Most people have no problem with Jesus choosing His disciples. That doesn’t seem to conflict with the desire to remain somewhat autonomous, having God not trample all over their free will. After all, the disciples could have decided not to follow Him, right?
Well the Calvinist is going to say, no because God truly “called” them (all but one) before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). Yet he would not deny that the disciples also chose to follow Him, as they, and we, aren’t robots. What I would argue for is the primacy and enabling of God’s choosing. God chooses first, regenerates our hearts, and then we gladly and freely choose. This is called “effectual calling” and is explained clearly with the lyrics in the hymn “Love Constraining to Obedience:” now freely chosen in the Son, I now freely choose His ways.
The Arminian is going to say, Jesus chose His disciples (that can’t be argued), but that they still had the freedom to choose; there was no necessary effectual work of the Spirit required. God won’t make anyone love or follow Him.
However, as I’m reading through Matthew, you have to wonder how in the world the disciples actually followed Jesus, especially given how much they really did know about whom they would leave their livelihoods. It is clear, even after the cross, the disciples didn’t really “get it.” That was of course the case until the Spirit had been given to dwell in them to teach them the things they didn’t understand (John 14:26).
But in reading the gospels, you see all kinds of glimpses into the hearts of the disciples which deal with this question: who in the world are we following? Check this one out, which takes place after Jesus calms the ominous storm.
And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”-Matthew 8:27
They believed Jesus was somebody, but who they believed Jesus to be at the very beginning of His ministry is anyone’s guess. Even after he performed miracles, they still didn’t really know who this guy was. They knew he was special, and Peter seems to have a decent grasp in Matthew 16 and John 6, but at this point in their spiritual journey, they obviously didn’t realize he could control even the weather.
Why in the world did they follow him, for whom they knew so little about? Because they weren’t just called in the 20’s AD, but before the foundation of the world. That’s my guess.