God’s Absolute Sovereignty

God is SovereignNo 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.

But that is, after all, precisely what Scripture teaches. Even faith is God’s gracious gift to His elect. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6:65). “Nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27). Therefore no one who is saved has anything to boast about (cf Eph. 2:8, 9). “Salvation is from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). . . .

Moreover, everything that exists in the universe exists because God allowed it, decreed it, and called it into existence. “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6). He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Cor. 8:6). . . .

Paul anticipated the argument against divine sovereignty: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’” (v. 19). In other words, doesn’t God’s sovereignty cancel out human responsibility? But rather than offering a philosophical answer or a deep metaphysical argument, Paul simply reprimanded the skeptic: “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? 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?” (vv. 20, 21).

Scripture affirms both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We must accept both sides of the truth, though we may not understand how they correspond to one another. People are responsible for what they do with the gospel—or with whatever light they have (Rom. 2:19, 20), so that punishment is just if they reject the light. And those who reject do so voluntarily. Jesus lamented, “You are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life” (John 5:40). He told unbelievers, “Unless you believe that I am [God], you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). In John chapter 6, our Lord combined both divine sovereignty and human responsibility when He said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (v. 37); “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life” (v. 40); “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (v. 44); “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life” (v. 47); and, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father” (v. 65). How both of those two realities can be true simultaneously cannot be understood by the human mind—only by God.

Above all, we must not conclude that God is unjust because He chooses to bestow grace on some but not to everyone. God is never to be measured by what seems fair to human judgment. Are we so foolish as to assume that we who are fallen, sinful creatures have a higher standard of what is right than an unfallen and infinitely, eternally holy God? What kind of pride is that? In Psalm 50:21 God says, “You thought that I was just like you.” But God is not like us, nor can He be held to human standards. “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isa. 55:8, 9).

We step out of bounds when we conclude that anything God does isn’t fair. In Romans 11:33 the apostle writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (Rom. 11:33, 34).

– John MacArthur, ‘God’s Absolute Sovereignty

Currently Reading

Foundations Of GraceI’ve been reading Steve Lawson’s Foundations of Grace and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand God’s grace in a Biblical, thorough, and exegetical way.  Lawson starts in Genesis and goes through Revelation and has done an outstanding job of documenting many passages of Scripture that deal with God’s grace.  Currently I am reading the chapter on the Gospel of John, which Lawson calls The Mount Everest of Theology.  During my reading time this morning, I read the following:

Selective Choice.  Christ has chosen His people out of the world of lost sinners.  Because this divine choice does not include everyone, those who are not chosen hate the elect:

  “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  – John 15:19

Jesus openly taught His disciples the doctrine of election.  Making no apology, He cited this cardinal truth as a chief reason why the world hates them.  (James Montgomery) Boice explains, “What is the meaning of this?  It is merely the old subject of election.  Christ elected the disciples to salvation.  He chose them for a specific work in this world.  Therefore, although the world rejects Christ’s salvation and despises His work, it hates those who have been chosen by Him for it.  There is probably nothing that the world hates more than the doctrine of election.  Certainly it was this more than anything else that caused the world’s virulent hatred of Christ during the days of His ministry…. Nothing so stirs up the hatred of the worldly mind than the teaching that God in sovereign grace elects some and does not elect others.”  Of course, Christ’s choice was preceded by the eternal choice of the Father.  (William) Hendriksen notes, “The act which took place in time was based upon an act which occurred in eternity (Eph 1:4).”  The divine choosing by the Father and the Son distinguished believers from the world, stirring the hatred of unbelievers.

We all want to be liked and loved and certainly do not want to be hated.  But this is just another area in which we Christians will be hated by the world.  It isn’t pleasant, but it is to be expected.

Daily Roundup

16 Rules for Biblical Interpretation – A noteworthy list that needs to be applied by those of us who read and study the Bible.

“These Things” – Several “things” to think about from the book of John.

A Thankful Heart – Do we have a thankful heart?  I tweeted this morning the following, “If God is sovereign over all, when we complain we are actually questioning God; we are sinning against His sovereignty.”  We should be thankful in ALL things!

The Humble Celebrity – What a refreshing story.  It is just sad that stories like this are so rare today.

What Happens When We Read the Bible? – This gave me something to think about this morning.

Quote:

Today, an extraction from Carl Trueman’s book, The Creedal Imperative which deals with creeds in the Church:

I do want to make the point here that Christians are not divided between those who have creeds and confessions and those who do not; rather, they are divided between those who have public creeds and confessions and that are written down and exist as public documents, subject to public scrutiny, evaluation, and critique, and those who have private creeds and confessions that are often improvised, unwritten, and thus not open to public scrutiny, not susceptible to evaluation and, crucially and ironically, not, therefore, subject to testing by Scripture to see whether they are true (p. 15).