Because we start out spiritually dead, unable to respond to the Lord, only God can give us the gift of life (see Eph 2:1–2). When sin entered the human race, it left everyone helpless. We cannot come to God unless he draws us (see Jn 6:44). It is not our own awareness that we are sinful people that first turns us to God. Rather, it is God who in his mercy awakens that awareness within us in a similar way to how Jesus summoned Lazarus from the dead (see Jn 11:43–44).
Some believe our salvation through Christ is limited completely to God’s sovereign choice. The only ones who believe in Christ, they point out, are those whom God appointed for salvation before time began (see Eph 1:4). They emphasize that there is no one who seeks God (see Ro 3:10–11). However, God in his mercy has chosen to save some (see Ro 9:15). “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Ro 9:16).
Others suggest God gives every person the ability to choose in terms described as “free will”—his grace and mercy extend to everyone. These people say that each person has to respond by deciding whether to repent of sin and turn to God. They suggest that God honors people’s choices to either refuse or accept Christ’s invitation (see Lk 13:34).