The following was adapted from a sermon delivered by Jacob Abshire on March 14, 2013. It was preached at Christian Tabernacle’s The Journey, a Wednesday Night Bible Study. It was part of a series on the foundation teachings about God’s nature.
Let’s start by recapping the series so far because I want you to see something. We started with the word “inspiration” and we talked about the inspiration of Scripture. We said that it means that Scripture is given by God to man, untainted and unaltered, exactly the way God intended it to be delivered. It is as if God spoke it right into your paper. So, it is true and accurate on what it teaches.
Next, we looked at the word “authority” which dealt with the authority of Scripture. By this, we said that God’s word, the Scripture, teaches on everything that we need to know for the life after and how to walk in the ways of God in this life. Since the Bible is authoritative, it is the right and power to command us to do or not do things, how to think, how to live, how to speak and respond. Additionally, the Scripture has the power to cause us to do what it says. We have our power in it.
Thirdly, we talked about “perspicuity” or the clarity of Scripture. We said that since God spoke and what He speaks is authoritative for our lives, it must be also clear and understandable in what it teaches. Otherwise, it would be meaningless. So it is the light of Christ, shining in our hearts and minds, guiding us to God in heaven.
Fourth, we folded the past three lessons into one word, “sufficiency” which means that the Scripture is all we need. It speaks to everything and gives us everything we need to glorify God. We do not need to turn to any other truth but God’s truth, that is, if we are to live life in such a way that God is pleased.
After that, we started four more big words on God’s nature. First it was God’s word, then it was God’s nature. The first three words on God’s word, folded into a culminating truth in the fourth word. The same is true of the four words chosen for God’s nature. First, we started with “omniscient.” We said that the Bible teaches that God is all-knowing. There is nothing He cannot know that can be known. He knows everything before anything was created.
Secondly, we learned from “omnipresent” which means that God is everywhere. Moreover, the Bible teaches that God is everywhere in every time of history and all at the same time. More importantly, He is where He is in His fullness. He is not there partly, or in pieces, all of God is where God is.
Thirdly, we saw that “omnipotent” speaks of God’s power. He is all-powerful. This means that since God created all things, He is more powerful than all things. There is nothing that exists that is more powerful than Him. He is the supreme power.
Now, fold those three words together and you have the word “sovereign” which is what our focus will be tonight. God is sovereign. By this we mean that God necessarily governs all things in the way that He desires. Now, let me put this in a way that you can feel it.
Today, we remember the day that the two terrorist planes violently crashed into the World Trade Center killing more than 2,000 people. We call it by the date, 9/11. On that day, people all over the country were asking, where was God? Now did it ever occur to you that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent? Let me ask you this. Did God know about this tragedy before it happened? Was He there when it happened? Do you think that God could have prevented it from happening? Now think carefully about how you answer those questions. It is our natural tendency to try and excuse God from bad things even when we misunderstand God’s rule. It is a noble act on our behalf but it is poor way to think about God. You see, if you answer “no” to any of those question—if you say either: God didn’t know, or God wasn’t there, or God couldn’t stop it—then you have just demoted God. You have dethroned Him and robbed Him of His Godness. You have made God more like man than God.
This, my friends is what we have be doing for years. It is our human nature to do what we can, even with good intentions, to rob God of who He is. You make God small. Martin Luther, when debating with Erasmus over this subject, said to him, “Your thoughts of God are too human.” But that is quite consistent with our fallen nature—to think of God as man. In Psalm 50:21, we find God saying this to people like that, “You thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.”
But, we don’t have to rob God of His nature in order to protect His reputation. No, God is omniscient and He knew about 9/11 before anything was created. And when those planes wrecked the buildings, God was there. And, if He so desired, God could have changed the entire situation in anyway He wanted. Do you feel that? Do you feel the weight of that? God was there. He knew it was going to happen and He did not do anything to prevent it.
Now this opens us up to something even more deeper than that. Let’s jump back to Adam and Eve before the Fall. Do you think that God knew that they would fall into sin? Of course, He did. Do you think that He was there when they sinned? Of course! Do you think that God could have made Adam and Eve in such a way that they would never fall to temptation? Of course He could! But He didn’t! He made them this way and they fell to sin and here we are today. So these past three lesson are more intense than you might think. And now we have to deal with what this means.
God is sovereign.
