Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sovereignty and Responsibility in Two Verses

I've heard people say that if God is sovereign over salvation, then man cannot have real responsibility to come to God. In reverse, others have said that since man has clear biblical responsibility to turn to God, therefore, God cannot be sovereign over salvation.

The above claims, however, do not stem from the teachings of scripture. Instead, they come from what some people believe "makes sense." These people see the issues of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility as mutually exclusive. In other words, if one is true then the other cannot be.

As I've been studying to preach on Matthew chapter 11 this coming Sunday, I came across two verses, which fall back-to-back in the same conversation, where Jesus first discusses His sovereignty over salvation and then gives the gospel call to all people (illustrating clearly man's responsibility).

The passage in context comes from Matthew 11:25-30 (with the key verses in bold font): At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We can see in 11:27 that the Son (Jesus) chooses to reveal the Father to whomever He chooses. This language demonstrates God's complete sovereignty over salvation. The language is just about as clear as it can be.

In the next verse (11:28), we read Jesus call everyone around Himself to come to Him. This call is directed to all people. It shows that all have the responsibility to turn to Christ in repentance and faith.

These two verses are extremely significant because they fall back-to-back, they are spoken by the same person, and they occur within the same context. Based on these two verses alone, we can see that both God is sovereign over salvation and man is fully responsible to believe. These truths are, therefore, not mutually exclusive. We must embrace them as true even if they do not "make sense" to us.

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