Monday, March 11, 2013

A Study of the Full Sovereignty of God, Part 1

Webster’s definition: Supreme power or authority; Supreme excellence; Freedom from external control.
 
Webster gave a decent definition of the word, but it falls short of all that it encompasses when speaking of our Holy, living God. 
 
Scripture beautifully articulates Jesus’ deity, sovereignty and preeminence in Colossians 1:15-20:
 
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

Why this?
 
Why study the sovereignty of God?
Is it necessary to believe in?
What would the implications on our faith be either way?
Could God be sovereign over some, or most, things, but not all things?
 
If the Bible makes one thing unmistakably clear from beginning to end, it is that God is sovereign. The belief or disbelief in the sovereignty of God can easily be the one thing that makes or breaks our understanding of God and our faith as a whole. Whether or not we believe it will have vast implications on everything we do and say. As believers, dedicated to the Word of God, we must believe in this crucial aspect of God, or else the conviction will be sucked right out of us in a world full of trials, tribulations and man-centered philosophies that are so prevalent, even in evangelicalism today.
 
Put another way, our belief or disbelief in God’s sovereignty will determine whether or not we have a high view of God, or a low view of God. The implications of our belief will be either glorious, or disastrous.
 
A.W. Tozer once said,
“So necessary to the church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.”

What this study will hopefully do for you is raise your view of God even more. If it is already high, then hopefully you will have even more reason to worship God with what we will study in this setting. No matter what, our view of God could never be too high.
 
The Breadth of God’s Sovereignty

Salvation
What we will do in this study is take a comprehensive look at what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of election and predestination as well as seeing if there is anything to help us with the seeming paradox of free will. The answers are in the text of Scripture and it is important that we know it and teach it because it will determine whether or not we believe everything Scripture says and whether or not we have a high or low view of God.

Hopefully, this will spark the age old questions in your mind that are worth discussing and in fact answering from Scripture:

-What about free will, or human responsibility? How can we be liable to sin?
-Does God predestine people to Hell?
-Are we robots with no real influence?
-If God chooses, then why evangelize?

These questions are crucial for you and I to know. These are some of the first questions that non-believers sometimes ask and they are certainly always asked by people within the Church. The amazing thing is that they can all be answered in the pages of Scripture, so there is no reason for us not to learn them and be changed by them. They are in there for a reason.

Current Events
God’s sovereign rule extends to more than just the Church’s salvation. He orchestrates even the secular current events according to his pleasure and purpose, creating times of peace as well as times of disaster. He sets rulers in their throne as we read in Colossians 1:15-20, whether good or bad, in accordance to his will. Dictators, monarchs, presidents and prime ministers are all within his sovereign rule, being placed in their prominent positions for a reason.

We may often think that bad rulers are proof of where God is not working, but while these rulers may be evil and acting in ways that God will one day judge them for, they are still sovereignly placed and they will still give an account for everything they did on the Day of Judgment. The Antichrist is a perfect example of this.

Through Isaiah the prophet, God gives a summary statement of this when he says, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord who does all these things” (45:9).

-Why would God allow an atheist to rule a country?
-Isn’t God good and loving? Why would he allow or cause a natural disaster to kill people?
-What about Christian persecution? Would God really allow that?
 
These questions and more will be answered in Scripture regarding the sovereignty of God in current events as well as all past events. Understanding this aspect of God’s sovereignty will change our lives in how we view hardships and trials that are normally viewed as too much to handle. This part by itself will be one of the most incredible ways to have peace in all situations and circumstances that could possibly come your way.
 
Personal Plans
Another way we could break down the breadth of God’s sovereignty is in recognizing that He accomplishes His will by determining where we will live and what kind of business we will go about doing. Times and places of individuals are not outside of God’s sovereign control.
 
While the Bible continually emphasizes that we will be responsible for every careless word we speak (Matt. 12:36) and that we are to manage ourselves appropriately (1 Pet. 2:12), we would be wrong to assume that we are acting completely free from the divine work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Even for unbelievers, we would be wrong to assume that they are living completely free of God’s control and ability to manage even them.
 
We will see just what the Bible says about God’s rule in our daily lives and year to year progression through time, again, reconciling the fact that we are creatures given a responsibility to be good stewards with what we have, implying an accountability that goes along with our choices. In our personal lives, we exercise a type of freedom that is still not so free as to be independent of the working of God.
 
The Aspects of God’s Sovereignty
 
There are a number of specific aspects of God’s sovereignty that sum up just how supreme and preeminent He is. While words could never do justice to his utter holiness and power, we can still articulate the basic truth of His divine and sovereign nature by breaking it down to some logical pieces. In this study we will look at these aspects and discuss what the implications of them are to our faith.
 
We will be looking at the following realities of God’s sovereignty:
-Omnipotence (All powerful)
-Omnipresence (All present)
-Omniscience (All knowing)
-Immutability (Unchangeable)
 
If we come to a firm understanding of these truths about God, then our view of Him will become so much higher than it has before and it will illicit true heartfelt worship since our response to His word will be grounded in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:23). Consequently, if we refuse to believe these truths about God, then many more implications arise about our understanding of God and our faith in Him. Consistency and conviction will be sucked right out of us if we do not believe in God’s sovereignty.
 
Allowing Scripture to Work
 
Let us not shy away from these glorious revelations of our Lord of the Church that is found in Scripture, but embrace them aggressively. Let us not allow the past condemnations and denials of people we know who reject God’s sovereignty to scare us into thinking this topic is not worth broaching. Learning about God’s sovereign nature will change us and everything we do. Our view of God will be immensely higher and our worship will be more profound and deep.
 
Scripture is always the first place we should go to find motivation, conviction, exhortation and truth. It is the one thing that will change us, through the working of the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at God’s revelation about Himself to understand Him better, shall we? This will affect how we do everything:
 
-The way we run a church
-The way we preach
-The way we evangelize
-The way we react to events and circumstances
-The way we study Scripture
-The way we worship, or lead worship
-The way we walk with the Lord each day
 
Tozer sums up my own heartfelt conviction about this beautiful and life-changing study:
“I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.”

In His Sovereign Grip,

Ben

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