Now, there is no subject more dear to my heart than this one. You can ask my wife about how many discussions I’ve opened with this. I love to talk about God’s sovereignty. The popular preacher and teacher R.C. Sproul, you might have heard of him through the radio, he said that this is “God’s favorite subject” as well. You see, the sovereignty of God elevates God to the highest point. It summarizes His nature. There is nothing that magnifies God more than His sovereignty.
Therefore, it is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. One preachers said that it was like the skeleton of the truths of Scripture. If the skeleton is not there, none of the other teaches of the Bible will hold up. So the sovereignty of God is what holds up the teachings of the Scripture.
Another preacher talked about sovereignty being the top point of a tall mountain. If a drop of water falls to the tip and drains down the side of the mountain, it can go two ways: one way leads to the glory of God and the other leads to the glory of man. If you do not have God’s sovereignty in order, you will essentially be elevating man to God state. Did you catch that? Listen, if God is not supreme and in control of all things, then who is? Is it you? Is it me? If it is not God, then it is someone else who is god. So we must handle this doctrine with great care and diligence.
Now, what does it mean? We know the word sovereign to mean ruler. Someone who reigns. Not like the water from the sky, but the one who holds a royal office and governs a nation or a group of people. We live in America where it is a democracy, so we don’t really know what living under a monarch is, but across the seas there are countries that have a single leader that makes all the decisions of the nation. I like to think of Queen Elizabeth—mainly because my youngest daughter is named Elizabeth, her middle name, and she thinks that she is the queen of the house and that she runs it. Queen Elizabeth makes decisions for the entire nation. So we call her “sovereign.”
If you wanted to put a definition to it, you might say that a sovereign, or if we are talking about God, you might say, God’s sovereignty means that God is the supreme ruler, ultimate authority, indisputable power of all creation. Remember that we said that creation is time, space, matter and everything in between. It is the space, earth, dirt, breath, wind, molecules, atoms, thoughts, and so forth. God is the supreme ruler of all these things and therefore, He governs them the way He desires. He has the right to do it, since He made it all, and He has the power and ability to do it.
Now there are some obvious difference between God’s sovereignty and a human’s sovereignty, like that of Queen Elizabeth. God is all knowing. She is not. God is all present. She is not. God is all powerful. She is not. So immediately you can see that God is much better at being a sovereign than any man or woman. To take it further, God is eternal. Man is not. God was here first. Man was made. God rules perfectly. Man rules imperfectly. God has no beginning or end. Man has both. God was not elected or born into sovereignty. Man was. God has no equal and no competition. Man does. By this, we can see that God is more fit for the job. God is the only one who can be God.
Turn to Isaiah 46:8-11. “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”
God is God alone. There is no other. He was God before time. He declares the end from the beginning. He writes it all out the way He wants. Notice, that He has counsel. But it is not with man. He counsels with Himself—the Trinity. He deliberates and then makes a decision. The decision He makes has a purpose and He will accomplish it. He says that He calls “a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country.” God raised up a man to conquer Babylon. “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”
There is the key to the front door of sovereignty. God has a purpose and He brings it to pass. That is God actively working in His creation to make all things work together the way He wants them to work.
Turn to Psalm 115:3 and let’s get a better and easier definition to remember. Here we find a contrast between God and the gods of the earth—those made by man. And the text starts off with God, then goes to the gods, but I want to do it backwards because it might serve us a little better for tonight. Let’s start with verse 4. This is about the earthly gods:
“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.”
Notice if you will how these gods are described. First of all, they are crafted by men. That is to say that man has devised these gods to their own liking. What does man like in a god? Well, man likes a god who is incapable of speaking, of seeing, of hearing, of smelling, of feeling, of walking. But, they want their god to look in every way like a human. So, picture a human being with a mouth, eyes, ears, a nose, hands, feet, and tongue, but cannot use any of those faculties at all. This is the god of man. It is a god who is limited to human design and human choice and human opinion. This is the god of man. You may not know this, but at some point, this was your god as well.
Now, go back up to verse 3. Just one verse is for God, that’s interesting. Maybe that is all that needed to be said. “Our God,” that is, the God of the Israelites, “is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Wow. What a contrast!
First of all, “our God is in the heavens.” This is not to say that God is only out there in space or away from all of us. It is to say that God is on a sovereign thrown. He is high and lifted up. Psalm 103:19 says this: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” Moreover, Isaiah 66:1 records God as saying, “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool.”
