How Do We Reconcile God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility?

Many people have attempted to reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, but the Bible never claims them to be at odds with one another. Discover the biblical approach for salvation regarding God’s part and our involvement.

Elements of Salvation

God saves us from something and to something.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him (Rom. 5:9)!


  • To redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God (Gal. 4:5-7).
  • God desires to bring rebellious children into His family.


  • Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Tim. 1:9).
  • God knows about us and desires us anyway – both for salvation and service.


  • And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
  • The Bible puts a level of responsibility to follow Jesus in the hand of the individual.

Questions Regarding Salvation

What Is Calvinism?

Calvinism is a system of beliefs clarified by John Calvin to describe reformed theology.

  • Total Depravity – All humanity is spiritually dead due to their sin.
  • Unconditional Election – God’s choosing of people to salvation is not contingent upon response.
  • Limited Atonement – Christ’s blood was shed to save a particular people.
  • Irresistible Grace – When God calls to someone He chooses, they will respond.
  • Perseverance of the Saints – Once you are saved, you are always saved.

What Is Arminianism?

Arminianism is a system of beliefs clarified by Jacobus Arminius that highlights man’s responsibility.

  • Partial Depravity – Humanity is sinful but still able to seek God.
  • Conditional Election – God chooses those who He knows will choose to believe.
  • Unlimited Atonement – Jesus died for all.
  • Resistible Grace – People can reject God’s call to be saved.
  • Conditional Salvation – Christians can lose their salvation.

Is God Sovereign?

  • God has the sole authority to have complete control over the universe.
  • God does not need to seek our permission for anything.
  • God is wholly sovereign, or He is not sovereign at all.

Are We Responsible?

  • “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil” (Deut. 30:15).
    • God has complete control to allow us limited control. 

Can God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility Be Reconciled?

  • “I do not try to reconcile friends.” -Charles Spurgeon
    • The Bible contains passages that seem contradictory but actually support one another.
      • Jesus’ Teaching
        • No sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s involvement (Matt. 10:29).
        • Whoever acknowledges God is welcome in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33).
      • Regarding Judas
        • “For this purpose, I came to this hour” (John 12:27).
        • “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed” (Mark 14:21).
      • Mission Trips
        • “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).
        • “Spoke so effectively that a great number believed” (Acts 14:1).
      • Romans Progression
        • God has “mercy on whomever he wills and hardens…” (Rom. 9:18).
        • “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).
    • Christ’s death is sufficient for all but efficient for some.
    • Pastoral confession: I’m a Biblicist.
      • God has placed eternity in our hearts where we cannot understand it completely.
        • He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
      • The knowledge of God is something that He protects at some level from our understanding right now (Gen. 2:17).
      • No matter how many theological degrees you possess, there are some secret things you simply will not know until you see Jesus (Deut. 29:29).