God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility

Posted: March 26, 2013 in Pastor Ken

images (10)A Couple of weeks ago Pastor Lee preached through Acts 4:23-31 and as he was expounding the passage he made the point “God is fully sovereign and man is fully responsible for his choices”. At first, this seems hard to reconcile. How could these apparent mutually exclusive ideas coexist? Pastor Lee went on to provide a helpful illustration. Think of it in terms of Jesus, who is fully God and yet fully man. We understand that Christ descended from heaven to walk the earth as flesh. We see that He is fully man in that He eats, drinks, has emotions and bleeds just as men do. Yet, He knows the will of the Father, forgives men of their sins and does what none of us can do – lead a perfect life without sin. He performs miracles, heals the lame, the blind, the diseased and calms the sea. We are asked to hold these two truths in tension in the same way we must consider God’s sovereignty – that He is all knowing (Omniscient), all powerful (Omnipotent) and everywhere (Omnipresent) – that nothing happens unless it is according to His divine will, with the real truth that we make choices that we are responsible for. If we weren’t responsible for our sin and our choices, there would be no need for the imputed righteousness Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew know sin, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God”

J. I. Packer captures the essence of this mystery when he writes, “Man is a responsible moral agent, though He is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though He is also a responsible moral agent.”

Kenneth Boa writes that:

“God has a plan for every life, but the details of this plan are carried out by the free choices of each person involved, however, God’s plan is not always the same as His desires. The degree to which God’s desires are carried out in His plan for our lives is our responsibility. God, for instance, desires that we come to love Him for who He is and what He has done for us. But we are not robots programmed to say, “Praise you! Praise you!” No one can truly love God (or anyone else) without the power to choose.”

So we must hold these truths in tension. They are not mutually exclusive rather they are mutually true or compatible. Our choices are exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism – in our desires, we are either a slave to Christ or a slave to sin.

In closing, I just want to say that one of the things I love about scripture is that the more I wrestle with its beautiful and mystifying truths the more magnified God becomes in my life. How wonderful and amazing His character really is and how blessed we are to know Him through his word!


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