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, 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.” (NASB) Matt. 4:18-19
Jesus offer was “Follow Me.” He chose them, and scripture says they responded. 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. (NASB) John 6:70-71
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. (NASB) John 15:19
So God chooses and man chooses.
In a previous question and answer, we discovered that when God selects a man or woman for salvation, they will choose to be saved. But there is a question we have not asked, “Is it possible for a man to choose and have God 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 anyone who would come – both bad and good.
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.” (NASB) Matthew 22:8-14
They were given clothes to wear since they came from the streets and came unexpectedly. Many people came including one who did not belong. He did not belong because he was not dressed correctly. He did not choose to come to God by accepting the shed blood of Jesus as payment for his sins, but he wanted to come dressed as he preferred, on his own terms. The king is Jesus and the wedding garment is the holy righteousness of Christ.
Isaiah 61:10 states ‘I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
The king is Jesus and the wedding garment is the holy righteousness of Christ. This man did not really choose Jesus. Yes, a man can choose to come on his own merit for salvation and be rejected by God. This man only chose salvation and not Jesus. He wanted salvation 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 is but filthy rags.
Man does have a choice. He can choose Jesus and receive eternal life with God or he can choose himself. When God chooses a man or woman, – they come to Him. How does this work? Scripture does not tell us. But if one believes Jesus is God and that He died to forgive their sins, they will be saved from the penalty of their sins. Yes, God chooses and so does a man or woman. When a man or woman respond to Him, scripture reveals that God caused it to happen. God chooses and man chooses. Both are true. There are two previous questions that may be of interest since one talks about man’s ability or desire to be saved and the other asks why our will leans towards evil.
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?