Cork Free Presbyterian Church, 10 Briarscourt (Annex) Shanakiel, Cork, Ireland Pastor: Colin Maxwell. Email:

The Responsibility of Man Set Forth In The Scriptures Of Truth

This study compliments our study on the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

"Divine sovereignty is a great and disputable fact, but human responsibility is quite as indisputable. God in his plan of grace contemplates man as a reasonable being, and not as a stone, or a beast. His deeds of grace never violate the will, but sweetly constrain it to consent. Salvation is all of grace; but God works by means. Faith is God's gift, but it is also the act of renewed manhood. Damnation is the result of justice, not of arbitrary predestination. O that the time were come when seeming opposites would be received, because faith knows that they are portions of one harmonious whole. Would that an enlarged view of the dispensations of God to man would permit men to be faith to the human race, and that the same time true to the Sovereign Lord of all."

(C.H. Spurgeon MTP 9, preface)

This study is by no means exhaustive. We are just giving here a sample of those verses which may be induced to show that while God is sovereign, man is entirely responsible for his actions. In reality, every verse that carries an exhortation or a command recognises man's responsibility. In the verse below on Matthew 12:10/13 we comment on the idea of man's inability as it relates to his responsibility.


Man's Responsibility

Short Explanation

Genesis 3: 9

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

 Man has just fallen and immediately he is called to account by God. Where art thou? may relate, not merely to a geographical position, but also to a spiritual standing. It is a question that demanded an answer…and so responsibility is set forth.

Genesis 4:10

What hast thou done?

 Cain is called to account for his crime of murder. Although he lies to God and wriggles on the hook, yet he still replies because he is liable to give an account of his deeds.

Numbers 16:38

The censers of these sinners against their own souls…

The sons of Korah cannot hide in the decree of God as to what happened. They sinned against their own soul. They must bare the blame. Calvin said elsewhere:

"Accordingly we should contemplate the evident cause of condemnation in the corrupt nature of humanity- which is closer to us - rather than seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God's predestination." (3:23:8)

Deuteronomy 24:16

The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

 It is so very personal. I can hide behind no one. What my earthly father did is his own affair. I cannot bare his sin nor he mine. He and I must stand as individuals before God and death must be administered. [The gospel is that the Christ died for our sins as a Substitute and so I do not need to die.]

Deuteronomy 30:19

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

Here the emphasis is on man making the choice. He is responsible to choose that which is good…the life and therefore the blessing and to decline the death and the cursing. If he chooses death…who can he blame but himself.

Joshua 24:15

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

As in Deuteronomy 30:19 Israel were responsible to choose God as opposed to the heathen deities. Joshua, himself, had done so. Let men be aware that every day, they make choices. Calvin comments: "With this design, Joshua, by way of probation, emancipates the Jews, making them, as it were, their own masters, and free to choose what God they are willing to serve, not with the view of withdrawing them from the true religion, as they were already too much inclined to do, but to prevent them from making inconsiderate promises, which they would shortly after violate."

Isaiah 1:18

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

"For my part, if it be necessary, I do not refuse to dispute with you; for the result will be to show that it is your own obstinacy which prevents a reconciliation from taking place between us..." (Calvin)

Isaiah 55:6

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while He is near.

 One of many verses in the Bible that emphasises that the sinner is not to sit passive and wait for salvation to "happen" He is to seek and to actively call and to do so immediately.

Ezekiel 18:31

Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

 Although regeneration is solely the work of the Spirit of God (John 1:13/3:3) yet here it is made to appear to be the result of human effort, or at least, of human repentance. This emphasise is to serve a s a goad to drive them to God. "He shows that the cause of all evils is within themselves: so that they have no excuse… What is added is to refute their impiety, for they wished their destruction to be ascribed to God. Here God takes up the character of a mourner, saying, Why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Calvin) See below in 1 Corinthians 4:15

Ezekiel 33:11

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

 The sinner is to turn. It is most unreasonable if he refuse to do so. As seen above, the alternative to turning to life is death. Both by exhortation and by the use of the interrogation, the sinner is clearly being held responsible. He cannot escape the thought that if he perishes, it is his own fault. He certainly cannot lay the whole on the pleasure of God, for that loophole is very clearly closed.

Hosea 13:9

O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.

Man destroys himself. This is where the blame must ever be put. The worst destruction is self destruction. "God shows and proves that Israel, who had been hitherto preserved, is now destroyed through their own fault; for God had once adopted the people, and for this end, that he might continue to show his favour towards them. If then the wickedness and ingratitude of the people had not hindered, God would have been doubtless always like himself, and his goodness towards that people would have flowed in a continuous and uniform stream." (Calvin)

Hosea 14:1

O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.

Same thought again. Israel authored their own fall. These are very forceful verses. It is safe to stand upon them. Never let the blame get shifted to God. Such makes for a poor reading of the Bible.


Malachi 3:7

Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?

Although it is God who takes the initiative in salvation (Romans 11:35) yet here the emphasise is still on the sinner. It is as if the sinner must make the first move. Anything to prevent him sitting back without making a move. Note the arrogance of the sinner here. He would dare call God to account. Is not the command reason enough?

Matthew 6:8-10

Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

 Even though our Heavenly Father knows our need before we ask…He would still have us ask. Even though His (secret decretive) will is always done, yet we are still to pray for the same. This cannot be dismissed as silly word games. God has commanded these things. We have a responsibility to do them. To reason otherwise, is to reason for rebellion.

Matthew 11:20

Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

 The Lord Jesus could not upbraid these cities for not repenting, if there was no obligation upon them to do so. This is a very strong verse.

Matthew 12:10/13

And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered...Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.

