Sermon #1262[1]


          Title:           Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

          Text:           Romans 6:23

          Reading:    Romans 6:1-23

          Subject:     The Wages of Sin and the Gift of God

          Date:          Sunday Morning - November 17, 1996

          Tape #       T-8




I have been reading a new book this week. It was written by a friend of mine. It is in many ways an excellent defense of gospel truth. Its object is to defend the efficacy of Christ’s atonement, the freedom of God’s elect from the law, and the sovereignty of God’s grace in salvation. In those matters the book is very good.


However, there is an underlying message in the book that is almost as dangerous as the Arminianism it repudiates. In the opening forward, there is a statement that denounces the responsibility of sinners to believe the gospel. The author’s reasoning is - “If we preach that a sinner is responsible to repent, we must declare that he is able to repent. If we teach that sinners are responsible to believe on Christ, we must also teach that they are able to believe.” He deduces, in what appears to be a very reasonable manner, that responsibility of necessity implies ability The problem with is reasoning is that attempts to mold the Word of God to a theological system.


Now listen carefully. We must never try to make the Word of God fit into any human system of doctrine or theology. We must build our doctrine upon the plain statements of Holy Scripture. If the plain statements of Scripture contradict, or even destroy our theological system, so be it. If we have to throw away every doctrinal creed, every confession of faith, and every catechism that has ever been written by men in order to be faithful and true to he Word of God, then we will throw them away. This is one reason why, in this church, we do no require members to sign or agree to a confession of faith. Our creed, our confession of faith is the holy, inspired Word of God. If that seems to others to be too simple, too non-intellectual, or too pietistic, we can live with their disapproval. We bow to and build our doctrine upon the Word of God alone, even when it seems to contradict human reason and philosophy.


Isaiah 8:20  To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.


The title of my message this morning is Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility. My text is found in Proverbs 1:22-33

"How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? (23) Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. (24) Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; (25) But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: (26) I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; (27) When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. (28) Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: (29) For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: (30) They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. (31) Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. (32) For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. (33) But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil."


May God the Holy Spirit be our Teacher, as we search the Scriptures and seek to understand the things written in them for our learning and admonition. In this message, I want, while ministering to your souls, to show you from the Word of God that these two things are so…


·        God almighty s absolutely sovereign in salvation. He has mercy on whom he will. He is gracious to whom he will be gracious. He saves whom he will.


·        All men are responsible under God to walk in the light he has given them. The Lord God has fixed it so that those who perish in their sins, that those who die in rebellion and unbelief are altogether without excuse. No one goes o hell by accident! Unbelief is not a passive thing. If you go to hell, you will have to scratch and claw your way there, fighting to your last breath against the light God has given you. Men and women do not go to hell because they are ignorant. People go to hell because they are rebels.


Romans 1:18-20  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold (hold down and suppress) the truth in unrighteousness; (19) Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. (20) For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”


          By way of introduction, I want to make five observations These five statements go right to the heart of Paul’s doctrine.


1. If I continue in my sin, rebellion, and unbelief, if I continue to reject Christ as my Lord and Savior, and die in my sins, it is a condition that I deserve.


Death and hell will be my proper wages. It will be my own responsibility. But if I am saved, taken to heaven, and live for ever in God’s glory and holiness, it will be the result of God’s work alone.


2. Death, eternal separation from God, is the result of deliberate effort on my part.


          I do not read in the Bible of anyone going to hell for Adam’s sin. We are all guilty of original sin, and because of our original sin we deserve to go to hell; but, as I read the Bible, I find that every man will be judged for his own works (2 Cor. 5:10). If I go to hell it will be the result of deliberate effort on my part. But salvation and eternal life is the result of deliberate effort on God’s part (2 Tim. 1:9-10).


2 Timothy 1:9-10  Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (10) But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:


3. Eternal wrath and condemnation is the just wage of my sin and guilt; but eternal life and salvation is the free gift of God’s grace in Christ.


Romans 6:23  "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."


4. There is nothing that keeps a man out of heaven, but his own unwillingness to bow to Christ, and receive him as Lord and Savior.


Matthew 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.”


