"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Christ Upholds the Reality of Human Responsibility

"What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy."
                                                      - Romans 9:14-16

We believe these words, and many others like them, because they are contained in God's book.  The dispensation of mercy comes from God's hands in accordance with His own sovereign choices, not in accordance with our actions.  This axiomatic - mercy, by definition, is not earned.  However, this truth has been met with more than its fair share of criticism, of course, as it asserts that the choice of salvation resides with God, not with the person. 

The natural conclusion of this is the question of how then God can condemn people to hell, if their salvation is His choice?  Paul addresses this in Romans 9:20-21:  "You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?' On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it?"  In other words, we are to acknowledge, without fully understanding, that God can choose to graciously save, and then condemn those whom He has passed over in the same moment, and there is surely no injustice in His so doing. 

We can accept this, but if we are honest with ourselves, it seems at times difficult to content ourselves with a concept so removed from our understanding.  We cannot help but wonder how this idea can stand up.  Fortunately, we may look to the words of Christ for two points of real and true comfort:

1.  Legitimacy.  "When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, 'If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.'" (Luke 19:41-42) Here our Savior weeps and laments for the unsaved in Jerusalem.  If we sometimes struggle with feeling as though human responsibility in salvation is a merely ornamental element, we are comforted that the omniscient Christ never for a moment succumbed to this sentiment.  This was not forced emotion or sentiment for the sake of those around Him - there is no duplicity in the countenance of the Savior.

How precious and true are the tears of the Lord Jesus!  Do we give the due consequence to the lamentations of One who is beyond any form of dissembly, who understands as none of us can the utter sovereignty which is in His own very hands?  His tears fall neither lightly or inappropriately; rather, they come laden with a full understanding both of human nature and of divine nature.  If indeed the Lord Jesus can shed tears over the unfaithfulness of the unsaved, then we may rest assured that He at least considers their disbelieving choices to be of a very real substance.  Note that this lamentation is made even while sovereignly declaring that these unbelievers will not be allowed to see "the things which make for peace."

2.  Rationale.  "Then He said again to them, 'I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.'" (John 8:21) A glimmer of understanding lies within these words.  Jesus declares that the unbelieving Pharisees will die in their sins; that is, that their sins will remain upon their own heads when they die.  And so it would be for all of us, were it not for God's intervening grace.  We are each of us born in under the dark pall of sin; in condemning us, our divine Judge merely dispenses exactly what is deserved.  If He chooses to save us, He gives us what we do not deserve, but this does not affect the deservedness and personal culpability of those whom He passes over.  Human nature condemns, while divine grace saves.  Thus God is glorified for saving His people, while at the same time showing Himself to be utterly just in His righteous condemnation.  This raises other questions that are difficult, but at the least, it serves to give us a glimpse of God's justice in terms that we may appreciate.


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