Yes, you read the above title correctly.
It is not a printer’s error or a careless typographical mistake.
And it is not simply meant to catch your eye either. For we fear that many can read it and fail to be touched by its blasphemy. The sad situation today that is found in the church world is such that the Biblical position of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is exchanged for that which is expressed in the above title.
We had better face the issue and not deny it that there is little love to be found today for the truth of God’s sovereignty; and a humanistic philosophy floods the circles of the church world that wants nothing of man’s responsibility but cries for a responsibility that God has towards man. That is why men dare to blame God, criticize His works, maintain that He owes the creature something and is obliged to give him what are called material blessings and even salvation. From what one hears in these days, one wonders whether in the judgment day God is not going to be on trial and whether He will have to answer to man.
That is not so far fetched. Jesus tells us in His sermon on the mount that some shall say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?” Jesus does not mean that men actually shall talk that way in the judgment day. Rather will they all hide their faces in shame and terror before His majesty. But Jesus points out the thinking of these menin this life. They expect to get into heaven. They are so pharisaically sure of their own worth and so confident that God owes them something that there will be a complete reversal of their thought when they do appear before the sovereign God of heaven and of earth. Men in this life are quite ready to deny God’s sovereignty and to hold Him responsible before their bar of judgment. What folly! What blasphemous thought! He is GOD. He reigneth, let the nations tremble! So the psalmist declares it in Psalm 99:1. Yea, rather, so God presents the matter by divine inspiration.
What is God’s sovereignty? It is His absolute right to do as He pleases. The word sovereign actually means super-reign. It means that one is exalted above others to have the right to dictate policy to others. Kings in times of old were called sovereigns. And they were in a relative sense. The king had the last word in his realm. He was sovereign in his own domain. You see that so clearly in the Book of Esther. Had the king not extended the scepter to her as a token of favor, she would have been put to death. There was no one who could revoke the decree of the king. He could forbid you to perform a certain act, but he could do that same deed himself with impunity, because there was no reign over him, no rule above him to try him and to punish him. The king made rules for his people, but he was under no rule of the people. That is changed so radically in our democratic system. But kings of old were called sovereigns because they did as they pleased and had no man above them to forbid them or punish them.
Kings were sovereign in a relative sense, we said. For they had God above them, and to Him they were accountable, even though they did not need to answer to their subjects. But God’s is the super-reign. He is responsible to no one. In fact no one has as much as the right to think evil of his works. We do. We deny our own responsibility and His sovereignty so quickly and so easily by criticizing His works and by putting ourselves up as judges over Him. We are bold by nature. We do not stand in fear before Him. Reverence and awe before Him we know not. But that does not change the fact that He is sovereign, can do as He pleases and may forbid us even to think evil of His works. He is sovereign because He is God.
He is sovereign because there is no god besides Him. He strikes the key note at once in the ten commandments when He declares that in the first commandment which with His finger He wrote on the tables of stone before Moses at Mount Sinai. Jesus taught us the same thing in the first petition which He taught us to make our own when we pray “Hallowed be Thy name.” It is a prayer that God may be acknowledged by all to be sovereign and that He continue His sovereign way to seek His own glory. There is no god besides Him and therefore He reigns supreme. If you do not believe that, try to overrule Him. Just try to change His way of doing things. Just try to violate His laws of our physical existence and see how far you get. Because God is sovereign, you are going to die, if you light a match in a gas-filled room. Because He is sovereign you are going to perish, if you swallow a glass of poison. He has made us to live where there is oxygen, and if you try to live contrary to this rule and place yourself where there is no oxygen, you are going to suffocate and die. Try to change all this, if you can. You will not overrule Him.
No different is it with His ethical-moral will. Man cannot live by bread alone. Adam found that to try to overrule God’s ethical will meant death. Adam imposed his will—presented to him by Satan—upon the will of the sovereign God and found that there was in deed a reign and rule above him that he could not escape. You just simply do not get away with it. For you simply cannot escape that super-reign of God. It is there whether we like it or not. It is there eternally, and nothing is going to change it to any degree. In His fear we will recognize this truth and will have no desire to try to rob Him of one bit of His sovereignty.
As suggested above, we do try. In fact every time that we sin, we sin against His sovereignty and declare that we are not going to recognize His rule over us. When we sin, we say that we are boss and that we have no responsibility before Him. We are quite content to let Him rule the sun, the moon and the stars, particularly while we frail creatures sleep and cannot continue our work till we have been refreshed with sleep. There are times when we think that He has caused the sun to set too quickly or to be tardy in rising. But on the whole such matters, so obviously beyond our control, we are ready to leave in His hands, if He will let us continue in sin. But we must be allowed to go our own way and to decide for ourselves what is good and evil.
