The Choices We Make…
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Scripture Quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV)
We all choose what we desire. We do what is our strongest “want” at the moment of choice. Yet, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign, and He has ordained the steps of men. Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” There is no contradiction between God’s sovereignty and man’s choices. The link between these two truths, God’s sovereignty and man’s will is the doctrine of secondary causes. The Bible does not teach what is called determinism. We are not robots. Yet, God’s revelation clearly declares that nothing that we do is outside of God’s sovereign will.
The matter of secondary causes represents the actions of men which God ordained in eternity to accomplish His decrees.
One clear example of God’s sovereignty was written by Jeremiah. “Who has spoken, and it came to pass unless the LORD has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Lamentations 3:37-38 Isaiah also wrote concerning God’s sovereignty. “Also, henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” Jesus, who is God, declared “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18
Christians affirm the sovereignty of God. But confusion comes when God’s sovereignty is placed against our choices. God ordained the daily routines and details of our lives. Yet, we all choose to do what we desire. Joseph said to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” Genesis 50:20
We search for answers that suit our finite minds. Some suggest that God is sovereign over the beginning and the end, but for all that is in the middle He has given man free will to choose whatever is desired. If this is true, then God is not sovereign, His word is false, and He is not God!
But God is sovereign over the ends and the means. He uses secondary causes to accomplish His ordained purpose. King Solomon wrote, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the Hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will.” Proverbs 21:1 Luke recorded Peter’s explanation of a secondary cause used by God to accomplish redemption. “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Acts 2:23
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 3, Paragraph 1 states this concerning secondary causes.
“God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
Every action and circumstance has been ordained by God. And, He has chosen to accomplish His ordained plan through secondary causes, namely our choices.
Thereby, the sovereignty of God does not excuse man for his actions. The Bible affirms from cover to cover that every man is responsible for his actions!
The Creator has the right to make creatures as He wills. The Apostle Paul used very strong words aimed at those who rejected the absolute sovereignty of God in choosing some for salvation and passing over others. “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you make me like this?”’ Romans 9:20
You may be thinking that the doctrine of secondary causes is interesting but all that one needs is to believe in Jesus. True, but, simply saying His name is not the extent of the saving faith given by God. When one comes to Jesus, he comes to the One who is Lord of all. He is the one by whom and for whom all Creation was made. His word declares that we are accountable to Him for our choices. He has also revealed Himself to be the sovereign ruler of the Universe. True, all that is necessary is to believe in Jesus, but in what Jesus do you believe? Is He the one who somehow permits you to wander in life as you choose or is He the one offered in the gospel who has ordained the steps of your life?