God's Sovereignty And Man's Responsibility

Leslie M. Grant

Wonderful Paradoxes Of Scripture

Here again are two parallel lines of truth, each one perfectly true in its place, neither interfering with the other, and yet often confused in the minds of men. As to God's sovereignty, Nebuchadnezzar, though he himself an absolute monarch, was brought to fully confess, "I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing. But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth: and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, What hast Thou done'?" (Dan. 4: 34,35).

God has absolute power, absolute authority, absolute sovereignty. He does as He will and none can challenge or change lt. Added to this is the fact that He has an "eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:11). That purpose cannot be changed: it will be absolutely and perfectly carried out. The believer fully acknowledges this and finds greatest delight in such magnificent truth.

Blind unbelief again is ready with needling questions. lf God is sovereign and has an absolute plan and purpose for the universe, then men will argue that it makes no difference what people do. Whatever they do, they argue, this was going to be the case anyway, so they could not avoid doing lt. This is the fatalistic way of saying that man is not responsible for his own actions. This seems to them to be a logical argument. They are saying that God's sovereignty and man's responsibility cannot be true facts at the same time, because they do not understand how it can be so.

Is man responsible? Yes, just as certainly as God is sovereign. Whatever we think of it, God has declared that "every one of us shall give an account to God" (Ro. 14:12). In fact, the Lord Jesus Himself is quoted in Matthew 12:36, "I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account of it in the day of judgment." At that time no one will dare to say he was obliged to do the evil works he has done, nor to speak the evil words that came from his lips. He will have to confess himself guilty of wilfully shirking his responsibility. Even now his own conscience tells him this. lf one really believes that God is sovereign, is he not thus admitting that his own place therefore is that of a subject who is to submit to God? Faith in a sovereign God stirs the heart with a sense of responsibility to be obedient to Him.

Therefore, though the believer cannot satisfy man's intellect in explaining the compatibility of the inescapable facts of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, yet faith has no difficulty with this. The believer rejoices in both facts, and realizes the rightness of his being fully obedient to the revealed will of God. God does as He pleases: it is His right to do so. I have no right to do as I please, but am responsible to do what God pleases. To give God His place and keep my own place is the secret of deepest blessing. Let us then keep these lines of truth distinct, each in its own place, and accept them both as fully true.

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