************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 1L ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 2, 2019
"God is Sovereign"
Listen to the definition of God given by the sound doctrine of the Belgic Confession of Faith:
We all believe in our hearts
and confess with our mouths
that there is a single
whom we call God.
What is this God like? What are His attributes or characteristics? We have been going through the ones listed by the Belgic Confession of Faith. We have confessed to each other and to the world that our God is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty, completely wise, just, good and the overflowing source of all good. But this list is not exhaustive. Theologians have identified 30 or more attributes of God. Last Sunday night we looked at the love of God. Today, as suggested a number of weeks ago, we look at God's sovereignty.
This morning we installed elders and deacons. We warned them not to be like Diotrephes (3 Jn 1:9). Do you know Diotrephes' problem? He thought and acted like he was sovereign. But in the church and in all of creation there is only one Sovereign -- the Lord God Almighty. No one and no thing is allowed to take His place.
I What is Sovereignty?
A To say that God is sovereign is to say He is supreme over all things, that there is no one above Him, that He is absolute Lord over all creation. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is outside of His control.
This is so clearly taught in our Scripture reading from Job 12. Remember Job's losses? His oxen and donkeys were carried away by the Sabeans and the servants with them were killed. Fire fell from the sky and burned up his sheep and his servants. The Chaldeans carried off his camels and put his servants to the sword. A mighty wind struck down his oldest son's house and his sons and daughters and their servants were killed. After this Job was afflicted with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head; Job actually scraped himself with a piece of broken pottery to relieve his misery.
So who is responsible for all this grief and pain and misery? Who caused it? Job knows: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away" (Job 1:21). Ask the animals and the birds and the earth and the fish, Job says, and they all will tell you "the hand of the Lord has done this" (Job 12:9). The hand of the Lord has done this. As the Catechism puts it in Q & A 27:
leaf and blade,Job looks at his life this way. He looks at his life through the lens of God's sovereignty. He knows his losses come from God's fatherly hand. Everything knows this -- even the animals, birds, earth, and fish. God is sovereign.
rain and drought,
fruitful and lean years,
food and drink,
health and sickness,
prosperity and poverty --
all things, in fact, come to us
not by chance
but from his fatherly hand.
If Job was a poet or a song-writer he would say something similar to the song we will be singing after this message:
I sing the mighty pow'r of GodJob looks at God's storehouses and declares that if God holds back the waters, there is drought (Job 12:15). God, says Job, controls the mighty of this world: counselors, judges, kings, priests, nobles (Job 12:17-21). God makes nations great and destroys them (Job 12:23). God is sovereign.
That made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
And built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained
The sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at His command
And all the stars obey.
There's not a plant or flow'r below
But makes Thy glories known;
And clouds arise and tempests blow
By order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee
Is ever in Thy care,
And everywhere that man can be,
Thou, God, are present there.
[The Celebration Hymnal # 128]
B God's sovereignty does not mean God can do anything. Rather, God's sovereignty means God is able to do anything He wills to do. Let me emphasize this: God's sovereignty means God is able to do anything He wills to do. The sovereignty of God does not mean that God can lie, for God does not will to lie. The sovereignty of God does not mean God can break a promise, for God does not will to break any of His promises. The sovereignty of God does not mean God can build a rock that is too big for Him to carry, for God does not will to build such a rock. God can do anything He wills to do. God is absolutely sovereign -- no one can compel Him, no one can hinder Him, no one can stop Him. God has the power to do as He pleases -- at all times and in all places.
C God's sovereignty means God is able to do anything He wills to do. This implies something about God. This implies God has a plan. This implies God has a design. This implies God has a goal. Which means God does not play by ear, or doodle, or follow whatever happens to come into His mind. God works everything according to the plans He purposed in Christ from eternity to eternity, before Adam walked in the Garden of Eden, before He made the sun and moon and stars. God, who knows all our tomorrows, is carrying out His eternal purposes.
What purposes? God's sovereignty contains His plans to create heaven and earth and everything in them. God's sovereignty contains His plans to allow sin. God's sovereignty contains His plans for the Savior -- the virgin birth, the sinless life, the atoning death, the glorious resurrection, and the exalted ascension.
God's sovereignty implies God's eternal purposes. And, God's eternal purposes implies His plans do not change. Our plans change all the time as we respond to different situations and circumstances. A vacation is planned but someone becomes sick or dies -- the plans change. You plan on arriving back home by 5 pm but a flat tire or engine trouble or bad weather delays your trip -- so your plans change. God's plans never change. Why? Because He is sovereign. Our sovereign God knows nothing about unforeseen circumstances because he has planned the end from the beginning. There are no accidents in God's eyes.
D God is sovereign -- which further implies power and authority. God cannot be sovereign unless He has the power to do His will. Nor can God be sovereign unless He has the authority to exercise His power.
