“With people...with God...with God.” The key to understanding this passage, and the parallel passage in Matthew 19:26, is the word “with,” which is the Greek preposition para (#3844 παρά). In this case, the preposition para is modifying “people” and “God,” which are both in the dative case (and all three uses in Matt. 19:26 are in the dative case). When para is with the dative case in reference to people, it means “beside” or “with.” The point that Jesus is making is that when it comes to getting saved, human effort alone will never get anyone saved. There is no amount of human effort, even if others are “with” you and helping, that will get a person saved and into the Kingdom of God. Robertson writes: “The impossible by the side of men becomes possible by the side of God” (Word Pictures in the New Testament). Vincent writes: “Man cannot save himself or his fellow” (Word Studies; Matt. 19:26).
If a person wants to be saved, if he teams up with God, his salvation becomes not only possible, but assured, because, along with God, all things are possible. Peter responds to Jesus’ statement by pointing out that he and the others have certainly teamed up with God, saying, “We have left everything and followed you.”
This verse shows that salvation is indeed a team effort between God and the sinner. It is not, like some theologians teach, that God saves who He wants and rejects who He wants, or that salvation is totally accomplished by God apart from human will. In that light, the preposition para should not be translated “for,” because that significantly changes the meaning of the verse. When salvation is “with” God, it is a team effort. The sinner is working “with” God, and salvation can be accomplished. If we change the “with” to “for,” then the meaning of the verse totally changes: “For people it is impossible, but not for God, for all things are possible for God.” Now the verse says nothing about teamwork, but just makes the point that people cannot be saved by their own efforts, but God can save anyone. However, that is not what the verse is saying, or the Greek text means. We know that God wants all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and if He could save people without them wanting or asking for salvation, then everyone would be. The reason God wants everyone to be saved but not everyone will be, is that salvation is a team effort—the person must want it and ask for it before God can save the person, and not everyone wants to be saved.