Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. JOHN: Trying to get a handle on it, yeah. The devil is God’s devil. And it’s in that context that – that we’re told that whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. And whatever God does is right, whatever God does is just. Third, in relation to civic power and authority, there is the question of God’s sovereignty in the determination of rulers and government. Can we – can you be a Christian if you have a completely wrong view of God? So that verse is simply eliminating the fact that there are any random events, even something as simple as drawing straws. Even though from the human perspective, it was evil. We make our plans and the Lord directs our steps. We are held responsible for our actions and behavior. And then there was something: matter, space, time, energy. But only a bit. And yet, to – to all the people who came across His path, who suffered, He – He’s demonstrated this continual compassion and even went to the degree where He relieved them of those immediate issues that – that caused them to suffer. PHIL: Alright, another text and let me preface this by saying, there are people who would say, “Okay, well God is sovereign to a point, but He doesn’t control random happenings. The heart of a king is in the hand of the Lord, He turns it however He wants. JOHN: Yeah, I think there’s two sides to it. I’m absolutely and thoroughly in charge. JOHN: No, and that’s right. Apart from God, there was nothing. What would that look like? But Scripture offers us considerable insight into how these twin truths harmonize within the plan of redemption. God’s will is sure to be fulfilled whether we evangelize or not. This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine. How will they hear without a preacher? JOHN: He is sovereign, and it is His plan that He would be glorified in judgment as He would be glorified in salvation. The idea that “God is in control” seems like it honors God because many mistakenly think that absolute control over everything at every moment is a fundamental requirement for God to be God. 1. So if not everybody is going to be saved, then it was in the purpose of God that not everybody was going to be saved. The inteded audience was parochial or church goers. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. Can God influence the head of any nation at will? (Acts 2:23–24, italics added) God the Father sent His Son into the world to die on a cross. I see it as more the control of all the things that are going on. That’s the first thing. Are there realms in the created universe where God does not govern? Is God still in charge of who’s our President and –. JOHN: Well, I heard the questions. It is to say that He controls all the contingencies. You know, I don’t need to live a certain kind of holy life. There are things that happen randomly.” Here’s a text that seems to say otherwise. PHIL: And it isn’t just saying that He knows it, either, is it? If He does, then why didn't He? But at that point, I exercise my faith. Here, look at the other verse from James 4. 6) There is no greater authority than God. Oh really? PHIL: All right, you said there’s nothing God is not sovereign over. Satan is a servant of God, he can only work within the perimeters that God defines. If he does not, he’s fully culpable. We – we would have a little difficulty in America understanding the word “sovereignty” since we’ve never lived under a sovereign. And I mean, if they – it’s a Johnny-come-lately notion concocted by some guys because they didn’t want God to be responsible for the way things were in the world. JOHN: Yeah, it is. JOHN: Yeah, and that’s a good place to go when you’ve got Nero killing Christians and Paul saying, “Submit to Nero.”. And you come back again to the personal accountability issue that every sinner is held responsible for his own unbelief. Did He weep over the grave of Lazarus? Clearly, if there’s nothing in existence and He makes the world and the universe and plans for this redemption to take place, then He had to plan sin into it while not being responsible for sin itself. JOHN: Well, they are the obvious dangers. PHIL: Yeah, that verse that you just quoted, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” comes in Romans 10 which is in – set in three chapters where the focus is on the sovereignty of God in salvation, Romans 9, 10 and 11. Characteristics such as truthfulness, goodness, faithfulness, righteousness, and love define God’s every action. The sovereignty of God is one of those theological ideas that causes some significant challenges in the lives of believers. If He does, then why didn't He? It – it –you know, just to give you an illustration. Yeah, I think that is exactly what the Bible teaches. Apart from the fact that God commands us to evange-lize—“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. And I said, you know, this – this sort of mass movement over here, what – what brought you here? The amazing reality when you think about the sovereignty of God is how God takes all of those acts of freedom and those infinite contingencies and controls them all to the ultimate end which He has predetermined. PHIL: Now, I don’t get to correct you very often, so I’m going to jump on my opportunity. There are no, “Oops, how did that happen?” to God. When we say “Lord” we’re meaning He’s in full