 We mention this particular incident (which is one of out of many) to show how the Lord Jesus could command something to be done which was not naturally possible to do. Man cannot of himself repent or believe, but when we preach the word of God, we command them to do so. Why is this? Because the gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation. God uses His own word to bring faith (Romans 10:17) It is not for us to reconcile the two thoughts i.e. man's responsibility and his inability, but it is ours to obey the great injunction of: Preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2)

Matt 23:37

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

 Sufficient for us to know here that no man when he refuses the gospel offers, can say that God was not willing to save him. The purposes of God and more particularly the reasoning behind them are wisely hidden from our eyes (Deuteronomy 29:29) The preceptive will of God tells us that God would gather all sinners, and holds them fully responsible if they fail to come.

Matthew 27:4

Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.

It is very noticeable here that Judas does not blame the divine decree, even though truly the Son of man went as it was determined of him (Luke 22:22) However even Judas puts the blame upon himself, for the responsibility for his sin is ultimately his alone.

Luke 22:22

And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!

Here divine sovereignty and human responsibility meet. As seen above (Matthew 28:4) Judas willingly took the blame. Satan entered into the heart of Judas, because Judas was not unwilling to keep him out.

John 3:19

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

 Condemnation only comes when there is responsibility. We cannot condemn a man if he is not responsible. Light came in to the world. Its light is sufficient to shine savingly into the hearts of all men. Men have refused this light because they love their sin. This alone is the cause of condemnation.

John 5:40

And ye will not come to me that ye might have life.

 There is life there for whoever wants it. The sinner's problem is that he does not want it. Let any who would argue - come now and avail of it. If they decline to do so, then they cannot harangue God if He does not give them what evidently they do not want.


John 16:8-9

And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement: Of sin, because they believe not on me;

"I remember a young man going into a circle of friends and ministers, who were disputing whether it was a sin in men that they did not believe the gospel. Whilst they were discussing it, he said, "Gentlemen am I in the presence of Christians? Are you believers in the Bible, or are you not?" They said, "We are Christians of course." "Then," said he, "does not the Scripture say, ‘of sin, because they believed not on me?’ And is it not the dawning sin of sinners, that they do not believe on Christ?" I could not have thought that persons should be so fool-hardy as to venture to assert that "it is no sin for a sinner not to believe on Christ." (CHS 1:3)

Acts 1:25

That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.

 Peter affirms what Judas has already admitted to…that he is the author of his own damnation. He fell by transgression. I remember once debating with some non Calvinists on whether or not Judas was "born to be damned" (Based on this verse) I argued then that he was…but my position now is: He was born to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever…and he failed.

Acts 2:23

Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

 Although this verse is very strong on the sovereignty of God line - it must be a nightmare for non Calvinists! - yet it is equally strong on the responsibility of man. Those hands that God determined would crucify His Son are said to be wicked. God is not the author of sin, although He can determine that wicked acts will be used to further His righteous purposes.

Acts 2:40

And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

 The Bible makes it clear that man cannot even contribute to His salvation…He has nothing to pay (Luke 7:42) and yet here he is commanded to save himself. However, Peter means that the sinner ought to do all that he can i.e. avail of there means of grace. It is an antidote against fatalistic thinking that the sinner just has to wait until grace appears as opposed to seeking it out.

Acts 13:46

Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

 The sinner is offered eternal life. In the sermon here in Acts 13, we note the liberal use of the words "unto you" for such indiscriminate preaching was necessary. In rejecting the word of God, they judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life. It is not that God had not done so - in reality, we all were unworthy - but they sealed their own doom and God left them to their own devices.

Romans 3:4

Let God be true, and every man a liar…

Here is a principle in God's word. God gets all the glory and man gets all the blame. If we interpret the Bible in light of this principle, we will not go astray.

Romans 3:20

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

The stopping of every mouth in the world is no mean feat. Yet the reason shows why it is so. The whole world stands guilty before God. No one even thinks of putting any blame on the decree of God. Each guilty one knows that in the final round up they rejected the offers of mercy.

Romans 10:13-14

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

 We may observe from this verse two emphasises on man's responsibility. [1] The sinner is invited to call upon the Lord's name. Whosoever is a word that leaves all men without excuse. Any sinner may avail of this offer. [2] The responsibility of the people of God to preach the gospel. God ordinarily uses means. We need preachers!

Romans 10:20-21

But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.


This gaining saying and disobedient people will have no excuse. See the grace of God in that He appears unto them although they seek Him not. See the responsibility of men in that they disregarded the outstretched hands of mercy. If they are guilty of disobedience, then they must have been responsible to obey.

Romans 14:12

So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Why is this? Because we are accountable to God and therefore responsible.

1 Corinthians 4:15

For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

An amazing verse! Regeneration is the sole work of the Spirit of God (John 1:13/3:3) and yet such was Paul's activity in bringing the gospel to the Corinthians, that he can claim to have begotten them through the gospel. It is not the will of God that Christians should sit back and not evangelise. What an honour is bestowed upon soul winning Christians.

Galatians 6:7-8

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

 Again the emphasise is where it deserves to be. Man does not reap where God sows. He reaps where He sows himself. Of course, in spiritual things he sows to the Spirit. By this we understand that he cannot in himself produce anything spiritual (Romans 7:18) but in the things that lead to destruction, he but sows to his own flesh for he is well able to do those things that damn the soul.

2 Peter 2:1

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

They author their own destruction. They bring it upon themselves, even denying the Lord whom they professed to have redeemed them.

2 Peter 2:12

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;

Damnation is all of sin. It is judicial in its sentence. It is not arbitrary. God's decision to leave a man in his sins may be sovereign or arbitrary - but the damnation part itself is judicial. Men  perish in their own corruption.