing God.”[1]

Support for Rappaport’s Solution

There are many doctrines which the Bible does not reconcile, but clearly teach. The doctrine of the dual nature of Christ, he is fully-God and fully-man, is not understandable to most people but the Bible clearly teaches it (Matthew 1, John 1:1 – 14). The doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one in essence and three in person, in unfathomable, yet the Bible clearly teaches it (Matthew 3:13 – 17, 28:18 – 20).

When it is clear that the Scriptures teaches one doctrine, like God chooses men to be saved, and that the same Scriptures teach another doctrine seems to combat that doctrine, like men need to repent and believe to be saved, the best solution is often to accept both as parallel realities. What Rappaport shows in the doctrine of inspiration and applying it to the doctrine of salvation is there is no need to make these truths either/or situations.

Biblical Support for God’s Sovereignty in Salvation

  • “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV).
  • “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29, ESV).
  • And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30, ESV).
  • “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16, ESV).
  • “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:4, ESV).
  • “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” (Ephesians 1:5, ESV).
  • “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22, ESV).
  • “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you (John 15:16, ESV).

There are hundreds of passages which talk about this; however, this sampling should be enough to show from the Scriptures that God chooses men to be saved.

Biblical Support for Man’s Choosing God in Salvation

There are no passages which say men choose Jesus Christ. Yet, there are passages which say those who receive, repent, and trust in Jesus will be saved. However, even those passages are in the context of God being the one who wills them to believe and regenerates them.

  • “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1: 12, ESV).
  • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, ESV).
  • “and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:5, ESV).
  • “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38, ESV).
  • “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,” (Acts 17:30, ESV).

Conclusion

As can be seen above, both man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty are emphasized in salvation. Scripture does not try to make sense of these truths. It merely calls believers to accept both realities. The doctrine of Superintention, which Rappaport advocates, makes the most sense when studying these two doctrines. God works sovereignly in the lives of his elect to bring them to repentance and faith so that they voluntarily repent from their own experiences and rationale. You can get more theological wisdom if you purchase What Do We Believe at our store. To find out more about the doctrine of superintention check out this Rapp Report podcast. 

If you want more biblical resources on studying the Scriptures, check out the store at strivingforeternity.org/store. There are also a lot of other articles on the website to encourage you to dive deeper into God’s Word. Please also check out Apologetics Live at ApologeticsLive.com, where Andrew Rappaport, Dr. Anthony Silvestro, and Justin Pierce answer your questions and teach you how to defend the faith. It is on from 8pm – 10pm EST. Also, do not forget to check out the Rapp Report, where you can hear the teaching of Andrew Rappaport and the Christian Podcast Community. Lord bless you.

[1] Andrew Rappaport, What Do We Believe?: A Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Langhorne, PA: Striving For Eternity Press, 2017), 138.

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