God’s Sovereignty vs. Man’s Autonomy
Today’s reading: Job 33-34; Acts 13:24-52
29 “Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man, 30 to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life. Job 33:29-30
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. Acts 13:48-50
The lives of all human beings are not a result of personal autonomy or of random acts and choices, but they are the result of God’s sovereignty at work according to His eternal decrees. God saves whom He chooses for life and He disciplines through various means, such as suffering, to bring about His purposes in people.
Elihu sets about correcting the faulty statements of Job and his three counselors. Elihu correctly emphasizes the justice of God in all His dealings and the way of God to use trials and difficulties to correct His children. This point has been mostly ignored by the three counselors with the exception of a brief comment by Eliphaz (Job 5:17).
Luke in his account of the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas reports that “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” The gospel is proclaimed. Some believe because they were appointed to eternal life. Others reject because they were not appointed for eternal life. The difference is not in the words of the preacher but in the response of the hearer which is the result of the sovereign work of grace in the heart of the hearer.
Personal autonomy is an idol of our times, maybe the greatest idol. The doctrine of the sovereignty of God thunders against that false god. Do you believe in the Lord Almighty who rules over all things, even the hearts of people? If so, that would indicate that He has appointed you for salvation. If not, you are still called to repent and believe the gospel, but you cannot and will not in yourself, without His powerful working in you to bring a new birth (Mark 1:15; John 3:3). If that stirs a sense of desperation in you, you may call on God to “be merciful” to you, a sinner (Luke 18:13). God has promised that He is “near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” and “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”’ (Psalm 145:18; Romans 10:13).