Tag Archive | sovereignty of god

CAN WE CHOOSE GOD, OR DOES HE CHOOSE US?

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Dear Friends,

What will you say to God on judgement day if He asks, “Why did you believe on my Son while others didn’t?”

Would you say “Because I was smarter”? “Because I had the good sense”?

Of course you wouldn’t. I would bet that we would all be so overwhelmed with God’s glory and our own unworthiness that it may be hard to put two words together much less put any attention upon ourselves.

From a reading of Colossians 2:13, if we have been saved, it is because God has raised us from spiritual death.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins”.

Logic would then tell us that for those who have not been “made alive”, it is because God has not raised them.

The doctrine of unconditional election (salvation brought about by God’s sovereign choice, not according to any action, merit, or condition met by the believer) is probably one of the most analyzed and debated subjects in Christendom. God’s choosing of some and not others does not fit into our natural and limited ideas of what is right or fair.

To this objection, I refer now to Nathan Pitchford and John Hendryx at the Christian Publication Research Foundation who make an eloquent and biblical response:

In Romans 9, when Paul is speaking very clearly of God’s unconditional election of some, and not others, to eternal salvation, a hypothetical objector to this doctrine raises that very question:

“If it is as you say, Paul, and God loved Jacob and hated Esau before they were born, or had done anything good or bad, just so that his own purposes might stand in election, does that not mean he is arbitrary and unjust?” (see Rom. 9:14). Paul’s response to this is a resounding, “Of course not! May it never be!” God is not arbitrary or unjust – but he does elect individuals to mercy and hardens others as he sees fit, and for no good will or exertion that he sees in anyone (Rom. 9:15-16). He hardened Pharaoh according to his purpose of displaying his glory in all the earth, and he sovereignly chooses to have mercy on whomever he will, to display the glory of his grace (Rom. 9:17; cf. Rom. 9:22-24). In sum, “Therefore, he has mercy on whom he will and he hardens whom he will” (Rom. 9:18).

Just because God chooses to have mercy upon some does not make him unjust or arbitrary for giving to others their just deserts. It is his free, undeserved mercy and grace that he holds forth in salvation, and he may do with it as he will. We may not fathom the deep and mysterious ways of God (Rom. 11:33-36); but woe to that one who foolishly says, “I see no reason for why God chooses some and not others, so he must be arbitrary and unjust”. On the contrary, O foolish man, you would do well to say with Job, “Behold, I am of little worth; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand upon my mouth” (Job 40:4).

We would challenge you to wrestle with the following verses. Paul encountered this very same argument against election in Romans 9:18-23; that it would make God unjust and arbitrary:

18  So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19  You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”20  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?21Or 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?

Paul is saying that God has the sovereign right to do with us whatever He wants.  Will you deny Him this right? This points to an even greater truth: that there is no higher principle in the universe than God Himself. God is the ultimate Truth and therefore, if He determines something it is, by definition, not arbitrary. In other words, there is no better reason for anything than the fact that God determines it. We should draw no comfort from the theology that promotes a god who must yield to something greater than Himself.

In His counsels and works no cause is apparent, it is yet hidden with Him, so that He has decreed nothing except justly and wisely according to His good pleasure founded on His gracious love towards us.” (Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics) Just because we don’t know His internal reason for choosing some to faith and not others is not reason enough to reject it.  The “foreseen faith” people are, in effect, saying that they cannot trust God in making this choice and prefer it to be left up to the fallen individual, as if he would make a better choice than God. This would also make God’s love toward us conditional and based on some inherent talent, wisdom or strength found in the individual rather than in God Himself.”

What I have come to love about the doctrine of unconditional election is that it elevates a rightful, high and glorious view of God and keeps me humble. What great security we have in knowing that our salvation starts and ends with Him! Jesus prayed, saying that “all that the Father gives me will come to me”.

Friend, if you have come to profess Christ, and trust in Him as Lord and Savior, then you are of the elect! If you have not, how do you know that you are not? Come to Him this day. He will NOT forsake you!

Comments welcome 🙂

SOMETHING TO PONDER

salvation 2

Dear Friends,

One of the statements I hear most often from Christians is that God is in sovereign, that He is above all creation and governs all things as He sees fit. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “sovereign” (adj). as “having supreme rank, power or authority”. The Bible testifies this of our great God:

“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psalm 135:6).

He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).

“From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36).

So here’s my question:

If we truly believe that God is sovereign, wouldn’t that mean that we believe He is sovereign over everything?

If there is any area of which God is not in control, wouldn’t that make Him less than God?

If you answered “yes” to either question, wouldn’t God’s sovereignty also include His sovereignty over matters of salvation?

Yet, when referring to predestination, many people (among whom are godly leaders I respect, I might add) have made a statement that goes something like this:

Let’s say God, from eternity past, was able to look into the future and see that someone will want to be saved upon hearing the gospel. Then based on this foreknowledge, God decides to save him or her.

Upon first reading, this seems very reasonable, until you consider the perspective a little more closely.

If I can say that I am saved because I had anything to do with my own salvation, including the choice to follow Him, wouldn’t that be a salvation based on my own merit? After all, in this scenario, I wouldn’t be saved unless I FIRST decided to follow Him.

