Archive for the ‘Sovereignty of God’ Category
Acts 2:23 shows us both the definite plan of Almighty God and the freedom of mankind. While God offered His Son according to His own purposes and plan, He also still held the people responsible who crucified the Lord of glory (Acts 3:13-15; 5:30; 7:52; 13:27-28; cf. Luke 22:22). While this verse clearly shows the sovereignty of God in the giving of His Son, it does not speak of man’s relation to God nor of our individual salvation. To read into Acts 2:23 “unconditional election” to personal salvation does not do justice to the text and is reading our theological notions into the words of Dr. Luke in Acts 2:23.
What we do see in Acts 2:23 is that God decreed that His Son would be given for the sins of the world. Jesus died according to the definite plan of God. However, the acts of evil men in killing the Son of God on the cross is their own acts that God will hold them accountable for. To read into Acts 2:23 that God “caused” people to mistreat the Son of God and kill Him is misleading. God foreknew all this because of His omniscience but He did not cause the evil acts no more than He did not cause the fall of mankind into sin. God foreknows all things but He does not cause all things. He controls all things and upholds all things by His own power (Hebrews 1:3) but He does not directly cause all things otherwise He would be guilty of sinning (James 1:12-15). Furthermore, that God foreknows is not the same as cause. Foreknowledge means that God knows beforehand. God knows does not mean God causes. That God knows evil acts will occur does not mean that He causes them. Because He foreknows all things, He is able to take the evil acts of mankind done by their own sinful will and He is able to turn them for His own purposes and glory (Romans 8:28). This is the case here in Acts 2:23 and with other passages such as Genesis 50:20.
Dr. Harry Ironside wrote about Acts 2:23 some good words:
Notice how two things come together here that often trouble thinkers among men. First, God’s predetermined purpose and wicked man’s free will. God had predetermined that His blessed Son was to come into the world and give His life a ransom for sinners. But God had not predetermined that men should curse Him, spit upon Him, and heap every kind of indignity upon Him. These things were of men’s godlessness led on by Satan. Peter says, “God sent Him; God knew all that would take place; but you are responsible for your sins in that you laid hold of Him and with your wicked hands crucified and slew Him.
One point about this is that God did foreknow the evil acts of men toward His Messiah. Notice in Psalm 22:16-18 how the Scriptures prophesy about how evil men would treat the Lord. Further, Isaiah 53 points to the evil acts of men toward the Lord’s suffering Servant, our Savior. God did foreknow all that be done to the Lord Jesus but He allowed these free acts to continue to fulfill His own decreed purpose, salvation to those who have faith in Him (John 3:14-18).
The twin truths of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are clearly seen in this text. God foreknows the evil acts of sinful men but He also has His own definite plan that will come to pass according to His own will. What a mighty God we serve!
Just today I saw a Calvinist blogger who posted a piece against Arminianism. His chief argument: Calvinism exalts God while Arminianism exalts Man. He is convinced from reading John Owen that Arminianism is nothing more than idolatry. He is also convinced that Arminianism is all about Mankind first and foremost. Whereas his Calvinism exalts God and destroys man’s pride (so he reasons).
In reality, Arminius had much to say about the Lordship or Dominion of God. From his writings it is clear that Arminius wanted to praise God above all else. He wants to exalt the love of God along with the holiness of God. How could God lovingly reconcile people while not ignoring sin nor His justice in regard to sin. For Arminius, the answer was clear: Jesus Christ was the embodiment of both the love of God and the holiness of God.
To show you that Arminius sought to exalt the Lordship of God, read the following remarks from his Works on the subject.
ON THE LORDSHIP OR DOMINION OF GOD
I. Through creation, dominion over all things which have been created by himself, belongs to the Creator. It is, therefore, primary, being dependent on no other dominion or on that of no other person; and it is, on this account, chief because there is none greater; and it is absolute, because it is over the entire creature, according to the whole, and according to all and each of its parts, and to all the relations which subsist between the Creator and the creature. It is, consequently, perpetual, that is, so long as the creature itself exists.
II. But the dominion of God is the right of the Creator, and his power over the creatures; according to which he has them as his own property, and can command and use them, and do about them, whatever the relation of creation and the equity which rests upon it, permit.
