10/1/2021 [Year of Knowing God’s Holiness 2] www.lifechurchmissions.com
The Sovereignty of the Holy God <Jn 3:16; Ro 9:15-19, 22-24>
Prelude: Whenever we talk about “sovereignty” or “privilege”, we humans will start to feel uncomfortable. Because we all have some doubts on those who have sovereignty. In the subconsciousness of people in general, sovereignty is equivalent to domineering and autocracy, and it may even lead to abuse of power and corruption. This is because we are born being conscious of sin, we live in a sinful world, and have more or less been oppressed by sinful people. Perhaps some people may think of some tyrants or politicians, and think of how they harm people by abusing their power. Or some people may have been bullied by their superior at work and hence feel very turned off by dictatorship. Or some people have been hurt by the parents they trusted and have since resisted the concept of “sovereignty”. Some people have never seen those above them use their rights in a completely selfless manner. Therefore, people will always think that those with love should not have absolute sovereignty. He should be more consultative or democratic, and make decisions based on everyone’s suggestions. However, if we know the holy God with such a mentality, it is wrong and also very dangerous. If God is different from the people of this world, His love, righteousness and wisdom, etc far exceed that of people of this world. If we are unwilling to surrender our sovereignty to Him, or if we think that His privilege to predestine and choose are inappropriate, then we humans cannot be protected by His sovereignty. We can only revolve around our finite, narrow, and even unclean dispositions. Without giving Him the Creator's sovereignty, our sinful dispositions cannot be completely restrained. Some people may think that they have the right and choice to control their own destiny, so there is no need to believe in God. The problem is, even if we do not believe in Him, He will not change because of our unbelief. But when we do not believe in Him, there will be a definite consequence, which is we will be separated from Him. <Isa 55:8-9> The Lord said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Which of us know all things better than God? Like the current vaccine, even though the government has been advocating it, no one knows what side effects a vaccine invented within such a short period of time will have after being injected into the human body, therefore, many people are in doubt. <Num 23:19> also says, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” From this sentence, we will know that we humans cannot have absolute sovereignty because we are always changing. We change our minds after deciding on something. Our thoughts and feelings are constantly changing due to external or internal factors. Therefore, humans must know the unchanging God and acknowledge His sovereignty in all things. Today, there is a teaching that is often avoided in the church – which is about the sovereignty of God. Because such teaching does not easily fit well with human nature. What people love is the love and harmony accepted by the general public, but when it comes to the sovereignty of God, we will find that there are many things we cannot explain. Some people ask, “Why doesn’t God give us many ways, but only one way to be saved – through Christ?” Or some ask, “Why doesn't God predestine to save all people, but only choose certain people such that they can hear and believe in God's gospel?” These are topics related to the sovereignty of God. If we avoid talking about these topics, we will not be able to let people see the holiness of God. The holiness of God is closely related to His sovereignty.
1. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life <Jn 3:16>
1）Is God’s love universal?
<Jn 3:16> may be the most famous verse of the entire Bible, it is also a most important promise of salvation given by the holy God, but it is also a very controversial verse. Modern interpretation does not intentionally explain the essence of this verse. Thus, this verse becomes a kind of popular verse, such that whether people believe in God or not, they will also often cite this verse. Think about it, why is this verse so popular? First, the people of the world love this verse not because they are willing to believe in the Son of God, but because they love the universality of this verse. Especially when this verse begins with God’s love and whom He loves. Thus, the theory of universal salvation states that God loves all humans (the world), and He died for all humans, and so He saves every man. Furthermore, Arminian believers often use this verse to say that: God loves everyone, died for every man, in order to prepare salvation for all humans. Here, we do not need to care about God’s election or predestination. In fact, is God’s love truly like this? Is God’s love really so universal? If we understand God’s love like this, then God’s love is not holy, but frivolous, typical or human-based.
2）God’s love is holy and thus exclusive
This verse actually tells us how great and profound it is for God to love the people of the world, such that He only gave His one and only Son to us. God did not give us 50 or 10 saviours because He loves us, such that He can use all kinds of great men from different human culture and background to save mankind. He does not give Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, or any great men that we might be saved through them. God originally could choose not to prepare any path of salvation for us, but because He loves us, He sent the Saviour, but not many saviours, but only one who is His only Son. This is God’s holy love. Furthermore, there is another key phrase in this verse, that is, God loves the world...and the result is not all humans will have eternal life, but “whoever believes in Him” will have eternal life. Thus, we know that the love with which God loves the world is so holy and strong, that He not only gave them His one and only Son, but He also enables those who belong to Him to believe in Him, such that they can have eternal life. The Bible has many such verses. <Mt 1:21>: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will “save his people” from their sins.” <Lk 2:14>: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to “those on whom his favor rests”.” These verses carry the connotation of “people elected by God”.
