by Jeremiah Hill

We believe that the blessings of salvation are made free to all by the gospel; that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial, penitent, and obedient faith; and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth, but his own inherent depravity and voluntary rejection of the gospel; which rejection involves him in an aggravated condemnation.

Freedom and Responsibility

A quick review of Romans 5 & 6 may leave some perplexed as Paul discusses the freedom that we experience in Christ and describes it as slavery to righteousness. What we must understand in Paul’s discussion here is that his definition of freedom is worlds apart from ours. Freedom as it is defined in our cultural and political context is the unhindered right to do anything. Freedom is unhinged will…but is that even possible? Isn’t a person’s will tied to them in such a way as to form the will? Can anybody will acts that are not necessarily conditioned by one’s own past experience in life? The simple point is this, everybody has a master. One can only be as free as their nature. Everybody has an aim and an end which they are aiming for in narrative of their lives. Paul’s point is that the chains that once bound us to a prison of self-wonder and self-obsession have now been bound to Christ. As we will see next week, Christ has changed our very nature within us and bound us to himself. This is freedom – to be bound to such a nature that we can worship the Creator and Father of our very freedom and that within this nature, upheld by that Father, is no dread or fright that we will be left of our own accord.

The responsibility of salvation is given to us but the ability is not in us to receive it. Freedom thus defined allows us to see that we are not set free as un-mastered subjects. We are apprehended by God. We are not set free to muster ourselves into a repentance just good enough to be worthy of God. We will never repent or believe in such a way that God does not yet, even in our repentance, provide mediation for us. The Father in Jesus Christ provides for us the freedom necessary by fastening us to himself.

Sovereignty?

Hyper-Calvinism is a term applied to those who have taken John Calvin’s theology to deterministic extremes. If God is the sovereign Lord, how can human agency exist in any respect at all? This describes the Hyper-Calvinist. Human responsibility is turned into a farce and God is ultimately the cause of everything. Paul addresses this kind of thinking to us in Romans 9 (take a peek). In a theological discussion surrounding God’s purposes, Paul does not give us the inner workings of God’s decrees. Rather, he explains to us that questioning what God demands of us in light of his sovereign hand is a form of unbelief. The point Paul makes subtly is that it is more central to Christianity that we hold a biblical consistency instead of a philosophically airtight system. Philosophers will bemoan Paul’s insistence on the affirmation of seemingly contradictory terms. The Old Testament bears witness that God repeatedly assures the salvation of his people and clearly acts sovereignly. He nonetheless prescribes laws and arranges massive responsibility for his people that you would not expect of mere puppets. The OT not only claims both but holds no forte in either direction.

The doctrine of sovereignty will be addressed in the later articles. Suffice it to say here that the doctrine is a source of great comfort for believers. The providence of God is a personal providence which is not just exercised from high above, but from within. God entered his own providential plan and was subject to a gruesome death and unspeakable evil. If this is not the case, if God is not sovereign then with regard to all the events in your life you could speak of God in a few different ways. He could be asleep at the wheel, perhaps he is just unconcerned, or maybe he just doesn’t even have the power to act. We must see that we cannot see. He is infinitely wise and involved in the events of our lives in such a way to bring about a holy and joyous end. While the contours are sometimes confusing to us, let us rest in that he is not confused, unable, unwilling, or unconcerned.

Select Bibliography

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God – Packer

The Cross and Salvation – Demarest

Theology for the Church – Akin

Calvin’s Institutes (1:16-18)

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