Text Kendall, R. T., UNDERSTANDING THEOLOGY, VOLUME I, hardback 430 pages, reprinted 2002, Christian Focus Publications, Fearn, Ross-shire, UK.
Topic: Human Responsibility, Chapter 7 of text
The person who understands the concept of human responsibility has a more complete and balanced Christian perspective. On one side of the scale are the Calvinists, some of whom say with partial accuracy “Since God is sovereign and always at work, so why bother, what does it matter what we do?” On the other side stands the Arminians who tend to focus more on good works. It is true that God is sovereign and we would not be saved without His grace and sovereign selection (cf. Ephesians 2:8, 9 and Titus 3:5-7). But it is also true, according to the Bible itself, that God requires us to be engaged in good works (cf. Ephesians 2:10 and Titus 3:8). In these two portions of scripture just cited, the Bible has Calvinistic and Arminian points of view in verses that are right next to each other!
So God does His sovereign part with selection and grace, and we should do our part, which is working and acting as though everything depended on our own efforts. The concepts of sovereignty and human effort are antinomy. They appear to contradict each other but they really do not. The Bible teaches and emphasizes that God is sovereign, but at the same time, it also gives commands for us to follow. So the Bible also teaches human responsibility. Understanding these concepts provides a corrective attitude and protects against the widespread superficiality of our present times.
There are some things we should guard against. Watch out for bitterness caused by Satan against God’s sovereignty. Some don’t like the feeling of no longer being in control. God’s sovereignty is alien to natural or fleshly feelings and thinking. We also need to watch out for becoming too passive. Look at the servant who hid his master’s money in the ground. Jesus said this servant was sternly rebuked and then ordered to be cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (cf. Matthew 25:24-30). This servant believed that God was sovereign but he did not act on behalf of His interests and did not obey His commands. Some examples of irresponsible passive activity include not being involved in holy living (fighting temptation), evangelism (cf. Matthew 28:19) or praying (cf. Philippians 4:6, 7 and James 5:14).
Promises are usually fulfilled as a result of obedience. We need to act, not only hear. Effort (work) is usually required to keep on trusting in times of testing and disillusionment. Our faith or belief needs to persist regardless of the circumstances. Jesus gave the example of the sheep and the goats. It is clear rewards and punishments were based on what they did or did not do. John Calvin and Martin Luther believed in God’s sovereignty and salvation by grace alone. But they were both very hard workers. The apostles and Early Fathers fully accepted the doctrines of sovereignty and human responsibility. They believed in both and acted likewise.
Biblical common sense tells us we need to walk close with God. Samuel put it rightly when he said, “Do not fear … yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. “For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it pleased the Lord to make you His people” (I Sam. 12:20-21 NKJV). We need to be responsible by honoring Him and not presuming His mercy. Jesus is an example of obedience to the extent of death on a cross. Paul was obedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19).