Friday 27 March 2015


God in His sovereignty may choose us but that's only part of the equation. What else is needed?

God’s sovereign election has to be matched by human responsibility.

Paul told the Gentiles not to be proud or complacent that they have been chosen (God's sovereignty) over the Jews. It's because the latter rejected God. The Gentiles have to realise there is a condition to be met if they want to remain in God's favour (human responsibility). Otherwise, they too will be cut off (Romans 11: 17-22).

Note the condition for remaining in God’s favour (eternal security): 
"Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off" (Romans 11:22).

The position of these two groups in God's eyes is reversible. Gentiles can be the objects of God’s sternness and Jews can be the object of God’s grace (and vice versa). It all depends on how each group live out their lives (human responsibility).

It is a doctrinal error to emphasise the love of God over the justice of God. Both are attributes of God of equal standing. Furthermore, God is impartial in His dealings with people, whatever their ethnic group.

The above is a parallel to the teaching found in Philippians 2: 12-13 and Ephesians 2:8-10 that there is always God's part and our part in our Christian walk.

To say that God will keep believers eternally secure (and ignore our part) is to detract from this paradox of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.

We like to harp on the fact that God keeps us in the faith: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24).

But we tend to downplay personal responsibility though it is clearly stated: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 1:20-21).

What God has done, we certainly cannot do. He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we can be forgiven when we place our trust in Him. Now He asks us to do what He will not do for us: Seek His will and do it.

God in His sovereignty chose Paul, a great persecutor of the church, to be His instrument to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul cannot claim any merit for being God’s chosen one. But he certainly lived up to his heavenly calling after the life-changing power encounter with God (Acts 26:19).

It does not necessarily mean that believers who are chosen, called and endowed with great gifts and power will remain in God's favour and finally enjoy heavenly bliss. The giftings may be manifest to others but the favour of God may have departed because of sins like pride, immorality, entrapment by riches (Romans 11:29, Matthew 7:21-23, Ezekiel 18:26).

Starting out well cannot be equated with ending well. That is why personal responsibility is important. Even the apostle Paul has to exercise discipline in order to complete the spiritual race so as not to be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27).

We can choose to bask in the sunshine of God's election, sovereignty and Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS). But we should not stay there forever and be complacent. Or else we may get heatstroke, sunburn or, worse, skin cancer.

In conclusion, we need to have a balanced view when we consider the sticky subject of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

The apostle Paul personified these seemingly contradictory elements. He set the example for us to follow. God sovereignly chose Paul and he fulfilled his calling, fully obedient to the heavenly vision.

Paul declared before King Agrippa: “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19).

Would the impact and growth of the early church ever be the same if it not been for Paul's faithfulness in fulfilling his heavenly vision?

Would New Testament  teachings ever be the same if it not been for Paul's faithfulness in obeying God’s call? 

That is why being chosen alone is not enough. Personal responsibility, faithfulness and obedience matter. 


Many believers focus on the privileges of being a Christian and forget that there are conditions attached to the blessings.

When we have a God-inspired vision like apostle Paul, we can live purposefully—by design and not by default.

Salvation can be seen as a beautiful garden patch God gave to us without us having to work for it. But what do we do with this undeserved gift?

Paul referring to the Jews (natural olive branches) and Gentiles (wild olive branches):
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
(Romans 11: 17-21)

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
(Romans 11:22)

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
(Philippians 2: 12-13)

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:8-10)

Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.
(Acts 26:19)

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
(Romans 11:29)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
(Matthew 7:21-23)

When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die.
(Ezekiel 18:26)

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
(1 Corinthians 9: 24-27)

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