III. For the right cannot extend further than is allowed by that cause from which the whole of it arises, and on which it is dependent. For this reason, it is not agreeable to this right of God, either that he delivers up his creature to another who may domineer over such creature, at his arbitrary pleasure, so that he be not compelled to render to God an account of the exercise of his sovereignty, and be able, without any demerit on the part of the creature, to inflict every evil on a creature capable of injury, or, at least, not for any good of this creature; or that he [God] command an act to be done by the creature, for the performance of which he neither has, nor can have, sufficient and necessary powers; or that he employ the creature to introduce sin into the world, that he may, by punishing or by forgiving it, promote his own glory; or, lastly, to do concerning the creature whatever he is able, according to his absolute power, to do concerning him, that is eternally to punish or to afflict him, without [his having committed] sin.
IV. As this is a power over rational creatures, (in reference to whom chiefly we treat on the dominion and power of God,) it may be considered in two views, either as despotic, or as kingly, or patriarchal. The former is that which he employs without any intention of good which may be useful or saving to the creature; that latter is that which he employs when he also intends the good of the creature itself. And this last is used by God through the abundance of his own goodness and sufficiency, until he considers the creature to be unworthy, on account of his perverseness, to have God presiding over him in his kingly and paternal authority.
V. Hence, it is, that, when God is about to command some thing to his rational creature, he does not exact every thing which he justly might do, and he employs persuasions through arguments which have regard to the utility and necessity of those persuasions.
VI. In addition to this, God enters into a contract or covenant with his creature; and he does this for the purpose that the creature may serve him, not so much “of debt,” as from a spontaneous, free and liberal obedience, according to the nature of confederations which consist of stipulations and promises. On this account, God frequently distinguishes his law by the title of a COVENANT.
VII. Yet this condition is always annexed to the confederation, that if man be unmindful of the covenant and a contemner of its pleasant rule, he may always be impelled or governed by that domination which is really lordly, strict and rigid, and into which, he who refuses to obey the other [species of rule], justly falls.
VIII. Hence, arises a two-fold right of God over his rational creature. The First, which belongs to him through creation; the Second, through contract. The former rests on the good which the creature has received from his Creator; the latter rests on the still greater benefit which the creature will receive from God, his preserver, promoter and glorifier.
IX. If the creature happen to sin against this two-fold right, by that very act, he gives to God, his Lord, King and Father, the right of treating him as a sinning creature, and of inflicting on him due punishment; and this is a THIRD right, which rests on the wicked act of the creature against God.
As we approach the upcoming elections here in the United States, may we as disciples of Jesus Christ remember that our God is the Sovereign ruler of the nations. He alone is God! He alone reigns! Every knee will bow to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and confess that He alone is Lord (Philippians 2:5-11) including every US President and every king who has ever lived.
In light of this, I want to give you some Scriptures to meditate upon about the sovereign rule of God. Let us declare to all nations that Jesus is Lord and that we are citizens of His eternal kingdom (Daniel 2:44).
Deuteronomy 4:39; 10:14, 17
2 Kings 19:15
1 Chronicles 29:11-12
2 Chronicles 20:6
Job 25:2; 40:6; 41:11
Psalm 5:2; 10:16; 22:27-28; 24:1, 10; 29:10; 44:4; 45:6; 47:2, 8-9; 66:7; 67:4; 74:12; 83:18; 84:3; 89:14; 93:1-2; 95:3; 97:1-2, 9; 98:6; 99:4-5; 103:19; 113:4; 115:3; 145:1, 13; 146:10; 149:2
Isaiah 6:5; 33:22; 37:16; 43:15; 44:6; 66:1
Ezekiel 18:1, 4
Daniel 2:20-21, 47; 4:34-35; 6:26
1 Timothy 1:17; 6:15
Meditate upon these and have no fear for our God is in control!
I saw this posted on Twitter and have received this complaint before. The reasoning is that in Calvinism God is allowed to be sovereign so that all that comes to pass happens because God wills it so (Ephesians 1:11 is the cited passage for this view). Arminians then despise the sovereignty of God because we deny that God wills all that comes to pass.
