Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just How Sovereign is God??? A Fieldtrip to the Garden...

Genesis 3:6- When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

In the last blog we discussed how God sovereignly created the universe. We looked at several verses to show that God was, is, and will be in complete control of His creation. If God really is in control, though, what do we do with this passage of Scripture? Did God "make" Adam and Eve sin? Did God "make" Satan tempt them? There are several questions that we need to look at to see how this passage relates to God's sovereignty.

Let's go ahead and make one thing clear. The fall of man didn't overthrow God's original plan. I've often heard teachers, preachers, and your "average" Christian explain how Adam and Eve messed up God's original plan and He had to figure out a way to "fix" everything. One might come to that conclusion if you simply skimmed over the first few chapters of Genesis. We need to look at what all of Scripture teaches, though. We must rightly divide the Word (2 Tim. 2:15) and let God speak for Himself, rather than putting words in His mouth.

Psalm 33:11 says, "The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations." In other words, God's plans don't fail. If He purposes to do something then He will do it. Job was right when He said, "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2) Job knew a wonderful truth that we would do well to remember as well. He knew that God rules and reigns. He knew that God was on the throne. In short, He knew that God is God. Let's look at a few more verses that go along with this. Isaiah 46:10 says, "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure." Did you see that? God Himself said that He will accomplish all that He purposes to do. He will do whatever He pleases.

But wait a minute! God gave Adam and Eve a command but they didn't obey it. Didn't God have to change His plans? Didn't He have to fall back on "Plan B"? Let me make this as plain as I possibly can. Sending Christ to die for the sins of His people was not "Plan B". It was "Plan A". There was no backup plan. It was His plans from before the foundation of the world. Acts 2:22-24 says, "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power." I hope you let that one sink in. Christ was crucified by the predetermined plan of God, not by the backup plan of God. Want another one? Revelation 13:8 says, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." (See also Rev. 17:8) I often hear well-meaning preachers say that the moment somebody believes, their name is written in the Lamb's book of life. Scripture teaches something else, though. Scripture teaches that their names were written before the foundation of the world. How is that possible? It is possible because it is all according to God's eternal, immutable plan.

Does all of this mean that God "made" Adam and Eve sin? After all, it all happened by His predetermined plan, right? That means He must have made them sin, right? Wrong… James 1:13-14 says, "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire." God did not make Adam and Eve sin, nor does He make anybody sin. Adam and Eve sinned because they were enticed by their own desire. That is the same reason we sin as well. Habakkuk 1:13a says, "Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor." God never approves of evil. He is not the author of sin. Psalm 89:14 says, "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You." God cannot approve evil because that would go against everything that He is. Righteousness and justice are the very foundations of His throne.

How do we reconcile Adam and Eve's disobedience with God's sovereignty? How can it be that God didn't cause sin, yet it fit within His eternal, predetermined plan? God didn't cause sin, but He allowed it. Allowing and causing are two different things. Why would He even allow sin, though? I can't answer all of the questions about why God created things the way He did. He is the potter and I am the clay. What I do know is this: God can overrule the wicked intentions of man and use them for His own good purpose. I think about what Joseph told his brothers after they had sold him into slavery. Genesis 50:20 says, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." What an amazing God we serve, that He can override the evil intentions of man and cause them to accomplish good! Ephesians 1:11 says, "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." Did you see that? He causes ALL things to work according to the counsel of His will. Evil men cannot thwart His purposes by their evil deeds. On the contrary, He takes their very acts of disobedience and uses them to accomplish His good pleasure! Men may think they are shaking their fists in the face of God with their rebellion, yet they cannot stop His purposes from being accomplished. How ironic that God can and does use wicked man's rebellion to accomplish His desire? He is amazing! What kind of power does it take to be able to make all things work according to the counsel of your will? It takes the sovereign power of our Almighty God. Daniel 4:35 says, "All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'" The host of heaven or the inhabitants of earth cannot stop Him from accomplishing His desires. He will accomplish His plans… all of them.

Just think, even Satan himself cannot do anything without God allowing Him to do it (Job 1-2). The story of Job is a wonderful reminder that God is in complete and total control of the most evil and wicked beings. Nothing can happen without God permitting it. Since that is true, we can rest assured that everything that happens will be used by God to accomplish His perfect, eternal plan.