John 5:40 - “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”


John 6:37-40- “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”


John 7:37-38 - “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”


          Israel did not enter in because of unbelief.  And if I miss heaven, it will be because of my own wilful unbelief. There is nothing that will keep a man out of heaven but his own will; but there is nothing that will keep a man out of hell but God’s will.


My friends, we must build our doctrine on the plain statements of the Word of God. “I realize that all things are of God.” I am sure you know that I know that. Nothing comes to pass in time that was not predestined from eternity. I am fully aware that the eternal destinies of all men was fixed by God’s sovereign decree before the world began.


Romans 9:21-24  "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (22) What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: (23) And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, (24) Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?"


1 Peter 2:7-10  "Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, (8) And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. (9) But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (10) Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy."


Jude 1:4  "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."


          Absolutely nothing comes to pass in time that was not predestined by God from eternity, “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Yet, God’s purpose and decree of predestination is never spoken of in Holy Scripture as the cause of reprobation, judgment, and condemnation. The cause of God’s wrath is to be found altogether in the sinner. You not go to hell because God will not save you, but because you will not to be saved by God’s free grace through the merits of his dear Son. No one will stand at the bar of God and say, “I wanted to be saved, I wanted to trust Christ, I wanted to have him, but you predestinated me for hell!”


5. Any man who is saved by the grace of God in Christ will justify God in his own condemnation.


Psalm 5:1-5 - “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tendermercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”


          Any man who is saved by the grace of God will take sides with God against himself. He will sit in judgment with God against himself. He will justify God in his own condemnation.


Proposition:      The doctrine of our text is plain and clear - “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”


I. Here is the first things taught in our text - “THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH.”


          Eternal death and separation from God is the just reward of man’s sin. All men by nature are under the sentence of death. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). This is what the law says, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” Since all have sinned all are under the curse of death, the penalty of the law (Psa. 14:1-3). “For as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).


          A. Let me show you what the condition of the natural man is.


          I speak plainly to warn you who are yet without Christ. I must tell you the truth. You must be warned. You are hovering over the brink of hell. If God does not intervene to save you, you will soon be lost for ever.


          1. You deserve eternal wrath and condemnation.


          You are a guilty sinner. You are a sinner by birth, a sinner by choice, and a sinner by practice. Justice cries aloud for your punishment. The law of God can offer no plea on your behalf. I can think of no reason why you are not already in hell, except the merciful longsuffering of God.


(Illustration: The fig tree - Luke 13:6-9).


          2. More than that, you are already under the sentence of condemnation (John 3:18, 36).


John 3:18  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


John 3:36  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.


          a. At this very moment, you are the object of that same wrath and anger which is poured out upon the wicked in hell.


Psalm 7:11-13 - “God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.”


Psalm 11:5-6 - “The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.”


          b. Hell’s mouth is opened wide to receive you. Satan is ready to seize you.


          c. Those corrupt principles that kindle the fires of hell reign in your heart (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 3:10-19).


Romans 3:10-19  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (11) There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (12) They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (13) Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: (14) Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: (15) Their feet are swift to shed blood: (16) Destruction and misery are in their ways: (17) And the way of peace have they not known: (18) There is no fear of God before their eyes. (19) 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.


Ephesians 2:1-3  And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: (2) Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (3) Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.


          3. And you have no power or ability to lift that awful curse and condemnation off of yourself.


          B. I warn you whose wrath is upon you.


          It is the wrath of the infinite, inflexible, unchangeable God! The God against whom you sin, the God whose law you break, the God whose power you defy, the God whose holiness you mock, the God whose grace you despise, the unquenchable wrath of God is upon you!


1.    There is no lack of power with God to punish you.

2.    God is under no obligation to show you mercy.

3.    God’s wrath upon you is as fierce and terrible as it is just and holy.

4.    God’s wrath upon you is infinite.

5.    God’s wrath upon you will be everlasting.

6.    God’s wrath will fall upon you swiftly and seize you suddenly, without warning; and you will have no power to resist it.


          God help you to flee to Christ now, today, while he is yet willing to be gracious. There is nothing between your soul and hell, but the forbearance of God. While you hear his voice, harden not your heart!


          Death, eternal death in hell is the just wage of your sin and mine. But, thank God, the story does not end there. There is good news in our text!




