Does man have free will to choose salvation? The Bible seems to point to both aspects. The Bible says we are servants, but it also says that it is He who chooses, not us (John 15:16). I know that it refers to the disciples mostly and how they were chosen, but it could have a double meaning.
The Bible teaches that man must choose God and yet God chooses salvation for us. Scripture does teach both. Man chooses Christ, and God predestines men to eternal life with Him. We do not understand how they work together – only God knows. Jesus’ selection of His disciples is a very interesting example of God choosing and man “making the decision.”
Calling His Disciples
In the gospel of Matthew, scripture tells us that as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, and He invited some men to become His disciples. Here is what happened.
And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:18-19 (NASB)
Notice that Jesus asked them to “Follow Me.” He chose them, and scripture says they responded. He did not negotiate with them or ask them what they would like to do. He selected even Judas who would later betray Him. Listen to His words.
Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. John 6:70-71 (NASB)
If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19 (NASB)
So God chooses and we respond.
The Parable of the Wedding
In a previous question titled, “If you are not chosen then does it really matter when you die?“ we discovered that when God choses a man or woman for salvation, they will want to be saved. But there is a question we have not asked, “Is it possible for a man to choose and then for God to reject him or her? The answer is illustrated in a parable about guests who were invited to a wedding feast. The king sent his servant to invite only those who were “not worthy.” That is, they did not deserve to be invited to the wedding. Now notice who comes to the wedding banquet.
Then he *said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.” And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, and he *said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:8-14 (NASB)
Many people came to the wedding including one who did not belong. He did not belong because he was not dressed correctly. At the end of the parable we are told that this man was thrown into outer darkness, that is, hell.
The message of the parable is that the king is Jesus and the wedding garment is the holy righteousness of Christ. The man who came dressed as he desired did not choose Jesus as Savior and Lord. Yes, a man can choose to become a Christ based on his own effort, or “because a person thinks they are a good person. Bt they will be rejected by God because they did not truly believe in Christ. This man only chose salvation and not Jesus. He wanted salvation on his own terms. He did not choose to come to God by accepting the shed blood of Jesus as payment for his sins. Instead, he wanted to come dressed as he preferred, on his own terms.
Consequently, as Isaiah 64:6 says, this guest came dressed in his own righteousness, his own good deeds, which in the eyes of God are only filthy rags.
For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment . . .
Isaiah 64:6 (NASB)
Man does have a choice. He can choose Jesus and receive eternal life (John 1:12) or he can choose himself. When God chooses a man or woman, – they come to Him (John 6:37, 44, 65). How does this work? Scripture tells us that God chose men and women before the foundation of the world and gives us the faith to believe (Acts 3;16; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 peer 1:1). Our faith is a gift from God. If one believes Jesus is God and that He died to forgive their sins, they will be saved from the penalty of their sins. When God draws a man or woman to Jesus Christ (John 6:37, 44, 65), he or she will respond to the invitation to become a Christian. When a man or woman respond to Him, scripture reveals that God caused it to happen. God chooses and man wants to be saved. It feels real because it is real. Do you want to become a Christian? Visit the page Searching for God to learn how.
Suggested Links:Predestination and Human Responsibility
Searching For God
If you are not chosen then does it really matter when you die?
How can we have freewill if we must love God to escape hell?
So why is our freewill inclined to a sinful nature?