Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?
In the previous post we addressed what it is to “speak” and it “come to pass.” In this sermon we will inquire how God’s primary agency affects the good deeds of men.
How does God’s primary agency affect the good deeds of men?
After Paul exhorts us to, “work out our salvation with fear and trembling, he then tells us in Philippians 2:13 that both our “willing” and our “doing” are God working in us. The most profound, and blunt, statement of God’s active sovereignty on man’s actions is Isaiah 26:12 which says, “LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” The gist of which is that we have confidence in God ordaining peace for us precisely because He has done everything else we have done anyway.
The order, as Scripture indicates would seem to be as follows:
A. God ordains our good deeds (Eph 2:10).
1. Before creation God ordained all the details of our lives. (Psalm 139:1-4, 16; Acts 17:26)
2. All of our steps are ordained by the Lord (Psalm 37:23)
B. God ordains that we should will to do them (Phil 2:13).
C. God ordains that we should then do them (Phil 2:13).
D. God ordains them in such a way that He can meaningfully reward us for them. (Heb 6:10; 11:6; Mat 16:27).
This is the order of all our actions: God ordained them; God ordains that we will them; we then will them; God ordains that we do them; we then do them. God has arranged and ordered all things so that He can reward us.
Hence we are not, as the Arminians accuse us of believing, mindless robots. God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are not incompatible. It is an insult to God to insist that they are – as if He couldn’t create creature He could control without violating them. Human responsibility is based on God’s sovereignty. We chafe at this idea simply because we wish to believe that we are our own masters. Self-determination is the pillar of ungodly religion. This is why Whitefield says, “We are all Papists, at least, I am sure, we are all Arminians by nature; and therefore no wonder so many natural men embrace that scheme… We are ashamed directly to say we deserve any good at the hands of God; therefore, as the Apostle excellently well observes, ‘we go about’ we fetch a circuit, ‘to establish a righteousness of our own,’ and, like the Pharisees of old, ‘will not wholly submit to that righteousness which is of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ ”
Let me just insert a much needed reminder after that last paragraph. I said that we are not mindless robots. Let me hasten to say this though: If God had made us mindless automatons, He would still be within His rights as Sovereign of the universe. He would still be just to dispose of us in any fashion He pleased. Scripture indeed says, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Romans 9:21)