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February 21, 2020 12:01 am
How are our free decisions affected by God’s sovereignty? Today, R.C. Sproul brings us to several passages in Scripture that explore this relationship between divine providence and human responsibility.
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The question of how my free decisions corresponds to God's sovereign providence is one of the most excruciatingly difficult questions that we ever have to struggle with in theology is in it. Renewing Your Mind on this Friday on the web and then whatever you plan to do for the next 30 minutes will be your decision is your free choice.
And yet, whatever you decide to do will be according to God's sovereign plan. So which is it your plan for God's is not an easy question to answer, but RC Sproul never shied away from addressing the difficult and often debated theological questions like this one. This is a message from his series on the providence of God. When we began our study of the concept of the providence of God. I made mention the fact that the Westminster confession has that provocative first line in chapter 3 the God.Fraley somberly and immutably ordain whatsoever comes to pass. And if you recall I said there was a comma after that, it says, but not in such a way as to do violence to the will of the creature or to eliminate secondary causes, and so on, that the theologians that were involved in putting together that doctrinal statement were careful to say that even though we believe in a sovereign providence who governs all things and ordains whatsoever comes the past. Nevertheless, that's sovereign providential government is not exercised in such a way as to destroy what we call human freedom or human volition, but that human choices and human actions are a part of the overall providential scheme of things, and that God brings his will to pass by means of the free decisions of moral agents in the fact that my free decisions for into this overarching plan in no way lessens the reality of that freedom but certainly the question of how my free decisions corresponds to God's sovereign providence is one of the most excruciatingly difficult questions that we ever have to struggle with in theology is in it. Years ago I engage in a discussion with a professor from Carnegie Mellon University and the time he taught in the physics department and he was somewhat hostile towards theology and considered theology is more or less a pseudoscience not worthy of the title science and he said you people talk about things that are the very heart of your belief system that are simply undefinable nice and like what he said like God. What is more basic to theology than God. He said in it. Anything you can say about God is ultimately imprecise lesson, but surely you could be sympathetic with the struggle we have in the size of theology because you have to deal with the same problem in physics and he said indeed we do not know enough maturities like what I said what's what's energy how how basic his energy to modern physics is awarded his energies. What we can answer that question. He said energy is the ability to do work and I said no I'm not asking for a functional definition. I'm not asking you what energy can do. I am asking you what it is is all okay energy is MC squared.
I said no I don't want its mathematical equivalency. I want its ontological structure and that he finally sizewhich you making you know I started penetrating to the question of the being of energy.
He was totally mystified as to how to come up with a definition and I said what you know I said the thing is, you guys are often using that word as the essential definition for everything that is, you have no idea what is said is a metaphysical concept, but we think that we have solved a mystery by putting a name to it, or giving a definition and we think that by putting a label on something or attaching a technical term to something that the very presence of a scientific term explains everything about it now. The reason I got into this lengthy point is that we have a word for the relationship between divine sovereign providence and human freedom. But I want to tell you upfront this word I think useful is descriptive, but it has a mix the deepest mystery of how human actions and divine Providence Square and I don't want you to think that it does not want to think about trying to pull the wool over your eyes this by throwing a fancy term that you put in theology and in the study of the doctrine of Providence we have a word that is very important. Concurrence, concurrence, simply refers to actions involving two or more parties that are taking place.
Current with one another.
They are flowing the current in the stream.
They are occurring together with somebody else's actions and they happened to dovetail or converge in history and the particular role of the parties involved is not necessarily the same as the other party.
Now let me put some flesh to this abstract concept of concurrence.
I think one of the finest illustrations of what we mean by concurrence is found in the Old Testament drama of the book of Job, Satan enters into the scene of heaven. After going to an fro across the earth, canvassing the performance of these creatures who allegedly are supposed to be devoted to God and Satan now is coming back any sort of crowing about the fact that his dominion seems to be far more powerful than the deities look at these people down here that are made in your image. They're all following may they're not following you and Satan is mocking God in the course of this discussion, God says to Satan, have you considered my servant Job, yes I know that is all kinds of folks down there who are in your camp. Satan, if all you know they disobey me.
What about show.
Here's what I'm proud.
There's one that's been faithful and loyal to me.
And of course Satan is even cynical about this and he says to God as Job serve God for not and the question implies this is because the only reason why Job is obedient. The only reason why Job was faithful and loyal to his creator is because it's what he's getting out of it. God's blessing, Job abundantly. He's one of the wealthiest people in the ancient world, and Satan points this out to God is applicable to hedge around doing everything a man can ask for wonderful wife, terrific family possessions, leadership, respect what else could a man ask you give it to him. You take that heads down and he'll be in my camp in five minutes or so. The whole scene now is established as a dramatic contest between God and Satan and God now gives permission to Satan to attack Job to go through the fence and to do injury to Job's possessions so you can go after his cattle Rutgers livestock.
