Complete Sovereignty in One Verse
I have met more than one professing Christian who railed against the concept of God's Sovereignty by saying that the word "Sovereign" is not even found in the Bible. Have you ever heard such a thing? In reality, the whole argument is quite laughable for the simple reason that while the word 'Sovereign' is not found in the King James Version of the Bible (you will not find the word "Trinity" in there either), the concept certainly is. There is hardly a single page of our Bibles that fails to unveil the complete Sovereignty of God over all He has made. Just as an aside, others translations of the Bible do indeed use the word "Sovereign" quite frequently. It should also be said that one of the Hebrew names of God is 'El Elyon' which means "the Most High God" or "the Sovereign One."
The whole Bible is a revelation of God in His supreme sovereignty. By Sovereignty we mean that God does what He wants, when He wants, the way He wants, without having to ask anyone's permission.
God "works all things according to the counsel of His will" - Ephesians 1:11.
Psalm 115:3 states it this way, "Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him."
Psalm 135:6 says, "The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths." God is sovereign. He is in control.
If I was asked to show God's Sovereignty by quoting only one verse of the Bible, I would probably turn to Romans 11:36. In Romans 8:28 through to the end of chapter 11, Paul has outlined the supremacy, majesty and sovereignty of God in unmistakable terms. And yet Paul is not merely a theologian of the mind, but one of the heart also and therefore under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, his high theology becomes worshipful doxology, as he thunders out the heartfelt cry of "oh..." - and what a massive "oh" it is!
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Everything is from Him.
Behind all the schemes and actions of mice and men stands Yahweh, sovereign and majestic in regal splendor. All things are from Him. He is the Source of all things. All things come from Him.
As the Westminster Confession of Faith states, "God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."
Much could be written to explain the words of the Confession here but there is absolutely no doubt as to what the text says and as to what it means by what it says. All things are from Him.
Everything is Through Him
Next, we read that all things are "Through Him." All things exist by His activity and through His sustaining power. Jesus revealed that not even a single sparrow falls to the ground "apart from your Father." (Matthew 10:29) Even when it comes to seemingly insignificant or trivial events (like a sparrow falling); these events only occur because of the Father's will.
Everything is to Him
All things are "to Him." He is the purpose for everything. All things exist for Him. All things are "to Him." There is no purpose found outside of Him.
All things are FROM HIM. All things are THROUGH HIM. All things are TO HIM.
To Him be the glory!
If even ONE of these statements is NOT altogether true, then we would not be able to say "To him be glory forever. Amen." If all things are not from Him, then not all the glory is due Him. If all things are not through Him, God is not to be glorified for sustaining everything. And if all things are not to Him, then He is not to be glorified as the purpose for everything. But precisely because all these things are true - from Him and through Him and to Him are all things, then it follows that to Him belongs all the glory forever.
When Paul had written these words of supreme Sovereignty, he closed by adding the word "Amen" which means "this is true" or "so be it."
May I ask, when you encounter these words, what is the response of your heart and mind? The one who embraces the Bible as God's word has no other alternative than to bow before this Sovereign Lord and humbly affirm with the Apostle, "Amen - this is true, so be it."
Romans 11:36: "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen."
The Providence of God by Paul Helm
In Calvin’s eyes the movement of direction is from God to mankind, and not vice versa. Furthermore, because such language is an act of accommodation it is also an act of grace. Divine revelation is evangelical in motive and manner, as well as in content.
But does this not reduce much of language of scripture to a mere teaching tool, a concession to those who of weak capacity (as thinkers as different as Philo and John Locke have maintained)? While this may be our initial reaction, behind what may seem psychological or epistemological economy on God’s part, there lies a logical point of some importance.
What then lies behind Calvin’s view? He recognizes that it is because God whishes people to respond to him that he must represent himself to them as one to whom response is possible, and as one who is responsive, who acts in space and time in reaction to human actions in space and time. Only such an understanding is possible to provide for that divine human interaction which at the heart of biblical religion.
God is portrayed in scripture as separate from his creation, as self-sufficient, and as bringing into being a creation which is distinct from himself. On the other hand, God is also shown anthropomorphic ways, and his actions and character are also likened to non-human animals and to animate things. The reason for such portrayals is both pragmatic and logical: the need to represent God to human beings in ways which do not pander to the natural, sinful torpor and sluggishness of the human mind.