Let's try to close this up with another quote from Arthur Pink. "But, it may be objected, do we not read again and again in Scripture how that men defied God, resisted His will, broke His commandments, disregarded His warnings, and turned a deaf ear to all His exhortations? Certainly we do. And does this nullify all that we have said above? If it does, then the Bible plainly contradicts itself. But that cannot be. What the objector refers to is simply the wickedness of man against the external word of God, whereas what we have mentioned above is what God has purposed in Himself. The rule of conduct He has given us to walk by is perfectly fulfilled by none of us; His own eternal "counsels" are accomplished to their minutest details."

I'm excited to continue this study so we can see even more clearly that God is sovereign and He is on His throne ruling and reigning over all!!! Until next time, blessings and peace…

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just How Sovereign is God??? Let’s Start at the Beginning...

I can't think of anything that gives me more comfort, peace, and assurance than the knowledge that my God is absolutely sovereign. This is the bedrock truth that I always come back to when things do not go right or my plans seem to fall apart. When things around me seem to be coming apart at the seems, it is always thoughts of the sovereignty of God that calms my troubled heart and gives me peace in the midst of the storms of life.
What do I mean when I say that God is sovereign? Let me let Arthur Pink answer that for me. "The sovereignty God may be defined as the exercise of His supremacy. Being infinitely elevated above the highest creatures, He is the Most High, Lord of heaven and earth. Subject to none, absolutely independent; God does as he pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him. So His own Word expressly declares: "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isaiah 46:10); "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand" (Daniel 4:35). Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things "after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11)."
It is ironic that the attribute of God that brings me the most peace is the same one that seems to come under fire the most from all kinds of people, some of whom are professing believers. Most people are not comforted by the sovereignty of God. On the contrary, they seem to loathe the thought that God is in control of all things.
John MacArthur was right when he said this: "No doctrine is more despised by the natural mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. Human pride loathes the suggestion that God orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything. The carnal mind, burning with enmity against God, abhors the biblical teaching that nothing comes to pass except according to His eternal decrees. Most of all, the flesh hates the notion that salvation is entirely God's work. If God chose who would be saved, and if His choice was settled before the foundation of the world, then believers deserve no credit for their salvation."
Thinking about the sovereignty of God brings up a ton of questions, comments, and thoughts that need to be considered. It is my hope that over the next several blogs we can go through God's Word and see what He has to say about His sovereignty. Thinking over these things the last few days has turned my heart to praise God for all that He is. So let's start at the beginning. Literally...
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) Sometimes we are tempted to quickly read over that verse without considering it's implications. Just think, God created the heavens and earth. He created them from nothing. He merely had to speak the words and the force of His sovereign power instantaneously brought His commands to pass. "Let there be light, and there was light." (Genesis 1:3) Can you comprehend that? He merely gave the command and it was so. Stop and think about this for a minute. What did He create the heavens and earth out of? What substance did He use in the creation process? He used nothing. He created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo). He spoke them into existence from absolutely nothing. What kind of sovereign power does it take to be able to do that? He is not only Sovereign in title, He is sovereign in fact. He is on the throne and He rules and reigns, doing whatever He pleases. Whatever He intends to do, He does.
On each day of creation, God said "let there be", and it was so. What kind of power does it take to do this? Our finite minds can't comprehend the power required to create a universe. Seeing the results of His creation with our naked eye is amazing enough, but think about the complexities of His creation on a molecular level (or smaller). All it took was a simple command from our Almighty God to produce things so complex that scientists spend lifetimes studying a small portion of His amazing creation to "discover" how things work.
Now we come to a question. Why did God create things the way He did. Are you ready for the answer? Here goes... Psalm 115:3 says, "
But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." Why did He create things the way He did? To put it simply, He did it because He wanted to. Psalm 135:6 says, "Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps."
Was God sovereign in Creation? Scripture gives a resounding "YES" for the answer to that question. God was in complete and total control during creation. Whatever He commanded happened. Whatever He desired, He did. Why did He do them that way? For His own pleasure, or in other words, because He wanted to.
Looking at these things brings up some questions. Is God still sovereign? Was He sovereign when Adam and Eve sinned? Is He still sovereign today? Is He sovereign over the good times and the bad? Is He sovereign over salvation? Is He sovereign over some things or all of them? The list goes on and on.
I'm anxious to go through the Scriptures with you and let God's Word answer these questions for Him. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what we "think". It matters what God says. I'm looking forward to sharing what God's Word "says" on the topic of His sovereignty.
Until next time, blessings to you...