DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY AND HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY
A great debate stretches across the centuries of theological study. Does God take the initiative in salvation? Is it all of Him and all of grace? Does He choose us for His pleasure and not because of whom we are or what we do? Thinking along these lines is often framed with a set of theological propositions known as Calvinism. On the other side, there are those who say we are responsible for answering God’s call. The call of God can be resisted. God’s salvation is offered in Christ, but I can spurn that love. I can embrace by faith His Son or I can reject Him. This doctrinal disposition is often called Arminianism. So, does the Bible teach Divine sovereignty? Absolutely! God takes the initiative in salvation or none of us could be saved. Then, do I have any responsibility? Undoubtedly! I must repent and believe the Gospel. So, how do we reconcile these?
Perhaps Spurgeon’s answer is best. In a sermon on Jacob and Esau, he said, “He saves man by grace, and if men perish they perish justly by their own fault. ‘How,’ says some one, ‘do you reconcile these two doctrines?’ My dear brethren, I never reconcile two friends, never. These two doctrines are friends with one another; for they are both in God's Word, and I shall not attempt to reconcile them.” In our limited understanding, we have difficulty grasping the mind of God—so infinitely higher are His thoughts. But, both these dimensions of our salvation are held in perfect balance in the eternal One. If I cannot fully apprehend the truth, I can still let the truth fully apprehend me!
As we begin the study of Romans, we see this fascinating teaching in the opening verses. Throughout the text there are interwoven threads of the heavenly and the human. It is God’s message, but Paul is the messenger: “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” (v.1). It is promised by God’s Word, but proclaimed by God’s prophets: “which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (v.2). It is provided by Christ who is fully God and fully man: “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (v.3-4). So—salvation is God’s initiative, but we must receive the gift. We can’t save ourselves—it is His choice, but we He will not save us apart from our choice—a perfect balance of Divine sovereignty and human responsibility.
Have you responded to the call of God? If not—then right now would be the time. Don’t delay!
If you have come to Him, it is because He has first come to you—have you spent some time in awe and thanksgiving for such amazing grace?