Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Monday, August 15, 2011

God’s Sovereignty

There’s a lot about Christianity that can boggle the mind.  Creation, salvation, predestination, grace, suffering, etc.  I’m not sure that you can say one is more complex than the other.  When someone digs into the nuts and bolts of the whole thing, Christianity is one big mega-puzzle.  It’s all because we have this God who is beyond definition.  And because He’s beyond the scope of our imagination.  But I suppose if any one of us could narrowly define God and pinpoint who He really is, He really wouldn’t be that great of a God, would He?

It’s with this thought in mind that I attempt to look at and explain the sovereignty of God.  Sovereignty is typically used in terms of government, mainly with monarchies.  So it’s probably quite fitting when we think about the fact that there is no one who fits this definition better than God.  If we know anything about Him, it is that God personally Hhas established Himself as the King of kings.  That statement alone deserves more thought and attention than what I can give here.  But let’s settle on this point that Scripture makes it clear that God is King.

So what is sovereignty?  How does this fit into one aspect of the character of God?  Simply put, Black’s Law Dictionary defines sovereignty as:

The supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable power by which any independent state is governed; supreme political authority; the supreme will; paramount control of the constitution and frame of government and its administration; the self-sufficient source of political power, from which all specific political powers are derived; the international independence of a state, combined with the right and power of regulating its internal affairs without foreign dictation; also a political society, or state, which is sovereign and independent.

Another definition, and probably more applicable, as put forth by the Mountain Retreat states this about sovereignty:

There are basically two aspects in any definition of sovereignty. In order for anyone to be a king he must possess, (1) Absolute Authority, and, (2) All Power. A king must have the right to rule, and the ability to carry out his will. God said through Isaiah, ".. for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me .. My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." Isa. 46:9-10. Our God is a unique King in that his reign is eternal, "..the LORD sitteth King for ever." Psa. 29:10.Hi

I think it’s fitting to state that in terms of sovereignty, God should and does have absolute power and authority.  If He didn’t, how can anyone trust that God will do what He says He will do?  It would probably minimize God’s effectiveness to that of man’s.  Think about how many times people have failed or disappointed you.  Wouldn’t it be sad to think that God is as inept as man?

For the God of all heaven and earth, it really isn’t a stretch of the imagination to believe that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present.  Imagine a being that is capable of creating everything around us.  From the smallest of molecules to the complexities of DNA, which are the building blocks of life, to the vast expanse of the universe and all its known (or even unknown) galaxies, God created them all.

Yet even with all of this, we still have only a glimpse into the transcendent nature of God.  It is impossible to bring God down to our level, and somehow that is what we still attempt to do.  Why?  Because we want to understand.  However, if we continue to try to minimize God just so we can understand, we actually limit our understanding to a few vague notions that will only succeed in fitting only our perspective or point of view.  Why would we do that to God?  We need to accept the fact that His ways and thoughts are far greater in scope than our minds can handle.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Now let’s step back and read Romans 9 with these ideas in mind.  Try to remove any preconceived notions that you might have about God and let His Word speak His Truth into your heart.  It may be a little lengthy, but try to focus on what the Apostle Paul is saying here.  This passage helps us to see several things about God…and about us.  First, God is in complete control.  Even when man brought sin into the picture, God had a plan.  Secondly, man cannot manipulate or leverage God to get his way.  Also, God’s sovereignty is evident as He demonstrates His power and authority in areas of mercy, compassion, patience, justice, wrath, and even in creation.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son." 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 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." 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

"Those who were not my people I will call 'my people, 'and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.'" 26 "And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people, 'there they will be called 'sons of the living God.'"

27And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay." 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

"If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah."

For some, I imagine that this passage is difficult to digest.  Paul is basically telling us that God has created some people for the purpose of displaying His wrath.  And in doing so, no one can even say that God is unfair.  Does that make sense to you and me?  In our limited view of God, I’m thinking that it doesn’t.

But there’s something we need to remember.  God’s ways and thoughts are greater than ours.  We can try to reason this passage to fit our image of what God should be like.  But would that be right?  I think we need to let God’s Word speak for itself.  God is sovereign and is more than capable of exacting justice on the unrighteous even when it is God who in all practicality created “the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.”

There is another side to this equation that I think we need to consider here, however.  Paul is also saying that God “has endured with much patience” these vessels of wrath “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.”  If we’re completely honest with ourselves, none of us are deserving of His mercy.  It’s not so much a mystery that God would pour out His wrath on the unrighteous.  It’s much more of a mystery that He would extend compassion and mercy on those that are completely undeserving.  Think about it.  God creates man and what does man do but sin against Him and live in rebellion against Him.  We ought to be filled with awe and gratitude toward God who provided a way through His Son to pay the price for our sins so that we can be reconciled with Him and have a relationship with Him.  Isn’t that really the greater mystery?

Now dig a little deeper.  What about justice?  We have a tendency to view the child molester, the rapist, and the mother who murders her daughter as the most hideous creatures on earth.  But what about the rest of us?  Doesn’t the Bible tell us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God?  It goes back to this idea that we don’t see things the same way that God does.  In fact, worshipping idols or false gods is a greater travesty in God’s eyes.  And many of us are guilty of this, even me.  Given that we’re all prone to sin, we should really wonder why we aren’t the “vessels prepared for destruction.”  It is only due to God’s sovereignty that He would have the authority to place His justice upon His Son, Jesus, to pay the price for our sins.  I can only praise God that it is because of His sovereignty, not that He’s impotent and incapable of redeeming a people for Himself, that we have hope through Jesus!

Again, I go back to what I said at the beginning.  Christianity is mind-boggling.  And what God has done for us is even more mind-boggling.  Praise Jesus!  For those that do put their faith and hope in Him, they can be called “sons of the living God!”  And it’s all because of His sovereignty!