At first, possessions in a doctor's family allows all these things take place. You said but you can't kill job well you know the story of early on in the story we read the Job, who was upset as well as fabulously wealthy men in the world has his wealth by means of livestock and the Chaldeans rustle his cattle and take away his wealth. Nellis to stop the story at that point.
Here, the Chaldeans, who still drove. How many actors are involved in the state.
The incident of the theft of Job's livestock. There are, the Chaldeans, and we read in the Scripture that Satan stirred up the Chaldeans to steal Job's livestock but why did Satan stir up the Chaldeans to steal Job's livestock because God ordained that Satan should stir up the Chaldeans to steal Joe's livestock. So in terms of the theft of Joe's cattle.
We have three agents that are involved. God, Satan and the Chaldeans know how we to understand this event.
Sometimes people look at the story and I say well here's the thing.
The Chaldeans are upright, righteous neighbors of Job every night. They say their prayers and they say thank you God for the blessings you bestowed upon our favorite neighbor Job over there. May he continue to prosper is a pillar of the community and we esteem and revere him for his influence among us, and that what happens is that these poor innocent Chaldeans are now invaded by demonic forces under the control of Satan and Satan uses his diabolical power to coerce the Chaldeans to perform this sinful date of wrestling Joe's cattle and of course when Satan is called into account for inciting the Chaldeans to this malicious act. Satan throws up his hands and says well you know I was just doing what comes naturally. I mean God strip me of my righteousness. It's my creator, who's made me as wicked as I am.
So if you have a problem Job with the loss of your cattle.
Talk to the boss don't talk to me.
I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do under the providence of God doing what Satan was designed to do so is not my fault gospel and their people to look at this story and say the whole thing is God's fault. Let me ask you again what you've learned so far on Providence does God ordained that Job's cows be stolen. Yes, that is the providential plan is a summary came to Joseph. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. This is can it take a while before you see it.
Send because in the meantime, you lose your cattle, but God is sovereign over the life of Job and his circumstance.
I don't think that we ought to look at it that way away. The Scripture looks at the stories.
This here is Job. He is innocent, Chaldeans, ladies and gentlemen are cattle rustlers from the beginning. The Chaldeans have this covetous envious, jealous rage against Joe and the only thing that's The Chaldeans of Job's corral four years.
Is this protective hedge that God has placed around Job to keep the intruders out. Satan comes in. Lisa, Chaldeans, and says you guys like to have Joe's In the Chaldeans, don't say get the behind me Satan. They say Satan how can we do it, they willingly enter into a coalition with the Prince of darkness to go after the calls of job you see that so there is an agreement in purpose between the Chaldeans and Satan, and a totally different disagreement between the purpose of the Chaldeans, and Satan, and the purpose of God. Chaldeans have a personal vested interest to improve their property by stealing the cattle Satan's interest in this is not the Satan can get cattle or even win the hearts. The Chaldeans only thing that Satan wants to accomplish in this same action is to get Job to curse God. Satan is doing this action for totally vicious, malevolent reasons to overthrow the authority and the majesty of God, God's purpose is to vindicate Job from the unrighteous accusations that were laid before him by Satan as well as to vindicate God's own holiness by asking, is it a legitimate purpose to vindicate you. Is it a legitimate purpose for God to vindicate his own Majesty, it's not that were saying here that the end justifies the means. But what were saying is that God's purposes and designs must be considered when you are evaluating the moral import of an action. God is not sinning against Joe righteousness does not require that God keep Job from ever losing his cattle. Remember, Job is a sinner.
He has no claim upon this cattle from God forever any cattle that Job ever possessed was through the gift of God's grace God has every right under heaven to remove or to repeal that grace for his own holy purposes. So, do you see that in this drama God is acting rightly. But Satan and the Chaldeans in the same human action are performing evil, of course, after Satan is exposed and Job is vindicated. God restores the property of Job to full, but if that story doesn't clarify to you what were talking about. By the term concurrence of my favorite illustration I think everybody's favorite illustration of is the story of Joseph. I'm not going to go into a lengthy exposition of that story but you recall how that Joseph was favored by his father Jacob, and Jacob bought Joseph. This Technicolor code for his birthday and the other brothers were fiercely jealous of this favored treatment that Joseph had received and so while there up one day they decide to kill Joseph, one of the brothers objects to that and so instead of killing him.
The enthronement of Pittman. They take him out. You may sell them to these caravan traders who happen to be going down to Egypt and so you know the story. Joseph is carried off to Egypt where the caravan traders had run into one of the officers regarding Pharaoh's court, upon further and Joseph becomes a slave in Potiphar's house and just coincidentally happened to be the popper was married to an unscrupulous woman who made illicit advance against Joseph and Joseph refused her advances, since it how can I sin against God.
In this way in hell knows no fury like a woman scorned so she hollered rape and before you know it. Joseph is thrown into prison and was a prisoner just had to be the butchering baker and candlestick maker in the prison and they have conversations and they learn that Joseph has this ability to interpret dreams.
You know what happens.
