The scripture which we just read is a part of a great history lesson which Moses was sharing with Israel. Many of the older generation had already passed on, and a second generation of Egyptian escapees was growing up and assuming important positions within the thirteen tribes. Perhaps they had heard the story of Israel and Jehovah from their parents, but they needed to hear it again. And so do you and I. Because it is more about God than it was about His chosen nation. And what is said about the Lord still applies and relates to us today.
This morning’s title is – “Christianity’s Most Hated Doctrine.” Several points of this doctrine are suggested and sometimes underscored in this scripture. There are very few professing Christians who would have a problem with any of it as we have read it. But as soon as what is said here is applied to them or to their loved ones, their hackles shoot up. What do we read here? God created man upon the earth, and God spoke out of the midst of fire. God sovereignly chose and delivered one nation out of the midst of another nation. “Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.” “Because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt.” And God chose to drive away greater and mightier nations from before Israel – and He did with ease. “Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.” And because He is God He commands your obedience – He DEMANDS your obedience. But, if you obey, it will go well with you and God will prolong your days upon the earth. And that earth, by the way, is something which He has every right to give to whomever He chooses.
God’s sovereign dominion over all things, is the most hated doctrine of Bible Christianity.
But it is clearly stated and reiterated over and over again in the Bible. “The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; (but) his kingdom ruleth over ALL” – Psalm 103:19. The term “Lord,” so frequently used in the Bible, plainly speaks of God’s sovereign authority. David prayed, “Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above ALL.” Paul declared, God is “the only potentate, the King of kings” – I Timothy 6:15.
Few Christians have any problem with ascribing omnipotence to God. They rejoice with Job when he testified before the Lord, “I know that thou canst do everything.” They smile when Christ said, “With God all things are possible” – meaning there is nothing He cannot do. But there is a difference between the power to do something and the authority with which to do it. Omnipotence – infinite power – is God’s ability to do whatsoever He would like. Authority is His right to do whatever He would like to do. And God’s authority is as infinite as His power – He is omni-imperious – totally sovereign.
And when we stop to think about it, isn’t this what being God is all about? It is essential to the concept of deity. Hebrews 11:6 is an innocuous verse but it conveys a powerful thought – “God is, and God is a rewarder.” Or more fully – “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Once again, the Bible simply declares the existence of God – this should not be a matter of dispute by any thinking people. But as the ultimate rewarder, God must be sovereign – in absolute control of all things.
Three verses earlier we read, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” God spoke, and through His omnipotent power the worlds were formed – where nothing existed before. Jehovah did not ask permission from anyone to create the universe out of nothing. That is one aspect of His sovereignty. Since all things that exist were made by God, He is Lord over them all. And that is exactly what He told Job, when that man was questioning God’s right to take things from him. Job 38, for example, is a chapter filled with arguments drawn from the Lord’s creation. And when Paul was preaching to the Athenians that was one of his points as well. “God that made the world and all things there, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth…” Has the authority to demand your obedience, your worship, and your repentance. When a man makes something, no one challenges his right to do what he wants to that thing. Why should anyone even think of challenging God’s absolute right over all He has created?
Beyond this, there are scriptures which take creation to the next logical point. “For by him were all things created, that are in even and that are in earth…. And he is before all things and by him all things CONSIST.” – Colossians 1:16-17. God UPHOLDS all things by the word of His power – Hebrews 1:3. How does God – Elohim – uphold, consist and sustain all things? By His right to govern those things. Watch the Son of God still the storm and the winds on the sea. Witness the drying of the Red Sea and the flow of the Jordan River. Hear that flock of quail as they follow the orders of God to sacrifice themselves to the hunger of Israel How did that water instantly appear when Moses struck his humble scepter against the rock? Fear as the ground opens up under Israel’s rebels swallowing them down. Stand in awe as the Lord raises an axe head from the bottom of the river. The physical, inanimate parts of creation instantly obey the commands of their Creator.
