56.    Doesn't the doctrine of unconditional election take away human responsibility?

In Romans 9, when Paul is declaring very certainly and indisputably the sovereign choice of God in election, according to his own good pleasure and purposes alone, he raises up a hypothetical objection: If it is as you say, and salvation depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who elects, then how can he hold anyone responsible? Or in other words, “Why does he still find fault? for who has resisted his will?” (Rom. 9:19). Paul's response is very simple: “On the contrary, who are you, O man, to reply back to God? Shall the thing formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why have you made me thus'? Or does not the Potter have authority over the clay, out of the same lump to make one a vessel for honor and another a vessel for dishonor?” (Rom. 9:20-21). In other words, the God who made us has the right to use us either for the display of his just wrath or the display of his free mercy, and we have no grounds to object. He is our Creator and he does hold us responsible, whether we like it or not.

To help us understand the folly of this objection, let's consider a scenario: a foolish prodigal borrows millions of dollars from a bank; then, he squanders all the money in riotous living and is unable to repay his debt. So the bank hauls him to court, and is about to send him to debtor's prison. Now, another man had done the same thing before, and a goodhearted philanthropist decided to pay off that prodigal's debt entirely, but in this case, he does nothing. Now, if the foolish prodigal told the court, “I'm not responsible to pay you back! The philanthropist freely paid off the debt of the other prodigal, but he has clearly chosen not to pay off my debt, and I can't do it myself – I'm not at fault!”; would he therefore be right? He is unable to pay his own debt, and the philanthropist has sovereignly chosen not to help, so is the philanthropist the one at fault? Of course not: although the prodigal is unable to repay his debt, and although the philanthropist could pay it but chooses not to, even though he had chosen freely to repay the debt of the other, the fact remains that this foolish prodigal is still responsible for his own actions. How much more are we responsible for our sin debt to our Creator and Lawgiver, whether he chooses us for mercy or not?

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