Jesus says: “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). The Bible teaches that it is God who predestines and chooses the elect; it is God who calls those whom He has chosen. We see this in Ephesians chapter 1 (v5, 11) where we read: “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will… In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Essentially, the Bible teaches that God predetermines that certain individuals will be saved, and there are a great many Scriptures referring to the elect, believers in Christ being chosen. In fact, the concordance in one of my Bibles gives 281 entries for the words predestination, elect and chosen. Predestination, then, is the biblical doctrine that God in His sovereignty chooses certain individuals to be saved.

The Bible is remarkable in the way it is happy to show the weaknesses of its “heroes”. That is true throughout the Old Testament as well as the New. No one is in any doubt that Noah, Moses, David, Solomon, Peter and Paul are great men, who are also moral failures. – And that’s because God’s book wants us to know that He alone is the hero.

Explore Bible notes, 20/12/2012

God’s election of sinners for salvation is part of his sovereignty over everything (Ephesians 1:11). And whenever we pray, we are acknowledging that God is in control; whenever we pray for someone to be saved, we’re (at least unconsciously) recognising that God is in control of saving people.

But God choosing people can seem to undermine evangelism (God will save those he has chosen anyway), undermine our humility (we’re the chosen ones), and undermine our holiness (we’re saved anyway). Paul helps us with each objection.

First, God uses our evangelism to save his elect (read Acts 18:9-10). Since he has chosen many, our evangelism is the joyful privilege of finding his elect with his gospel, like miners digging for gold in a pit.

Second, election keeps us humble because we were chosen “before the creation of the world” – we’re not saved because we turned out to be cleverer or more deserving. Since he first chose us, we can only ever be humble.

Third, we were chosen “to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4). Saved through Jesus, we’ll want to be like Jesus – holy.

Richard Coekin

Explore Bible notes, 4/10/2016

Becoming a believer is not dependent on human wisdom or strength. It does not rely on your background or your family connections or where in the world you were born. It is not dependent on a feeling you had at an evangelistic meeting, or your good deeds, or your current experience of living a successful Christian life (however you try to measure success). No. God chose! … All the initiative in becoming a believer was down to God. God decreed, ‘That person will become a believer,’ and by whatever mechanism he chose for us to hear and respond to the good news, we did. He set his grace upon us when we were his enemies, and that grace invincibly came through for us.

Marcus Honeysett

Source: Marcus Honeysett, Finding Joy, p.102

The Bible teaches both predestination (that God has planned everything in advance) and it teaches that we have free will. This is a mystery that the Scriptures hold in tension. The paradox is although the elect have been predestined to believe, we still remain free agents; we still have a choice. Nicky Gumbel rightly states that it’s difficult to get our minds around this paradox but he has always found this illustration helpful: Imagine written above the archway to the gates of heaven, Jesus’ words: ‘Come to me all…all you who are weary and burdened …’ (Matthew 11:28). In other words everyone is invited to come and enter in. And then when you get through the gates and look back, on the other side of the archway is written, ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Matthew 11:27b). In other words, free will is a doctrine for everyone. No one can say, ‘I can’t or I’m not going to become a Christian because I have not been chosen.’ The invitation is open to all. On the other hand, predestination is a wonderful doctrine of assurance for those who are Christians. Once you have accepted the invitation and entered in, you can know beyond any doubt that God has chosen you and therefore he will never let you go.

Source: Bible in One Year – Alpha devotional, accessed 14/1/2015

Some people might say, if God is choosing who is saved, doesn’t that undermine our own free will to choose and believe in Christ? Well, no, because we are free to choose Christ or to reject him. The Bible says that we all have the choice – all who believe in Jesus will be saved. ‘For God so loved the world – all of us – that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). The Bible never describes God rejecting anyone who believes in Him; it never describes God turning away anyone who is seeking Him. Somehow, in the mystery of God, predestination works hand-in-hand with a person choosing him. God predestines who will be saved, but we must choose Christ in order to be saved. Both facts are equally true.


Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft talk about Jesus choosing ordinary, broken people; misfits: ‘When Jesus chose his disciples, it appears he went for the worst of the worst. Think about them: Whenever Peter opened his mouth he put his foot in it. James and John were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder”, not because they had digestive problems, but almost certainly because they were bad tempered. We’re told in the gospels that they were ambitious. When Jesus had been telling them about how he was going to die on the cross, James and John said, “Could you do us a favour? After you’ve done your suffering could we sit at your right and left and be really important people?” Jesus wasn’t impressed (Mark 10:35-40).

They were also competitive. As Peter and John ran to the tomb when they heard that Jesus had risen from the dead, John couldn’t resist telling us that he was a faster runner than Peter (John 20:3-4). (Note: If you read to the end of his book John tells us that there are many good stories he’s left out – but he still thought it was important to let us know who was the quickest over 100 metres…)

They were vengeful and violent. When some Samaritan villagers didn’t invite them in for a cup of tea, they suggested to Jesus that they should call down fire from heaven and have them burnt up (Luke 9:54). Jesus must have wondered whether they would ever understand.

One of the disciples, Simon, was a Zealot. In other words, he was trying to violently overthrow the occupying Roman army. Today he could well be labelled a terrorist. Matthew collected taxes from his own people on behalf on the occupying Roman power and was regarded as a traitor to Israel. Thomas was every pastor’s worst nightmare. He was negative, wouldn’t believe anything anyone said and always seemed to see the cup as half-empty. Yet Jesus chose them. He loved them. He was committed to them. For three years they misunderstood him and had wrong motives but Jesus didn’t give up on them. In the end his love changed them and they changed the world.

If we want to look at some other characters in the Bible, think about this: Noah was a drunk, Abraham was too old, Isaac was a daydreamer, Jacob was a liar, Leah was ugly, Joseph was abused, Moses had a stutter, Gideon was afraid, Samson was a flirt, Rahab was a prostitute, Jeremiah was too young, David was an adulterer and a murderer, Elijah was suicidal, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran from God, Job went bankrupt, Peter denied Jesus (three times!), the disciples fell asleep whilst they were praying, the Samaritan woman was divorced (and quite possibly a sex addict), Zacchaeus was too small, Paul murdered Christians, Timothy probably had an ulcer and Lazarus was dead! If God can use a dead man he can use us.

Source: Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft, Everyday Supernatural, 2016, Colorado Springs USA: David C. Cook Publishers, p.62-63

What difference does the doctrine of election make to us?

  1. It prompts us to worship God. I cannot praise myself in any way for my salvation – I will praise God.
  2. It makes us humble. It was not our perceptiveness, intelligence or wisdom that caused us to choose God; he chose us regardless of anything in us. There is nothing in us to be proud about.
  3. It makes us hopeful in evangelism. Anyone, even the most unlikely, can be saved by God – so I’ll share the gospel with everyone I can.
  4. It makes us confident. God is in charge of everything, and he is committed to us, to bring us to glory.

Explore Bible notes, 31/07/2014

Do you know that you are also chosen? You are set apart for a purpose. God has made His Holy Spirit available to you to anoint and equip you to do something specific, something special, that only you can do. – Jeannie Morgan

Jeannie Morgan, Encounter the Holy Spirit, p.32

It’s fair to say that many folk have a strong hostility to the doctrine of predestination. The most common objection people say is that it’s unfair. Why would God choose certain individuals and not others? Good question but the important thing to remember, here, is that no one deserves to be saved. We have ‘all sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23), and so the only thing we really deserve is to be punished, and not to be saved. The fact is God would be perfectly fair and just in allowing all of us to go to hell, which is eternal separation from God. However, God, in His providence and grace, chooses to save some of us. He is not being unfair to those who are not chosen, because they are receiving only what they deserve. God’s choosing to be gracious to some is not unfair to the others, because no one deserves anything from God and therefore, no one can have any grounds to object if they don’t receive anything from God. Let me share an illustration to make the point: Imagine a man randomly handing out money to five people in a crowd of twenty. Would the fifteen people who didn’t receive the free money be upset? Probably. But do they have any right to be upset? No, they don’t. Why? Well, because the man did not owe anyone anything. He simply decided to be gracious to some, and that, of course, is his prerogative.


“The next time you feel like God can’t use you, remember the following people: Zacchaeus was too small… Paul was too religious… Timothy had an ulcer… and Lazarus was dead!”

Clemency Fox

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9 NIV