Article 20

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What we Believe







"God’s Sovereignty; Man’s Responsibility" (Part 2)

There is much confusion with respect to this subject. I suppose this has been so down through the years. However, concerning salvation the confusion tends toward heresy itself in the majority of that which is taught today.

God is absolutely sovereign and man is truly responsible, these are truths clearly taught throughout scripture. Nevertheless, if I say that men are responsible for their own salvation I would be misstating the truth at best. Most statements like this are generally the bases of a heretical view of scripture. Truly man is responsible for his own lost condition in the sins which separate him from God, and he is responsible to God. But if anyone is responsible for their own salvation then the laying hold of it is something in which they have a right to boast. Scripture rejects such a thought based upon the truth that God does the saving and is responsible for all who have salvation (I Cor. 1:26-31). As to salvation there is not even the hint of synergistic responsibility, or, God is responsible for His part and man responsible for his part. This is the general idea taught by most. They claim God’s sovereignty is that He did not have to do His part, but since He did he is responsible to give every man a chance, and it is up to man to make avail of that chance. Neither is there any teaching that man is responsible to save himself by himself. In salvation, because God is sovereign, God is responsible for salvation. In being lost man is responsible but he is never sovereign in any issue.

While there seems to be general agreement that repentance and faith are necessary for salvation few teach the truth that these are the gifts of the sovereign God given to whom He will. While God now commands all men everywhere to repent the fact is they all will not repent. Those who are repentant are given repentance by God Himself (II Tim. 2:25). Thus God is both sovereign in and responsible for any true repentance. So then, while all are responsible "TO" repent God is responsible "FOR" the repentance which anyone has, and thus to Him goes the glory! Even faith is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Men also "believe through grace." Believing flows from the gift of faith (cf. Heb. 4:1-3a; 11:6) and believing is exercised by men because of the power of God (cf. Eph. 1:19). So a person is first given faith by God in grace and by that gift they believe according to the working of God’s mighty power. Men can say man is responsible for this all they wish but I will believe God in this matter. So then, while I am responsible in repentance, and in faith and believing, it is God who is sovereign over and responsible for these things in me.

We would also do well to note that nowhere in scripture does God command all men to have faith. God clearly holds all men responsible for and in their unbelief, but God does not condemn men simply for lacking faith. Men are condemned because they are actively unbelieving. A dog lacks faith but it is not condemned to the judgement of eternal damnation because it has not the capacity of the sin of unbelief. Moreover, the devils believe and tremble but yet are they not herein justified because they are guilty of the sin of rebellion, and no redemption was even provided for them.

Men accuse God of injustice if He does not provide equal ability and opportunity to all to do what is needed to find deliverance. However, the fallen angels were provided neither. Only self-righteous man would think himself deserving of such and not the angels. Those angels who fell will suffer torment as well as reprobate men, but God is sovereign and owes neither anything. Truly religious men are self-centered when they cry against God’s sovereignty for their own plight and could care less about the angels, and even more, God’s glory! Nevertheless, the angels are justly condemned because they have sinned, and man is justly condemned because he has sinned. If we applied man’s twisted logic to our own laws of the land then we would be forced to provide even the guilty a "way out." Moreover, if we conclude that free will is the ultimate determination by which the guilty person is delivered we have already practiced prejudice, for while all men are claimed to have free will all men clearly cannot respond by so-called free will in the same way. A man’s will is not free simply because other men say it is. If one had free will then justice would require all to have it and that it truly be free, and if it were free (unfettered by any inward or outward influences) then it would always take deliverance. If my will is free to choose Christ then how can I say that the willing sin of unbelief is my problem? For my will is free! Again, and let me put it a different way, the will is not in a neutral state of merely lacking faith but in an active, rebellious state of unbelief and rebellion toward God.

It is not injustice to those whom God passes over in their sin when God is pleased to freely give deliverance to some. God is just in passing over some in their sin when He has sovereignly purposed the deliverance of others by Christ having suffered their judgement as their substitute. This is the scripture teaching of "GRACE," or "REIGNING GRACE" (Rom. 5:20-21). Grace is not God offering everyone an equal chance by the sacrifice of Christ. "Grace" and "Chance" are not synonymous terms. Grace is God pardoning some by the penal, substitutionary, efficacious sacrifice of Christ. When two men owe a debt, and neither deserves help, it is no injustice when another pays the debt of one and not the other if it is truly an act of grace. If there was something in one debtor respected by the payer but the same was not respected in the other debtor then one might cry foul, but when the payment for one is truly sovereign by an act of grace no injustice can be claimed by the other. He gets exactly what he deserved. The other receives grace. All who hate such as this hate "grace" thus they hate "the God of all grace" and are justly condemned no matter what God does for another!

Ah, but what grace indeed for all who by grace are brought to see their need of the God of all grace revealed in the person of Christ. While some may not recognize it at first, they by the grace of God are brought to seek the Christ of grace for even more grace. What they perceive to be the reception of initial grace is actually the reception of continuing grace, and in God’s good time they will be taught the difference and lay all credit at God’s feet, where all credit was all the while.

So then, concerning salvation, is God sovereign and man responsible? Yes! God is sovereign in that He chose whom He would save by Christ and He gives all the grace needed to bring that chosen one to Christ in repentance and faith believing. Thus God is responsible "FOR" their salvation and they are responsible "IN" and "TO" the God of that grace. Since man repents and believes, for God does not repent and believe in his place while man remains unrepentant and unbelieving, man is responsible "IN" repentance and believing "TO" actually repent and believe. But since man does so by the gift and power of God then God is responsible "FOR" salvation. Man is responsible "FOR" his lost condition "IN" the sins which bar him from God, having no right to salvation and under the just condemnation of God and responsible "TO" God.

If this were only a matter of semantics itself and we all truly worship the same God and hold to the same kind of grace there would be no great disagreement among men when we clearly define what we mean when we use words like "for," "by," and "to." Our meaning would be qualified and clear. However, most are actually saying exactly what they mean when they first say it. When they say, "Man is responsible ‘FOR’ his salvation" they actually mean, as in their own words, "God has done all He can do, now it is up to you." Thus God is sovereign because He did not have to do what He did, but we are responsible for we actually determine the outcome. This is a far cry from the truth of scripture.

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