You can’t hang around WRPC too long without realizing that we love boasting in our sovereign Lord. But, you may not be aware that the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty is under assault – again – in evangelical circles. Oh well, there is nothing new under the sun….Whether it was the Romans (that Paul was correcting in Romans 9-11) OR Pelagius OR Erasmus OR John Wesley OR Charles Finney OR the Open Theists of today, God’s sovereignty has been attacked for 2000 years! Here are some of the objections raised when we teach (as our Shorter Catechism Question #7 says) “He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”
• Objection One – “God is NOT sovereign, I am the center of my universe.” The most egregious examples of this sort of thinking are embodied in the lines from William Ernest Henley’s classic poem Invictus… “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my
soul.” What Henley is trying desperately to say is that God would not intrude on my personal sovereignty.
• Objection Two – God is just like me. He is ignorant of the future (this view has been officially codified by the movement known as “Open Theism”) and CANNOT ordain what will happen in the future.
• Objection Three – Well sovereignty, election, and predestination may be in the Bible, but they are “peripheral” and not central.
It is the Third Objection I’d like to address: Is sovereignty a “major” or a “minor”? Simply put, I cannot think of anything more “major” than this: Is God in control of all things, or not? Does He save sinners OR do they save themselves? Does He foreordain all things OR does He ignorantly wait to see what happens? The brilliant modern Reformed theologian David Wells (buy anything he has ever written!) rightly states:
It is one of the defining marks of our time that God is now weightless. I do not mean by this. That he is ethereal but rather that He has become unimportant. Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider Him less interesting than television, His commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, His judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news and His truth less compelling than the advertisers sweet joy of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness.
– from God in the Wasteland (p. 88)
For a case study of the importance of the Sovereignty of God, let’s look at Paul’s epistles…What we will see is that he either addresses it right up front (in an epistle) OR he addresses it at great length:
Romans, well, you know how extensively Paul asserts God’s sovereignty in redemption in Romans 9-11!
In 1 Corinthians Paul cannot even get out of the first chapter without asserting the doctrine of God’s sovereign call (1:2), the idea of sovereign grace (1:4) and sovereign election (1:27).
In Galatians Paul wants to stress (again in the first chapter, 1:15) the idea of a sovereign and gracious call to salvation.
In Ephesians Paul unleashes a flurry of assertions about God’s sovereignty (again in the first chapter). In 1:4 we find that God sovereignly chose us before time. In 1:5 Paul asserts that God predestined us for salvation. He repeats this theme in 1:11.
In Philippians Paul is so confident of God’s sovereign power that he can assert (in 1:6) that God WILL complete the good work He has begun in believers.
In Colossians (1:13) we are told of God’s mighty and sovereign deliverance of believers from the realm of darkness into the kingdom of light.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:4 Paul wants to assert God’s sovereign and distinguishing work of election.
In 2 Timothy (1:9) Paul makes the same point that was earlier made in Ephesians 1, namely that God has sovereignly saved us and called us because of His eternally, gracious purposes.
In Titus Paul cannot get past the opening breath of his letter (1:1) before He speaks of “the elect”.
What’s my point? The Apostle Paul did not see sovereignty as something that was peripheral, or something that he was embarrassed about. No, he often speaks about it FIRST in his letters.
So, why do we emphasize the Sovereignty of God? Because it magnifies God’s greatness and makes Him….weighty. Because it is a major theme of the Scriptures (especially Paul). Because it is TRUE!
– Pastor Carl