The sovereignty of God and responsibility of man

Pastor’s Pulpit

By Pastor Tom Davidson

Last week, we entered into spiritual basic training as we began to dig into our training manual – Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. In the first three verses of that letter, we discovered that God has set his followers apart for salvation, for service and for spiritual blessings. The first way that God gave us spiritual blessings was that He chose us. God picked us for His own purposes, for Himself. In other words, our salvation is totally and completely a result of what God has already done for us. My first reaction to seeing that God has chosen me was to think of it in terms that I can understand. It took me back to those days in our neighborhood and in the schoolyard when we would pick teams in order to participate in some kind of sport or competition. I’m sure many of you remember those days – and maybe not too fondly. A couple of kids would be designated as captains and then they would proceed to pick the other kids that they wanted on their team. And for some of the kids waiting to be picked, it was a miserable time as they prayed against all hope that they wouldn’t be the last ones picked. But that’s not the way God chooses. God doesn’t look at us and pick out the best or the brightest or the most athletic. In fact, His choice isn’t based at all on any of the qualities in our lives.
That means that God chose us before we ever had the opportunity to do either good or evil in our lives. I’m convinced that a lot of us aren’t really comfortable with this whole idea that God chooses whoever He wants. In fact, this week I’ve read the writings of a whole lot of people who have tried to ignore, discount or disprove this truth. But that’s impossible to do because the principle is consistent throughout the Bible. For instance, God chose Abraham. Why did He choose Abraham and not someone else? We don’t know, but God chose. God chose Israel from among all the nations of the earth to be His people. Why didn’t he choose the Moabites or the Amalekites or one of those other “ites?” It certainly wasn’t because Israel had earned that right. God just chose them. The same thing is true for us. God didn’t choose us because we deserved it. He did it because He wanted to.
As we’ll see in more detail when we get in to Chapter 2, even our faith is a gift from God. Apart from God’s choosing, there’s not one person on the face of the earth who has the ability on their own to seek after God. We can only do that as God chooses us and draws us to Him. Now I know that for many of us, me included, the whole doctrine of election raises some questions. Although I obviously can’t answer all of your questions, let me deal with a couple of the most common questions.

If God chooses some people to be saved, does that mean that he creates others for the purpose of being sent to hell? That’s what theologians call double predestination. While we’ve seen that God is 100% responsible for electing and choosing those who become believers, the Bible is equally clear that man is responsible for his own sin. The Bible also makes it clear that God isn’t the author or the source of sin and that therefore he doesn’t actively take a role in the life of unbelievers to cause them to sin and reject God.
So what that ultimately means is that the Bible teaches both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. God elects those who are saved and those who perish do so without any help from God. The problem is that our finite human minds have a problem reconciling those two principles. To us they seem contradictory, but in fact they’re not. There are some things that only God understands – that’s what makes Him God. And that’s okay with me. I’m fine with just accepting both these principles and allowing God to figure out how they fit together.

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