Justin the Martyr was (also known as Saint Justin), was a famous Christian apologist. During the persecution of the Christian’s in Rome, he wrote a famous letter; The Apology to the Emperor. Justin was trying to persuade Emperor Antoninus to give up his desire of eradicating all Christians. Justin’s efforts didn’t really work well though, because he was martyred along with some of his students in 165 A.D. Even after Justin’s death, many people recognized him as a Saint and his letter was widely read.
The Apostle Paul wrote about the concept of God’s Sovereignty in his letter to the Roman Church. Justin also wrote about the Sovereignty of God in his Apology. It turns out that they both had different views about this topic. Let’s explore the major differences that they had.
Romans 9:15-21: For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, “why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
Paul believed that God had complete and absolute sovereignty over all aspects of your life. He said in the passage above, that God choses the righteous and unrighteous. We do not have the power or will to make ourselves good. Only God can truly make us holy. Paul pointed out that since God made us, He has the power to do whatever He wills in our lives. He decides who is saved and who is not.
Justin had a different view of God’s sovereignty:
We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be. But that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble, we thus demonstrate. We see the same man making a transition to opposite things. Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions.
Justin believed that man has the authority to make himself good (or bad). He argues that if God predestines each one of us to either be saved/not saved, then what is the point of punishment? We would then not be responsible for our own actions.
Paul and Justin were both Christians, but they disagreed about some things. Paul believed that God predestines our salvation, and He chooses those who are saved. Justin believed that we can essentially make ourselves better; and we are able to produce those desired results.