control. A great many Christians can bear testimony to the earthshaking effects of realizing the sovereignty of God. The choice is part of His sovereign nature. JOHN: It will. And that –that and those – those kinds of questions really aren’t nearly as important to me as what kind of a God saves people who don’t deserve salvation and can’t do anything to earn it? And if you have – we would say you can’t be a Christian if you have a wrong view of Christ. JOHN: Yeah, well, because I’ve said it many times. Largely, they came to counseling through a … If I’m disobedient, I can’t say, “Well, it doesn’t matter, it wasn’t supposed to be me. Isaiah 46 verses 9 and 10. © 2021 Grace to You. Sometimes it is direct, sometimes it is. Yes, He did. You have to ask the question; how does it affect God? Plus it was all in the predetermined counsel and foreknowledge of God that it was working out that way and He saw it that way. 16:33). It’s one of these Christian Living articles I wanted to share with you today. That’s pretty well laid out as part of New Testament ministry, New Testament life. Sproul, along with Richard Phillips and Steven Lawson, unfolds the riches of God's rule over creation. And, of course, since the Bible indicates that the little ones that die enter in to His presence, this was a time of rejoicing. PHIL: And God has a purpose even going back to Paul’s time, Nero. He’s in charge of all of that. Everyone ends up with the question of God’s sovereignty and the question of evil; denying calvinism does not get you out of the dilemma. “My husband and I have been through trials we never thought we’d go through. That’s back to Romans 8:28. PHIL: Not to mention John the Baptist, lost his head over it. That doesn’t mean we tolerate the evil and the wickedness in the leadership. You know, invitations are all through the Scripture and given by our Lord Himself and given by the apostles and – and given by Isaiah. JOHN: So this was kind of a rift in the family. People can take one of two extremes in regard to this question. That He is who He is. PHIL: Yeah, I would say the answer to it is the cross. He may make predictions like some cosmic poker player, but He cannot know absolutely. (Jonathan Edwards, Selections, 58–59) A Brief Overview of Romans 9. JOHN: I think it is everywhere in Scripture. JOHN: That to me is the amazing reality. So I think, for me, no one understood the sovereignty of God better than the Lord Jesus did. Deborah Fagan Schultz. Many are ready to concede that God is sovereign over the … In fact, they would go so far as to say no one knows what’s going to happen in the future because nothing has happened in the future and therefore God can’t know what hasn’t happened because it hasn’t happened. JOHN: Well, Phil, thank you very much for all of your input and your insights and we can – we can do the best we can to understand these things and leave the rest to that time when we shall know as we are known. So everything that was going to be falling into the category of sin was within the framework of His purpose. But there are variations on that question that you occasionally hear in other realms. JOHN: There’s no way around that. God’s telling me to tell you this guy is going to be a great preacher around the world. We hear about hyper-Calvinism and some Christians do confuse the sovereignty of God with a kind of fatalistic point of view. PHIL: Yeah. In the end of the day, it’s wonderful to be able to live in perfect confidence that this is all within the larger purpose of God who hasn’t lost control of anything. So the question really is, why did God allow evil? PHIL: That’s a good note on which to end this conversation. All He says to him is, “I don’t owe you anything, this is not information you need, I don’t answer to you.”. PHIL: Now let me go back to something you said earlier, which is – has to do with the dangers of maybe an overemphasis on the sovereignty of God or a skewed view of the sovereignty of God. If He does, then why didn't He? 29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the JOHN: Yeah, I think the trend with Christians today is to say, you know, “This is a horrible thing that’s going on in our nation, you know, we’re – we’re going to be Communists, and they’re going to raise our taxes and all of this and where is God when we need Him?” Right where He’s always been. But if I’m obedient and do it, maybe God uses me as the means to that person’s salvation. PHIL: And then the New Testament parallel to that verse we started with in Isaiah would be Ephesians 1:11 which says, “God works all things after the counsel of His own will.”. Sovereign was a designation of the person who reigned, the – the single ruler, the king, the monolithic power, the unilateral authority and that is essentially what to say God is sovereign means, that He is the sole ruler, He is the sole authority. So I think this will help a lot of people if we can get a biblical handle on how to understand the sovereignty of God. God the Father planned that wretched day when hateful men would condemn His Son to death by crucifixion. This explains, open theists suggest, why God appears to change His mind: God is adjusting His plan based on the new information of unforeseeable events (see Gen. 6:6–7; 1 Sam. PHIL: Yeah. There’s no superintending power, there’s no overriding plan, there’s no person who is purposefully doing all of these things or allowing these things, fitting them together for a pre-determined plan. God’s sovereignty has nothing to do with causing violence, pain, and suffering in the world. PHIL: So in a sense, when we confess Jesus as Lord, we’re confessing that He is sovereign. Doesn’t it seem cruel of God to allow evil and then punish the evil doer? God’s Sovereignty provides us with comfort. By John C. Lennox. “Behold, all that he hath is in your power; only upon himself put not forth your hand.” In God’s sovereign position, He states the limitations to Satan; in this moment, Job is not to be touched. The only thing it should do is give us greater reason for expressing our adoration for who God is. You don’t sin under divine compulsion. God*s Foreknowledge Is Logical. And, by knowing Him, we can choose to trust Him with our lives. God did that, He overruled me in order to save me. When I – when you say it’s a heresy, I would say it borders on such a severe heresy as to perhaps have a God other than the true God. You’re a believer, I’m a believer, that’s the end, in a personal sense, but it is the end because it was the purpose, the beginning. He understood it perfectly. No evil is indirectly caused by God. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." I don’t know how that harmonizes and I always end up at this point. Dr. Sproul considers these questions in this message as he teaches us about the relationship between human freedom and "God's Sovereignty." PHIL: So the really, the really hard question, if you – if you get beyond the superficial aspect of this, the really hard question – and I think you said it at the beginning – it’s not why does God not save everybody, but why does He save anybody, anyone? That God does not prevent evil from existing seems to call into question His omnipotence or His benevolence. Soli Deo gloria. PHIL: In fact, if I – if I understand the chronology you give in the Study Bible, Nero was the person – he was the Caesar in charge when Paul wrote Romans 13 and Paul didn’t exclude him and say, “Since he’s such a bad guy, it’s okay to show him disrespect.”. If God knows what I’m going to say before I say it, His knowledge, rather than limiting my prayer, enhances the beauty of my praise. The Sovereignty of God, Freedom, Faith and Human Responsibility (Zondervan, 2018) by John C. Lennox (@ProfJohnLennox). In fact, there were so many of them in one group that I was asked if I would go to the choir room at our church, at Grace Church, and meet a choir loft full of these people who had just come over from this other Charismatic Church. As King of all creation, God exercises His sovereignty throughout the world. PHIL: Yeah, coming in that context, it – it is not saying well, you know, that the Lord is helpless to save anyone without our help. That’s simply saying that government as a reality, as a social reality is ordained by God for the wellbeing of man. That – that is as confusing to me as why He didn’t save somebody else. He could have said “house” and there could have been a house.
We talk about the providence of God. The Bible is crystal clear that God is the ruler, that God rules, that God does what He will, that no one can thwart His purpose, no one can stop His hand, that all things work together for good, that He is orchestrating all of human history and everything in it. Sovereignty is the absolute, unfettered right to decide when and how—and if—to use that power. Illustration, just a few days ago we had a little three-year-old boy in our church die, cycled through Leukemia three different times in three years, and he went to heaven. The will to create was entirely God’s. In other words, Baptists are OK with any doctrine that affirms both God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. PHIL: Yeah, you mentioned Joseph earlier. The first thing out of her mouth – she’s got tubes and wires and it’s horrendous – she says, “Oh, John, how’s your knee?” She’s asking me how my knee – and we began to talk, and there’s literally joy in her heart because as horrible as it is, young wife, young mother, four children about to be motherless and she’s going through the ravages of this cancer. PHIL: Ultimately if God is sovereign, this is His plan. PHIL: Yeah, the standard theological or precision term that we use is, “God is not the author of evil, He’s not the agent of it. JOHN: Well the answer to that, of course, is well because we don’t know who they are. from Derek Thomas Proverbs 16:9 says the very same truth really applies to all of us. Nothing catches God off guard. So if you start at that point – you know, if somebody else brought the universe into existence, and God was trying to get control of it, that would be one thing. And these came into being ex nihilo—out of nothing. God is sovereign in judgment. PHIL: Yeah, now it still raises questions that are very difficult. PHIL: Basically declares His own sovereignty. PHIL: Yeah, in recent years there’s been this, I would call it a heresy, known as open heresy, open theism. Limitless Sovereignty. And then I love the next line that I have determined the end at the beginning. JOHN: No, nothing. PHIL: So it is true, in a sense, in fact it’s true in the most fundamental sense to say that when I sin, I do so freely and not under compulsion? Rather, this truth is the very bedrock doctrine of all Scripture.