Oh how the average Christian rejoices at the sovereignty of Jehovah over the natural creation. He cries out, “Yes, God has the right to order His creation any way He chooses.” Praise the Lord that “by him all things consist.” Where would we be if He hadn’t sent the rain and the snow in their due season? And yet, this is still the most hated doctrine in Christianity. Because it doesn’t stop with the inanimate – it extends to living things as well – including mankind.
How and why is the sovereign dominion of God so hated?
Well, for one thing, as Proverbs 16:4 expresses it – “The LORD hath made all things for himself.” All things were created for God’s pleasure – not yours. And again this means that He doesn’t have to ask your approval to do anything. He has the authority – and obviously He has the power – to take a man’s life or to spare it. If Pharaoh can spare his butler and execute his baker, does not Elohim have much more authority? He has the power and authority to save whosoever He chooses, and He will never ask you for permission. Revelation 4 describes all God’s saints from day one to the end of the year 2017 and perhaps a bit beyond; they are standing before their Saviour. “The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
Why is God’s dominion such a despised subject outside of some limited Christian circles? Isn’t it obvious? Jehovah has a patent and copyright on His intellectual and physical creation. Man, a natural plagiarist, with Satan’s encouragement, wants to steal the rights to Lord’s great work.
Why do so many hate the subject of God’s sovereign authority? Because the Lord’s dominion is completely independent – independent of them. Theoretically, the government of the United States is empowered by the citizens of this country. But Jehovah is not like the president – He was not elected to His position. There is no rule above Him, because nothing is superior to Him. Does the illustration break down in that country which is ruled by the tyrannical dictator? No it does not. That man may claim absolute sovereignty, but it’s a facade. The true Sovereign may give that dictator a case of worms so severe that he is dead by morning. Elohim “changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding” – Daniel 2:21. There is only one King and it’s not the pope in Catholicism, the president of the company, the father in the home, or the pastor of the church. Jehovah is sovereign over all things including you.
And God’s dominion is absolute – it is unlimited. Properly speaking, the term “LORD” applies only to Jehovah – the King of kings. God is free in regard to any law outside of Himself. He cannot fall down, because gravity is under His dominion, not the other way around. And He cannot die, because He is not subject to life – He IS life. The school board may forbid the presence of Jehovah in the classroom, but He is there nevertheless. Daniel 4:35 – “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” “O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” Why does Paul even ask that question? Because the natural man is constantly questioning God, rebuking God, denying God’s sovereignty. Man hates this doctrine because God cannot be stopped. His will is irresistable. He possesses both the might and the right to do whatever He chooses. He says, “I will work and who shall let it?” – Isaiah 43:13. No hand or multitude of linked hands can stop the hand of God. His decrees are certain. No wonder man hates this doctrine.
But WHY would anyone hate such a wonderful doctrine?
Although God’s dominion is absolute, it is not tyrannical. He doesn’t do anything recklessly, arbitrarily or capriciously. His sovereignty doesn’t act independently of any of His other attributes. It is managed by wisdom – not a limited wisdom like ours – but unlimited divine wisdom. What might appear to be a purely independent sovereign act, has a depth of wisdom which we cannot see. God’s dominion is governed by His infinite goodness and His righteousness. It is impossible for God to act in an unfair manner any more than it would for God to be foolish. “The Lord is righteous in all this ways, and holy in all his works” – Psalm 145:17. Just as not punishing the sinner would be a denial of God’s justice, so would tormenting an innocent person be a denial of His goodness. His sovereignty is not independent of His other attributes. God’s sovereign throne is also a throne of grace. Let us not be angry that the Almighty King sits upon that throne. Rather, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Not only is there grace to help, but the sovereign God is sufficiently powerful to meet our need. So don’t be angry with God for His absolute dominion over all things – rejoice in it.
God’s dominion extends over all creatures and all things. Not a single snowflake is able to fall onto your nose without the Lord’s permission. No dog can bite except the Lord permit it, and that dog can’t even bark without divine permission. Donald Trump is President of the United States because it is the will of God – stop complaining. And by the way, Barak Obama was in the White House at the Lord’s will as well. You cannot be touched by an angel or demon without the command of God. “Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure” – Psalm 103:12. The sun must stand still when the Lord commands it. If the Lord doesn’t want that scrawny little bush to be consumed by the raging fire, it will not burn. Locusts move at His command, and so does the wind. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” – Proverbs 21:1.