Let's talk about our President for a moment. Imagine if he had no power and no authority. He would be nothing but a figurehead -- something like the Queen of England. A ruler cannot stand up and say, "Do this, please, if you feel like doing it." Rather, he says, "Do it," and has the power of the army and the law behind him. He has the authority to command and the power to carry out his commands. God is sovereign. His is all power and all authority.
Contrast God to Samson. Samson was a man with power and no authority. He had no idea what to do with the power he had. Also, contrast God to the United Nations. Here is an organization which is an example of authority and no power.
God Almighty is sovereign -- His is power and authority. He has all power. But God also has authority -- He doesn't have to ask permission for anything. Does He need permission before blowing the top off a volcanic mountain? Does He need permission before opening a black hole in space? Does He need permission before moving a star or a meteor? Can you imagine Him applying to a higher authority? To whom would He apply? Who is higher than the highest? At whose throne would God kneel for permission? God is sovereign.
In my second sermon on Article 1 of the Belgic Confession of Faith I said the characteristics of God can be divided into communicable and incommunicable attributes. Incommunicable attributes cannot be communicated, or given, to man or the rest of His creation; these attributes belong to God alone and clearly distinguish Him from all that He has made. Communicable attributes are communicated, or given, to man; with these attributes, man faintly reflects what God is like; with these attributes, man images God. God's sovereignty is an incommunicable attribute. He does not share this attribute with anyone; He cannot or else He no longer is God.
II God's Sovereignty and Free Will
A God is sovereign. Where does free will fit into this? Go back to God's servant Job. Is he nothing but a puppet in the hands of God?
To answer this let's take a look at Adam. As created what did Adam have? He was furnished in his mind with a true and salutary knowledge of his Creator and things spiritual, in his will and heart with righteousness, and in all his emotions with purity; indeed, the whole man was holy. That was man before the Fall into sin.
Of his own free will, at the devil's instigation, Adam rebelled against God. Of his own free will. Of his own free will. As created, man's will was free.
But now what? Adam deprived himself of all God's outstanding gifts. He brought upon himself blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in his mind; perversity, defiance, and hardness in his heart and will; and impurity in all his emotions. Man's will is still free but it chooses what is in accordance with its will: darkness, blindness, distortion, hardness, impurity. Fallen people have a fallen will. Is it free? Yes. Unfortunately, what it is free to do is sin. We are so corrupt we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.
B Belief in God's sovereignty especially comes to expression in the doctrines of election and reprobation. There is a church outside of town that calls itself "Freewill Baptist." This church is declaring that salvation is man's choice. Man chooses to believe. Man chooses to go to heaven. Man chooses to live for God. The trouble, though, is man's will and mind are corrupt. The trouble, though, is the Bible describes man as being dead in his trespasses and sins. When is the last time you saw a dead guy do anything? Can someone dead choose to be alive in Jesus Christ? Absolutely not! Can someone dead choose to follow truth and justice? Absolutely not!
God is sovereign. Which means He is sovereign in whom He chooses to make alive in Christ and let into heaven. No one is in heaven by choice. Nor is anyone in heaven by accident. It is all by the sovereignty of God. A man who is sovereignly chosen by God cannot help but end up in heaven. But what about all others? What about those who go to hell? With these people God is sovereign in leaving them in their sin and misery and the judgment that awaits them in the fires of hell.
Remember the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? Liberals and socialists want to say Lazarus ended up in heaven because he was poor. And, liberals and socialists want to say the rich man ended up in hell because he was rich. No so.
I said last week Lazarus went to heaven because he had the love of God in his heart. And, the rich man went to hell because he did not have the love of God in his heart.
But now let us go a step further. Lazarus went to heaven because God sovereignly chose him to go to heaven. And, the rich man ended up in hell because God sovereignly left him in his sin and misery.
God is sovereign. God is sovereign over salvation and election and reprobation.
God is sovereign. Just ask the animals, and they will teach you; or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; or let the fish of the sea inform you. All these know that the hand of the LORD is sovereign.
God is sovereign. Which means that every creature on earth, in heaven, and in hell must ultimately bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father ( Phil 2:10).
God is sovereign. So, we can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from His love.
Let me end with an article from The Banner I received this week. Glen VanderKooi of Byron Center, Michigan, suffered a massive stroke at the age of 44. His wife writes:
July 17, 2014, was the last day Glen went to work; the last day he drove a car; the last day we were able to walk hand in hand; the last day our four kids had a "normal" family life with a dad who could run around and play with them, drive them places, and engage with them at their level.Yes, congregation, we are not alone. The sovereign God is always with us.
But I can honestly say, as we reflect on these past four years, I have taken much comfort in understanding God is sovereign ... God wasn't absent when we were in the emergency room on July 17, 2014; he went there ahead of us. God wasn't absent when Glen was fighting for his life; he was fighting for him. God wasn't absent when the kids cried themselves to sleep for over a year straight; God wept with us. Every single night that year, our son Caleb's prayer was the same: "Thank you that you are always with us." That simple prayer was my comfort for that first year, and it still is. We are not alone.
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