John 6:64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (In the midst of His hearers’ confusion, Jesus explains that only those chosen by the Father can grasp the spiritual significance of what is going on here. This text harkens back to John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”)
The idea of God choosing and our responsibility in salvation is just as confusing today. Here is the short answer as I understand it. If you scour the New Testament for every occasion where the Greek word for “choose” or “elect” is used, there is such a preponderance of use with God as the subject doing the choosing that there can be no doubt that God has chosen you to join His family.
Having said that, you also have a requirement to respond to God’s choice by faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one can boast.” We almost always focus on the words grace, gift, and works in this salvation passage and almost never on the word faith. Based on this passage and others, somehow our faith matters. Our faith is of great importance. Yes, salvation is by grace and we contribute nothing to this grace. It is the free gift of God. But to lay hold of this grace – this gift – faith is required. So there actually is one “work” that is required of us to be saved; the “work” of faith.
This blends right in with the teaching of Jesus in John chapter 6. “They said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (Jn 6:28-29). There is one “work” required of us. It is the work of faith. It is the work of “believing in Him [Jesus Christ] whom God has sent.”
The idea that God does the choosing and we respond in faith gives us great courage in evangelism. We have the opportunity to join God in something He is already doing, drawing men and women to Himself. We are not responsible to make belief happen. This gives us tremendous freedom when we face rejection. It is not our message that is being rejected, it is the message of Jesus Christ. If the message of Christ is being rejected, it is because it has not been revealed by God to the hearer. It is not because we muddled the message, did not say exactly the right words, or somehow goofed up the presentation.
The idea that God chooses does not hinder evangelism, it frees us up to plant as many seeds as possible without fear because we do not know the whole story of what God is doing next in a person’s life. We can’t see below the surface and know where the good soil is. Our responsibility is to plant and water, and “God causes the growth” (I Cor 3:7). “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father” (Jn 6:65).