THE DOCTRINE OF THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MAN
conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments:
for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13): “Because that which may be known of God is
manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible
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” (Romans 1:19, 20).
to look at this is in considering the Sovereignty of God in the life of
Every person, whether Christian or not, stands before God as a responsible individual. It makes no difference who they are, where they were born, what are their circumstances or condition, etc., etc. There are no exemptions; “for it is written, as I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:11, 12). Also, we read in 2 Corinthians 5:10 – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”. Furthermore, the apostle Peter tells us in his second epistle that “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begins at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (4:17, 18). Then we are solemnly reminded in Revelation that “the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (20:12-15).
These Scriptures by themselves, dear reader, confirms that we are responsible before God; otherwise, as I said, we could not be held accountable for our lives. But let me interject something here that is very important to know: The judgments of the true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and of the unbeliever are very distinct, i.e. there is a very definite difference! You see, the believer will be judged for his life as a Christian; or to put it in another way, as a child of God. It has nothing to do with whether they will be saved or not. They have been “saved in the LORD with and everlasting salvation” (Isaiah 45:17), and because of it there’s absolutely nothing that “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). Yet, as we have noted, the people of God, i.e. true Christians will be judged for the way they have lived; “That is, (God) will judge them when they deserve it, and punish them if they ought to be punished. The mere fact that they are his people will not save them from punishment if they deserve it, any more than the fact that one is a beloved child will save him from correction when he does wrong” (Barne’s Commentary). On the other hand, the lost sinner who has “no hope, and” (is) “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12), and so has no “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21); and so therefore “knows not God, and that obeys not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8) will be judged for all his sins, which none have been forgiven; for which he will have to pay and suffer for all eternity in “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). This, of course, confirms the Responsibility of Man before God; whether one is Saved or Unsaved!
Now, with respect to our doctrine, we would to present two obvious reasons for its validity; and this will be deducted form our two text Scriptures. The first one has to do with Man’s “duty”; and the second one has to do with Man’s “excuse”. Although this will not be an exhaustive presentation of this doctrine, nevertheless, there will be sufficient proof of it to show us our “duty” as responsible beings before our blessed Creator, and to prevent us from making any kind of “excuse” for our irresponsibility, which can prove to be fatal to our souls.
Furthermore, we will also
show that God’s grace is involved
in our responsibility to Him. Although it’s true that even apart from
of God we are still responsible to Him, nevertheless, it is
ONLY by His
grace that we can fulfill our “duty”
and prevent us from making any kind of “excuse”.
But then this can ONLY be true in the Lord Jesus Christ; for it is ONLY
that we can obey God and respond to His love. So, beloved, may this
reveal to us where we stand with respect to our Responsibility to God;
His grace cause us to repent for the lack of our “duty”
and for the many “excuses”
we make for not obeying Him and responding to His Love and Grace.
continuing our study, we will now consider at least two reasons for
Responsibility to God, which have to do with his “duty”,
and “excuse”. Our
first text, of course, is
Ecclesiastes 12:13 - “Let us hear the
conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments:
for this is the whole duty of man”. Literally,
“Let us hear the termination, or end, of the whole matter, i.e. that
spoken of. Fear i.e. revere, namely, the Triune God, and guard, i.e.
His commandments, or Law because this is the whole of man”. In other
after saying all that Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, he comes to this
conclusion, or ends up with this, that fearing God and keeping His
is, and should be, the all and everything of man’s responsibility and
obligation to do it. Barnes’ Commentary puts it like this: “To revere
to obey Him is the whole man, constitutes man’s whole being; that only
conceded to Man…”; John Gill’s Commentary tells us that “obedience to
will of God, is the fruit, effect, and evidence of the former; and
takes in all
the commands of God, moral and positive, whether under the former or
dispensation; and an observance of them in faith, from a principle of
with a view to the glory of God…, and makes a man a whole man, perfect,
and wanting nothing; whereas, without this, he is nothing, let him have
much of the wisdom, wealth, honor, and profits of this world…, the
and business of every man, of every son of Adam, be he what he will,
low, rich or poor, of every age, sex, and condition; or this is the
of every man, or that leads to it.” Also, we read in Matthew Henry’s
that “it is all his business and all his blessedness; our whole duty is
up in this and our whole comfort is bound up in this. It is the concern
every man, and ought to be his chief and continual care; it is the
concern of all men, of their whole time. It is nothing to a man whether
rich or poor, high or low, but it is the main matter, it is all in all
man, to fear God and do as he bids him”.