Doctrine of God- Herman Bavnick
Taken from The Doctrine of God (Pg. 18-21)
Mystery is the vital element of Dogmatics. It is true that he term "mystery" in Scripture does not indicate abstract-supernatural truth in Romish sense; nevertheless, the idea that the believer would be able to understand an comprehend intellectually the revealed mysteries is equally unscriptural. On the contrary, the truth which God has revealed concerning himself in nature and in Scripture far surpasses human conception and comprehension. In that sense Dogmatics is concerned with nothing but mystery, for it does not deal with finite creatures, but from beginning to end raises itself above every creature to the Eternal and Endless one himself.
By virtue of this revelation it is first of all established that God is a person, a conscious and free-purposing being, not shut in by the narrow confines of this universe but highly exalted above nature.
Not only does scripture ascribe human organs and qualities to God, as we shall see later on, but it also tells u that he walked in the garden, Gen 3:8, that he descended at the building of the tower of Babel.
God is a personal being, self-existent, have the source of life in himself, self-conscious, and self-willing, not shut in by nature but exalted above nature, Creator of heaven and earth.
This God can appear and reveal himself in definite places, at definite times, to definite persons: to the patriarchs, to Moses, to the prophets, in the garden, at the building of the tower of Babel, at Bethel, on Sinai, in Canaan, at Jerusalem, on Zion, etc
Inerrancy and Precision
Taken from John Frame's, Systematic Theology (Pg. 598-600)
The word inerrancy does have a certain disadvantage, however, suggested by Orr's rather extreme distortion of its lexical meaning. The word has come to suggest to many the idea of precision, rather than its lexical meaning of mere truth.
Now, precision and truth are not synonyms, though they do overlap in meaning. A certain amount of precision is often required for truth, but that amount varies from one context to another. In mathematics and science, truth often requires considerable precision.
Similarly when I stand before a class and a student asks me how large a textbook is. Say I reply, "400 pages", but the actual length is 398. Have I committed an error, or told the truth? I think the later, for the following reasons: (1) In context, no body expects more precision than I gave in my answer. I met all the legitimate demands of the questioner. (2) "400", in this example, actually conveyed more truth than "398" would have. "398" most likely would have left the student with the impression of some number around 300, but "400" presented the size of the book more accurately.
We should always remember that scripture is, for the most part, ordinary language rather than a technical language. Certainly it is not of the modern scientific genre. In scripture, God intends to speak to everybody. To do that most efficiently, he (through human writers) engages in all the shortcuts that we commonly use among ourselves to facilitate conversation: imprecisions, metaphors, hyperbole, and parables, to name a few.
Inerrancy, therefore, means that the Bible is true, not that is maximally precise. To the extent that precision is necessary for truth, the Bible is sufficiently precision. But it does not always have the amount o precision that some readers demand of it. It has a level of precision sufficient for its own purposes for which some readers might employ it.
God's Works of Providence
The Christian View of Man by J. Machen (Pg. 90-101)
The truth lies in the biblical doctrine of providence. That doctrine is summed up in the following answer of the Shorter Catechism:
"God's works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures, and their action."
The theologians speaking of those forces truly operating in the world as "secondary causes". God is the first cause, but the forces of nature and free actions of personal beings whom God has created are second causes; and it is extremely important, if we would be true to the bible, that the existence of secondary causes should not be denied.
Only, it is important to observe that the two causes are not on the same plane. They are not coordinate, but one is completely subordinate to another. In every event in the natural world God has completely accomplished what he willed to accomplish. He is not limited in any way by the forces of nature or by the free actions of his creatures. They act truly; but they truly act only as he has determined they shall act. The correct way, therefore, expressing the relation between secondary causes and God, the great First Cause, is to say that God makes use of second causes to accomplish what is accordance with his eternal purpose.
Second causes are not independent forces whose cooperation He needs, but they are means that He employs exactly as He will.
The God with whom we have to do
Today (Sunday) I had the privilege of preaching at the morning service at Grace Covenant Church in Gilbert, Arizona. Some have told me that their lives were greatly impacted. Praise the Lord!
Title: The God with whom we have to do.