We are not at the moment interested in that phase of our denial of God’s sovereignty and of our responsibility to Him. We have rather in mind the doctrinal denials of these which reverse the order and speak of God’s responsibility to the creature and of man’s sovereignty with a reign over God! Of course we have Arminianism and Pelagianism in mind. The church world is so full of it that we find it at every turn; and at the risk of being accused of harping on one subject, we wish to point out that we are told in Scripture to put on the whole armour of God and to keep it on at all times. We would point out that this matter of God’s sovereignty is of extreme importance and that we must fight against its denial and ridicule. And we would also point out that we and our children are continually being bombarded by these heretical philosophies and must either fight back or be overcome by them. The Arminian and Pelagian does not keep silent. Why should we?
But you have then, on the one hand, the foolish position that God owes every man, woman and child a chance to be saved. This is utterly unscriptural. In the Old Testament times God revealed Himself to a very small section of the human race and plainly did not intend to save all men or desire to have them believe unto salvation. In the New Testament the Spirit even forbade Paul to preach in certain areas. Jesus prayed the Father and thanked Him that He had hidden the things of the kingdom, from the wise and prudent. Let us not bring God before the judgment seat of our reason and try Him to find out whether He does justly to give only some a “chance.” He is not answerable to us for any of His work, and surely not for His particular Salvation. He is not obliged to give His grace and faith, to give repentance and regeneration to each and every man, woman and child that ever comes into this world. He does us no injustice if He never arranges to have the gospel preached in our hearing. No cry can rightfully come up from the heathen, either of the Old Testament times or those, of New Testament history who never saw a page of Holy Writ or heard a word of it spoken, that God is responsible for their unbelief and punishment. To speak of giving God the blame for anything, implies that He can be arraigned before our judgment seat. It means that we are at least His equal and that He is answerable to us for His works. And that is exactly where we want Him according to our flesh. We want a god that really is not God. We want to have something to say about Him and to have some control over Him. Then, indeed, we speak of God’s responsibility and man’s sovereignty.
But He need not give every man a “chance” and actually gives no one a chance. New-born babies die before they can have the gospel preached to them. There may not be nations any more to which the gospel has not been spread, but there still are individuals here and there to whom it has not been preached in the jungles and remote places of the earth. It is of but recent date that wild tribes even in South America were contacted in their own language with the gospel. Does God have to give answer to those who did not up till that time receive it and died in their unbelief? Is He God, or is He a creature? We do well to listen to Paul when he warns us not to reply against God. The divine Potter not only owns the clay but makes it as well; and it depends upon Him for every moment of its existence. Let us reply unto God but not against Him. Let our response to Him be that we know Him to be sovereign and that we love Him as such. Then we walk in His fear, and then we answer to the purpose for which He created us.
Exactly because He is a sovereign God He gives no one a chance. God takes no risks. He leaves nothing to chance. Having a super reign, ruling over all creatures He executes all His good pleasure and realizes all that which He wills. Not a drop of rain falls except as He decreed it—and that means also that it fell exactly on the spot where He decreed it and at the moment appointed by Him. The sun rises and sets by His schedule with unerring precision. The sparrow does not fall from the housetop except as He decrees it; and the same thing, Jesus said, is true of every single hair of our heads. He does as He pleases, according to Psalm 115:3. And whatever happens is the thing that He decreed should happen. No different is it in the realm of our salvation. Nothing is left to chance. The Church of God will not be limited in size by the will of man. Man will not determine God’s Church. Man will not overrule God’s purpose and plan. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth but of God that showeth mercy. Not our will determines whether Christ is going to come into our hearts and save us but God’s sovereign will. As we have pointed out many a time before, the very last thing that Saul willed on the way to Damascus was to become a disciple of Christ. Salvation was not offered him on the way. It was not left to his will. If it depended upon and was of him that willeth and runneth, Saul was running away from and willing anything but salvation. But God had chosen him in sovereign election, and in His super reign, He overruled Saul’s opposition and made of him Paul the Apostle of Christ.
And let us beware in our zealousness for the truth of man’s responsibility that we do not deny the sovereignty of God. We can quickly change that into God’s responsibility and man’s sovereignty. If it is my will for which God must wait that determines my salvation, then my will reigns supreme in that respect over God’s. Then you hear such nonsense as is spouted forth from the radio at times, “Why not let God have His way?” Will He not always have His way? Is there a moment, in regard to material matters or spiritual matters, when He does not have His way perfectly? If there is such a moment when He does not, His sovereignty ceases right there. Then we have lost God, and He is dead! Then we have gained the victory over Him, gotten rid of Him and imposed our will upon Him. Then we need not fear any more that He will punish us for our rejection of the gospel “offer.” If we have overruled Him once, we will be able to do it again. We have become like unto God, knowing good and evil.
Nay, it is not so! In His fear we stand in reverence before Him as a God of majestic sovereignty. We know ourselves as creatures that must always give answer to God and must always bow completely under His will. Then we can praise and thank Him as Jonah did and say, “Salvation is of the Lord.” Truly Jonah contributed nothing there on the bottom of the sea. And we do not either. In His fear our answer is, “Praise the sovereign Lord.”