Paul's Arrival at Rome and the Sovereignty of God in Salvation
Passage: Acts 28:11–28:31, Romans 9:6–9:21
• Paul’s arrival at Rome (11–16)
• Paul preaches at Rome under guard (17-31)
• Question 1: Have God’s covenant promises to Israel failed (6-13)?
• Question 2: Is God unjust toward Israel (14-21)?
Compatibilism: The bible as a whole, and sometimes in specific texts, presupposes or teaches that both of the following propositions are simultaneously true, and are mutually compatible.
1. God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions in such a way that human responsibility is curtailed, minimized or mitigated.
2. Human beings are morally responsible creatures – they significantly choose, rebel, obey, believe, defy, make decisions and so forth, and they are rightly held accountable for such actions; but this characteristic never functions so as to make God absolutely contingent (secondary, a responder, a reactor, dependent upon us in some sense).
Two philosophical (but not biblical) principles against the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty in salvation. (The following two principles and deductions are incorrect, biblically speaking.)
1. Divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility. Deduction: If God is absolutely sovereign, human beings cannot be truly free – all our actions are foreordained – and therefore, human responsibility becomes a laughable concept. Since the Bible regards faith (or any act of the will) as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of God.
2. Ability limits obligation.
Deduction: Since the Bible regards faith as obligatory (necessary) on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal. For God to command a thing human beings lacked the ability to perform would be unjust.
This is where the danger starts: when we begin with philosophical principles and force scripture through their rationalistic grid.
God’s Hardening of Human Hearts
1. God’s sovereignty in these matters is never pitted against human responsibility.
2. God’s judicial hardening is not presented as the capricious manipulation of an arbitrary potentate cursing morally neutral or even morally pure beings, but as a holy condemnation of a guilty people who are condemned to do and be what they themselves have chosen.
3. God’s sovereignty in these matters can also be a cause for hope, because if he’s not sovereign in these areas then there’s little point in petitioning him for help. But if he is sovereign, then the pleas of believers throughout the history of the church make sense.
4. God’s sovereign hardening of the people in Isaiah’s day, his commissioning of Isaiah to apparently fruitless ministry, is a stage in God’s ‘strange work’ (Is. 28:21–22) that brings God’s ultimate redemptive purposes to pass.