What Is the Difference Between Calling and Chosen in the Bible?

Are believers called or are they chosen?  What is the difference between these two?  Do they conflict with one another?

Chosen by God

R.C. Sproul wrote an outstanding book called “Chosen by God” and I highly recommend this book from one of the greatest theologians in the last 100 years.  He sees a believer’s election as an effectual one.  That is, when God calls someone He enables that person to respond to that call in faith.  Jesus Himself chose the disciples and God’s word also says that we are called.  Which is it?  Is being called the same thing as being chosen?  Do we choose Him or does He choose us?  It is actually both of these because God chooses those to who He will save and then He calls those same.

You are Chosen

Jesus called His disciples and He says that we are chosen.   There are dozens of Scriptures that testify to this fact.  Here are a few Scriptures that I have selected and after which will be followed by a commentary.

John 15:16 “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.”

Jesus clearly chose the disciples, they did not choose Him.  He even says “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”

John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

The way Jesus says this is that “no man can” meaning that no man, at any time, can, or is able to, of himself or herself come to Him.  The word “come” in the Greek is “erchomai” which means “to come from one place or another.”   So, no one can come to Christ unless something happens first.  That something is not a little nothing but a huge something.  That something is unless the Father…draws them.  The word for “draw” in the Greek is “helko” which means to literally “drag” or to “draw by an inward power.” I believe that “inward power” is that of the Holy Spirit.  So this sentence, if we insert the original Greek, should read “No one can come from one place (being unsaved) to the other (to Christ Who saves) me (Jesus) unless the Father who sent me (Jesus) drags him as by an inward power.

There are dozens of other Scriptures that show that God is the One Who calls and has even predestined us  before the earth even existed (Eph 1) but this theme of being called by God is not restricted to the New Testament but is found throughout the Old Testament.  God called Abraham out of paganism, God called Israel out of Egypt, God called Moses out of shepherding and when God calls, all follow, with no exceptions, showing that God has the power to bring about what He purposes.

God called Israel specifically as we read in Isaiah 41:4, 8-9

“Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he. But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off.”

Nowhere here is the idea that Abraham said, “Hey, I think I’ll give God a try” or Israel voted collectively and by an overwhelming majority vote, voted to choose God.  No, God says that “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph 1:4-5).  How clear that is!

You are Called

There is no doubt that God does the choosing and we don’t really choose Him but are we also called by God?  Is our calling the same thing as being chosen?  Here are Scriptures that emphatically state that we are also called and the conclusion must be that being chosen by God results in being called by God and so if you are chosen by God you must be called.

Matthew 22:14 “Many are called but few are chosen.”

This seems to contradict what the Scriptures say that you can be called but not chosen but that is not what Jesus is saying here if you read the entire chapter.  Many are called and many come to Christ but only a few are chosen.  Why so?  Remember in the Parable of the Sower that many did come and were called to the knowledge of God but some fell on stony ground, others on thorns, while others never took root.  Some fell away after persecution, some got entangled in the affairs of the world while riches chocked the others from being saved.  They professed saving faith at one time but they really never possessed saving faith. They may have been called but if they were not saved and fell away as the seed never took root and this reveals that they were never really chosen.

Second Timothy 1:9 “God, who saved us and called us to [literally “with”] a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”

This seems to match what Ephesians 1:4-5 say that we are called with a holy calling but this calling began “before the ages [or time] began. “  God, the One Who saved us was also the One Who called us to a holy calling.  He is the One that initiated this calling, before the ages began (or time began), meaning before the earth even existed.

First Corinthians 1:26 “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.”

Here we see that we are called and to consider (ponder, think about) that calling and most of those who are called are not the powerful or born of nobility or in places of great power or prominence.

Romans 8:28-30 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

This is called the golden chain of salvation by many.  God works all things out for the best but only for those who are “called according to His purpose.”  He does not say that all things will always work out for good but they will always work out for our good but this good is only for those who are “called according to His purpose” and not according to our purpose.  He foreknew us and those Who He foreknew He also predestined to be saved “and those whom He called He also justified.”  The theme of being called is repeated in these verses and anytime words are repeated in the Bible, it is always for emphasizing something that is very import.  In this verse there is nothing about us or we or that we chose Him or we participated in this call.


When I was called to dinner as a child, I was chosen to have dinner and that we always sat in the same place at the dinner table.  We didn’t choose our parents any more than we chose God.  God chooses us and those He chose He calls.  They are like the left hand complimenting the right.  They go together.  One comes first…being chosen, like in predestination.  Next comes the calling, calling those who were chosen.  If you are not sure if you are chosen then please read Romans 10:9-13 or Acts 16:30-31 and if you believe this, then you have been chose and perhaps today God the Father is calling you to Christ (John 6:44) so that you might believe and be saved.

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon

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  • http://restorationofchristianity.com/ Christian Restitutio
  • Michael Pearcy

    This article is misleading…. and conveniently arranged to fit a mindset and philosophy of fatalism.

    • Jack Wellman

      Thank you Mr. Pearcy. So God did not call us and choose us? Is Ephesians 1 and Romans 8 incorrect?

    • sandrajune

      The biblical fact that God has an eternal plan that will not be thwarted is not fatalism. It is an omniscient, all-powerful, sovereign God that is carrying out His plan to glorify His Son. Those that subscribe to this being fatalism tend to put too much emphasis on man. We are just a part of God’s great metanarrative, not the point of it.

    • PrinW

      Where do you see fatalism in this article? I am asking respectfully, as I don’t, I see some hope in the article, just wanted more.

  • Kristie Patterson

    In john 6:44 the Greek says to drag or draw by inward power. Isn’t dragging and drawing 2 different things? I ask because I hear evangelicals say God’s a gentleman and doesn’t force Himself on us. Dragging seems to depict force.

    • sandrajune

      Only evangelicals with bad theology say God’s a gentleman and doesn’t force Himself on us. Those with biblical theology say God is sovereign and does what He pleases.

    • PrinW

      I would say yes they are different! And evangelical or not, G-D, our lovingkindness Creator made us all with that mind boggling gift of ‘will’. Our puny ‘no’, He respects, because He made us in His image, not robots.
      However, if you have been drawn to and by the unconditional, no strings, wild LOVE of our gracious Maker and Master, it could be described as a wonderful, gentle at times and overwhelmingly powerful connection you really don’t want to resist….and scripture does tell us that even we King’s kids sometimes grieve His great heart when we go against His will.
      While I appreciated the article, especially all the scripture, it seemed more confusing in the end than enlightening.
      The scripture I love most for this is many are called, few are chosen…And He is the one who chooses us and gives us that gift of grace to accept Him and His forgiveness.
      Before we get to caught up in arguing, or slamming our brethren, it may be wise to ask what a person means first.
      We church people have a culture and vocabulary all our own and sometimes we don’t even all understand one another, or speak truth clearly or in love.
      Rather than study for study sake, how about we study to grow, to be a light, to draw others to His wonderful light.

  • sandrajune

    Thank you for this concise explanation! I intend to direct anyone with this question straight to it. Please continue to contend for the faith. God bless.

  • Eric Parry

    Since there are vast numbers of people throughout the ages (including me) who have neither been called or chosen to be saints the question arises, “Are they excluded from salvation?”.

    I think the answer is in the book of Revelation.

    But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. (Revelation 20:5).

    And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:12).

    And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15).

    The ‘rest of the dead’ would include those who were not raised at the resurrection of the saints at the return of Christ. These sinners are to be judged by their works and the standard of behaviour required is the golden rule.

    And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the
    commandments. (Matthew 19:16-17).