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Man's Responsibility
L. R. Shelton

An audio file of this sermon is available at

There are some "evils" that you can never lay at the door of Calvinism. My attention has been called to the fact that there is a great difference between the word "Calvinist" and Calvinism, and that, I certainly know. You may be spoken of as a Calvinist, and yet you may be ignorant of Calvinism. Now, for instance, I have said that Baptists have a Calvinistic creed, but they have an Arminian ministry. You cannot say that Calvinism teaches that man is not responsible. Man is responsible! Just as soon as I begin to speak on the Sovereignty of God, and God's Election that flows out from His Sovereignty, many will say, "Well, Bro. Shelton, what are you going to do with man's responsibility?" Well, that's what we want to talk about at this time. Man is responsible. He'll believe, or go to Hell. Now man does not have a free will; he is a free moral agent, but he does not have a free will. As we have said, man's will is held in slavery, or bondage, by his totally-depraved, and he is at liberty to choose only evil. The sinner is responsible to keep the moral law, and his inability does not do away with his responsibility. I am responsible to pay my debt, whether I can or not. And God holds every sinner responsible unto Him, whether he is able to meet God's requirements of holiness or not. Sinner, get this one truth: you are responsible!

Every saved individual to whom I am speaking realizes that great truth. One day you lay at the feet of Christ saying, "If I don't get to Christ, I'm going to Hell." And though you realized, on the one hand, you would go there if God did not save you, yet you realized, on the other hand, your responsibility. Now, let me set forth this great truth. There are two lines of truth that run from cover to cover through God's entire Word: God's Sovereignty, and Man's Responsibility. There are individuals who see only the Sovereignty of God, and that's all they see. Then there are other individuals who see only Man's Responsibility, and that's all they see. But, my friend, these two great truths – God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility – are two great truths that run from the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation, throughout God's Word; and they never conflict. Absolute Election flows from God's Sovereignty. Both of these truths, God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility, are just as plain and definite as can be. And they both run throughout God's Word.

The individual who sees only the side of Man's Responsibility will ultimately be driven to despair or modernism and religious shallowness that produces an empty religious profession without Christ, and without life. Now, my friend, that's exactly what we have today in the religious world. For the last several decades, in all major religious groups, the main emphasis has been put on the responsibility of man; man's will, man's ability, personal soul-winning, decision days for Christ, buttonholing individuals for Christ, getting them into the "kingdom," getting them into the church and out on a profession of faith in order to count numbers – and what do we have? What's the result? An empty religious profession – profession without possession, religion without life, and we are rapidly drifting to modernism which denies the virgin birth of Christ, the deity of Christ, and the verbal inspiration of God's Word. This leads to infidelity, which leads to rationalism and rank atheism. That's the reason the world today – I mean the religious world – is drifting to infidelity, from infidelity to materialism, from materialsm to rationalism, and from rationalism to blatant atheism! No longer does the average church member believe in the infallibility of God's Word and that God lives and answers prayer. That is Arminianism to the core.

The slogan everywhere today is, "Let's bring in the kingdom;" "Let's win the world to Christ;" or "Christ is the answer," or "A Christ-centered program," etc. Such catchy phrases are a cover-up which deceives the blinded religious world. Now that's what you have, and that is exactly what Arminianism has led to.

In the days of Christ the religious world made much of the Word of God and hated Christ, and finally they crucified Him. The religious world today tries to make much of Christ, but they hate the Word, the Word of God. They hate it with undying vengeance. There is a rebellion against the Word of God today that we have never witnessed before. This has grown out of a one-sided preaching that is putting the emphasis upon the responsibility of man – making man's will supreme. You see what it leads to!

