John 15:16 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....".

Does "choose" here mean:

  1. The behaviour of the people being addressed had, or would at some point, not be dependent upon their choice?

  2. They would make choices but these choices would be entirely dependent upon how God made and sustained them and their circumstances? [ These would not be "free choices" but "determined choices"].

With determined choices:

A. We choose.

B. We choose on the basis of who we are.

C. We do not choose who we are.

D. Who we are is up to God who made us. John 1:3 "All things were made through him" and that includes all people and all situations.

In summary: Is the lack of choice-"You did not choose me" an absence of any sort of choice, or, is it "determined choice" where what is chosen is the only possible outcome given that things are what they are-which is itself up to God who has all authority as recorded in Matthew 28:18?


Or 3...choose means Jesus chose to give an opportunity to the disciples (something they couldn't have had on their own) and they chose to act on that opportunity. 

This option suggests we may be reading too much into the passage if we are looking for a foundational statement on soteriology or agency.  Instead it looks at the context of what He is teaching the (apparently) 11 others present on the occasion:

16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (the full verse)

Compare to Hebrews 5:4:

4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

The apostles didn't choose this job. Jesus chose to ordain some of His followers to be His representatives (much as the high priest acted as Jehovah's representative--see aforementioned 5th chapter of Hebrews), and sent these disciples to take a message to the ends of the earth. 

The fact that their words are being discussed on this site, that this post may be vetted by moderators in Australia, Scotland, and the US, and that these ideas are circulating among readers all around the world; suggests that the apostles chose to act on that commission and successfully carried out the assignment they were given.

  • +1 for rightly interpreting this in context as Jesus choosing them for a privileged apostolic mission that will bear fruit (of converts), of which they were the fountainhead, rather than soteriological election. Feb 18 '21 at 5:45

There is a lot going on in this question that has been debated for centuries between Calvinists and Arminians, amongst others. However, there are several matters about which the Scriptures are clear.

1. Salvation of man is God's initiative

  • Eph 1:4, 5 - For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will
  • 1 Peter 1:20 - He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
  • Rev 13:8 - All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
  • 1 John 4:19 - We love because He first loved us.

2. God's salvation initiative includes all people

  • John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • John 12:32, “I [Jesus] … will draw all people to myself.”
  • Acts 17:30, “God … commands all people everywhere to repent.”
  • Rom 5:18, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all people, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all people, resulting in justification of life.”
  • Rom 11:32, “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.”
  • 2 Cor 5:14, “…we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”
  • 1 Tim 2:3, 4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
  • 1 Tim 2:6, “[Jesus Christ] gave Himself as a ransom for all people.”
  • Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God appeared bringing salvation to all people.”
  • Heb 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
  • 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
  • 1 John 2:2, “He Himself [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours [Christians to whom John writes] only but also for the whole world.”
  • Isa 53:6, “We all like sheep have gone astray … and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

3. Despite God's initiative, we can reject God's salvation

  • Eze 18:21-28 also teaches that the wicked can reform and be saved, and the righteous can apostatise and be lost. Both situations are incompatible with Calvinism’s view of salvation and humanity.
  • Rom 11:17-21 discusses the warning that people who had been grafted into the “olive tree” of the Christian community could be broken off if they were unfaithful.
  • 1 Cor 9:27 Paul says he disciplines his body to keep it under control so that after preaching to others he does not become a castaway/disqualified. That is, Paul believed that it was possible that he could lose his way and become lost.
  • 1 Cor 10:12 also contains a stern warning from Paul, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”
  • Heb 2:1-3, "We must pay closer attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every transgression and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?"
  • Similarly, Heb 6:4-6 also teaches that some “who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit…” can fall away.
  • Heb 10:19-35 contains an extended passage on enduring. It contains some real gems about the possibility of losing one’s faith and confidence such as:
  • Heb 13:9, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace …”
  • 2 Peter 2:21, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”
  • 2 Peter 3:17 contains a very stern and sobering warning to be on guard that we do not fall from our secure position. Verse 14 contains a similar warning.

4. God calls us to service

John 15:16 contains all the above in a nutshell - Jesus chooses his disciples but they must respond positively; Judas is a perfect example of one who rejected God's call to service.

In fact, Jesus discussion in John 15 begins with his "parable" (metaphor more correctly) of the vine. Note some of the highlights of this wonderful teaching:

  • V2 - He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful.
  • V6 - If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned.
  • V7 - If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Thus, while it is the divine will that we bear much fruit (V8), it is our choice to remain in God's love. Jesus' call to service appears in other places as well such as Matt 28:19, 20. Unfortunately, many will reject that call.

5. God sustains us

Notice Jesus important point about our service for Him:

John 15:4, 5 - Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.

Thus, not only does Jesus call us to service, He also enables us to accomplish that service and sustains us. However, this occurs with God's initiative but only as we remain or "abide" in Jesus.

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