Calvinism is not actually congruent on this issue. Some Calvinists (hyper-Calvinists) hold that all that happens including sin and the Fall of Man are all planned and rendered certain by God. Other Calvinists would say that God merely allows sin to take place even though He knows it is going to happen and wills it so. How God escapes being the author of sin in either view is beyond me. Most Calvinists simply say that since God is holy and good then even when He plans evil, it is good. They point to events such as the crucifixion of the Son of God as proof of this view (Acts 2:22-23).
Arminianism holds to the sovereignty of God but we believe that God limits Himself so that true loving relationships may exist. God created Adam and Eve as free will creatures but what or whom was responsible for their fall into sin? I would argue that Adam and Eve fell because they disobeyed God out of their own free will. The same would be true for you and I. We sin because we want to sin. We sin not because Satan makes us or God wills it so but because we have free will and can rebel against God. The nation of Israel is proof of this. God allowed Israel to have a covenant relationship with Him wherein He called them to obey Him and if they did, He would bless them (Deuteronomy 8). No doubt God chose Israel for His glory (Deuteronomy 9:1-5) but He likewise warned them not to rebel as they had in the past (Deuteronomy 9:6-11) but the people, out of their own free will, rebelled against God anyway (Deuteronomy 9:12-21). It took Moses’ intercession to turn away the wrath of God (Deuteronomy 9:25-29).
The reality is that Arminianism does not deny the sovereignty of God but we do not exalt God’s sovereignty to the exclusion of His grace, His mercy, or His love. The cross demonstrates that God loves His creation and desires to have a covenant relationship with them through faith in His Son (John 1:11-13; 3:16; 5:24; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 2 Peter 3:9). All who call upon the name of the Lord can be saved (Romans 10:13). The promise of salvation is given to all (Acts 2:38-39). All can come and drink of the water of life (Revelation 22:17). The cross shows the great love of God for His creatures (Romans 5:8-9; 1 John 4:10, 14).
So we don’t deny the sovereignty of God. We simply acknowledge that God, in His sovereignty, has placed a condition upon salvation and that is faith. When a sinner repents of their sins, they become part of the elect of God whom He foreknew (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:1-2). The elect are only those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10). We acknowledge that Scripture teaches both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of humanity to believe the gospel. Both are true.
Dr. Roger Olson points out in his blog where John Piper is once again making statements about God ordaining all that comes to pass including sin for His glory. This is not the first time nor the last time I am sure that Piper will make statements about God’s absolute sovereignty and sin. Piper believes that all sin is ordained by God and rendered certain no matter how vile the sin may be. How he escapes making God the author of sin is beyond me. Such a view, where God is the omnicause of all things in the universe makes God the author (and finisher I might add) of sin. Yet James 1:13-15 tells us that God is not tempted by evil nor does He tempt anyone to do evil. I remember reading Piper’s book, Spectacular Sins, in which he builds a case that James 1:13-15 is not saying that God does not ordain sin. I shook my head while reading his book. To make God the author of rape, murder, cancer, untold amounts of suffering, hurricanes, violence of all kinds makes me shake my head in wonder.
Olson points out that some Calvinists hold that this understanding of God is mysterious. The famous (or infamous) verse for this is usually Deuteronomy 29:29. When Calvinists are backed up in a corner about God’s character especially as revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 10:38), they usually will point to Deuteronomy 29:29 and the fact that we don’t understand all of God’s way nor His being. Calvin did this. Many other Calvinist theologians have done the same. A few have wandered down the road of making God the author of sin including Jonathan Edwards whom Piper adores.
If God is the essence of true love (1 John 4:8) then it would follow that if we put God in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 we get a wonderful picture of our God. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV) says:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Is that the God who renders all things certain including sin for His glory? Would it not make more sense to believe that while God is sovereign, He has allowed permissible freedom to His creation and this view does not undermine His holiness, His character, His salvation, nor His right to do as He pleases for His glory such as the second coming of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:11).
The Lord Jesus revealed to us fully God (John 14:9). Colossians 1:15 (NIV) says that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Jesus fully revealed God and showed His love and His grace with His death on the cross and His resurrection (Romans 5:8-9). It was both the holiness of God and the love of God that sent Jesus to the cross for our sins (John 3:16). We can rejoice in the good character of God and His love for us. He desires our repentance (2 Peter 3:9) and not our damnation (Romans 11:32).