1. God’s Sovereignty Over His Souls – Pt.1

    May 14, 2024 by Dawn Thomas

    God’s Sovereignty Over His Souls – Pt.1

    “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” – Matthew 20:15

    In my last blog, I discussed and established God’s Sovereignty Over Death. This time, I would like to focus on God’s sovereignty and the salvation of His souls for the Christian community. As a biblical counselor, I have often been asked about whether or not a loved one was in heaven, especially when the waters are murky. My response(s) has been to help comfort and offer hope through the passages of (Ezek 18:4, Gen 18:25, and Rom 10:9-10). The truth is, only God knows and sees the heart, and only God knows His own. What becomes more relevant in discussions is helping believers comprehend the sovereignty of God. When believers are able to grasp the sovereignty of God in every aspect of their lives, it brings hope to those who are suffering, going through trials, or experiencing the weight of a potentially unsaved loved one. Believers who struggle with understanding or seeing God’s sovereign hand in every aspect of their life will struggle to have hope and may fall prey to victimhood.

    Every one of us, in some capacity of our intimate world, has a loved one who is not saved. For true believers, this is a weight that we can all feel. Just as the Apostle Paul experienced when he stated, in Rom 9:2-3, “the great sorrow and unceasing grief” he felt in his heart, to such a degree, that he wished he could give up his own salvation for the salvation of his kinsmen, the Jews, to whom he was tirelessly preaching the Gospel. How many of us have felt the pain of a loved one reject the gospel, turn to the world, turn to another religion, or just plain love their sin too much to give it up no matter how much knowledge and exposure they have been given? Paul’s pain is our pain, yet even Jesus felt sadness and pain, as He wept over Jerusalem due to their utter rejection of Him and what was coming their way, as described in Matt 23:37 and Luke 19:41-42.

    So there are two questions I’d like to address to believers:

    1) Why do believers avoid addressing and applying God’s sovereignty to their own lives?

    2) How does a believer rest in their heart knowing a loved one may not be chosen by God?

    To answer these questions, we must first lay some basic foundational points that address Who, When & Why to illuminate the width and depth of God’s sovereignty.

    God the Creator—(Who)

    As believers, we know that God is the Creator, and we are His created creatures. So, this is not meant to be a duhmoment, but rather, to emphasize the very basic foundation that God is the Supreme Being, and that absolutely nothing exists, nothing is permitted, nothing is carried out, and nothing is completed outside of Him and His spoken word. All too often we can lose sight that He is the Creator, and we are His creatures. Grasping and applying this basic foundation begins the journey for each of us in understanding the enormity of His sovereignty. Let’s look at the Westminster Confession of Faith, section 2.2, and its definition of who God, the Creator, is.

    “God hath all life, (John 5:26) glory, (Acts 7:2) goodness, (Ps 119:68) blessedness, (1 Tim 6:15Rom 9:5) in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He hath made, (Acts 17:24–25) nor deriving any glory from them, (Job 22:2–3) but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things (Rom 11:36) and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleaseth (Rev 4:111 Tim 6:15Dan 4:2535). In His sight all things are open and manifest (Heb 4:13), His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature (Rom 11:33–34Ps 147:5), so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain (Acts 15:18Ezek 11:5). He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands (Ps 145:17Rom 7:12). To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them (Rev 5:12–14).”

    Throughout scripture God is affirmed as the Creator of everything, beginning with the first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1…“In the beginning, God…”, to John 1:1–3 where the Apostle John affirms the Creator, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, to numerous other scriptures such as Neh 9:6, Isa 45:7, 46:9­–11, 66:2, Col 1:16, Rev 4:11. But, perhaps the most profound affirmation of God being the Creator is found in Job, chapters 38–42 when God speaks directly to Job affirming Himself by asking him “Where were you?”, “Where were you?”, “Where were you?” Job, a righteous man, believing that he “knew” God, was so utterly humbled and crushed beneath the weight of God’s eternal power and greatness, that all he could do was repent and admit that God is sovereign. In verse 5 of Chapter 42, Job states, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” What does he mean that now his eyes see God? I believe that Job now sees God through the lens of a deeper knowledge of the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-wise God. But most importantly, he sees that God, above all, is in control of it all, even down to the most minute detail. The God he had heard of his whole life, and that he now sees, is far greater than he could have ever imagined. Like many of us, I’m sure Job had heard a lot about God growing up, whether it was through family, traditions, laws, or stories. But the reality is that none of us comes to truly “know” God, unless He has given us the faith to open our eyes to truly “see” Him. He removes the blinders and gives us the sneak preview (this side of Heaven) to see His power, His greatness, His majesty, His sovereignty, and His sheer all-sufficient independence as the Creator, just as He did for Job.

    The Souls He Has Created

    To add to the magnificence of who our Creator is, as described above, I believe it is equally important to touch briefly on how God is intimately involved with His creation, and specifically human beings as found in Gen 2:7, Ps 100:3, 139:13, Isa 42:5, Acts 17:26–28, especially since the topic of this blog is about the souls He creates. The most wonderful expression of His intimacy is found in Psalm 139, specifically verses 13–16, which says, “For you formed my inward parts…in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Notice the last sentence of this verse, as David accentuates God’s divine sovereignty in the life and death of every soul created.

