It seems we live in a day in which we increasingly consider God’s Word to be true and authoritative only as long as it agrees with our own opinions and understanding. Many complain that they cannot relate or understand God when it comes to those issues that “blow our minds”…
Divine sovereignty and human choice is one of those issues. The Bible is clear that although God ordained Jesus’ betrayal, it was carried out freely by Judas. Jesus affirmed God’s predetermined plan and Judas’ responsibility for his evil actions:
“For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed” (Lk 22:22).
In the last chapter of his book, Twelve Ordinary Men, John MacArthur discusses the life of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus. MacArthur says, “God’s plan and Judas’ evil deed concurred perfectly”. MacArthur used a quote from Charles Spurgeon to explain the tension between divine sovereignty and human choice: “If I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is foreordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other.”
What we need is to fully submit to the reality that God is beyond the scope of our full understanding recognizing there are passages of Scripture that are difficult for us to reconcile in our minds:
- Consider how the Bible records Jesus’ statement that no one can come to Him “unless the Father draws them” (John 6:44) but also teaches that a person is condemned because of their unbelief (John 3:18).
- What about how the Lord’s desire is that none perish but that all reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9); yet, all the while teaching clearly that not all are saved?
- And how could Jesus’ crucifixion be God’s plan and the Jewish leaders still be held responsible for carrying it out?
- What about all of Romans 9?
When we read these passages, the doctrines of divine sovereignty and human choice may appear to contradict, but they do not. They may seem to appear irreconcilable, but they are not. There are no contradictions with God; nor, is there any need for the passages that support each of these doctrines to be reconciled. We accept them because the Bible teaches both.
I like the way Kent Hughes puts it when he says, “If anyone completely understands the ways of God, the Trinity will have to make room for another member.”
Consider other passages of Scripture that underscore the impossibility of our being able to fully comprehend God’s ways:
Isaiah, the Prophet (Is 55:8-9) says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts”.
The Apostle Paul (Romans 11:33-36): “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the LORD, or who has been His counselor? Or who has given Him a gift that He might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen”.
It would be a mistake to allow challenging passages of Scripture to dissuade from deep study of God’s Word. We must go as far as the Holy Spirit takes us, realizing at the same time, our full understanding and for that matter, opinion or belief, is not the basis of the truth of God’s Word. It never has or ever will be. The tension between divine sovereignty and human choice is only ours, not God’s.
Concerning divine sovereignty and human choice, Spurgeon goes on to say that they are “two lines that are so nearly parallel that the human mind that pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”
God is amazing. He is beyond us! What kind of God would He be if His ways were our ways, if His judgments were searchable, and if He needed our counsel? Would we then appreciate the greatness of His grace? God and His Word will always be beyond us so that we might seek and find.