You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit . . . .
Prevenient (i.e., coming before) grace is the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts granting us the ability to receive the gospel. Our sin enslaves us, darkens our understanding, and binds our wills. God by his unmerited favor must go before providing us the ability to accept (or reject) his offer of salvation in Christ. If anyone is hungry for God and seeks salvation, it is the Holy Spirit stirring in their hearts drawing them to something eternal. God’s pursuit is not passive, dilatory, or random. The Holy Spirit wants us, he wants our hearts, he wants our devotion. God pursues us and pursues us relentlessly. Jesus woos us, confounds us, corners us in order to draw us and win us to himself.
Paul ran from Christ; Christ pursued and overtook him. Paul resisted Christ; Christ disarmed him. Paul persecuted Christ; Christ converted him. Paul was an alien; Christ made him a member of the family. Paul was an enemy; Christ made him a friend. Paul was ‘in the flesh’; Christ set him ‘in the Spirit.’ Paul was under the law; Christ set him in grace. Paul was dead; Christ made him alive to God. How does one give reasons for this? He does not give reasons; he sings, ‘Blessed be God who blessed us . . . even as he chose us in him.’
Lewis B. Smedes, Union With Christ (Grand Rapids, 1983), 86-87.
HT: Ray Ortlund