Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A contradiction?

"I've put it like this each time, ‘that man is responsible for his damnation, but he is never responsible for his salvation’...The doctrine of election must never be supposed to teach that man is not responsible." – Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the sermon (#3285), "Regrafting of the Jews" on Romans 11:23-24 preached on Friday evening, Feb. 26, 1965.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones never hesitated to deal with difficult doctrines.  If he was convinced it was Biblical, no matter the apparent difficulties, he went right on forward, teaching the matter so plainly, that at times, a statement taken apart from the whole might seem bombastic.  The above statement is one of those surprising and rather difficult issues.  Election and responsibility do not seem compatible in the first analysis.  So I wanted to offer another aspect to the teaching.

The Doctors statement, “Man is responsible for his damnation, but he is never responsible for his salvation” is hard to accept because it is an apparent incompatibility – that the Bible teaches both man’s responsibility, and yet his inability, all the while holding that God is just in his dealings with men! 

Lloyd-Jones calls it an antinomy.  We might call it paradoxical.  I suspect that this is one of the most significant reason’s men reject portions of election, for it grates against the soul of a man to be held responsible for something entirely out of his hands.  Yet it is not all that it seems.  And rather than to debate the issue ad nauseum, I would like to suggest a better way. 

It is the pride of man which is unable to take such a doctrinal position.  We are rather arrogant to suppose we could grasp the ways of God in their fullness.  I know some will likely check out now, complaining that I am capitulating with the old canard, that God’s ways are not man’s ways.  Well my friends, it is not a canard – but rather Scriptural teaching, found in Isaiah 45:9, 55:8-9; Deuteronomy 29:29, Romans 9:21 and many other places.  But I am not seeking to use these for an excuse not to deal with the riddle before us.

I would suggest that it will be easier to swallow, once we get over ourselves, to look to the very character of the one who is really under attack.  It is not man who is being assaulted when we choose not to believe the two positions of man’s responsibility, and yet his inability.  It is God’s just and righteous character which is under assault.  I contend that if we begin to view Him aright, though we do not grasp the fullness of the two teachings, we will be able to accept them nevertheless. 

God is good.  That is the clear truth of the matter.  Let God be true and every man a liar. (Rom. 3:4)  He is good, and he is patient toward ALL that all may come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) He takes no pleasure in punishing the wicked. (Eze. 18:23)  He wants all to come to repentance. (1 Tim. 2:4)  And of course – one only need look to the cross to see the extent of His love toward us.  I have to say, Romans 5:8 has become one of the most precious verses in the whole of Holy writ to me, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

An extended portion of John chapter 3 states it plainly:

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Let’s look at these apparent difficulties in light of the fact that God is good, and His love for mankind is shown in the sacrificial death of His one and only Son for a world of lost sinners.  James 1:21 tells us, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.


  1. Dr. Lloyd-Jones statement expanded is found here, 22:21, "It's always a question of faith and of belief. There is only one principle which God ever uses in His dealings with men. And He's never used another. It has always been faith from the very beginning. There never will be any other way whatsoever. Salvation is always by faith and by faith only. This is his great cardinal doctrine of justification by faith only. Now it's interesting to notice that the apostle puts this negatively, not positively. "They also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in." Is there significance in this? Well, I think there is, because again he is safeguarding a very important and a very vital principle. This isn't the first time we've come across this point. We've heard it many, many times. But the apostle goes on repeating it. We therefore have to do the same thing. In teaching his great doctrine of Election, he is very careful always, to assert at the same time, man's responsibility. Now we've had to say that many times in doing chapter 9, also in chapter 10, and we've had to say it several times already in this chapter. I've put it like this each time, ‘that man is responsible for his damnation, but he is never responsible for his salvation’. Now, you may say to me, how can you reconcile those? It's not for us to reconcile. That is what is called an antimony. It is what is plainly taught in the Scripture. The doctrine of election must never be supposed to teach that man is not responsible. Man is responsible. And everywhere we have seen so plainly, and so clearly that if a man ends in damnation it is his fault and his responsibility. But it is equally clear, that it is God who saves, and that no man saves himself. That's why the apostle puts the negative here rather than the positive. He doesn't say, you see, that they will be saved if they believe, because if he said that many would say, "Ah! It's man’s belief after all that saves him." The apostle doesn't put it like that. Therefore he puts it like this, he said, "If they abide not still in unbelief" It's the negative. And man's part is always the negative." 25:09 - Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the sermon (#3285), "Regrafting of the Jews" on Romans 11:23-24 preached on Friday evening, Feb. 26, 1965.

  2. Thank you for continuing to expound on these teachings/truths inspite of ppl's 'self' defence... And therein in the CRUX of the matter... Self defense!

  3. Here is Spurgeon on the same truths:
    "That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring."
    --- Charles H. Spurgeon, Grace and Man's Responsibility


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