Not long ago I was contemplating creation. I was not thinking about the age of the earth or the foolishness of evolution. Rather, I was thinking about God’s creation, from the vastness of the universe to the minutest particle that has been discovered. As Paul says in Romans 1:20, God’s eternal power and divine nature are plainly evident through all that God has made, and in Psalm 19:1 David says the heavens declare the glory of God. Creation is God’s general revelation of himself to humankind. He is shouting, “I am, and I am huge!”
General revelation is what God reveals to everyone through his creation. Special revelation is what God reveals in the Scriptures. What came to mind as I was considering creation was the question, “How does general revelation relate to special revelation?” Before someone sees God revealed in Scripture they see God revealed in creation (whether the person admits this or not as Paul says in Romans 1:18-23). It seems, though, when dealing with difficult passages of Scripture or difficult theological concepts we forget what God says about himself through creation.
For example, the Bible teaches that God is fully sovereign in salvation and man is fully responsible for his sin. But how can this be? Surely if God has ultimate control over who is and is not saved then we cannot be held accountable for our sin. What other conclusion is possible? This predicament is nothing new. When Paul presents God’s sovereignty in salvation in the ninth chapter of Romans he addresses this question.
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (Romans 9:18-21 ESV)
God is sovereign in dispensing mercy, and God is sovereign in hardening a person in their sin. Therefore, the objection is we are not responsible for our sin. In response to this objection Paul does not offer a philosophical argument. He says nothing about free will. He does not expound on the love, justice, or holiness of God. Also, Paul does not say, “Now that’s a difficult question. It is a mystery that will be revealed in glory.” He simply points out the foolishness of a creature questioning the purposes and actions of its Creator. He reminds us that we are creatures under the control of the Creator, and that rubs us raw because in our minds we are autonomous and accountable to no one but ourselves. It is as if Paul is saying to those questioning God’s right to hold those he hardened accountable,
“Have you considered the eternal power and divine nature of God? Do you not think that the God who created all that is cannot figure out how to be sovereign in salvation and hold man accountable for his sin? You cannot even fathom the extent of creation so how can you even begin to fathom the extent of the Creator?”
So the next time you are wondering how God ordains all things, even sin and calamity (Isaiah 45:7), but is not the author of sin, or how God could use wicked nations and leaders to bring judgment on his people and then punish those nations for their wickedness, consider Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you,” then go outside and look up at the night sky.