Monday, July 8, 2013

The Sovereignty of God

After preaching a sermon on the sovereignty of God in Daniel 4, I was asked for some of the biblical argument I made for God's sovereignty. I have included here some of my notes on the topic for your use.

When considering the Sovereignty of God I tend to want to point people to 3 truths regarding God's sovereignty:

1.  The EXTENT of the Sovereignty of God.
2.  The RULE of the Sovereignty of God.
3.  The GOAL of the Sovereignty of God.

I find Ephesians 1:11 a helpful place to find an outline for the first 3 points:

At the beginning of his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul clearly lays out God’s eternal plan to save us, His sending forth of Jesus to accomplish it and of the Spirit to apply it. In the midst of teaching on our salvation in Christ, Paul is clearly writing of the inheritance we receive in Christ because we have been predestined to receive it. As he does so, he provides the ground for our predestination.

Everyone who believes in the Bible believes in predestination. The argument is over what is the ground of our predestination. Is the ground of it God’s foreknowledge of our future free will choices? Is God’s decree conditioned upon future free acts of his creatures? In other words, is the ground of his eternal decree found in us? Or is the ground found in God’s unconditioned, holy, and immutable will?

He grounds our predestination in something. What is it? Does he ground it in our will? No! He clearly states, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.The ground of predestination is God’s sovereign, holy, and immutable will. 

Paul takes God's sovereignty even a step further. He claims that not only is our predestination to salvation grounded in God’s holy and immutable will, but everything that happens is grounded in God’s holy and immutable Will! Notice Paul says, "who works 'all things'.”

Using Paul's statement in Ephesians 1:11 as an outline, we find at least 3 truths regarding divine sovereignty:

1.  The EXTENT of God’s Sovereignty.

God works all things according to the counsel of His will! How many things? Some things? All things! There is nothing that happens that is outside God’s will. Someone will say, “certainly we can violate God’s will. What about when we sin?” Yes, you are violating God’s will of precept, or His Law, but you are not violating His will of decree. The text clearly says God “works” all things (that is active) according to the counsel of His will!

Let me give you specific categories that God sovereignly decreed (I don't remember where I originally got this list. I believe it was from Berkof. It is not originally mine):

a.  Good and evil events (Isa. 45:7, Job 1:21, Jer. 15:2)

Is. 45:7 I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Job 1:21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

b.  Sinful acts (Gen. 50:20, 2 Sam. 16:10-11, Luke 22:22, Acts 2:23, 4:27-28)

Gen. 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people* should be kept alive, as they are today.

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

c.  Free acts of men (Prov. 16:1, 9, 21:1, Rom. 8:28, 35-39)

Prov. 16:9  The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.

Prov. 21:1  The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

John 6:40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6:41 ¶ So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 
John 6:42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 
John 6:43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.
John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

d.  “chance” occurrences (1 Kings 22:28-34, Job 5:6, Prov. 16:33, Jonah 1:7)

Prov. 16:33  The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD.

e.  Details of our lives (Job 14:5, Psa. 139:16, Matt. 10:29-30, James 4:15)

Psa. 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.

Matt. 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?* And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
Matt. 10:30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.

f.  Affairs of nations (2 Kings 5:1, Ps. 75:1-7, Prov. 21:31, Dan. 2:21)

Dan. 2:21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;

g.  Final salvation of the saints and destruction of the wicked (1 Sam. 2:25, Prov. 16:4, Rom. 9:14-18; Eph. 1:3-14; 1 Pet. 2:8, Jude 4)

Prov. 16:4  The LORD has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Rom. 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

Jude 1:4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Understanding that the EXTENT of God’s Sovereignty is “all things,” what is the RULE of God’s Sovereign Decree? Or, rather, what is the GOVERNING PRINCIPLE of God’s Sovereign Decree?

2.  The RULE of God’s Sovereign Decree.

Another way of asking this question is, “Is there anything outside of God that determines or constrains what He sovereignly decrees or wills to happen, or is His sovereign will completely free of any external constraints?”

“Did God in eternity past look down the corridors of time, and make decisions based on what He saw men would do, or did He decree everything according to His own Sovereign will?”

Look again at Eph. 1:11 "having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will..."

What does it say? He works all things according to the counsel of His will! He does not work all things according to our will or the will of some other. He is God! He is completely sovereign and utterly free in His sovereignty. He is not constrained by His creature. His will is immutable (unchanging) and holy. The pot does not look at the potter and say, "why did you make me this way?"

3.  The GOAL of God’s Sovereignty is His own glory!  Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14

What is God's goal in his sovereign decree? What is he after? He is after his own glory. Paul makes his goal clear in repeating that goal 3 times in Ephesians 1:3-14.

In fact, think about the God-centeredness of the whole Bible story:

God created. God graciously provided for us. God was sinned against. God promised to send a redeemer. God called out a people for Himself. God provided the Word for His people. God provided the Law to show us our sin. God provided prophets to speak the truth. God provided priests. God provided kings. God sent His Son. God, in the person of Christ, perfectly fulfilled the requirements of the Law, God provided the ultimate sacrifice for sins. God sent His Son to the Cross. God resurrected Jesus from the dead. God sent His Spirit. God elects you. God regenerates you. God justifies you. God sanctifies you. God resurrects and glorifies you. God gifts you for service. God gets the glory!

This is why Paul concludes the first 11 chapters of Romans by saying, "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen."

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