          “But God!” I am so glad for those two words. Thanks be unto God! He graciously, sovereignly, lovingly intervenes in the affairs of men to show mercy (Eph. 2:4; Ezek. 16:6-8).


Ezekiel 16:6-8  And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. (7) I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. (8) Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.


Ephesians 2:4  But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,


          A. Salvation is in its entirety the gift of God (Eph. 2:8-10).


          Eternal life is not a good idea, a generous offer, or a gracious proposal. Eternal life is the gift of the operation of God. It is the work of God in you.


1.    He gives a desiring heart (Psa. 65:4; 110:3).

2.    He gives repentance (Acts 5:31).

3.    He gives faith (Col. 2:12).

4.    He gives preservation (John 10:27-28).

5.    He gives a crown of glory (2 Tim. 1:13).


          Our Lord Jesus Christ says, concerning all of his sheep, “I give unto them eternal life!”


          B. That salvation which God gives is eternal life.


          Eternal life is much more than eternal duration. This term does not so much refer to the length of the believer’s life as it does the quality of his life. Eternal life is nothing less than the Divine nature being implanted into a man’s soul (2 Pet. 1:4).


1.    Eternal life is a personal, experimental knowledge of the living God in Christ (John 17:3).

2.    Eternal life is a living union of faith with the living Lord (Col. 3:1-3).

3.    Eternal life is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).


          Being born again by almighty grace, being united to Christ by faith, being now adopted into the family of God, we are made to be the King’s sons!


Though exciled from home,

Yet still I may sing -

All glory to God! I’m a child of the King!


·        We have the King’s peace.

·        We have the King’s love.

·        We have the King’s nature - holiness.

·        We have the King’s inheritance (1 Cor. 3:21-23; Rom. 8:17).


          C. Eternal life is the gift of God freely bestowed upon sinners in Christ.


          You cannot earn it. You cannot buy it. You cannot weep enough, repent enough, pray enough, or do enough to get it. It must be given to you, as the free gift of the grace of God.


          1. Why has God given us eternal life?


·        He loved us.

·        He determined to glorify himself in us (Psa. 106:8; Ezek. 16:60-63).

·        Christ died for us (John 3:16).


          2. When did God give us eternal life?


·        He gave it to us by decree before the world began (2 Tim. 1:9).

·        He gave it to us in regeneration at the time he had appointed to be gracious to us.


          3. How does God give eternal life to sinners?


·        He sovereignly bestows life (John 3:8).

·        He speaks life to the sinner’s heart by the Word (James 1:18).


          4. What did God give us when he gave us eternal life in Christ?


          Every blessing of divine grace is freely bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus by the gift of eternal life.


·        God loves us in Christ.

·        All mercy is ours in Christ.

·        We have the atonement and the forgiveness of sins in Christ.

·        We have peace and reconciliation in Christ.

·        We have acceptance with God in Christ.

·        We have righteousness and justification in Christ.

·        All the blessings, all the bliss, and all the glory of heaven is given to every believing sinner in Christ.


          5. How long shall we be able to enjoy this gift of God?


          It is ours forever. “The gifts and callings of God are without repentance.” Eternal life is God’s work in us. It cannot be destroyed (Eccles. 3:14). Eternal life is eternal!


·        God promised it to us.

·        God purchased it for us.

·        God performed it in us.

·        God preserves it in us.

·        God protects it in us.

·        God perfects it in glory.

·        God alone shall have the praise for it forever.




1. Would you have eternal life? Look to Christ and live. Sue Christ for mercy now. It may be that he will give you life eternal. But if you refuse to bow to him, I am sure of this, he will punish you for ever in hell; and his punishment will be just.


·        God is willing to punish the ungodly. H is going to put all rebels in a place where they can do no harm.

·        God is able to punish you.

·        God’s punishment of sin will be just and unending.

·        And if you refuse to trust Christ and worship him, your torment in hell will cause no grief in heaven.


2.   Do you have eternal life? Give thanks and praise to the triune God alone.


·        He chose you and predestinated you to life in Christ.

·        He sent his Son to redeem you.

·        He called you by his Spirit.

·        He gave you faith.

·        He preserves and keeps you by his grace.


          “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”


Psalms 115:1  "Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."



[1] See Sermon #504. This message also preached at Ohio State University - Columbus, OH 11-15-96.