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Monday, January 9, 2012

Sovereignty of God

Sovereignty of God

The religious rulers in Jerusalem were between a Rock and a hard place: they feared the power of Jesus and they feared the power of the people. They squirmed out of the trap, temporarily, by threatening Peter and John, charging them to speak and teach of nothing concerning Jesus, and releasing them from custody.

"When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, - Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, -

"Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed -

"For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

"And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness." Acts 4:19-31 (ESV)

Peter and John, with their friends, worshipped God, praising Him for His sovereignty.

SOVEREIGN: despotes (absolute ruler, "despot"); from deo (to bind) and posis (a husband)

Despotes is used ten times in the Bible, referring to human masters as well as to God Almighty. In the King James version it is translated as Lord or master.

The action of binding probably refers to the power that the despot has over others. Paul spoke of himself as being bound in the spirit:

"And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there." Acts 20:22 (KJV)

The connection to a husband refers to the legal and moral obligations that marriage upholds:

"A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives..." Romans 7:2 (ESV)

Peter and John and their friends identified God as Sovereign because of His power of creation:

"Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them..." Acts 4:24 (ESV)

God's power of creation means that God cannot be influenced or controlled or defeated by any human force:

"Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed..." Acts 4:25-26 (ESV)

In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter and John and their friends recognized God's binding, legal and moral authority over His creation:

"Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." Acts 4:27-28 (ESV)

Judas Iscariot's treason, the lynch mob, Peter's denial, the kangaroo court and the torturous crucifixion and death of Jesus were according to the sovereign plan of God.

PREDESTINED: proorizo (to limit in advance, to predetermine); from pro ("fore", in front of, prior to) and horizo (to mark out or bound, to appoint, decree or specify); from horion (a boundary-line); from horos (a bound or limit)

God's sovereignty is not simply a despotic power to bind subjects to His control. The sovereignty of God means that from before time began, God had marked out the boundaries of every action of every creature and creation that would ever exist.

The mob that seized Jesus had only the opportunity and power that God had predetermined ages ago:

"Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, - Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness." Luke 22:52-53 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Read through Luke 22 and list events that demonstrate the predetermination of God's sovereign control over the death of Jesus.

Because of their faith in the binding, predetermined sovereignty of God, the Christians were able to boldly and obediently face the dangerous persecution which was surrounding them:

"Now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." Acts 4:29-30 (ESV)

The persecuted Christians were able to trust God's sovereign control over all events. They expected God to respond to the threats of violence, in His time and in His way. They expected God to empower them with boldness. They expected God to heal sickness and work supernatural miracles, in His time and in His way. Above all, they expected Jesus to be exalted in the eyes of the world as God's holy servant, the Savior of Sinners.

The immediate result of the Christian's prayer of worship and praise of God's sovereignty was earthshaking:

"When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness." Acts 4:31 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How can God be the sovereign Authority over the universe, yet still allow violence, sickness and sin?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? In many ways, the American Christian church seems to be a weak and ineffective influence and witness to our society. Do you think doubting the sovereignty of God is the main reason for the average Christian's lukewarmness? Or is there some other major cause for the Church's lack of strength?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How does the concept of the sovereignty of God contrast with that of fatalism? Is a Christian who trusts God as the Almighty Controller of the universe a fatalist?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How does the sovereignty of God support your faith and life?

Image provided by Tom, http://www.ttdesign.de.ki/, Creative Commons License