3）Only God’s sovereign love is holy
Many people already have a humanistic understanding of God’s love. They think that God’s love must be universal, then it is considered as noble love. But the Bible tells us that God’s love is great because that is an exclusive and steadfast love. Think about it, why is it that parental love is the greatest in the eyes of man? Is it because after we become parents, we know how to love all children? No! But the parents’ hearts only have their children, and will not give up on their children. If the child goes to primary school, the eyes of the parents are only set on the child. If the child gets separated from the parents, the parents will find back the child no matter what. Before the creation of the world, God chose us in Christ, and predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ. Thus, when the time is up, God let us hear and believe in the truth, believe in Christ, and receive the promised Holy Spirit as a seal <Ep 1:4-13>. Lord Jesus said, “I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day <Jn 6:39>.” This is the holy love our groom, Lord Jesus Christ, has for the bride. God also says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” <Ro 9:15>. If God’s love is without His sovereignty but completely human-based, then today if a person believes, he will be accepted, but tomorrow if he disbelieves then he will not be accepted. If that is the case, then God’s love is no different from human love. That is typical love, powerless love. That love cannot change man’s eternal life nor create in man a new temperament, such that man can completely turn to God. Furthermore, if man does not know God’s sovereign love, his love for God is also very weak. He will realise that he has to constantly rely on himself to sustain His love for God, instead of believing in God’s faithfulness and from there, find the love and trust for God.
2. No one can argue before the holy God, and doubt His sovereign love
1）Why did God not set up more channels and ways to salvation?
Why did God not send more saviours, especially those whom we can accept and so be saved? Why is God’s salvation not in a way where “all roads lead to Rome”? Why can’t I believe in God and also believe in Chinese folk religions? Or why is it we cannot pray to Jesus, but at the same time, ask for the intercession of Jesus’ mother, Mary? The answer is because God is holy. He is not a god created by the multitude on earth, but He is the Creator of mankind. When man has fallen in sin, God designed man’s salvation plan in His own sovereignty and love. Therefore, when we ask why God has not sent more saviours, we must first ask if we would like a God who sets out salvation based on human’s preference? If a god delivers his salvation based on all kinds of traditional beliefs and folklore, is He a holy God, or a human-pleasing God? If God is holy, the salvation He gives us is not what can suit our race or background, but what the whole human race needs. Therefore, He only sent the Saviour who can bear the sins of all people in the world, and that is His Son Jesus.
2）Why did God not elect everyone, such that everyone can surrender before His Son, Christ?
Firstly, we must know that God has no obligation to save everyone. The righteous God can do things according to His righteousness and fairness, just like when angels have fallen and are hardened till the end (eternally unrepentant), they receive eternal judgment according to God’s righteousness. Similarly, after humans have fallen, they will surely be hardened till the end, therefore they will also be judged according to God’s righteousness. Therefore, the Bible says, “there is no one who seeks God” <Ro 3:11>. But here, God in His sovereignty and abundant love, planned for our salvation, not only accomplishing the redemption through His Son on the cross, but also extending His grace through the Holy Spirit, so that those He has predestined to love and elect can be justified by faith. He is a holy God, does He not have the sovereignty to design and plan His salvation? Does He not have the right to pour out His wrath on those who are hardened and unbelieving, and at the same time, manifest His abundant glory on those whom He has mercy? <Ro 9:22-23>. Today, some believers cannot accept such truth, because they have a perception of the universality of God’s love. Indeed, God’s salvation on the cross reaches out to the world with open arms, but the truth tells us that not everyone can accept this salvation, just like what the Lord said, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Furthermore, our duty is not to speak well of God, but to spread the good news of His gospel, so that those who have received His mercy can come before Him. Some believers cannot accept God’s predestination and election because they do not want to attribute the responsibility of unsaved to God, but they want to put the blame on humans. (One believer said, “I was sharing the gospel with my dying mother, but she was very hardened and till her final breath, she did not clearly indicate if she has accepted the Lord. Therefore, when I see the Lord, if I find that my mother has not been saved, I hope to hear that the reason is that my mother has rejected God’s grace, not because God has not elected her). Actually, such a perspective is a big misunderstanding, because instead of attributing the judgment to a person’s own sin, he is blaming God for His sovereignty. Actually, all those who enter hell is because they have sinned and rejected God. No one perishing in hell can attribute the sin to God, just like no created being can say that God brought me to earth, causing me to sin and perish.
