Question: "What does it mean that no one seeks God?"
Answer: Some contemporary churches are billed as “seeker-friendly,” but the Bible says that “no one seeks God.” Psalm 14:2–3 pictures God searching in vain for even one heart that seeks Him: “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” This passage is quoted in Romans 3:10–12, which says, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.’” So, if no one seeks God, who are the “seekers” that some churches strategize to attract? Plus, how are people saved if no one is seeking God?
First we must understand human nature. Because of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:11), sin entered the world and became part of human existence. Because Adam is the common ancestor of every human being, we all inherit that sin nature. We are born with a natural desire for rebellion, self-interest, and disobedience. In Romans 7:18, Paul says, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” In ourselves, we cannot seek after God, for the simple reason that seeking God is a good and holy thing. Sinful flesh is incapable of good and holy things (Isaiah 64:6).
Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44). In other words, the only way we can seek God is if the Holy Spirit has first stirred our hearts with a desire for God. It is God who draws us to Himself. Ephesians 2:8 underscores this truth: “By grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.” Even the faith to believe for salvation does not originate within our fleshly nature. God enables the fallen human heart to seek Him, when in our own self-centered rebellion we would never do so. Every good thing originates with God (James 1:17). Faith in God is a good thing, and so it also originates with God.
Even our best efforts fall far short of the righteousness required by God (Romans 3:23). That’s why Scripture says that no one seeks God. We seek fulfillment. We seek pleasure. We seek escape from pain. But the pure motivation of seeking after God for Himself is a gift from God. We are not saved because we had the wisdom and insight to exercise our own faith and trust God. No one wakes up one day and, on his own, decides to seek God. That would be a salvation by our own works, and Scripture is clear we are saved only by the grace and mercy of God (Titus 3:5; Romans 11:6). We are saved when God touches our hearts and prompts us to use the faith He gives to receive His gift of salvation. Even with the knowledge of God’s existence everywhere, people naturally choose to “suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18–20).
Because no one naturally seeks God, God seeks us. He sought Adam and Eve as they hid in the Garden (Genesis 3:9), and He has been seeking His lost loved ones ever since. Jesus gave this as His mission statement: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
When God saves us, we are born again. He opens our eyes to the truth; He gives us faith and forgiveness and fellowship with Him. We become new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). In our newness of life, we are given godly desires (Psalm 73:25), a cleansed heart (Hebrews 10:22), and a new mind (1 Corinthians 2:16). In the power of the Holy Spirit, we begin to truly seek after God.
The connection between our salvation and our seeking after God is illustrated in how God restored His people following the Babylonian captivity. The ancient Jews at first expected a speedy return to their homeland, but the prophet Jeremiah advised them to settle in: their captivity would last seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10). Lest His people despair at the thought of such a lengthy discipline, God assured them that His plans were to give them “hope and a future” (verse 11). At the appointed time, the Jews repented of their sins and began to cry to the Lord in sincerity and fervency. This is just what God had foretold: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you . . . and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you . . . and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile” (verses 13–14). The prophet Daniel exemplified this seeking after the Lord in his prayer on behalf of God’s people (Daniel 9:1–19).