God's Sovereignty and Man's Authority
We are now ready to deal with the most perplexing question concerning the problem of Evil. It is the problem of liability for Adam's sin. To determine liability, most people argue from their perspective of God's sovereignty vs. man's free will. But those arguments are based largely upon dualistic thinking. Either God's will or man's will are set forth to prove all liability. Singular thinking, however, makes room for both in their proper order.
As Creator, God's will is sovereign. As Creator of heaven and earth, He OWNS all things. In Lev. 25:23 the law says that “the land shall not be sold permanently,” because God OWNS it by right of creation. Yet each tribe and family in Israel had certainly been given authority over their portion of God's land. There is no contradiction or exclusiveness in establishing God's sovereignty AND man's authority.
Man's authority is as real as God's sovereignty. The difference is quantitative, not qualitative. It is expressed by two Greek words in the New Testament: exousia and dunamis. Man's authority (exousia) is authorized by a higher power; God's sovereignty (dunamis) is self-derived. And so, any time man exceeds his area of authority, it is a trespass against God's sovereign will.
The laws of liability are based primarily upon ownership. If a man digs a pit and does not take proper safety precautions by covering it, and if an ox falls into that pit, the one who dug it is liable by law to pay for the dead ox (Ex. 21:33, 34). Likewise, if a man lights a fire and it spreads suddenly, burning another man's crop, the man who lit the fire is liable (Ex. 22:6).
In both cases, liability is determined by ownership, not by the “free will” of the ox nor the will of the wind that blew the fire. Because God is the Creator of all, He is ultimately liable by law for the actions of all His creatures including all men (His “oxen”). That is the responsibility of ownership.
Yet the Bible shows that God has always held man liable for sin as well. On what legal ground? Because man has God-given authority in the earth (Gen. 1:26). Thus, in the law, if a man goes on a journey and entrusts his property to a neighbor for safe keeping, and if that property is destroyed or damaged, the neighbor can be held liable (Ex. 22:7-13).
Liability in such cases is shared between the owner and the responsible neighbor, depending on the situation. If the property were stolen without the neighbor being negligent or complicit in the theft, the owner bore the full liability for the theft. If, on the other hand, the neighbor was negligent or complicit in the theft, then he was held liable.
God always holds himself liable according to His level of sovereignty based upon His ownership. But He also holds man liable according to the level of each man's authority. This makes it possible for God to judge man lawfully, and we see the judgments of God throughout history. Yet His judgments are restrained (not everlasting), because God holds Himself liable for imposing mortality upon mankind, on which they sinned.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve sinned, and God held them liable for that sin, according to their level of authority. But at the same time, God held Himself ultimately liable on His level of sovereignty based upon ownership. Hence, He came to earth to die for the sin of the whole world. 1 John 2:2 says,
2 And He Himself is the Propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
There is no contradiction or double jeopardy in this. Both God and man are held liable, each on their own level.
Christians tend to remove all liability from God in order to keep Him from being tainted by Adam's sin. But this is done at the expense of His sovereignty, and it ignores the simple fact that God created all things. Such “solutions” proceed from our dualistic reasonings, where we argue about whether God is sovereign or man has “free will.” There is no such biblical phrase as “free will.” Let us stay with the biblical term “authority,” which keeps us from straying into dualistic arguments that only make God's will and man's will mutually exclusive.
When God created the Garden, He included a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He did not put a fence around it. In effect, He “dug a pit,” and did not cover it. As a result, the “ox,” fell into the pit. Who is liable? God is liable, according to His own law. But, you say, Adam was fully liable, for he fell of his own free will. Whether Adam had a free will or not is beside the point. The fact is that God owned Adam by right of creation. Furthermore, He allowed it to happen—in essence, by digging a pit without covering it..
Others say the devil did it, because he tempted Eve. Alright, who created the devil? We cannot shift the blame so easily, because a Creator owns and is responsible for that which He creates, regardless of what the creature does. Certainly, God could have prevented the devil from tempting Eve. The devil’s freedom to tempt Eve was not due to his ability to outrun God or because he was too powerful for God to subject to divine judgment. He was not even smart enough to take God by surprise—though some people actually teach this!
Ultimately, our view must be determined by God's own decision and judgment. Thus, we find Him being “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). He actually took responsibility upon Himself for the actions of His creation. Yet this did not obligate Him to take SOLE responsibility, for He had given man authority, and that authority made them accountable as well. Hence, we see God judging man according to his works (Rev. 20:12, 13).
Judgment itself proves man's authority and the fact that he trespassed outside of his lawful boundaries by his will. Man does have a will, but to use the term "free will" is usually inaccurate, because most people use the term dualistically to limit God's sovereign will over man's will.
In Lev. 25:23 we see that man's land could not be sold permanently. He had the authority to sell it only until the year of Jubilee. The Jubilee placed a limit upon man's use of God's land. Man is made of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7), and so our bodies are part of His “land.” We have been given authority over our "land," even as Israel was given authority over their inheritance. But God still retains sovereignty.
Thus, while we may “sell ourselves” into sin (or to “the devil,” if you prefer), we do not have the authority to do so in perpetuity. Our “land” must always return to God—not because of the will of man, but because of the sovereign will of the ultimate Land Owner, who is God Himself. No man can incur a debt to sin that is so overwhelming that the Law of Jubilee cannot conquer it in the end by grace alone.
God's will always trumps man's will in the end. It is done by grace. Meanwhile, however, God is teaching man the proper use of will through the experience of evil, for without such experiences and “choices,” there is no way for him to learn, mature, and become a son of God.
In the realm of man's choices, man must learn the laws of God to know good and evil, right and wrong, sin and righteousness. The soul naturally interprets good and evil as opposing one another. Yet as the soul submits to the spirit, it yields to a higher understanding that includes the purpose of all things and sees history as a singular plan of God that is very good. It gives up its pursuit of power over the spirit and, instead, submits its limited understanding, will, and authority, to the greater understanding, will, and sovereignty of the spirit.
As the soul gives up its own illusion of “free will,” which is really just the pursuit of power in disguise, it begins to find TRUE freedom of will by submitting to the sovereign will of God functioning through one's spirit. In putting on the mind of Christ and the power of Love, the soul is set free of bondage to its own limited perspective. In its place it adopts the understanding of the Love of God proceeding from the spirit. The soul becomes a love-slave to the spirit. And in the bonds of Love, the soul's will finds true freedom.
Not many arrive at this place during their allotted life time. But God is bringing forth a first fruits company of sons for whose manifestation all creation groans (Rom. 8:22). They are called as sons to do the works of their Father and through the proper use of their will and authority, they will show all others by example the path by which they may all become the sons of God.
When that last enemy (the second death) is destroyed, God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:26-28).