Can Man Choose God On His Own?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

No.  The Bible seems to clearly teach that God must call on man before man will respond.  Original sin has caused man to reject God without God’s intervention.  Jesus said, ““This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (John 6:65).  The Psalmist said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5).  God must initiate salvation because man cannot.

So does God intervene to convict all men of their sins and call them toward him?  Yes, he does.  All men are given the chance to accept or reject God because God calls all men.  According to 2 Pet. 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.”  According to 1 Tim. 2:3-4, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

God will freely offer the gift of salvation to everyone, but each person must decide to accept or reject this free gift.  God must call us first, as we are incapable of inclining our wills toward God on our own.

Historical footnote: The belief that mankind is born innocent of original sin and can freely choose God without God first initiating salvation is called Pelagianism.  This heresy was condemned by the Council of Carthage (A.D. 416-418).

  • Rick Godfrey

    Man cannot choose God on his own. He must first be chosen by God which makes him of God. He then has the “ears to hear” when God calls or draws him. Only the chosen of God were reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those not chosen by God are the children of the devil. God loves all of his chosen sons but he hates the children of the devil.

  • gloria

    This idea of being “chosen” by God is a new one to me. I am new to my faith in the Lord and as I read the Bible I see this whole idea/principle of ‘being chosen’ over and over and over again. He knows whom He has chosen. John 13:18

    ” Therefore said I unto you that no man can come unto me except it were given unto Him of my father”. John 6:65

    Amazing. why didn’t I see this before? Probably because I was blind and had not yet received my spiritual eye sight.

    God bless,

  • Rick Godfrey

    John 6:37-38—-All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and he that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him that sent me. This is the Father’s will that hath sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. John 6:44—-No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:64,65—-But their are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And He said,”Therefore said I unto you that no man can come unto me except it were given unto him of my Father. John 6:70,71—-Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for it was he that should betray him, being one of the twelve. Those people that God the Father has chosen from the foundation of the world will be drawn to Jesus and Jesus will not cast them out. John 10:25-30—-Jesus answered them,” I told you, and ye believed not:the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But you believe not, BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT OF MY SHEEP, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all and man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.

  • Rick Godfrey

    I made a typing error, sorry. Jesus said that NO man could pluck them out of his Father’s hand. He and his Father are one.


  • franklinmonroe

    Hi Bill,

    Elsewhere on this site you suggest that it is a dangerous thing to pull single verses out of their natural context and the display of 2 Peter 3:9 here followed by 1 Timothy 2:4 surely proves the point.

    Peter declares he is writing to the “elect” in his second book (several times); to be sure, he is writing to believers, probably Jewish believers. Unfortunately, I think the NIV word choices here partially obscure the truth: Peter tells the reader in 3:9 that God is patient with “you” (should be understood as plural “you” as it is in Greek, perhaps more like “us” which includes the believing Peter), that God is not willing that “anyone” (simply “any” in Greek) perish, and that God wants “everyone” (simply “all” in Greek) to come to repentance. I would say that “anyone” indicates any believers, and “everyone” means every believer. There are NO implied referrences to other groups or types of people in the verse (other unbelievers earlier in this chapter are called lustful scoffers).

    So, this passage would NOT be teaching that God wills that “anyone” (that is, unspecified persons) not perish, because in fact, God apparently does permit a portion of humanity to be eternally punished. Peter is NOT teaching God wills that “everyone” (unspecified persons) come into a changed state of mind/heart, because God will have some humans remain unrepentant. This exegesis keeps the verse in agreement with the farther context (of the book) and the nearer context of the verse itself. In this interpretation, what God wills He actually accomplishes.

  • franklinmonroe

    Hello again,

    And now for my interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:3-4 in its natural context. Bear in mind that the early Church was populated with a high percentage of Jewish converts that had thought that God was sending a Messiah for the Jews alone (and many were still having a difficult time understanding that salvation was now being offered to Gentiles, too). The writers of the NT were Jewish (except perhaps Luke), writing to a mostly 1st century Jewish audience, about the lives of Jews (Jesus, apostles, Paul, for the most part). Read about Judaizers in Acts. Read about the kingdom offered in the Gospels. Read the New Testament.

    Paul writes in 2:1 that prayers be made for “all men” immediately followed by some unexpected examples of the groups of people for which to pray (kings, and other officials). Paul tells Timothy that it pleases God that we pray for other kinds of people (most of the rulers that time of were actually foreigners and occupiers, not welcome generally). So, when we get to 2:4 Paul has already indicated to us who these “all men” are: they are people from all the various nations, and of various occupation or rank. Yes, God is willing to save some out of all the foreign races (not just good Jews); and even some politicians!

  • Tom Torbeyns

    I disagree with the doctrine of Augustinian Original Sin (You can read that on my blog crosstheology dot wordpress dot com) but like the real Pelagius, I believe that grace always comes before. Grace can be The Holy Spirit drawing, God putting his law in our hearts (consciences) from birth, God giving the Law to the Jewish people,… 🙂