I want to thank the Middletown Bible Church for allowing me to share this article. They have a clear view of putting Bible truths where everyone can understand them. A portion of Romans 9 is basically a lesson on God’s permissive will. God allows people to choose obedience to Him, that is what makes it obedience. If we didn’t have a choice it would be something else… But there is an alternative to living out God’s will on earth. When we operate outside of God’s will, or perfect plan for our lives, we are operating in His permissive will. He will permit you to choose, He will permit you to make wrong choices, and He will permit you to suffer the consequences. Like I said, sometimes the consequence that someone else suffers because of their disobedience to God’s will ends up affecting our lives… Is it fair that a child’s life is affected by their parents decisions? Not really. Is it fair that one person’s decision to drive drunk affects a whole family when a father is killed in an accident? Not really. But if God eliminated the choice between obedience and disobedience, He would also be eliminating love and all expressions of it. So God allows people to choose… What Romans 8 tells us is that it is this ability to choose and people choosing to turn their back on God’s perfect will that ultimately show how valuable God’s perfect will is
In studying issues relating to God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility (with respect to salvation) it is important to hold to a balanced Biblical position. Many have erred by emphasizing one side of the truth to the neglect of the other side.
The pendulum swings, ridiculous extreme,
bypassing truth which lies somewhere between. It is our desire in this study to let the Scriptures
speak for themselves and to examine both sides of the issue.
God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are both clearly taught in the Word of God. At
times these truths seem irreconcilable to our puny, finite minds. We do not understand how they
can both be true. God has not told us that we need to fully understand these things; however we
do need to humbly bow before the authority of His Word and believe what God has revealed,
even though we may not fully understand it. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility are like
railroad tracks. As we look at them they appear to be parallel and we cannot see how they could
ever come together, but when we look at them in the far distance at the horizon, they meet. So it
is with these God-revealed truths. We have trouble seeing how they come together, but in the
mind of God there is no problem at all.
The danger comes when men emphasize one truth to the neglect of the other. God’s truth
must be kept in careful balance, and we must not tend toward extremes in either direction. Man’s
responsibility must not be over-emphasized to the neglect of God’s sovereignty and God’s
sovereignty must not be over-emphasized to the neglect of man’s responsibility. Both are clearly
revealed on the pages of Scripture and both must be believed and received as God’s truth.
Dr. Harry Ironside gave the illustration of the sinner coming to the door of salvation (John
10:9). Above the door was a sign which says, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life
freely” (Rev. 22:17). The sinner responds to this gracious invitation, trusts Christ and he is
gloriously saved. He now turns around and looks at the door through which he had just entered.
He sees above the door another sign which says, “Chosen…in Him before the foundation of the
world” (Eph. 1:4). Both are true. Both are taught in the Bible. Both must be believed.
Sir Robert Anderson, in the preface to his book Forgotten Truths, said this: “In the early
years of my Christian life I was greatly perplexed and distressed by the supposition that the plain
and simple words of such Scriptures as John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:6 were not true, save
in a cryptic sense understood only by the initiated. For, I was told, the over-shadowing truth of
Divine sovereignty in election barred our taking them literally. But half a century ago a friend of
those days (the late Dr. Horatius Bonar) delivered me from this strangely
prevalent error. He taught me that truths may seem to us irreconcilable only
because our finite minds cannot understand the Infinite; and we must never allow
our faulty apprehension of the eternal counsels of God to hinder unquestioning
faith in the words of Holy Scripture.”
In this paper we will seek to let the Bible speak for itself, presenting both sides of the
question. We will consider certain issues relating to God’s
sovereignty and man’s responsibility.
(God must do the saving!)
(Man must do the believing!)
Those who are saved have only God
Those who are lost have only
themselves to blame!
“Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power” (Psalm 110:3).
“Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. But My people would not hearken to My
voice; and Israel would none of Me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’
lust: and they walked in their own counsels. Oh that my people had hearkened
unto Me, and Israel had walked in My ways!” (Psalm 81:10-13)
|“And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou
shalt call his name JESUS: for He shall save
His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
|“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good
tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL
PEOPLE. For unto you is born this day in
the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ
the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
|“All things are delivered unto Me of My
Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but
the Father; neither knoweth any man the
Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever
the Son will reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).
|“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are
heavy laden, and I will give you rest”
|“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou
art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him,
Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh
and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but
my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew
|“I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in
your sins: for if ye believe not that I am He,
ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).
|“But for the elect’s sake those days shall be
shortened” (Matthew 24:22).
|“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the
prophets, and stonest them which are sent
unto thee, how often would I have gathered
thy children together, even as a hen gathereth
her chickens under her wings, and ye would
not!” (Matthew 23:37).
|“Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen
you” (John 15:16).
|“And He saith unto them, Follow me, and I
will make you fishers of men. And they
straightway left their nets, and followed
Him” (Matthew 4:19-20).
|“For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and
quickeneth them; even so the Son
quickeneth whom He will” (John 5:21).
|“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that
heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that
sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not
come into condemnation; but is passed from
death unto life” (John 5:24).
