Tonight’s lesson is going to cover quite a bit regarding the sovereignty of God. In particular, we are going to go over man’s role in regards to the sovereignty of God. There are 3 basic positions on the subject.
1) If man has free will, God cannot truly be sovereign
2) If God is sovereign, man cannot be held accountable for his actions as he has no free will
3) God is sovereign yet man is still accountable for his actions
I cling to the 3rd option. By the end of this lesson, it is my hope that all of you will as well. Before we get into man, we must begin with God. We know God is sovereign because the Scriptures tell us so. Before we go into the Scriptural backing, let’s define sovereign. Dictionary.com defines sovereign as “having supreme rank, power, or authority.”
The LORD has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.
also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,
I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
2 Chronicles 20:6
and he said, "O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You.
We can clearly see that God is in control at all times. All things work after the counsel of His will according to His purpose and His purpose can never be thwarted.
It is not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things but that He does so always and without exception.
This sovereignty flows into all areas. Nothing escapes it. Psalm 103:19 said His sovereignty rules over all.
The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the LORD.
Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
Whatever the LORD pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain,
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.
But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles
Most people don’t take issue with the teaching of God’s sovereignty so long as it is spoken of in these terms. Up until now, all the verses have been describing God and leaving man out of the picture. Man naturally likes to live a guilt free life. Nobody likes a buzz kill. It is unfortunate that, even in the Church, God is viewed as sovereign so long He does not interfere with our own free will. This concept is unbiblical. Not only does heaven and earth fall under the sovereignty of God but so do we as people. The Lord rules over all things; even mankind.
this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
Even the crucifixion was ordained by God. Notice what is taking place in the verse above. It says that godless men will put him to death. Godless men will nail him to a cross. Both of these things imply man will make the choice to perform a wicked act. However, take note that it only takes place because of the predetermined plan of God. It also speaks of His foreknowledge. Don’t be confused. God didn’t ordain His plan based on choices He knew man would make. Rather, He knew the choices man would make because He foreordained it to be so.
For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
This just drives home the previous point. Both Herod and Pontius Pilate had gathered together to go against Christ. In fact, they were not alone. It says the Gentiles and people of Israel had gathered as well. There were countless people rising up against Christ. This was of their own doing and their own choices. They had made the decision to put Jesus to death for his claims. Again, however, notice that it says they were only doing whatever God’s hand and purpose had predestined to occur. While they were making their own choices in life, there was only one way it would play out. God had decreed it to be so and that was the end of it.
Another example in Scripture of God’s sovereignty mixing with man’s choices is in the story of Joseph.
When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. They said to one another, "Here comes this dreamer! "Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, 'A wild beast devoured him.' Then let us see what will become of his dreams!" But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, "Let us not take his life." Reuben further said to them, "Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him"--that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father.
This entire discussion is between Joseph’s brothers. There discussion is not being coerced or pushed in any direction. It is not being moderated. They are freely coming up with a plan to murder Joseph. At the same time, Reuben takes it upon himself to talk them into sparing his life and throwing him into a dry ditch instead. On the surface, it appears they are free to do as they wished with nothing else to lean on other than their own desires. While it is true that they were coming up with this plan on their own, there is more to the story.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
Joseph was rescued, sold into slavery, and eventually took on a prestigious position under the pharaoh. None of this was by accident. Scripture is clear that God had a plan and that plan was good.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
While Joseph’s brothers were free in the choices they made and the actions they took, they only made these choices because God had decreed it to be so. God is always in charge. Sometimes he actively takes part in an event such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah whereas most times, He allows man to freely make decisions and choices. However, even when left to freely make decisions, they are always within the constraints of God’s sovereign plan and purpose.
Ask congregation if they believe God’s sovereignty is limited in any way.
Ask congregation if they believe God’s sovereignty is limited in salvation.
A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God
To argue that God is "trying His best" to save all mankind, but that the vast majority of men will not let Him save them, is to imply that the will of the Creator is impotent, and that the will of the creature is omnipotent.
and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
While I firmly believe salvation falls under the sovereign decrees of God, I don’t intend on getting into a lesson on God’s Election tonight. While it is true that only those whom God has called unto Himself will respond to the call of Christ, I want to focus on those whom He does not call unto Himself. Are these men condemned because of God? Should they be given a free pass? Can they possibly be guilty if they were never given a fair chance or opportunity? No, no, and yes!
While they are indeed condemned, it is certainly not because of God. These men will never choose Christ because God has ordained that they will not but this does not mean God is responsible. Each man is still held accountable for his actions as we saw earlier in the cases of the crucifixion as well as Joseph. There is no free pass to be given because each man is guilty to begin with. The term used to describe man’s responsibility despite God’s sovereignty is compatibilism.
The person who sins will die The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
We can see a clear distinction being taught between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. While there is no doubt that God is sovereign and all things only come to pass because He ordained it to be so, it is equally as true that man makes his own choices without being forced. His choice will always be the outcome that God decreed but man will gladly make it. This is because man is bound by his nature and that nature is wretched and fallen.
for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth;
The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
For everyone who does evil hates the Light
We simply follow our nature. Before salvation, Romans tells us we were slaves to sin. We had to choice but to give our all to sin. However, this was not a grudging state as we did it with pleasure. Our hearts were evil. Our hearts were deceitful. Our deeds were evil and we hated the Light. We hid from the Light lest our evil deeds should be exposed (John 3:20). Our natural inclination was to sin. We were in bondage to sin but we enjoyed every minute of it. This is why we are still found guilty for our sins despite following God’s sovereignly decreed plan.
But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death,
While once enslaved to sin, we are now enslaved to God. The unregenerate man, despite being in full accord with God’s sovereign decrees, is still found guilty and deserves death. He works as a slave to sin and, as a result, he will be paid death for wages. It is what we all deserved as we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, God chose us and called us unto Himself. This does not make us perfect but it does make us His own. When we sin, we are covered by the blood of Christ.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
We still sin daily in our battle with the flesh but we will not see Hell for it. We have been justified by the blood of Christ. His blood alone has fully atoned for our sins. There is no more debt. The blood was substitutionary.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Just because we are covered by the blood does not mean we are to abuse our justification. Paul makes it very clear that we are not to sin so that the grace we fall under may increase. We are free from sinning. This is where we differ from the unregenerate man. We have a new nature in Christ whereas he does not.
Ask congregation if they love God.
Ask congregation if they feel they are being forced to love Him unwillingly.
Just as we love God and desire to serve Him with all we have so does the unregenerate man hate God and desires to hide from the Light. Even if an unsaved individual says he is not at war with anyone, his refusal to submit to the authority of God proves otherwise. A man cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). He is either for God or he is against God (Matthew 12:30). Both sides serve their masters willingly yet both sides do so only because God has declared and ordained it to be so. God is sovereign yet we are responsible.
John Calvin, Bondage and Liberation of the Will
…we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.