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October 3, 2022 12:01 am
If you refuse to believe that God is sovereign over all that comes to pass, ultimately you're refusing to believe in the God of biblical Christianity. Today, R.C. Sproul explains why absolute sovereignty is a necessary attribute of God.
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If it's true that God has the power to intervene and he has the right to intervene, but he doesn't intervene obvious question is why not if God does not intervene. It's because God chooses not to intervene. Everything that happens the birth of the baby of salami cancer every year. The postwar head is not in charge of relevant, what about salvation, for example, some say that he's were doing everything that is in charge of every detail.
There are others who say no but God leaves many things up to us. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this week. We're continuing our look at one of the most precise and comprehensive statements of Christian in the Westminster confession of faith was published in the mid-17th century and continues to help Christians understand and defend what they believe is our teacher Dr. RC school in a rush ahead now. In our study is the theology of the Westminster confession and move right on the chapter 3 and chapter 3 is entitled of God's eternal decree and before we look at each of the individual segments of that. Let's just say that that word decree is a word that we are familiar with, to some degree. Every Christmas we read the Nativity story in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke and we read and a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled and that was the historical occasion for Joseph and Mary returning to Bethlehem. And that's why Jesus was born in Bethlehem, because both Joseph and Mary were under the domination of the Roman empire and were subject to imperial decrees now decree is a law that is enacted by some great authority such as a gang or an Emperor or someone we remember the famous player made into a movie that was called Anna and the King of Siam, otherwise known as the King and I where Anna goes to Siam and see tries to teach the king some certain things, but he was used to exercising absolute authority over his subjects and when he would give an edict or a decree he would say so let it be said, so let it be done until he met Anna and Anna would undo his decrees and find out that is, decrees weren't all that sovereign in the final analysis we also remember in the ancient world of the concept of the law of the Medes and the Persian where once the law was enacted or decreed it was without revocation that could no longer ever be abrogated couldn't be changed. Well, those are ways in which we hear talk of decrees or edicts that go out but when we talk about the decrees of God were talking about those things that God has sovereignly declared to be from all eternity where in he manifests his sovereign will, by which he decrees that certain things would indeed come to pass in space and time and whatever God decrees absolutely from all eternity as the Bible would say must needs come to pass, so that whatever he decrees will certainly happen and come the past.
Now in dealing with this business of the decree of God. We read in section 1 of chapter 3. This somewhat provocative introduction where it says God from all eternity.
Did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeable way ordain whatsoever comes to pass: don't forget that there's a: there don't gasp so deeply that you overlook that: because as much pressure or pain is the beginning of this statement may give you. Let me promise you that after the: there is some relief in sight. We come to this portion of the confession.
My favorite story about it has to do with the first time I ever taught the Westminster confession was in the seminary many years ago. Over 20 about 25 years ago when we were dealing with the chapter 3 and the week before I announced to my students that I would be taking up the term decrees following week and so I got the class of about 150 students crammed in this lecture, all I normally had 100 students in this class and now the class was increased by some 50% because the students that were taking the class when out and drag all their friends and particular, there are many, and friends and brought them to the seminary to hear the professor argue for eternal decree and so when I read this opening statement that God from all eternity buys most wise and holy counsel, did freely and immutably that is unchangeable way ordain whatsoever comes to pass, that means that God decreed from eternity every single thing that ever happens in this world, so I had the students assembled there and I said how many of you agree with this and about 100 students raise their hand.
Remember, this was a reformed theological seminary five and any other seminary I've been lucky to get 10 people to raise their hand, but as it was, it was a reformed seminary so that already been brainwashed somewhat into the tenants of the reformed faith and so they raise their hands as of yet. We believe that God eternally decrees whatsoever comes the past, but there were 50 students who then raise her hand. So I went to the next question is, I how many of you would describe yourselves as atheists.
Nobody raise their hand and that's what I went to my lieutenant combo thing and just one thing I don't understand here. If you modify is your personal question I/a minute ago. If you believe that God ordained whatsoever comes the past didn't say yes I ask if you're atheists distilled on say yes.
How can advance it because if God is not ordain every single thing that comes to pass. God is not sovereign over everything that comes to pass, and of God is not sovereign over everything he comes up asked him to understand God is not God you believe that God is sovereign over the comes up as you don't believe in the God of Christianity. Notably, the God of Judaism 30 believe the God of this law, because this statement here at the beginning of the third chapter of the Westminster confession has nothing in it that you need to reformed theology or Calvin is writing like that is not even uniquely Christian. It is a statement that goes hand in hand with full bodied theism. If God is God, then he would have to be sovereign over everything that he creates and everything that takes place in history. Following Augustine's qualification here, at least in some sense and I think where we struggle with this statement is that we struggling with the word ordain what we mean what does a confession mean when it says that God freely unchangeable. He does ordain whatsoever comes to pass the ordains Wallace look at it this way.
If God knows that tonight after class. I'm going to go out and rob a store wolf certainly would he know in advance that I was going to do that yes we all reestablish the God knows in advance what were going to only knows in advance what were going to do.
Does he have the power to stop me to intervene. Certainly, if I were determined immutably that I was going to go rob that store and God was determined immutably that he was going to stop me what he have the power to stop me.
Course he braces kingdoms RP brings kingdoms down. We had a recent presidential election, the United States of America, and I said in the final analysis, God is the one who will cast the deciding vote because of God decrees of the certain candidates to be elected president.
Guess what folks, that candidate will be elected president. Now some people actually say that yes God has the power to intervene and stop us from committing this crime within the real question is does he have the right to intervene to stop us from doing evil. What would you say there are a host of professing Christians who say God can't intervene because it would be unethical for God to intervene to stop a center from committing sin because it would be unethical for God to do anything to violate the freedom of the creature so that even though God may want to stop this evil from happening.
His hands are tied because it involves the exercise of freedom by the creature. Now if it's a hurricane taken intervene and stop the hurricane because he is not violating anybody's well at that point and so there are those in the Arminian camp to say that God is morally unable to stop and intervene and that's why things go bad. Well, I think, is the sovereign ruler of all creation.
Donnelly to see of all power, but he has all authority and he has the authority to trump the will of the creature anytime he so desires, and he can stop you from committing that sin. If he desires with impunity certainly is right to monitor and restrain the activity of his creatures. He is sovereign.
The creature isn't so. I say if it's true that God has the power to intervene and he has the right to intervene, but he doesn't intervene obvious question is why not if God does not intervene. It's because God chooses not to intervene.
He chooses not to exercise his power or his authority in such activities and in light of the fact that he has that power and has that authority and could intervene if he so desires, and if he doesn't choose to that in so far as he doesn't choose to. He has decided that this should come to pass. So in a certain sense, he has ordained it because he has an ordained it. It couldn't possibly come to pass again this of my favorite illustration.
If there's one maverick molecule running loose in this universe outside the sphere of the scope of God's sovereign control, power and dominion. We have no reason whatsoever to believe any future promise that comes to us from his word because at one maverick molecule could be the impediment that would prevent God's will from coming to pass for one of a nail. The shoe was lost for one of the shoe.
The horse was lost for one of the horse. The writer was lost for one of the rider.
The battle was lost for one of the battle of war was lost because of one lousy nail, but God's sovereignty extends to the details to every grain of sand on the seashore. Every star in the sky. Everything takes place in this work.
It happens because in some sense from all eternity. He has ordained that if you object to that, then you have to say. Either God doesn't know what's going to happen or he has no power over what happens or he has no authority over what happens.
You take any one of those positions and you have marched triumphantly outside the Christian faith into a form of atheism. Now, having said that, let's get the relief we need from what follows from the first sentence and what follows from the: yet so that is God ordains whatsoever comes a path yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures nor is the liberty or contingency of second cause is taken away, but rather established what does that mean again. One of the things I marvel at in the Westminster confession is the amazing verbal precision. Each word you can tell is chosen with such great care. That's when the reason why I hate to just slide over this abrupt or quick manner. There's too much here. Let's look at it again that God ordains things in such a way that first of all, God is not the author of sin not been introduced another word know you've never heard of, but I hope you have a sword offer. I will arrive only if you've heard the term a priori. Okay, maybe just 1/3 of you it's a technical term is used in philosophy and refers to those things that are known before experiencing them a priori knowledge would be knowledge that you're born with its innate torts knowledge that you can deduce the two and two were for without ever saying two apples and two apples at the makeup for apples, but that's a formal truth it comes before experience and what's called an theology. The biblical a priori that is the first foundational principle about God.
A nonnegotiable clear and distinct idea about God, an idea about God that must never be negotiated. It's an offer I will arrive. It's the boss principle here, and the idea that is the biblical a priori is a God is not the author of sin. God does not sin. Never negotiate people asked me the God ordained the fall. I said of course he did, will doesn't that make him the author of sin.
No, it doesn't. God ordained that creatures would sin and his ordaining that they sin is not a sin.
He themselves does not commit a sin.
The creatures commit the sin and are responsible for that.
But the point I want to make here is God.
Never since he does all things well, there's no shadow turning in his being, so that whatever he decrees from all eternity. Immutably, whatever he ordains should come to pass, does not involve him as a sinner.
Now that's easy to say intellectually but a lot of people struggle with this. You know the Rabbi Kushner writes the book why do bad things happen to good people and the answer to that is, they don't because there are many good people by the biblical definition. The real question is why do good things happen to bad people.
