Sovereignty and Free Will

I believe God has drawn a real line that greatly impacts how we relate to Him, how we live, and how we help others. On one side of the line is what God and only God can do. We can be creative by stacking the bricks and smearing the paint, but we can’t speak and bring something out of nothing. We can’t even save ourselves. God had to take the initiative and provide the means by which we can be forgiven and have new life in Christ. We can’t do anything about the sovereignty of God other than to rest in the finished work of Christ, and be grateful for His providential care.

On the other side of the line is our responsibility. For us the line is fuzzy, and you will draw the line differently depending upon whether you are a Calvinist or an Arminian. Both groups, however, believe that God’s sovereignty and personal responsibility are taught in Scripture. The line will shift to the left or right depending upon how much emphasis we place on God’s role. We water and plant, but God causes the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). If we don’t water and plant, nothing grows, and we can bear no fruit of lasting consequence apart from Christ. Sanctification is God’s will for our lives (1 Thess. 4;3). God is the sanctifier, but we will not grow unless we repent and believe, and that is our responsibility.

Can we ask God to do for us what He has clearly told us to do? If you are behind in your studies, can you ask God to study for you? Will He think for us, or believe for us, or is that our responsibility? He is the Truth and revealed Himself to the world, but He will not make our choices for us either. We have the capacity to choose, because we are created in His image. In other words, we have a will and God expects us to exercise our will according to His word.

The key to successful living is to know God and His ways and assume responsibility for our own attitudes and actions. “Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord” (Jer. 9:23,24).

Dr. Neil

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