Friday, September 6, 2013

Thumbnail sketch of Sovereign Election and Human Responsibility

Acts 13:46-48 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, I have placed You as a light for the GentilesThat You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’” 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

In yesterday's post we began talking about the practical benefits of the doctrine of God's elective purpose in the life of the Christian. Election stands as a Mount Everest in the teaching of scripture.  The picture above depicts Mount Everest as seen from a space craft orbiting earth.  We must remember that even if we can gain a big picture view of Sovereign election, we can never fully comprehend how it fits with human responsibility nor comprehend its intricacies.  As W.A Criswell, the famed Baptist Preacher of old notes, though we may fly over the mountain of God's Sovereignty and glimpse all of its sides, there is still the matter of what lies in the mountain and in the depths of the earth that we cannot see.  

In today's post we will do a quick fly over of an issue that always emerges when discussing Sovereign election - namely the other scriptural issue of human responsibility in salvation. The treatment below is more of a thumbnail sketch than a full treatment.  May you be blessed today as you read and study in God's word.

Election is the basis for the believer's calling an identity

In Psalm 105-106 we see what the Baptist Faith and Message calls "God's Purpose of electing grace" as the basis for Israel's calling and identity. Roughly 100 times is God's electing purpose of nations or salvation mentioned in the Bible, with three references to God's "chosen ones" in these two Psalms. (105:6,43; 106:5)  God's Sovereign purpose is mentioned concerning Moses as God's "chosen one". (Psalm 106:23)  Then of course with reference to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, we see God's purpose of elective grace at work in their lives. (Psalm 105:8-24) Interestingly Hebrews 11 mentions all of these men and notes that they all exercised true saving faith in the One who called them - hence human responsibility.    Article V of The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 explains what is going on in passages such as these: "Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. "  

Man alone is responsible for rejecting the gospel
So then, if anyone rejects the Lord and His offer of the Gospel and dies in their sins, who is to blame?  Scripture spells out pretty clearly that Israel was at fault for the consequences of their rebellion. (Psalm 106:6)  Mankind is responsible for the rejection of the Gospel. (Psalm 81:11-12; Romans 1:20-25) God is credited for the reason behind a person's freely choosing to believe the Gospel. (Acts 13:46-48, Ephesians 2:8-10)  So if God's purpose of Grace explains why anyone gets saved, then how is anyone able to believe and remain in their salvation? Psalm 105:1-15 and  Romans 15:4 tells us that by the word of God proclaimed in the Gospel do people believe and remain firm in their faith.  Romans 10:17 plainly states - "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."  

God's grace is the reason why anyone believes the Gospel
Upon such hearing, all those who call upon the name of the Lord in saving faith will be saved. (Romans 10:13) So then Who gets the credit? Jesus Christ in His grace and Word is the author and finisher of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2) Because of His grace, a person truly and freely believes and is justified by faith alone or credited with the righteousness of the Lord. (see Psalm 106:30-31)  You and I dear friend will never full comprehend how Sovereignty and human responsibility "fit together" in the realm of salvation.  We must affirm both because the Bible affirms both.  To deny one at the expense of the other or to mix both together in any measure will lead to an understanding different than the scripture.  All we know is that God's Sovereignty and human responsibility complement one another and do not contradict.  When we see either Sovereignty or human responsibility in the scripture, we can assume that the other is in close proximity. (compare John 1:12-13, John 6:37,44)


Only God can design a salvation wherein His Sovereignty and human responsibility are present without contradiction.  If anyone rejects the Good News of Jesus Christ, it is because of their doing.  Today thank God for your salvation.  Secondly thank Him for His Word which keeps you in His salvation.  Thirdly pray for your unsaved loved ones and friends that that they would respond by grace through faith and be saved to the glory of God.  

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