Who is the one reacting to the other in this scenario? Is it God or man?

What’s more, if I were left in my natural state, without the Holy Spirit, I would have never chosen God, nor ever will:

“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corin. 2:14).

I don’t deny the theological discussion that could arise from these questions. Many could point to scriptures that seem to put the responsibility of salvation squarely on man’s shoulders, such as the numerous passages that call the sinner to repent and be saved. The irony is that although it is God’s initiative to save, He nevertheless uses the earthly means to do so. He uses the preaching of the gospel and call to repentance to woo the sinner, to stir his heart, and to open his ears to respond. I’m not writing today to contemplate the mystery of predestination vs. free will, but simply to challenge two areas of our thinking: our view of God, and our view of man.

Of God, again, is he sovereign over all? Can man, at any point ultimately override what God will or won’t do?

What of man? What do we really believe his natural condition to be? Do we believe he is inherently evil or do we think there is a glimmer of goodness in him, (even if a tiny bit), to FIRST reach up to God for salvation?

A reading of Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience”

The word for “dead” in the Greek translation of this passage is the word “Netros”, which means “a corpse. (Strong’s concordance, P. 49, Greek Dictionary)

If “dead” means “dead”, (not swooning, or kinda weak, or even trying real hard to be alive), then the consequent questions we must then ask would be:

Can the dead raise themselves?

Can the dead recognize abundance of life?

Can the dead, who are blind, give themselves sight?

Can the dead, who are deaf, give themselves hearing?

I’m gonna take a stab at this and say, um… no.

But let’s say we did have a tiny bit of (spiritual) life within us, just enough to raise a cold, perishing hand to God for salvation.

Wouldn’t you still have to ask who put that spark within us?

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Comments welcome!

 

THE POWER BUTTON

“To declare that God is sovereign is to declare that God is God…His power is exercised as He wills, when He wills, where He wills.” ~Arthur Pink

Either our God is completely sovereign, or He’s not.

Wouldn’t you agree?

I ask this because I’ve often heard some popular phrases that would imply that we as mere mortals possess a trigger that releases God’s great power. To hear it, you would think that He, the Creator of the Universe, is somehow immobilized, waiting for a cue from us before He does anything. Here are a few I’d like to contemplate with you:

–          For God’s word to be effective, you must speak it…

–          We unleash God’s work when we claim His power…

–          God is “at work” in my life (however well-meaning this sounds, I don’t remember putting God on my payroll. Do you?)

Can we “hold Him back”, as if we can tie His arms behind His back with our unbelief or behavior?

Taken a step further, if we say the right words or believe long enough, does that “allow” God’s response?

It comes down to this: Are we the supreme authority or is God?

Who pushes the power button?

TROUBE-BUTTON

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In considering these questions, I found that scripture does have some overriding principles on this topic:

1)   If we really believe God is sovereign, then we know that His will – WILL be done no matter what.

“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19)

The Sovereignty of God is the biblical teaching that all things are under God’s rule and control, and that nothing happens without His direction or permission.

2)     If God is sovereign over all things, then He is sovereign over man. Take the words of Daniel 4:35:

“All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (NIV)

Wow. I don’t think you can get any more straightforward than that. So where does that leave us? If He doesn’t need our help, and there is no way we can somehow manipulate him, why pray?

Part of the sovereignty of God is that chooses to use the prayers that He instills within us – and not because we initiated it. The balance lies in that He is the one that first moves our hearts towards prayer in His will in the first place, guiding our decisions as we go. There is a divine mystery in how God mingles our prayers with His overriding plan. He uses and includes them towards His purpose.

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)

But wait…here’s where it can get confusing. There are scriptures that do seem to refer to prayer as being a force that influences God. James 5:16 says that “the prayers of a righteous man availed much”, while 1 Peter 3:7 warns husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way “so that your prayers will not be hindered”.

Interesting as it may seem, both of these scriptures and others like it represent the biblical principle that our obedience (or lack of) does effect our prayer life. We are encouraged to live in righteousness to reap the natural blessing of answered prayer. Furthermore, who first made that man righteous? It is God…so it all begins and ends with Him.

In the same manner, prayers can be hindered as a result of our own sin. If a parent takes away the privileges of  a disobedient child, that child’s blessings were hindered by his own doing, not because he has short-circuited the parent’s ability to bless him.

Sometimes I grieve at the role reversal that we Christians often assume. We still continue to fall for the same ancient lie that we “will be like God”. (Gen. 3:4-5).  God said to the rebellious Israelites as He still says to us today:

“You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay?” (Isa. 29:16).

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I don’t know about you, but it is a great relief to my soul to know that my life does not depend on my faith in my own faith. I would blow it every time! I am blessed to know that God gives us faith in Him to trust His control in all things.

What about some instances when God seemed to change His mind in response to prayer? I can think of a couple in the Bible, like Abraham’s prayer over Sodom and Gomorrah, (Gen. 18: 16-19) or Hezekiah’s prayer (2 Kings 20) for a longer life. In the next post, We’ll tackle them head on. Hope you can stop by and chime in!

How are some ways you think we can get caught up in an unbiblical perspective of our own mortality?