That's the real mystery. The mystery of divine grace that God would tolerate our rebellion, that God would tolerate our ongoing sin and challenging of his authority. Every time we sin we challenge his right to be God and exalt ourselves over to him.
Why does he just snuff us out. That's the real, but God himself does not sin. Now it goes on to say that in his ordaining whatsoever comes the path.
Violence is not offered to the will of the creatures know one of the biggest miss understood concepts in the whole wide world is the biblical concept of the human will and there's a section on free will that will look at in greater detail later, but the idea we have in our culture of free will is an idea that was born in paganism has nothing to do with the biblical view, the idea of free will that we use in our discussion is that a human being has the power equally to move to the left or to the right for the good or to the evil with no controlling bias in his heart. Where the Bible makes it very clear that from the day of the fall onward. By nature, we are slaves were enslaved to our own wicked desires and the heart is only wicked continually knowing I choose sin.
It's not because God is forcing me or coercing me to sin. I'm choosing what I want. And insofar as I am choosing what I want to do. I am free, free to do what I want. I'm free to exercise my slavery to my own wicked inclinations, not because God is violating my will. Where I want to do righteousness and God comes down and twist me and forces me to do sin and then punishes me for not that's what the authors of the confession is saying here that one God ordains as such and such a thing comes the past. He doesn't do it in such a way that violates the will of the creature. It wasn't like Judas had only idealistic altruistic motives in mind when he betrayed Jesus but God made him do it made him act against his own inclination on none none none. That's like saying that God forced Satan to go after Job when in fact that's all.
Satan wanted to do was to get after Job and God had protected Job, God had put a hedge around Job, and then when Satan asked the gable to go after Job, God remove the protection but is not like the devil only wanted to do benevolent things for Joe until God forced him to act against Job no God doesn't coerce the human heart to do evil. That's the point of the confession he doesn't need to to bring his will to pass his jillion options of sinners out there who will serve his purposes for them, just like the brothers of Joseph who intended evil for Joseph out of their jealousy. They acted but God was over, above their jealousy working in and through their sin to bring redemption to Israel so that even in their wicked desires and their wicked choices the sinners were acting out what God had foreordained without God coercing them. That's the idea, and it goes on here to say. Nor is the liberty or contingency of secondary causes taken away. Now that gets into some distinctions that we going to have to take some time on in our next session so that we can understand because obviously when we talk about God's for Denny whatever comes past progressive.
Why should be involved in evangelism washtub involved in prayer. If God ordains her think of the past. Who cares about what we do. Well, there's the not. That has to be cracked open at the end of their that it doesn't eliminate secondary causes because God not only ordains the ends that he ordains from eternity, but he ordains the means to that end is not only dictated from eternity that you would be saved. But he is ordained, how you would be saved through the means of the preaching of the word God's chosen the foolishness of preaching to save the world. You need to do it that way, but he works through people. He works through things in this world to bring his eternal purposes to pass and look at that deeply growing in our next site and we hope you'll join us for that message tomorrow knowing that God is in charge and that nothing will happen. Apart from his perfect sovereign decree bring safety and comfort to the believer, Dr. RC Sproul is mentor teacher today here on Renewing Your Mind with a message from his series on the Westminster confession of faith and I do hope you'll return all this week as we continue hearing messages from the series recently republished Dr. Sproles teaching on the Westminster confession as a newly revised edition of a book titled truths we confess it's a helpful study companion for you as you explore what the confession has to say for your donation of any amount today. We would like to send you a hardbound edition of the book you can give your donation online and Renewing Your Mind.org or one of my colleagues will be happy to take your call at 800-435-4343. Today's message is an example of why so many of you find Dr. Sproles teaching, clear and helpful. We received a call recently from Karen and I'd like for you to hear what she had to say. I am very released their third month of their that are available for free. At the website and four hours every day of the week, hours and hours and is probably everything that the available many times over and I just can't get enough of them and share them with friends and family and shared them on the web grateful resources because they are changing me inside globally helping me to become a better Christian that a person think that we thank Karen for sharing those thoughts with us without the faithful financial support of friends like you we would not be able to make these resources available here on the program and on the app if you're not already. One of our ministry partners may I ask you to prayerfully consider joining this special group of people who give a monthly gift of $25 or more. Garcia said many times that our ministry partners are the backbone of our mission to proclaim the holiness of God to as many people as possible so we do hope to hear from you my number again is 800-435-4343 was we consider God's sovereignty.
How should we think of my prayer if God is in charge of everything. What is he invited us to pray the power that's in prayer is a secondary power its ultimate power rests in God but God is. Please bring his purposes without through prayer doesn't need those prayers he can work without those prayers that he's pleased to work in and through those prayers. I hope you'll join us for Tuesday's edition of Renewing Your Mind