Pastoral Reflection 7.26.15
SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD VERSUS HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY
Today’s message is one of the most clear passages in all of Scripture on the sovereignty of God in the salvation of people but this doctrine is often set over and against human responsibility, which can also be seen throughout Scripture. So which is it? Does God predestine people or are people solely responsible for the decision to believe the gospel? One of the greatest preachers in all of church history was Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He is referred to as “The Prince of Preachers,” because of his eloquent, relentlessly biblical, and powerful messages. He chose to walk in light of both of these biblical doctrines. Below is an excerpt from a sermon he preached called, “Sovereign Grace and Man’s Responsibility,” August 1, 1858.
The system of truth is not one straight line, but two. No man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once.
I am taught in one book to believe that what I sow I shall reap: I am taught in another place, that “it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”
I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure.
Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no presidence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism [lawlessness] or fatalism.
That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other.
If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other.
These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.
Spurgeon balanced these well in his life and ministry. I would encourage you to walk in light of both of these doctrines as you go about your week ahead.
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer