The Attributes of God
- Romans 11:33-36
- Daniel 4:28-37
Dear friends in the Lord,
Let’s for one moment imagine that God is not sovereign, not supreme, not all-powerful, not all-wise or not unchanging. Think about it. In other words, what if God were dependable on what He created, what if He was in need of something, what if something could influence God or change the mind of God to do other than what He ordained?
What if God were not sovereign: sovereign in history, sovereign in our salvation, or sovereign over all times and events, including the future?
Would you worship such a God? Could you ever trust such a God? Could you pray to such a God? Would you follow such a God?
The doctrine of the sovereignty of God is an enormous anchor for the soul of the believer. It is a resting-place for our heart: God reigns supremely! With David in Psalm 31:15 we declare: “My times are in Your hand”
The sovereignty of God may be defined as the way in which the Supreme God exercises of His supremacy. It is the Supreme God in action. It is of little comfort if we only know God as supreme if we do not grasp the teaching of the Bible regarding the way in which God acts supremely, showing his deeds in sovereignty.
Let’s ask the children a few questions. (Show slides of Queen Elizabeth II, Quentin Bryce [Governor-General, Australia], Excellency Professor Marie R Bashir [Governor of New South Wales], Julia Gillard [Australian Prime Minister]. Can you identify these people? Who is the most powerful of the four? Why? Did you know that the Prime Minister of Australia cannot make laws as she wishes? She is a very powerful woman, but she cannot do whatever she wishes. She can probably get up in the morning when she wishes, but not every day. She can go oversees many, many times, but only for business, and she has to report to parliament and to the people. She is not sovereign.
The Governor-General represents the Queen in Australia and no new law has any weight unless she signs it. She can actually fire the Prime Minister. So she is a powerful woman. But, if she steps out of line, the Prime Minister can actually ask the Queen to fire the Governor General. She is not sovereign.
Well, the Queen is a monarch. She can get up every morning when she wishes, for as long as she wishes. She can go on holidays as she wishes. She opens the parliaments and signs the laws to make it binding. If she has good reason to not sign them, she may refuse. But does the Queen really have freedom? Can she really come and go as she wishes? No. She is powerful, but not sovereign.
There is only One who is really Sovereign: God.
God is infinitely elevated above the highest creature, He is the Most High, Lord of heaven and earth. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases always as He pleases. None can stop Him, none can hinder Him. So His own Word expressly declares: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa. 46:10).
He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)
He alone is God
Divine sovereignty means that God is God because He alone is God. He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things “after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians. 1:11).
Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on Matthew 20:15 and said about God:
There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought more earnestly to contend than the doctrine of their Master over all creation—the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands—the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that Throne.
On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by the world, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne.
But when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth, and we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter; then it is that we are hissed and reviled, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love.
Psalm 135 proclaims:
The Lord does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. (Psalm 135:6)
God is unrivalled in majesty, unlimited in power, unaffected by anything outside Himself.
There is a notion these days subscribed by some theologians that God can be surprised by what happens some days. He does not really know everything, and He has not planned everything. He has to deal with problems and solve them as they come. This they say, makes God more approachable to human beings. They argue that if God is too perfect, too knowledgeable, too almighty, man will be afraid of such a God and never worship Him. He has to be somewhat human for humans to comprehend Him. What nonsense! What blasphemy!
Of course there is the cry of our time to have other gods besides God. In our age where there is no room for absolutes, and therefore no room for one and only God, the cry comes to exercise tolerance over others who might believe differently. So, for instance the multi-faith Association of South Australia, has as its mission statement:
“The Multi-faith Association of South Australia Inc strives to forge, through the activities of the Association, a sensitivity to the spiritual beliefs and cultures of others, so as to establish among them a recognition of a firm purpose to protect their rights with regards to the celebration of their rituals and customs insofar as these do not impinge on the freedom of other faiths and cultures, and to promote harmony and unity…”
The question is, what’s the point? I don’t want to win you over because I actually don’t believe you are wrong; but you should not win me over because you can’t believe that I am wrong. I want to support you to keep believing what you believe, and I expect the same of you. Well, if this is the case both of us are wrong, or maybe both of us are right. But true to our statement, we will not say that to one another, because we need to tolerate one another. In other words, I can do nothing for you, and you can do nothing for me. Actually, you don’t have a god, and my god is not worth worshipping in any case. As a matter of fact, it would be better if we got together and just nothing to one another. Or maybe, let’s stay out of one another’s way and worship our little gods in our little corners.
No, as Christians we worship and proclaim the only God. He created the universe, He created us all, He does as He pleases and therefore He is worthy of all our praise. Reject Him and you reject life. This is our message.
God is sovereign over rulers and over time
Hannah, the mother of Samuel prayed:
“There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:2, NIV)
“The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. “For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them he has set the world. (1 Samuel 2:6–8, NIV)
It took old Nebuchadnezzar some time to work out that he is not God, whose dominion extends over all the universe, and whose greatness is above all the skies; his own splendour reached the skies, and his dominion only extends to distant part of the earth. After Daniel explained to the dream to the king and implored him to turn from his sins and wickedness, he remained proud, and from the roof of his magnificent in Babylon he looked and declared:
“Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30, NIV)
God humbled him for seven years as he lost his mind and lived with the animals of the field. But in his mercy God granted him restoration. At the end of this time, he raised is eyes toward heaven – now his vision is far above himself and what he achieved. He proclaimed:
Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to Him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35, NIV)
God is sovereign in our salvation
Paul writes in Romans 9:15
For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Romans 9:15–16, NIV)
Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:21, NIV)
And Isaiah warns the rebel that calls His sovereignty into question:
Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’? (Isaiah 45:9)
God knows the number of his elect, and He will bring in his harvest. None of them will be missing at the return of our Lord, because nothing and no one will stand in his way to gather them in. This is the greatest and the most comforting doctrine of them all.
God’s sovereignty and our responsibility
Some people are not happy with a sovereign God because they say it robs man of his responsibility. But according to the Bible human responsibility is based upon Divine sovereignty, and is the product of it.
God was not under any obligation to create; but it was right because He did so. God is sovereign. His will is supreme. He is a law unto Himself, so that whatsoever He does is right. He sovereignly placed Adam in the garden of Eden upon conditionally – he was under God. By Divine appointment and will, Adam was given responsibility as God’s creature. He stood accountable to God by the law which his Creator had given him. His responsibility was unimpaired responsibility, tested out under the most favourable conditions.
Again; the Lord God sovereignly called Israel freely by grace, and in His covenant with them He put in a relationship of obedience. But Israel was stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart. They rebelled against their God, forsook His law, and turned to false gods. The consequence was Divine judgment, they were delivered into the hands of their enemies, dispersed throughout the earth, and lived under the heavy frown of God’s displeasure.
There is perfect harmony between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of the creature. Many have most foolishly said that it is quite impossible to show where Divine sovereignty ends and creature accountability begins. Our responsibility begins in the sovereign ordination of the Creator. As to His sovereignty, there is not and never will be any “end” to it!
Sovereign grace in Jesus Christ
Fallen sinners tried, but did not succeed in working out their own salvation. Fallen sinners did not plead with God to send them a Saviour. In his sovereign mercy God saves His elect based upon unconditional love and grace – only in Christ Jesus.
In the eternal Council of God, Jesus Christ was appointed their Head, took their responsibilities upon Himself, and accepted the conditions of the Father to save His elect: He worked out a righteousness for them which is perfect, which is impossible to be dissolved, and eternal. Christ was placed under God’s conditions. He was “made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law,” only with this infinite difference: the others failed, He did not and could not. And who placed Christ upon that conditional footing? The Triune God. It was sovereign will that appointed Him, sovereign love that sent Him, sovereign authority that assigned Him His work.
Certain conditions were set before the Mediator. He had to be made in the likeness of sin’s flesh; He had to fulfil the law and make it honourable; He had to bear all the sins of all God’s people in His own body on the cross; He had to make full atonement for them; He had to endure the outpoured wrath of God; He had to die and be buried. On the fulfilment of those conditions He became to be the Firstborn among many brethren; He had to prepare a people who should share His glory.
He fulfilled those conditions, and because He did so, the Father is bound, on solemn oath, to preserve through time and bless throughout eternity every one of those for whom His Son mediated.
Because He took their place, they now share His. His righteousness is theirs, His standing before God is theirs, His life is theirs. There is not a single condition for them to meet, not a single responsibility for them to discharge in order to attain their eternal bliss, “…because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2 Timothy 2:19)
Our blessing is dependent upon what Christ did for us. This is the highest and most beautiful display of the absolute sovereignty of God.
This, my dear brother and sister is the message of grace from the only, true and Sovereign God. Those who do not receive the grace provided in Jesus Christ, do not find salvation; they stumble over the stone that brings salvation. Those who do not bow under the sovereignty of the Sovereign God and argue with Him on the basis of their own authority and sovereignty are crushed by the Sovereign God.
Don’t question God. Just bow very lowly and accept the grace He provides in Jesus Christ. Without Christ there is no life; in Him we have life. Thank God for his sovereign grace displayed in his Son.
Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 10 February 2013