A Sovereign Attitude Adjustment
Moving Those Ignorant of God’s Sovereignty in Salvation Toward Gratitude
In the following article, I retell some things I have been learning in preparation to preach on the attribute of God’s sovereignty that combats legalism. I’ve benefited from reading Lloyd-Jones on this topic, so much of what I share below can be credited to his writings helping me think deeply through this subject. Those who sit under my preaching may benefit by reading, but may also expect they may hear these some of these things again in the near future ;-) If this spoils the newness of a message on a given Sunday, I suggest you simply wait. But for those who would like to peek into some of the gems I am by God’s grace finding in Scripture, read on! It should be known that while I am in Galatians 1:4 for this portion of text on the Sovereignty of God combatting legalism, I found Romans 9 at this point the most appropriate place to study in more detail this doctrine of God’s sovereignty in salvation. As always, I covet the prayers of our readers as I endeavor to study, prepare, and then minister the word and sacraments this coming Sunday. There is more work to do, but this is a start of endeavoring to touch the hem of His robe. Enjoy the scribble then.
The apostle Paul indicates the leading cause in rejection of the blessed doctrine of God’s sovereignty in salvation is a person’s attitude toward it.
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? (Romans 9:18–19a in the ESV)
The key here is the “who are you?” question. This is the kind of thing we read being said to Job when he was restored to God in intimacy. It was a whirlwind of glory that made Job see that he merely heard of God by the ear but now his eye sees God! Job was brought out of utter ignorance into a new appreciation for God’s sovereignty. He went from having the wrong attitude about things to an attitude of gratitude for who God was. He worshipped, was blessed, and was able to minister to those who hurt him most.
What causes this attitude adjustment? It begins with a painful rebuke, but it moves toward a thoughtful plea to see how reasonable it is to see God is completely sovereign in salvation. The apostle writes,
Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:20b–21 in the ESV)
God never created anyone evil. In fact, he created everyone upright, but the man thought out many schemes. The issue of sovereignty in salvation—that is, God is entirely responsible for every single sinner saved from beginning to end. No one is saved by anything but the sovereign mercy and grace of God. The issue here is not a matter of God making some people evil and others good. This is about the hopeless lump of clay resulting from Adam’s sin. Doesn’t God have the right to do what he wants to it? Of course he does. It would be entirely reasonable for God to destroy the entire lump or to do whatever he pleased with it.
We are the lump. People are born in sin, hopeless apart from a sovereign God saving them. We don’t even have the right to ask the question! The apostle also writes,
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—” (Romans 9:22–23)
God saves this way to display his wrath and to make the riches of his glory known. If God were not completely sovereign in salvation these things would not be known to man. Even the way God saves is a gift.
Many balk about God determining salvation for some and not for others as if they don’t believe in sovereignty. The truth is that all people believe in sovereignty in salvation, though all do not all believe God is sovereign in salvation. The socialist believes that money is sovereign in salvation. Socialism teaches that money is the answer to man’s problems. Money rules in socialism. The humanistic psychologist believes that one’s past experiences determine man’s life. They argue for the state and education determine the happiness and salvation of man. Their methods of teachers are put forth as the savior and lord. Humanistic science argues that it is biology that determines one’s destiny and life. They believe that science is savior, and they act to determine some sort of future utopia of the world. They are willing to shape man or woman into whatever they feel is right in their eyes—even if necessary by surgery, hormone pills, or whatever. They are playing sovereign. See, everyone believes in the sovereignty of salvation, just not God’s sovereignty in salvation. But this just prove that it is entirely reasonable to accept that there is someone that is sovereign in salvation. The debate is not over if there is a sovereign determiner in salvation, but who that sovereign determiner actually is. The Christian faith teaches that none other than God is responsible for saving sinners.
Those who do not accept this biblical truth are in need of an attitude adjustment that only comes by a reasonable Word. That Word confronts our pride, and humbles us to see how completely logical it is to accept God as the only sovereign in salvation. It is ludicrous to put something in the place of the one who is eternal, infinite, and unchanging in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
When people have their attitudes about God’s sovereignty in salvation they will be all the more ready to worship just like Paul stated at then end of the discourse saying,
Romans 11:33–36 ESV “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”