    Lastly, to bring this section all together, in Ezekiel 18:4, God clearly states to the prophet that all souls are His. God determines the who, what, when, where, and why of every soul created. He decided our parents, and He decided our gender. He decided the day of our birth and the day of our death (Job 14:5. He decided the why, or the purpose, of every soul created. Look again at Jesus’ words in Matthew 20:15. Every creature He created (including the devil) had no say so as to their existence. When you stop and soak this in, it is extremely humbling. You can almost feel how Job felt after God was done with him.

    Challenge Questions

    Do you have a clear understanding of who God really is?

    Have you ever lost sight as to who God really is?

    If so, who or to whom did you replace Him with? Why?

  2. God’s Sovereignty Over Death

    November 2, 2023 by Dawn Thomas

    God’s Sovereignty Over Death

    Pastor and theologian, R.C. Sproul, once said, “If God is not sovereign, God is not God. If there is one maverick molecule in the universe, one molecule running loose outside the scope of God’s sovereign ordination…there is not the slightest confidence…that any promise God has ever made about the future will come to pass.”[1]

    If you ask true believers if they know the meaning of the sovereignty of God, many, if not all will answer yes – it means “He is in control.” But of the many, most can only “define” the meaning of sovereignty. Very rarely can believers apply, much less see, that sovereignty on a personal level. Often when asked how he has been sovereign in their personal lives, in their work, family, home, or even world events, the responses are “I don’t know,” or “God’s got bigger things to take care of than me and what’s happening in my life.” Yet, when death comes knocking, many Christians find themselves at a loss. As their own mortality sinks into grief, they find themselves wondering, “Where is God? Why didn’t he “do” something?” Death is part of our everyday lives, whether we experience it personally or just hear about it from our daily media intake.

    In this article, I want to share with you the truth of God’s sovereignty over death. I want you to see that nothing within our control can thwart the number of days God has ordained for every soul that has ever lived– past, present, and future. Let me ask you a question: Did you have any control over your birth? Did you choose to whom you were going to be born? How about when were you going to be born or what period of history you would be born into? The answer to all of these questions is obviously no. The same applies to our death. None of us knows when.

    Did God Institute and Ordain Death?

    To help answer this question, we must go back to the beginning. We know from Genesis 2:16–17 that God had given Adam and Eve one prohibition, which was not to eat from the tree of good and evil. God was clear on what the consequence would be if they were to break his command.  We see the result in Genesis 3. Sin was born, and death was immediately instituted both physically and spiritually (Gen 3:7). So, we can establish with certainty that death was instituted and ordained by God.

    Does Satan Have a Role in Death?

    In John 8:44, Jesus calls Satan a murderer from the beginning. What did he mean by this? Jesus of course was referring to the Fall of Adam and Eve. At the moment sin was born, Satan had successfully killed their spiritual life. Their relationship with God was immediately null and void. The Bible presents death as separation, which means that the souls of Adam and Eve were immediately separated from God. Their communion with him was broken.

    My friends, this is Satan’s only role in death, and God allowed it! Why? Because our eternal God is the Creator, and he has a plan; a plan that began before the foundation of the world. This plan was revealed in Genesis 3:15, and came into fruition through the resurrection of Jesus. As Ephesians 1:11 says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” To solidify, the author of Hebrews, in chapter 2, verse 14, shares, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” Jesus, by conquering death, rendered Satan powerless against those whom God saves.

    The Bible, beginning with Genesis 1:1, clearly teaches us that only God is sovereign. Satan is not. Here are a few examples:

    • Satan is a creature – created by God (Ezek 28:13–15).

    God is the Creator (Gen 1:1).

    • Satan is potent (powerful) (Gen 3, Job 1:12).

    God is omnipotent (all-powerful) (Isa 14:27, Isa 43:13).

    • Satan is knowledgeable and cunning (Ezek 12b).

    God is omniscient (all-knowing) (Ps 139:1–24).

    • Satan’s presence is localized (Job 1:7).

    God is omnipresent (everywhere) (Ps 139: 7–11).

    • Satan is finite (Rev 20:10).

    God is infinite (Rev 22:13).

    Although it can be hard to wrap our brains around this reality, it is nonetheless true–Satan is God’s devil. He created him. He can do nothing without God’s consent. To help us understand this reality, God reveals this truth to us through the Book of Job.

    In chapters 1 and 2 we learn that:

    1) Satan cannot tempt without God’s permission (Job 1:12).

    2) Satan cannot physically harm without God’s permission (Job 2:2- 6).

    3) Satan cannot kill without God’s permission (Job 2:6). Most notably, regarding God’s sovereignty over death, Job 14 speaks to the finality of death, specifically in verse 5, by stating, “Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You; and his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.”

    Here are a few more verses to consider regarding God’s sovereignty over death:

    “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Ps 139:16).

    “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deut 32:39).

    “The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up” (1 Sam 2:6).

    “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26).

    Lastly, in Revelation 1:17–18, Jesus speaks directly to John: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

    My friends, God sovereignly predestined and ordained, from the foundation of the world, the life and death of every human being. Each of us has a certain number of days, months, and years to live, which were established and set before creation. The means of how one dies is only a vehicle by which death eventually comes to us all. Jesus holds the keys to death, and Satan cannot snatch those keys out of his hand. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. That includes all authority over life and death. Jesus is the only passageway from this life to the next.

    [1] R.C. Sproul, “No Maverick Molecule.” Ligonier Ministries, January 11, 2023. https://www.ligonier.org/podcasts/ultimately-with-rc-sproul/no-maverick-molecule.