Now, the individual who sees only the Sovereignty of God and His election drifts to fatalism and cold orthodoxy without life, which produces a self-centered, self-righteous life, with no missionary zeal, which is also religion without life. This is what you call Hypercalvinism. Hypercalvinism is nothing in the world but fatalism that leads to dry-rot, and ultimately leads to the same thing – infidelity, worldliness, a profession without Christ. Hypercalvinism and freewillism are the two extremes: both lead to profession without Christ, both lead to Hell and damnation. That's right. Now, brother, that's doubly right. Now you hold that thing; you can drive a stake there, and hold it.

But the individual who by the grace of God can see and preach and teach both lines of truth as they are taught in God's Word, and preach them under the power of God's Holy Spirit can be used of God to bring about a true, spiritual awakening, which will lead to a new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord. In one place such a preacher may preach the Sovereignty of God and God's Election over against freewillism, and emphasize that thing and produce a revival under the power of God's Holy Spirit. Then he may turn right around in another locality where the Sovereignty of God and God's Election is overemphasized and preach the Responsibility of Man, and bring about a revival, because he understands clearly both sides of the question.

Let me emphasize this fact: The great Doctrines of God's Sovereignty out of which flows absolute Election is taught in God's Word from cover to cover, from lid to lid, whether you believe it, or whether any man believes it. Then, on the other hand, Man's Responsibility to repent and believe the Gospel and to keep the moral law is also taught in God's Word from cover to cover, whether you believe it or not. I dare any man to deny it or disprove it from God's Word. You may try to do so by twisting the Scriptures to your own satisfaction, but, brother, God's Sovereignty, on one hand, and Man's Responsibility, on the other, are two great truths that parallel each other throughout the entire Word of God. I have been backed against the wall many times by both groups, but there or the two lines of truth. The whole system of truth through the entire Bible runs in two parallel lines; they never cross, and they never conflict. These two great truths – God's Sovereignty and God's absolute Election, and Man's Total Depravity and Man's Responsibility – run parallel in God's Word from cover to cover.

Now, let me repeat for emphasis: God's Election and Man's Responsibility are two lines of truth that never cross and never conflict. As I look into my Bible, I read, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7), and, brother, that's so! Then I read in my Bible, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy," (Rom. 9:16), and, brother, that's so! Again, I read in my Bible, "Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17), and that's so. You don't deny that. Then I read in my Bible – and you get this – "No man can come to unto me (the Son), except the Father... draw him" (John 6:44), and that's so! Don't try to get around it. Now, you can't deny it, because both are in the same Bible: God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility. These truths never conflict, except in your depraved mind. That's the only place those truths conflict – in your depraved mind! That's the only place they can conflict – in the depraved mind of the natural man.

I see in my Bible that God is presiding over all His creation, and He does as He wills, and as He pleases, and no man can say Him, "Nay" – and that's so. He's sovereign; God's on the throne. But very few people will except Him on the throne. Again, I see in another place that man seemingly does as he pleases (and that's so). God restrains and makes the wrath of man to praise Him; He restrains part of it and then He gets glory out of the wrath of man. God turns man loose and accomplishes His purpose through his evil will and purpose, and brother, that's so! Now you ask, How are you going to reconcile these two great truths, these two great facts, that you find in God's Word? Brother, you don't reconcile them by denying one of them! My friend, I'm not going to reconcile them; I don't try to reconcile them. I have sat and pondered them as I've read them and studied them – on the one hand, God's Sovereignty, out of which flows God's absolute Election, and, on the other hand, I've read every Scripture in the Bible that sets forth Man's Responsibility, and that's so; and I've tried to look down through time and eternity, as it were, to see where those two great truths led, and my mind would burn. Then I would come back to the starting place, and there was God's Sovereignty; there was Man's Responsibility – right there, the same thing. And so, my friend, by faith – I except them by faith; I believe them, and I know they meet somewhere, and they meet at the throne of God's grace in Heaven. They never cross; they never conflict, except in your depraved mind. Now, my friend, I'm not going to reconcile them; I'm going to believe them right there in God's Word where I found them. And I'm going to preach both of them to the salvation of every soul that believes and to the damnation of every soul who disbelieves – or will not believe.

These two lines of truth are as clear as a bell – as clear as crystal. They are in God's Word, and, as I said, I'm going to preach them to the salvation or to the damnation of souls – one of the two: life unto life to those who believe, and death unto death to those who reject the truth of God's Word. If you believe, you will be saved; if not, you'll be damned. God never called me to reconcile these truths; when He called me to preach, He called me to preach His Word as it is, to men as they are. Who am I to question the God who made me, who saved me, and who called me to preach His Word? Who am I to question my Maker? I didn't write the Bible; God didn't call on me to write the Bible. That Book was written in Heaven. It's just as much verbally inspired as if God had handed it down, already bound from Heaven. As He stated in the ninth chapter of Romans, "Who art thou that repliest against God (thy Maker)?" Who am I to try to alter the Word of God because it does not suit my depraved nature? Any man is a fool to try to alter the Word of God. Take it as it is, whether you believe it or not, whether you understand it or not, whether you like it or not. There it is: It is God's Word.

All right, let me state it this way: If we were to declare that man is so free to act as if there were not God over his actions (and that is what the world wants today; they have taken counsel against God Almighty, and they will break His bands asunder and say, "God, You go on fishing: we are going to run this universe"), then you would be driven to atheism, infidelity and despair – and that is exactly where we are headed today. That's the condition the world is in today, because they have taken God off the throne, in their own mind, and they have told Him to go fishing. "Let us run this thing," they have said, and what a mess this world is in today! Men are dying, their hearts or fainting within them him – heart failure – because of what is coming upon the world, according to Luke 21:26. And you see right there, man as a responsible being is fulfilling God eternal prophecy.

If we were to declare that God so overrules all things, that man is not free enough to be responsible, then we are at once driven to fatalism. I know very few man today see these two great truths in parallel lines – God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility, but (Now you hold your seat, brother, and listen) no man can understand the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ until he first has a balanced view of these two great lines of truth: God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility that run throughout the entire Word of God, or God's Election and Man's Total Depravity. If you preach only the freewill of man, you drift into Arminianism, which is deadly and has no life and no power to save the soul of any man. On the other hand, if you preach only the Sovereignty of God and His Election, you will drift into fatalism and cold religious orthodoxy without life and without Christ, and land in Hell. But the individual whose eyes God has opened by the power of His Holy Spirit preaches, on the one hand, the Sovereignty of God, and, on the other hand, the Responsibility of Man; the Holy Spirit will use it to blast man out of his hiding place, awaken him to his lost condition, bring him to Christ for salvation wholly of grace, and that will produce a missionary zeal that will carry of the Gospel around the world to God to elect. Every major missionary movement in the world was begun by a Calvinist – I mean a true Calvinist. Now you examine it. They were later captured by Armenians, but, brother, every major missionary movement in the world was begun by a true Calvinist.

These two great lines of truth in God's Word, as we have said, are parallel, and I don't care how far you may pursue them, you will find that they will meet only at the throne of God's grace, from whence all truth doth spring. Let's study these great truths of God's Word; let's meditate up on them. Let's not try to reconcile them; let's leave them as they are. Let's preach them to glory of God. Let's blast Satan out of his hiding place with them. Let's stir the hearts of sinners with them as God moves in His mighty grace. I know the Arminian has tried his best to twist every Scripture that deals with the Sovereignty of God and God's Election to make them of none effect. I know that the Hypercalvinist has tried to take every Scripture that deals with the Responsibility of Man and make them of none effect. I also know that many who claim to be Calvinists have seen the doctrine and have missed Christ. They are greatly particular about the doctrine – always talking about the Sovereignty of God, but they know nothing about the Christ at the right hand of the Sovereign God.

Do you know Christ? Have you ever lain at the feet of Christ in the dust of repentance as an object of mercy, as a poor, lost sinner, realizing that God didn't have to save you, if not, you are going to Hell. There is where the Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of Man meet – at the Mercy Seat, at the throne of grace.




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