|“All that the Father giveth Me shall come to
Me…” (John 6:37a)[“All that the Father giveth Me”–see John
|“…and Him that cometh to Me I will in no
wise cast out” (John 6:37b).
|“No man can come to Me, except the Father
which hath sent Me draw him: and I will
raise him up at the last day. It is written in
the prophets, And they shall be all taught of
God. Every man therefore that hath heard,
and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto
Me. ….Therefore said I unto you, that no
man can come unto Me, except it were given
unto him of My Father” (John 6:44,45,65).
|“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of
life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger;
and he that believeth on Me shall never
thirst” (John 6:35).“And ye will not come to Me, that ye might
have life” (John 5:40). [God was willing to
give them LIFE; they were unwilling to come
|“For the promise is unto you, and to your
children, and to all that are afar off, even as
many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts
“And the Lord added to the church daily
|“Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then
Peter said unto them, Repent, and be
baptized every one of you in the name of
Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts
2:37-38).“Save yourself from this untoward
generation” (Acts 2:40).
|“As many as were ordained to eternal life
believed” (Acts 13:48).
|“Be it known unto you therefore, men and
brethren, that through this Man is preached
unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by Him
all that believe are justified from all things,
from which ye could not be justified by the
law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).
|“Lydia…whose heart the Lord opened, that
she attended unto the things which were
spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14).
|“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what
must I do to be saved? And they said,
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou
shalt be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).
|“There is none that seeketh after God”
|“That they should seek the Lord, if haply
they might feel after Him, and find Him,
though He be not far from every one of
us….He is a rewarder of them that diligently
seek Him” (Acts 17:27; Heb.11:6).
|“…through grace” (Acts 18:27b)||“(those who) had believed…” (Acts 18:27a)|
|“Moreover whom He did predestinate, them
He also called: and whom He called, them
He also justified: and whom He justified,
them He also glorified” (Romans 8:30).
|“Even the righteousness of God which is by
faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all
them that believe….But to him that worketh
not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the
ungodly, his faith is counted for
|“For the children being not yet born, neither
having done any good or evil, that the
purpose of God according to election might
stand, not of works, but of Him that
calleth….I will have mercy on whom I will
have mercy, and I will have compassion on
whom I will have compassion. So then it is
not of him that willeth, nor of him that
runneth, but of God that showeth
mercy…Therefore hath He mercy on whom
He will have mercy, and whom He will He
hardeneth” (Romans 9:11,15-16,18).
|“Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be
ashamed….That if thou shalt confess with thy
mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in
thine heart that God hath raised Him from
the dead, thou shalt be saved….Whosoever
believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. For
there is no difference between the Jew and
the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich
unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever
shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be
saved….So then faith cometh by hearing, and
hearing by the Word of God….But to Israel
He saith, All day long I have stretched forth
My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying
people” (Romans 9:33; 10:9,11-13,17,21).
|“According as he hath chosen us in Him
before the foundation of the world….Having
predestinated us unto the adoption of
children by Jesus Christ to Himself,
according to the good pleasure of His will”
|“That we should be to the praise of His
glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye
also trusted, after that ye heard the word of
truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom
also after that ye believed, ye were sealed
with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:12-13).
|“For by grace are ye saved…||through faith” (Eph. 2:8).|
|“But we are bound to give thanks always to
God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord,
because God hath from the beginning chosen
you to salvation through sanctification of the
Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto He
called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of
the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess.
|“And with all deceivableness of
unrighteousness in them that perish; because
they received not the love of the truth, that
they might be saved….That they all might be
damned who believed not the truth, but had
pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess.
|“Who hath saved us, and called us with an
holy calling, not according to our works, but
according to His own purpose and grace,
which was given us in Christ Jesus before
the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
|“For this is good and acceptable in the sight
of God our Saviour; Who will have all men
to be saved, and to come unto the
knowledge of the truth….because we trust in
the living God, who is the Saviour of all men,
specially of those that believe” (1 Timothy
|“Elect according to the foreknowledge of
God the Father, through sanctification of the
Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the
blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2).
|“Who by Him do believe in God, that raised
Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory;
that your faith and hope might be in God.
Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying
the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned
love of the brethren, see that ye love one
another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter
|“And they that are with Him are called and
chosen, and faithful” (Rev. 17:14).
|“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And
let him that heareth say, Come. And let him
that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let
him take the water of life freely” (Rev.
Those who are saved have only God to thank; those who are lost have only themselves to
blame. God gets all the credit for man’s salvation; the unsaved man must take full blame and
responsibility for his eternal damnation. The saved person thankfully says, “I’m in heaven because
of God!” The lost person must truthfully say, “I’m in hell because of me!” Those who are damned
will never be able to blame God or say, “I’m damned because God did not choose me.” Their
damnation is based not upon God’s rejection of them but upon their rejection of God: “He that
believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). “That they all might be damned who believed not the
truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:12 and compare verse 10). “And ye will not
come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).
Man does not contribute to his own salvation. It is the work of God, “not of works lest any
man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). God does not contribute to man’s unbelief. That is man’s work.