Finally one of them gets out and tells the Pharaoh, but Joseph's ability and Pharaoh's having nightmares and Joseph comes out and interprets his dreams and does it accurately and that Pharaoh was so grateful that he appoints Joseph is the Prime Minister of Egypt In a time when famine came upon the land and Jacob's family then are starving and so Jacob sends some of the boys down in the Egypt to inquire about getting some of the surplus food that the Prime Minister has been thoughtful enough to keep for the Egyptian people and by coincidence of all coincidences to brothers. Years later happen to meet up with Joseph and what happened. Joseph hides his identity for a while and then finally he reveals that he is there long lost brother. He embraces them with tears in the course of their reconciliation. The brothers were falling all over themselves and apologies to Joseph and then Joseph makes the comment. What you meant it for evil God meant it for good. You meant it for evil. Joseph doesn't whitewash the sin of his brothers Umana free for your involvement. You are free volitional activity in this was indeed evil.
The brothers of Joseph. Just like the Chaldeans in the story of Job were guilty of sin, and it was sin that they personally wanted to do.
They freely chose it, but God stands above our choices and can work through human freedom to bring about his own providential goal and this is what Joseph essay you chose to do something simple, but all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose in my brothers I'm called according to the purpose of God, and God has meant good through this know the story for one of the nailed issue with law from one issue that horse was lost for one of the horse. The writer was lost for one of the right of the battle was lost for one of the battle were was what would've happened in the history of the world. If Jacob had given Joseph a co-for no coat, no jealousy, no jealousy, no treacherous sale of Joseph to Midianite traders.
No sale Joseph to Midianite traders. No dissent into Egypt notice and each of no meeting with Potiphar. Nobody was part for no trouble to his wife and her troubled his wife. No get in front of the jail nugget in from the jail. No interpreting dreams if they were not to ring true to Pharaoh.
No elevation of the role of Primus novation role of prime minister directly at his brother, reconciliation with his brothers. The migration of the Jewish people from the north on into Egypt. No migration into Egypt. No Exodus out of Egypt elections out of Egypt. No Moses, no, no prophets, no Christ is an action in the plan of God. That code happened.
Joseph said I don't know what the final chapters going to look like.
I know this in terms of the immediate causal offense. Here you guys did something with law you meant it for evil but God meant it for good. God is the author of every good and perfect gift.
I remember Jonathan Edwards wrote a sermon entitled God the author of all good solutions and actions.
I love the title the sermon. For this reason, how unlike the average Christian Jonathan Edwards was know what we like to think whenever we make good choices noble choices virtuous choice. We like to assume all of the credit for the initiation of the righteous date and if we do something that is not so good, that is indeed evil. Our first excuses what we sound like flip Wilson the devil made me do it. We don't want to take credit for evil choices.
We want to blame them on God. Just as Eve and Adam did when Adam said the woman that you gave me, talk me into this try to blame the fall on God himself. That's our tendency to credit for the good transfer blame for the evil title of Edward sermon is God is the author of all good solutions and actions that any good deed that I do any righteous choice that I made is because God is at work within me both to will and to do what is a gentleman there is a difficulty in understanding the relationship between God's providence and human freedom because man is truly free in the sense that he has the ability to make choices and choose what he wants but God is also truly free and thought her once a part of the thousand times that God's sovereignty can never limit man's freedom that is not a description of Arminianism that is a description of atheist because of God's sovereignty is limited. 1 ounce by your freedom again. He is not sovereign. What kind of a concept of God that we have that would say that God is paralyzed, frozen, within limits, maintained by human choices of God is free and I am free. He is more afraid, and I am I not more free than he is. If this freedom is limited by my freedom that I'm sovereign and he's not of God is free and I'm free. And the point is that my freedom can never, ever, ever limit God's sovereignty because he is divine Providence and in God's freedom he can and will allow difficulty in our lives, we naturally struggle with the difficult circumstances in our lives, but our struggle can never be with God's providence is good and perfect Providence means that we trust him in the midst of hardship.
The message we heard today on Renewing Your Mind is from Dr. RC Sproul series, the providence of God questions about God's sovereignty and man's responsibility and man's freedom go to the very core of the Christian faith that RC has brought helpful answers this week in the series were making the entire series available to you with six messages on three audio CDs and will send it to you for your donation of any amount to leader ministries you can make your request online at Renewing Your Mind on work or you can simply call us with your gifted 800-435-4343 since its founding in 1971 leader ministries has been laser focused on our mission to equip Christians to know what they believe, why they believe it how to live it and how to share it. Technology has changed through the years, but the message has remained the same. One example of the technology is our app and when you downloaded it is free. By the way, you'll be able to access the thousands of leader resources reproduced over the years to advance that mission, including e-books, articles, videos, and a large archive of this program.
Renewing Your Mind in your app store. Just search for linear LIGO in by ER on Monday we will wrap up the series on the providence of God and then starting Tuesday. RC will help us explore the biblical understanding of joy. We hope you'll join us all next week here on Renewing Your Mind