Human Initiative

Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.” (Gen. 24:49).  

- Genesis 24:42–49

The Reformed tradition spends much time on the sovereignty of God, which the Bible presents as a comfort to God’s children. After all, if the Creator guarantees to glorify those whom He has chosen to justify (Rom. 8:28–30), then we need not fear that His purposes for us will fail (Phil. 1:6). We can take risks for His kingdom without worrying that our success or failure decides the fate of His church.

Regrettably, some people embrace the doctrines of grace and use them illegitimately to justify their laziness. If God saves His elect, they say, we need not evangelize or pray. In fact, we do not have to do anything but study theology. Our initiative is wholly irrelevant.

Such thinking is one feature of hyper-Calvinism. This is not the teaching of orthodox Reformed thinkers like Calvin, Edwards, and many others. The Westminster Confession of Faith also firmly condemns this heresy, telling us the Almighty’s ordination of all things establishes us as agents free to act according to our nature (3.1). Divine sovereignty does not destroy our responsibility.

Most importantly, the Bible does not teach fatalism. Abraham knew God would do whatever was necessary to keep His promises (Gen. 15), but this did not stop him from taking initiative to find a wife for Isaac in order to give him grandsons. In line with the Almighty’s word, he sent his servant to find Rebekah (24:1–9). The servant did not wait for Rebekah’s family to contact him once Isaac’s wife was revealed. Instead, he approached Rebekah and described Abraham’s wealth to her family because he knew riches would motivate Laban to release her for marriage (vv. 10–35). Proof of God’s love to Abraham moved the patriarch’s servant to ask Rebekah’s family to show his master the same in today’s passage (vv. 36–49). He did not stand by idly, waiting for things to happen on their own.

The church’s ultimate destiny does not depend on my individual actions (Matt. 16:18), but neither will God accomplish His plan without His people (Gen. 3:15; Acts 3:19–21; 2 Peter 3:11–13). We all must choose whether we will be used by Him to bring about His promises or do nothing and forfeit our reward (Matt. 25:14–30).

Coram Deo

Of course God’s secret decrees include every choice we will ever make. However, we are not to worry about what He has not revealed to us. Instead, we are called to obey His Word and spread His truth, knowing that the Lord will accomplish His plan through His people. Does your belief in God’s sovereignty motivate service, or have you become a fatalist and think your choices are of no importance to Him?

Passages for Further Study

Deut. 28
Josh. 24:14–15
James 4:2b
2 Peter 1:3–11

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