God alone must do the saving. Man must do the believing. God must get all the glory and all the
credit: “That no flesh should glory in His presence….That, according as it is written, He that glorieth,
let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:29,31). Unbelieving man must take the blame. The believer
saved by grace can gratefully sing, “To God be the glory great things He hath done!” “Oh to grace
how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!”
Would you really like to know that you are one of God’s elect? Then come as a poor sinner and accept His
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him—seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Saviour true; No, I was found of Thee. –Anon.
Examples of Wicked Men Fulfilling God’s Plan
|“God did send me before you to preserve
life….God sent me before you…to save your
lives” (Gen. 50:5,7).
|“I am Joseph whom ye sold into Egypt….ye
sold me hither” (Gen. 50:4-5).
|…but God meant it unto good, to bring to
pass, as it is this day, to save much people
alive” (Gen. 50:20).
|“Ye thought evil against me…|
|“And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was
|…but woe unto that man by whom He is
betrayed” (Luke 22:22).
|“Him, being delivered by the determinate
counsel and foreknowledge of God…
|…ye have taken, and by wicked hands have
crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23).
|“But those things, which God before had
showed by the mouth of all his prophets,
that Christ should suffer, He hath so
fulfilled” (Acts 3:18).
|“…His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and
denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when
he was determined to let Him go. But ye
denied the Holy One and the Just, and
desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
And killed the Prince of life” (Acts 3:13-15).
|“For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy
counsel determined before to be done” (Acts
|“The kings of the earth stood up, and the
rulers were gathered together against the
Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth
against thy Holy Child Jesus, whom thou
hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius
Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of
Israel, were gathered together” (Acts 4:26-27).
|To illustrate the smugness and ugly exclusivism of some extreme Calvinists, the following is a
verse from an old Particular Baptist hymn:
We are the Lord’s elected few, Let all the rest be damned;
(Cited by Robert Sumner in
from the beginning choosing some to salvation) is
taught in the Bible.
from the beginning choosing some to damnation)
is not taught in the Bible.
|“God hath from the beginning chosen you to
salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13).
The Bible does not teach that God from the beginning has chosen some to
damnation. Why are people damned? Is it because they
are not chosen? No, this same passage in 2
Thessalonians says that they perish “because
they received not the love of the truth.”
They are damned because they “believed not
the truth but had pleasure in
unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:10,12).
|“Then shall the King say unto them on His
right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you [by
God] from the foundation of the world”
Note: After reading verse 34, we might
expect verse 41 to say, “Depart from Me, ye
cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared [by
God] for you from the foundation of the
world.” But the Bible does not say this.
Rather we read:“Then shall He say also unto them on the left
hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his
angels” (Matthew 25:41).
|“And that He might make known the riches
of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which
He had afore prepared unto glory” (Rom.
Note: Based on verse 23, we might expect
verse 22 to say this: “The vessels of wrath,
which He (God) had afore fitted to
destruction.” But it does not say this.
Rather, it says:“What if God, willing to show His wrath, and
to make His power known, endured with
much longsuffering the vessels of wrath
fitted to destruction” (Rom. 9:22). [It does not say that God fitted these people to
The following is by C.H.M.:
He, blessed be His Name, has not confined Himself within the narrow limits of any
school of doctrine, high, low, or moderate. He has revealed Himself. He has told out
the deep and precious secrets of His heart. He has unfolded His eternal counsels, as
to the Church, as to Israel, the Gentiles, and the wide creation. Men might as well
attempt to confine the ocean in buckets of their own formation as to confine the vast
range of divine revelation within the feeble enclosures of human systems of doctrine.
It cannot be done, and it ought not to be attempted. Better far to set aside the
systems of theology and schools of divinity, and come like a little child to the eternal
fountain of Holy Scripture, and there drink in the living teachings of God’s Spirit.
Nothing is more damaging to the truth of God, more withering to the soul, or more
subversive of all spiritual growth and progress than mere theology, high or
low—Calvinistic or Arminian. It is impossible for the soul to make progress beyond
the boundaries of the system to which it is attached. If I am taught to regard “The
Five Points” as “the faith of God’s elect,” I shall not think of looking beyond them;
and then a most glorious field of heavenly truth is shut out form the vision of my soul.
I am stunted, narrowed, one-sided; and not only so, but I am in danger of getting into
that hard, dry state of soul which results from being occupied with mere points of
doctrine instead of with Christ.
A disciple of the high school of doctrine will not hear of a world-wide gospel—of
God’s love to the world—of glad tidings to every creature under heaven. He has only
gotten a gospel for the elect. On the other hand, a disciple of the low or Arminian
school will not hear of the eternal security of God’s people. Their salvation depends
partly upon Christ, and partly upon themselves. According to this system, the song
of the redeemed should be changed. Instead of “Worthy is the Lamb’,” we should have
to add, “and worthy are we.” We may be saved today and lost tomorrow. All this
dishonors God, and robs the Christian of all true peace.
C.H.Mackintosh, “One Sided Theology,”
The Mackintosh Treasury
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