Scripture Passage: Romans 8:28-9:24
The audio is now available to listen to or download here. Scripture readings are by Pastor John Giarrizzo. The sermon begins around the 8 minute mark. God bless. - John Samson
Vessels Prepared for Destruction
Excerpt from Dr. James White's book "The Potter's Freedom" (pages 211-214):
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. Romans 9:17-18)
The example of Pharoah was well known to any person familiar with the Old Testament. God destroyed the Egyptian nation by plagues so as to demonstrate His might and power in the earth, and key to this demonstration was the hardening of Pharoah's heart. Before Moses had met with Pharoah the first time God told him:
When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. (Exodus 4:21)
It was God's intention to bring His wrath upon the Egyptians. God's actions were not "forced" by the stubborn will of the Egyptian leader. God said He would harden Pharoah's heart, and He did. Listen to the impudent response of this pagan idolater to the command of Moses:
And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharoah, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.'" But Pharoah said, "Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?" (Exodus 5:1-2)
Is this not what God said He would do? Will someone suggest that Pharoah's heart is "soft" here? No indeed, and Moses well knew that God was behind this for when the Pharoah then increased the work load of the Israelites, Moses complained to God in Exodus 5:22. Why complain to God if, in fact, God had nothing to do with it and it was all just a matter of the Pharoah's "free will choice"?
This provides the background of Paul's citation of Exodus 9:16. The portion of truth that here stings the pride of man is this: it is more important that God's name is magnified and His power made known than it is that any single man get to "do his own thing." Pharoah was surely never forced to do anything sinful (indeed, God probably kept him from committing many a sinful deed). He acted on the desires of his wicked heart at all times. But he is but a pot, a creature, not the Potter. He was formed and made and brought into existence to serve the Potter's purposes, not his own. He is but a servant, one chosen, in fact, for destruction. His destruction, and the process that led up to it (including all the plagues upon Egypt), were part of God's plan. There is simply no other way to understand these words.
Paul then combines the fact that God showed undeserved compassion and mercy to Moses (Exodus 33) with God's hardening of Pharoah's heart (Exodus 5) and concludes that whether one is "mercied" or "hardened" is completely, inalterably, and utterly up to God. The verbs here are active: God performs these actions. He "mercies" whom He wills and He hardens whom He wills. The parallel between "mercy" and "hardening" is inarguable. We may like the "mercying" part more than the hardening, but they are both equally a part of the same truth. Reject one and you reject them both. There is no such thing as preaching God's mercy without preaching God's judgment, at least according to Scripture.
The passage reaches a crescendo in these final verses:
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? (Romans 9:19-20)
Paul knew well the objections man presents to the words he had just penned. If God has mercy solely based on His good pleasure, and if God hardens Pharoah on the same basis, all His own glory and honor, how can God hold men accountable for their actions, for who resists His will? Paul's response is swift and devastating: Yes, indeed God holds man accountable, and He can do so because He is the potter, the one who molds and creates, while man is but the "thing molded." For a pot to question the Potter is absurd. These words cannot be understood separately from the fundamental understanding of the freedom of the Sovereign Creator and the ontological creatureliness of man that removes from him any ground of complaint against God. Though already devastatingly clear, Paul makes sure there is no doubt left as to his point:
Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. (Romans 9:21-24)
The Potter's freedom pulses through these words, flowing inexorably into the sea of sovereignty, rushing any would-be proponent of free will out of its path. God has the perfect right to do with His creation (including men) as He wishes, just as the Potter has utter sovereignty over the clay. Just as God had demonstrated His wrath and power by wasting idolatrous Egypt, so too He demonstrates He wrath upon "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction." Are these nations? Classes? No, these are sinners upon whom God's wrath comes. They are said to have been specifically "prepared for destruction." That is their purpose.
Why are there vessels prepared for destruction? Because God is free. Think about it: there are only three logical possibilities here. Either 1) all "vessels" are prepared for glory (universalism); 2) all "vessels" are prepared for destruction; or 3) some vessels are prepared for glory and some are prepared for destruction and it is the Potter who decides which are which. Why is there no fourth option, one in which the pots prepare themselves based on their own choice? Because pots don't have such a capacity! Pots are pots! Since God wishes to make known the "riches of His grace" to His elect people (the vessels prepared for mercy), there must be vessels prepared for destruction. There is no demonstration of mercy and grace when there is no justice.
The vessels of wrath, remember, like being vessels of wrath, would never choose to be anything else, and they detest the vessels that receive mercy...