Reconciling the Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility

God is absolutely sovereign. The absolutely sovereign God made man to be responsible. These two realities are not in conflict, nor should we ever claim that they are an irreconcilable mystery. Our objective here is to show that there is no mystery, only a reality to be believed.

God sits in the heavens and does as He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6). In the good pleasure of His eternal counsel, it was willed and decreed to create the physical universe. In this creation God made man in His image, male and female He created them (Gen 1–2).

In God’s predetermined plan (Acts 2:23), the fall of man was decreed (Gen 3). Man succumbed to the temptation of the serpent, who suggested God was a liar. God had made man with a will in order to make choices. In the state of integrity, Adam and Eve were subject to influences other than their Creator. They both made decisions of the will that changed them and the world around them. Nothing they did changed God, however, or the plans He had made.

Disobedience to God’s Word/Law had consequences, including the loss of innocence. Man’s nature had a new ruler…sin (Eph 2:3). The reign of sin in a fallen world of sin meant that sin’s influence would entice sinners to practice sin (Rom 3:23). Sin is lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4) and men love it despite the consequences. In this, people use their will to make choices, but the influence of sin is so great that no one is righteous or good (Rom 3:10–12).

Sinners walk in darkness with every inclination of their hearts devising only evil all the time (Gen 6:5). No one seeks after God for a remedy to their plight nor is reconciliation with God a desire of the deceived heart (Jer 17:9; Rom 3:11). Man is responsible for his sins both inherited and practiced. Death is the outcome of sin (Rom 6:23), and all have sinned in Adam (Rom 3:23; 5:12). It is appointed for each man to die and then comes the judgment (Heb 9:27).

God is a just Judge (Gen 18:25; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Tim 4:1; Rev 20:11), and His wrath is directed against all sinners who are unrighteous and ungodly (Rom 1:18). The promise of death for disobedience was not heeded by our first parents and God delivered on His promise. People are judged already, being sons of Adam (Jn 3:18). The final judgment is the day of sentencing and separation. Eternal punishment in fiery hell awaits all judged sinners (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15). Man is fully responsible for his plight and punishment.

Our sovereign God is merciful (Rom 9:15). In His eternal counsel, He willed and decreed the salvation of a remnant people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9), according to His gracious choice (Rom 11:5). By His free and sovereign grace, He predestined a chosen people to be adopted as sons (Eph 1:4–5; Rom 8:15, 23). These are royal priests in God’s holy nation (1 Pet 2:9), heirs of God with an inheritance reserved for them in heaven (1 Pet 1:4). This is Good News.

It is the prerogative of the sovereign King of glory to have mercy on whomever He wills (Rom 9:15–16), and by His will alone some receive eternal life by being transferred out of the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Jn 1:12–13; Col 1:13). Jesus Christ is the Son of God who took on flesh and dwelt among us without sin (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15). His purpose in His first advent was to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21).

Jesus offered Himself up to God (Heb 9:14), as the sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). He came to seek and to save sinners from the consequences of their being in Adam at the fall of creation (Lk 19:10; Rom 5:12–21). Jesus laid down His life (Jn 10:11, 15), as the Good Shepherd of His sheep who belong to Him (1 Cor 3:23), purchased with His precious blood at the cross of Calvary on which He shed His blood and died (1 Pet 1:19).

Jesus died as a substitute sacrifice for His beloved church (Eph 5:25; 1 Pet 2:24), the Israel of God (Gal 6:16). With each name of God’s chosen people recorded in the Lamb’s book of life before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8; 17:8), the Lord Jesus knows those who are His (2 Tim 2:19) and in the end He will have lost none of His own, on whom He has set His love (Jn 10:28–29; Rom 8:35–39). Jesus has poured out His love in the hearts of those to whom He has sent His Spirit (Jn 14:26; 15:26; Rom 5:5), as a token of His love and promise of eternal life (2 Cor 5:5).

Despite no one having the will or ability to save themselves in any way, even the will or ability to choose Jesus as Savior, it is the will and the work of God to grant faith to His elect by the working of His grace (Rom 12:3; Gal 3:22; Phil 1:29; Heb 12:2). Salvation is a gift of God given to those He has adopted and drawn to Jesus (Jn 6:44, 65), who will never cast them out (Jn 6:37). They have the blessed assurance of His Word that He will never leave them nor forsake them (Heb 13:5).

From the beginning this has been God’s plan to elect, redeem, regenerate, resurrect, and glorify a people for Himself (Rom 8:30). The redeemed of the Lord call the sovereign God, “Abba, Father (Rom 8:15).” Those who are not Christ’s sheep (Jn 10:26), who do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit (rom 8:9) and who have no love for God in their hearts (Jn 5:42), remain fully responsible for the innumerable sins they have committed against the infinite majesty of Almighty God.

The mystery of the Gospel has been revealed by the Spirit of God in the Word of God (1 Tim 3:16). All men are commanded to repent of their sins and to turn to God in Christ (Acts 17:30). With no will or ability to do what is required, salvation comes to God’s elect by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, for the glory of God alone. Here is the reconciliation of the sovereignty of God and human responsibility.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

October 19, 2021

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher