Dane K. Jöhannsson
Lead Pastor, Agros Reformed Baptist Church
The Lord our God, is Jehovah, the great “I AM” over all things; the only “Alpha and the Omega” the only “beginning and the end”, the only “yea and amen” above all. He is the one great omnipotent King over all things. His reign extends not only over all things that exist but also over all things that did exist or will exist. All things exist by His will and were created “by Him, through Him and to Him”(Rom.11:36) Furthermore His sovereignty not only consists of His governing all that exists but even in their coming into existence in the first place. By His own sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient will He has decreed all that exists, as well as all that happens to, with or through those things that exist. Nothing exists and nothing occurs that He has not decreed. No being, no action, no occurrence, no event, no transaction, no happenstance, and no moment transpires that was not foreordained by Him.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states in Chapter 3.1 that, “God has decreed in Himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass.” That means all things; from the creation of the universe (Gen.1:1), the establishment of peoples and nations (Acts 17:26), disasters and prosperity (Is.45:7), the crucifixion of God’s only begotten Son Jesus Christ (Rev.13:8; Acts 2:23), the salvation of individual sinners (Eph.1:4,5), even to the death of the smallest and most insignificant bird (Matt.10:29). All things take place because God determined that they would.
In the book of Isaiah, Jehovah God says, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”(Is.46:9,10) God does all His pleasure, nothing shall hinder His will. This includes the free actions of His creatures. However, the bible does not teach fatalism, it teaches God’s sovereignty. The confession goes on to state, “God is neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
A creature is indeed free, but is only free as a creature. God is free as God. The foreordained actions of the creatures are still their free actions. Thet fall out as “second causes” of the first cause, namely, God’s decree. A fish is still free to live its life as a fish though it cannot live the life of a bird. The fish can live only as a fish can live, and a bird only as a bird, but this does not take away their free acts as fish and birds. So too, man can only do what a man can do, but his freedom as a man is not hindered because he cannot live an act according to the freedom of God.
What then do we learn from the sovereign decree of God? How then shall we live?
First, We should not and cannot attribute our evil actions to God. We must avoid such thinking that causes us to say, “If God has decreed all my actions, then my choosing to sin is God’s fault and not my own.” This is a horrid abuse of God’s decrees, as if they constrained us to sin. Rather, what we as sinners chose to do, we do most freely of our own will and choice. The Bible nowhere excuses man’s free acts of sin by God’s decree, but rather states that God will punish the wicked for their sinful choices.
Secondly, Since nothing falls out by chance or by human design, we must learn to view all events in the world as coming to pass by the counsel and appointment of God alone, “the lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is from the Lord.”(Prov.16:33) Thus, in viewing events which transpire in this world we must take into consideration God’s decree and say, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.”(1Sam.3:18) This extends to our making of plans as well. Rather than saying, “I’m am going to do such and such tomorrow”, we should learn to say, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”(James 4:15)
Thirdly, We should learn to rest in God’s sovereignty as the greatest assurance of His care and love toward us. Whatever occurs is “predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”(Eph.1:11) What then is God’s will? The apostle Paul has told us what that will is, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.”(1Thess.4:3) This teaches us that God decrees all things for His glory and our good. Indeed, Paul joins our assurance of God’s care for us with God’s sovereign will and purposes, stating that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”(Rom.8:28) Let us therefore fear nothing, but say, “If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”(Rom.8:31,32)
Fourthly, We must learn not to murmur against God or complain about our situations and stations in life. To do so is to defame the counsels of infinite wisdom, as if God had wrongly ordered our affairs without wisdom, or that He ought to have sought our counsel for His decree. To think or say, “If I were God, I would have planned much better” is to partake in great blasphemy. We must remember God’s response to such reasoning, “O’ man, who art thou that replest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”(Rom.9:20) Rather, we ought to be grateful to God and to comfort ourselves in all situations by the knowledge of God’s sovereignty. Amidst whatever befalls us, we can rest quietly and submissively in the bosom of God, knowing that whatever comes or can come to pass, proceeds from the decree of our gracious friend and loving heavenly Father, who knows what is best for us, and will make all things work together for our good.
Lastly, Let us see that God’s sovereign decree also includes the giving of His only begotten Son to us. Our sweet Savior Jesus Christ is given to us by God’s decree. Jesus Christ is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”, God’s “only begotten Son”, the One through whom God “commendeth His love toward us”, by giving Him to us, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 1:18; Rom.5:8; John 3:16) If God’s sovereign decree included such good for our souls as Jesus Christ Himself, we ought then to trust Him in all things. If He did not spare His own Son for us and for our felicity, He will surely not spare anything else for our good.
We therefore see that the doctrine of God’s sovereignty over all things is to be used for our comfort and benefit, not for our confusion or fear. Let us improve this great doctrine by placing our trust and our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior. Our confession closes its section on God’s Decree in paragraph seven by telling us exactly how we ought to use this doctrine, and we do well to heed it: “The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election; so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel.”
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