3）Is God’s love not enough?
On judgment day, we will stand before the great white throne. Who will dare to say to God, “Your salvation is not merciful or perfect enough”? God will tell everyone, “In my glory, I created all things, and in my unique and holy image, I created man and woman, and crowned them with glory and honour. After that, befitting of your identity, I charge you to rule over all things. There is only one condition, that is to obey me, and enjoy all blessings in me. But not long later, you betrayed me, went against my commands, and rejected my sovereignty. However, I came before you, revealed my salvation plans, and told you that I would prepare a Saviour. After that, you multiplied, but every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. When I came to Abraham, in my grace, I called him out of a land of idols, and through him, built up a nation. However, you continued to defy my commandments, worship idols all day, and gratify your own flesh. After that, I sent my many servants, to warn you, and help you. Some of them were imprisoned, some died by swords and saws, some were stoned, and some were homeless and tortured. In the end, I sent my only begotten Son, to proclaim the gospel of the heavenly kingdom. You not only did not believe Him but also nailed Him to the cross. Even so, I said that it is fine, as long as you believe and obey my Son, your sins will be forgiven and you will have eternal life, because there is no other name by which we can be saved.” Who would dare say, “God’s love is not enough? And the salvation plan is flawed?” Why is God’s salvation so unique and exclusive? We do not know because no one is holy, we are earthly. In our sins, we gratify ourselves, and we seek people who approve of us. Only the holy God, He has designed a unique and effective salvation plan for humans. Furthermore, because God is holy, only He can have such love and compassion for us who are totally fallen and evil. If we are gods, and we have been betrayed like that, we will not design such a salvation plan for mankind. When we truly know how loving and holy He is, who can dare say that God’s love is not deep enough and His salvation is imperfect? Who can argue with God saying that he did not believe in God because God has not given him the conviction?
3. God’s holiness not only tells us about His great love, but it also demands that we acknowledge His sovereignty
1）Why must God’s great salvation include His glorious sovereignty?
Because to accept God’s salvation is not to enter into a religion, then live by religious laws. To accept God’s salvation is to surrender to His complete sovereignty. Thus, to believe in Christ is not merely to acknowledge Him mentally, then after that lead one’s own life. If our salvation comes from the holy God, then we will know that we are people set apart by Him. Thus, we live by faith in Him <Gal 2:20>, and because of faith, we know He has absolute sovereignty over our lives. Therefore, we do good or bring out good deeds not by our own strength. But we lead a consecrated living, using a renewed mind to test and approve God’s good, pleasing and perfect will in all things <Ro 12:2>.
2）Those who know the holy God will certainly have compassion on whom God has compassion
One of the things which upsets God is the conflicts and enmity between saints. If we truly understand God’s sovereign grace, we will know what is meant by having compassion on whom God has compassion. When a believer’s heart has no holiness, what he first looks at is a person’s deeds, what he likes about a person is that person’s outward appearance, he may even favor a pagan more than a saint. Think about it, why was it that in the genealogy of Abraham, he and his descendants had so many weaknesses, even to Jacob and Jacob’s children, they were all extremely weak; yet why did the holy God not give up on them; although He disciplined them, He still treated them graciously? From here, we know that the holy God is faithful to His election. He will have compassion on the people who belong to Him. If His people are weak and commit sin, he will discipline, and chasten everyone He accepts as His son <Heb 12:6>. Of course, we holy people should do good, but what kind of good? <Gal 6:9-10> says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Therefore, if we only love whom men love, but hate our brethren whom the Lord has compassion, and despise those who are still weak, then what we do will not be considered as holy or good in God’s eyes. Will you treat the pagans in such bad ways? Then why are you treating your brethren like this? That is where our hearts are yet to be holy. Then, if a person still has not believed in the Lord and be born again, how can we know he is whom God has compassion on? In fact, even though he has yet to believe in the Lord and be born again, if he keeps being attracted to the gospel we preach, our hearts should continue to have compassion on him, and hope that he can share in the benefits of the gospel together with us. Then, the Bible also promises in <Ac 16:31>: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Today, if we already received God’s compassion in Christ, we must ask who do our heart have the most burden for? That will be our family members. Even if they still have not believed in the Lord now, they are receiving our prayers, so we also treat them as those whom the Lord has compassion on and keep interceding for them. Here, we not only wish to satisfy their physical needs, but all the more let them know the power of God’s gospel through our lives.