Grace and Responsibility
By Lucien LeSage
Men have had difficulty harmonizing the responsibility of man and the sovereign grace of God but it should not be so. It has been said that grace and responsibility are like two parallel lines that never cross and meet at the throne of God. While that may sound good and we can picture that in our minds, does it really harmonize grace and responsibility? I would contend that those two lines meet in the God-man, Jesus Christ, who is the only one that has kept the whole law to the letter and in the spirit and from Him all grace is bestowed.
Let us try to keep this as simple as possible that even a child could understand. The apostle Paul made this statement. “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law” (Galatians 3:21). The moral law is represented by the ten commandments. They are called commandments. But notice Paul did not say “a table of laws” or “the law” but “a law”. And notice he said, "if there had been". One law or any law. My Greek–English Interlinear says “a law”. Any command that could have been given and obeyed that would have given life. Now the Bible tells us that we were dead in trespasses and sins according to Ephesians 2:1 & 5. We read in Colossians 2:13, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” These are just a few verses that show that men are born dead in their sins. So dear friend there is no command given or could have been given that if obeyed would give spiritual life. Yet, the Bible tell us “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). Men are commanded to repent. Even the Gospel is said to be “obeyed” (Romans 10:16). But there is no command that can be obeyed that will grant life. Only God can grant life. It was God that breathed into Adam the breath of life. Men are dead spiritually and only God can grant spiritual life, thus Jesus said yet must be, not get, but “be born again”.
So back to responsibility. Just what is man’s responsibility? Well, Adam was made upright and with spiritual life. When he fell, God’s standards did not change. But also when Adam fell, we fell in him according to 1st Corinthians 15:22. Because of this we read “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” (Psalms 58:3). Even David said of himself, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalms 51:5). So man has a problem. He is born into this life dead in his sins, but since he was alive in Adam once and God has not changed in holiness, then men are responsible to live as though they were alive even though they are dead. A man may get drunk and not able to think straight and go out and kill someone. Now when he faces the judge he has no excuse that he did not know what he was doing, because his responsibility goes back to when he was sober. Our responsibility goes back to Adam. Men are responsible to keep God’s moral law not only in the letter but in the spirit as well. Men are responsible to believe every word that God has uttered else they are calling Him a liar. Men are responsible to worship Him in spirit and in truth because he is worthy of all worship by his creatures. But man is spiritually dead. A man who was struggling with sovereign grace and the responsibility of man asked Brother Wilbur Johnson once, “well just what is man’s responsibility?” Brother Johnson said, “To keep the whole moral law of God and to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself, but it won’t get you there.” That’s right it won’t get you there because there is no command that can be obeyed that will raise you from the spiritual dead. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing,” says Jesus. Repenting, which is commanded, will not bring life. It is the other way around. Life brings repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is “godly sorrow” that “worketh repentance to salvation” as Paul tells us, but “godly sorrow” is the result of being quickened to life by the Holy Spirit.
“Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726