To those who willingly bow before His scepter, there ought to be unquenchable comfort. All God’s other attributes would afford little joy without this one. His love to His people is only so blessed as to actually BE a blessing – to do something for the beloved. He is bigger than the biggest sin in us and He can ensure our happiness by guaranteeing our holiness. When we suffer we can rejoice knowing that God has appointed them for a good purpose. His enemies and our enemies cannot circumvent His sovereign power to harm us without His permission. How can we not love the sovereign authority of the God who saved us?
Ah, but “here is the rub,” as Hamlet said. Salvation from sin, is as firmly in God’s hand as everything else. Personal salvation is NOT in our own hand, as clearly as our inability to fly to the sun and back. THIS is the reason so many hate this doctrine. And yet, this is why we should love it.
The Bible says that God freely chose from eternity certain individuals to receive His grace. Speaking to Christians in Ephesus, Paul said, God “hath chosen us in (Christ) before the foundation of the world.” Why did the Lord write some names in His book and not others? If we pursue this question as far as we can reach, the answer is – because it was “according to the good pleasure of his will” – Ephesians 1:5. To Moses God said, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” – Romans 9:15. If God’s sovereignty doesn’t answer man’s question about salvation, then nothing else ever will. God didn’t choose Jacob, rejecting Esau, because Jacob was the better man – he wasn’t. God’s choice is not found in any merit in the ones He chooses. We all come from the same sinful lump – the fallen family of Adam. We are all children of wrath, meriting nothing but eternal punishment. He chose us “that we SHOULD be holy,” not BECAUSE we already were holy – Ephesians 1:4. Nor did God choose a few because He foresaw their faith or what good things they would do in the future. Any good works we might do, are the fruit, not the cause of God’s choice. Even the faith by which we lay hold of Christ, is given to us by the Lord – Ephesians 2:8. If foreseen faith were the reason for God’s choice, then God should called our Elect, not we the elect.
The Bible tells us that early in creation, there was a heavenly rebellion and a third of God’s angels were permitted to follow after Satan. The Bible also tells us that God has sovereignly chosen NOT to redeem a single fallen angel. Most people have no problem granting God that divine discretion. Most would applaud. In a similar fashion Adam and Eve chose to follow Satan into rebellion, condemning themselves and planting the seed of sin and death into the hearts of all their descendants. The sins of Adam and of those fallen angels, were virtually the same. And similarly God has the right NOT to redeem a single child of Adam, just as He has done with those fallen angels. But in sovereign grace He has chosen to elect and save some of those human sinners. If you stop and think about it, a redeemed angel would be far more useful to the Lord than a redeemed human being, but God’s choice was not based on foreseen usefulness. God’s choice to save was – simply God’s choice.
The questions for us this morning are two. Are we willing to admit to what the Bible says about the sovereign dominion of God, or are we going to continue in our intellectual and spiritual rebellion? If we admit that God has the authority to save any creature whom He chooses, the question then becomes, “Has he chosen me?” How can we answer that question? From one perspective we can’t, because we will never fully know the mind of God. But from another perspective, we can humbly throw ourselves on the Lord’s mercy. We can cling to the promise that says “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…thou shalt be saved.” Moaning and groaning about God’s sovereignty will not diminish His authority. So why not just submit to it, trusting the Saviour while repenting of your sin before God?
That the sovereign God has CHOSEN to save a few million of Adam’s children, is a wonderful blessing. That He CAN miraculously do so, is perhaps a greater blessing. You can not add your name to the list of God’s elect. But you can bow at His feet and trust His saving grace. If God gives you that desire; if He grants you faith to trust Christ and gives you repentance to bow, you can be sure that you are one whom He has chosen to redeem.
The sovereignty of God is the most hated doctrines among those along the periphery of Christendom, but it is a fantastic doctrine among those that understand it and receive it.