Now, our Responsibility to “fear God, and keep his commandments” is due to the following reasons: First, because He is our Creator God; and as such He is worthy of our fear and obedience. In creating Adam, He had every right to command him as we read: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16, 17). The extent of this right is still with us; for although each one of us comes into this world by the process of childbirth, we are still God’s creation; “for in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Secondly, because He is our Sovereign God, meaning that as such He has every right to tell us what to do, or what not to do. Since He “hast created all things, and for (his) pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11), and “whatsoever the LORD pleased, that, did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places” (Psalm 135:6), such a Glorious and Majestic Being deserves our fear and obedience; and so we are responsible to do so! Thirdly, because our “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Because of sin, man has become “haters of God” (Romans 1:30). Nevertheless, that does not lessen his responsibility to God; on the contrary, to despise God’s love because of our sin makes us (if we can put it like this), more responsible for rejecting it. This is brought out in John 3 where the Lord says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life…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” (vv.16, 18).
Let us now consider our second text that has to do with man’s “excuse”: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 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” (Romans 1:19, 20). We know that sinful man (which all of us are; “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23]), has to hear the Word of God, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in order for them to know who they are before God and their responsibility to Him. Of course, for one to live where they can easily go to hear the Word of God, or have a Bible that is accessible to them, augments their responsibility for not doing so. But our text refers to those that never hear the Word of God or have a Bible; nevertheless, “they are without excuse”! You see, the Natural Revelation of God is made to every man that comes into this world “because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them”. When man looks around him and up to the heavens and sees the natural creation of God, he can understand that there is a God who created them, and to whom he is responsible; and that, renders them inexcusable! Even the pagan jungle savage, from his birth to his death, who never gets a glimpse of “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), will not be able to “excuse” his responsibility to God
It follows, then, that at the Great Day of Giving Accounts, absolutely not one person will be able to stand before God and say, “Excuse me, I didn’t know that!” Even “the fool (that) hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1) will not be able to “excuse” his ignorance, or his willfulness, in denying the existence of God; especially as he stands before Him “because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them” ALL OF THE DAYS OF THEIR LIVES! Barnes Commentary puts it like this: “It is implied here that in order that people should be responsible, they should have the means of knowledge; and that he does not judge them when their ignorance is involuntary, and the means of knowing the truth have not been communicated. But where people have these means within their reach, and will not avail themselves of them, all excuse is taken away”. In other words, simply on the basis of Natural Revelation, i.e. the natural creation around them, man CANNOT “excuse” his Responsibility to God in his “duty” and obedience to Him, including in his Love and Worship of Him. Since, then, God will not ACCEPT any “excuse” that makes us Responsible before Him.In closing this segment of the Responsibility of Man, let me do so by stating, whether we believe it or not, that ALL OF US will have to give an account of our Responsibility: It doesn’t make any difference who we are, whether Christian or not! We have a “duty” before God, and there will be no “excuse” if we fail in it. That’s why the apostle Peter warns us that “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begins at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:17, 18). There’s no way to avoid it or to impede it; and the proof of this is the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in that God “hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31); “for the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son…And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man” (John 5:22, 27). So, in what relation are we to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ in that DAY: As one of His sheep, or a goat? “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left…” (Matthew 25:31ff.). You will note that in reading the rest of this chapter, we will stand before Him as responsible as “sheep”, or “goats”! May it please the Lord to bring to our hearts the seriousness of our Responsibility before Him and grant us, of His grace, to be “perfect in every good work to do his will, working in (us) that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:21).