Does Election Contradict Human Responsibility?

Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.
–Romans 9:30-31

One of the questions people ask about the doctrine of election is this: “Does election contradict human responsibility?” If God has already determined who is going to be saved, then doesn’t that mean I do not need to exercise faith because salvation is going to come automatically? Doesn’t that mean I do not need to witness to my friends and my family members? Doesn’t that mean I do not need to give money to missions to share the gospel if God is going to do what He wants to do anyway? Yes, God has determined who is going to be saved, but He has also ordained the process by which they are going to be saved, which is by you and I faithfully sharing the gospel. God’s sovereignty does not negate human responsibility.

Paul talked about human responsibility in Romans 9:30-32: “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.” Why were Gentiles being saved? It was because they chose to accept the gospel–that salvation is by faith in the grace of Jesus Christ. They were saved because they were pursuing “the righteousness which is by faith.” And why were the Israelites lost? It was not because of God’s election; it was because of their choice to pursue righteousness based on the Law. The reason we are lost or saved is because of our choice to be right with God either by our works or by God’s grace, which is received through faith. Nobody is lost without choosing to be lost. Nobody is saved without choosing to be saved.

Somebody once asked Charles Spurgeon, “How do you reconcile God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility?” Spurgeon said, “You never have to reconcile friends.” What appears to us to be contradictory truths are actually complementary truths. Let me illustrate that for you. Let’s say you go into the gymnasium and see two ropes dangling from the ceiling. You go over to one of the ropes and decide to pull yourself up. You grab the rope, but there is no tension, and it falls. So you go over to the next rope and grab hold of it, trying to pull yourself up. The same thing happens: no tension, and it falls. Finally, you decide to grab both ropes. When you hold both of the ropes, they have enough tension to pull yourself up. When you get to the top, you discover that what appeared to be two ropes were in fact one rope on a pulley. It is the same way with the doctrines of election and responsibility. If you grab hold of just one doctrine–the doctrine of predestination–and try to hold onto it to get to Heaven, then you are going to fall. It is not sufficient to get you to Heaven. If you grab hold of human responsibility by itself, then you are going to fall as well. You have to grab hold of both truths in order to accept God’s grace. When you get to Heaven, you will discover that what appeared to be two contradictory truths is actually one truth: God’s election and our responsibility to accept and share the gospel.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Is God Unfair?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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This week, we’re going to discover five principles that Abraham’s servant Eliezer exercised in finding the right mate for Abraham’s son Isaac. These principles can help you, your children, and your grandchildren not only to find a mate but also to know God’s will for any area of life.
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