This is what is meant by Psalm 115:3 when it says “Our God is in the heavens.” It means that God is not just up there, He is up there ruling, watching, governing, and we down here are in His kingdom. He is governing us. He is up there. We are down here. He is on the throne. We are his footstool. He rests His feet on our heads, if you will.
Now, that sets the context. Here is the definition for you: “He does all that he pleases.” Do you see that? God rules and does all that He pleases. He has no limitation or needs. He is not dependent on any of us. Do you see that? God did not make us because He needed us. He needs nothing. He is self-sufficient. He is God and God alone. Since He made all things, then all things are subject to Him.
Let’s look quickly at the word “does” to see a bit clearer. God “does” all that He pleases. This is a Hebrew word that means accomplish, work, fashion, applies, executes, exercise, produce, use, observe, acquire. These are just some of the words used to translate this single word. And it means all of those things. God accomplishes, fashions, applies, works, executes all that He pleases.
Something that we have looked at quite a bit during this series is creation. You know what God did to create. First, He counseled. He discussed and thought it through. He made a plan and purpose. Then, He spoke it all into place. And you know, when He spoke and set things into motion, they happened exactly the way He wanted. There was water, trees, plants, ground, stars, moons, suns, galaxies, animals, logic, laws and then there was Adam and Eve. Now, keep in mind that God is outside of time, so He didn’t just kickstart everything, He made it all to work a certain way so that all of it would accomplish His good pleasure.
The next word to look at is the word “all” and it has to do with His pleasure. This means that everything that God wants to do will be accomplished. He will do it. From the earth to the sea, to the nations to the heart of man. He rules it all.
What God Rules
Now, I had plans to go into all the things that God rules, from the weather, nature, life, plants, animals, governments, nations, waters, and more. I mean, we can spend weeks on this. When the Bible says that God rules all, it means everything. Let me help you see a glimpse of that.
Turn to Psalm 135. “For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.” We have already touched on that. “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” So that includes spiritual dimensions, outer space, here on earth, in the depths of the waters. “He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.” So we see that God rules the weather and natural calamities. “He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel.”
Now, God rules the elements of creation, but He also rules the people. He had some killed. He had some blessed. You see that? You know that when the walls of Jericho came down, people died? You know the when the Israelites exited Egypt through the sea and the walls of water collapsed on the Egyptian army, people died. You see that right? Those were no accidents.
Turn to Acts 4:27. Here we find God ruling in a way much more intimate. This is about the events of the seizing, trials, betrayal and murder of Jesus Christ on the cross. Watch how it is all described, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
So you see that all of this happened because God sovereignly ordained it to happen. Now, we don’t know exactly how that works because God hasn’t explained himself but we know that Pilate willingly had Jesus put to death exactly the way God intended it to happen. Herod, the Jews, Judas, and everyone else who was involved. Nearly every detailed was prophesied years before it happened and yet it happened exactly the way it was prophesied, even when they knew it was prophesied. They didn’t do it any other way. They all did “whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
Now that is an interesting way to put it—predestined. This means to decide the destination before starting. The end is set before the beginning. That is what that means. Now I’ll admit that this is all pretty weighty stuff and it gets heavier.
Turn one last time to Ephesians 1. Beginning with verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” Do you see that? Before things were made, God ruled and had a purpose. He already had a plan as to how things would happen. Now, in case it is not clear to you just yet, this passage is talking about salvation. God even plans those who will be saved. Let’s continue.
“That we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Now before we this next verse, let’s see this in full. God, before anything was created, put together a plan and then put the plan in place so that it would happen exactly the way it was planned and it all was culminating to this one point when God would come in the fulness of Christ and redeem a people for Himself.
Finally, here it is: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” There is Psalm 115 again. God is in the heavens, and He works all things according to the counsel of his will.
Paul repeated this in Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” God works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. How does He do it? I don’t know. I know this. You have a will. God has a will. His will will happen and so will your’s. Listen, you all came here tonight because you wanted to. You were not dragged here by anyone, not literally. You came here by your own willingness. You know something, because you are here, we can say with great confidence that God’s will was that you were to come here tonight. You are not a robot doing what God determined. But you will do as God determined, you will do it willingly and by your own initiative. Now, I can’t explain it any more further than that because God hasn’t. So we have to rest on that.
If this were not so, then we could not hold to the wonderful passage in Romans 8:23, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”