God's Sovereignty and Our Responsibility?

Question
A friend of mine says he can be purposely irresponsible because God is sovereign. Since God works all things for his good (Rom 8:28), he can do anything he desires. Is this correct?
Answer

Thanks for your question.

God is Sovereign

God is indeed sovereign over all the earth. He is sovereign over all, even over such miracles as the time of the Cross - and every other person, event, minute, and second - over all creation. He does everything he pleases (Exod 15:18; 1 Chron 29:11-12; 2 Chron 20:6; Psa 22:28); while retaining the right to control all things he actually and actively ordains and brings to pass everything that takes place in entire universe (Deut 32:39; 1 Sam 2:6-8; Job 9:12; 12:6-10; Psa 33:11; 115:3; 135:6; Isa 14:24; 45:7; Acts 15:17-18; Eph 1:11); he controls the simple roll of a dice (Prov 16:33), to the greatest events of the earth (e.g. Isa 45:1-4); he is bringing all things to pass according to his will. He governs and superintends "coincidental" happenings (1 Kings 22:20, 34, 37), the wicked actions of men (Gen 45:5; 50:20; Exod 4:21; Judges 14:1-4; Psa 76:10; Prov 16:4; 21:1; Isa 44:28; Amos 3:6; Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28), men's good deeds (John 15:16; Eph 2:10; Phil 2:12-13), the actions of both evil spirits and good angels (1 Sam 16:14-16; 1 Kings 22:19-23; 1 Chron 21:1; 2 Sam 24:1; Psa 103:20-21; 104:4), the habits of animals (Num 22:28; 1 Kings 17:4; Psa 29:9; Jer 8:7; Ezek 32:4; Dan 6:22), and the operations of all creation (Gen 8:22; Psa 104:5-10, 13-14, 19-20; Mark 4:39).

God is absolutely sovereign over all.

Our Responsibility

God being Sovereign and Omnipotent is no excuse for our purposeful irresponsibility and disobedience. Being purposefully irresponsible and disobedient just because one thinks God 'will work out all things to our good' (Rom 8:28) is tempting God. It is outright sin.

Why? Romans 8:28 adds a qualifier to his promise; that being, "those who love God." This is an important qualifier as those that love God keep his commandments (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; 1 John 2:3; 5:3; 2 John 1:6); meaning they do not purposely act irresponsibly. To continually set out on a purposeful path of disobedience day after day is evidence that one doesn't even know God (1 John 3:7-9; cf. 2:19; Heb 10:28-30).

Jesus was tempted in a similar manner. In Matthew 4:5-6, Satan took Christ to a high pinnacle and said to Christ:

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone.'

Satan essentially quoted Psalms 91:12. Similar to what your friend is doing with Romans 8:28, Satan was misapplying the verse to the situation. Jesus did not take the bait. Even though Jesus is God and fully understood his own Sovereignty and Omnipotence, he answered saying, "Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test" (Matt 4:7; Exod 17:2). Jesus did what was "right and good in the sight of God" (Deut 6:16-18).

Jesus knew that being purposely irresponsible and disobedient would be a sin. He knew Satan was quoting Scripture out of its proper context and misapplying it to the situation at hand. In response, Jesus being all-powerful spoke and acted responsibly. At the end of his temptation in the wilderness, angels ministered to him (Mat 4:11). Why? Because he was faithful and acted responsibly.

Deuteronomy 6:16-18 states:

You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take poossession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers.

What happened at Massah is recorded for us in Exodus 17:1-7. Because of the lack of water (Exod 17:1-2) Israel complained (Exod 17:2-3) and questioned whether or not a God was really among them or not (Exod 17:2, 7). This was unbelief (Heb 11:6). It was taking the Lord's name in vain (Exod 20:7). After all that God had done for Israel in Egypt - the plagues, the dividing of the Red Sea, the destruction of Pharaoh - Israel was refusing to do "what is right and good in the sight of the Lord." By doing so they tempted God.

Your friend is endorsing a false gospel called Antinomianism. Antinomianism (from the Greek words, anti, meaning "against"; and nomos, meaning "law") means "against the law." It includes the belief that Christians do not need to obey the moral laws God. It is a false gospel, which is not the gospel at all (Gal 1:6-9). God expects his people to "do what is right and good" in his sight (Deut 6:16-18). God being all-powerful, iis not an excuse for purposeful disobedience. In actually, it is a reason why one should be very obedient!

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).