Sovereignty is For Our Benefit
Behold….his arm rules for him; behold his reward is with him…He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms. (Isaiah 40:10-11)
God’s sovereignty over all His universe is exercised primarily for His glory. But because you and I are in Christ Jesus, His glory and our good are linked together. Because we’re united with Christ, whatever is for His glory is also for our good. And whatever is for our good is for His glory.
Therefore, we can, with scriptural warrant, say that God exercises His sovereignty on our behalf. Paul says in Ephesians 1:22-23that God “put all things under [Christ’s] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” That is, Christ reigns over the entire universe for the benefit of His body, the church. God’s sovereignty- which is absolute over the most awesome earthly or spiritual powers and penetrates to the most mundane and minute details of life- is exercised by Christ on behalf of the church, which is His body.
The reason Christ thus exercised His power to govern the universe, as New Testament commentator William Hendrickson explains, is that, “he is so intimately and indissolubly united” with the church, “and loves it with such profound, boundless, and steadfast love.” Hendrickson further explains that its this “closeness of bond, the unfathomable character of the love between Christ and his church that is stressed by the head-body symbolism……Since the church is Christ’s body, with which he is organically united, he loves it so much that in its interest he exercised his infinite power in causing the entire universe with all that is in it to co-operate, whether willingly or unwillingly.”
Thus we can see that our union with Christ guarantees that God’s sovereign power is exercised on our behalf.
We cannot understand anyone or any being that has our best interest at heart with no hidden agenda or no secret motive. At best as humans while we attempt to make decisions for the best of others, we find there is somewhat of our desires and wishes included in the mix as well. We cannot separate ourselves from influencing what we think is best and rare is the occasion that we can choose what is completely best for others at our expense. So when we view the sovereign acts of God, we find ourselves questioning whether they are truly for our good. We especially question this when we suffer adversity or difficulty in life. We wonder why if God really loves us and has total sovereignty over all things He is allowing all these things to happen to us. Some are convinced that God really doesn’t love them. Others wonder if God is really in control of all things or whether the things of this world have taken on a life of themselves.
When we try to determine who God is and what is His plan by our experiences only- though we can know God to some degree this way- we often miss the full knowledge of all God is and how He loves us. We must turn to His Word and read how over time He has demonstrated His love toward us.
We see His love for us in the creation. We read that in creating all else in the universe that God simply spoke and plant and animal life became. But when God created humans, He chose to not speak but to form them from the clay with His hands and then to breathe into them His own Spirit, making them spiritual beings as well as physical beings. We are told by the Bible that we “are made in His likeness(image)” and that we are His masterpiece. Every artist, inventor sees their masterpiece as an extension of themselves and that piece holds their affection. If that is so, then it is also so that God sees us as an extension of Himself.
We find the created humans placed into a beautiful garden, Paradise, where they had a life free of anything unpleasant or harmful. Yet they chose to give it up in exchange for the knowledge of good and evil. Their rebellion merited death and indeed they spiritually died but the love of their Creator stepped in and provided redemption through the shedding of the blood of innocent animals and ultimately the sacrifice of the Son of God. To question the love of God for us ignores this action by God on our behalf. He could have destroyed and remade humans until He finally found someone who remained loyal to Him. He chose, however, and still chooses to pursue a relationship with us even though we are stubborn, selfish, sinful and prideful. To express His love for humanity, God became flesh and walked among humans on earth. Jesus was clear to Phillip when He told him, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” To see the love of God, one only has to read the stories of Christ’s interaction and compassion on the lost, the last and the least. To the leper who was untouchable, He touched, to the Samaritan woman at the well who was looking for love in all the wrong places, He offered living water and to the blind He offered sight and on and on. Though He could have called legions of angels to rescue Him, He chose the way of suffering. Isaiah 53 describes this suffering and the reason for it:
For He [the Servant of God] grew up before Him like a tender shoot (plant), And like a root out of dry ground; He has no stately form or majestic splendor That we would look at Him, Nor [handsome] appearance that we would be attracted to Him. He was despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief; And like One from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him. But [in fact] He has borne our griefs, And He has carried our sorrows and pains; Yet we [ignorantly] assumed that He was stricken, Struck down by God and degraded and humiliated [by Him]. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]; The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him, And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, We have turned, each one, to his own way; But the Lord has caused the wickedness of us all [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing] To fall on Him [instead of us]. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth [to complain or defend Himself]; Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before her shearers, So He did not open His mouth. After oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation [His contemporaries], who [among them] concerned himself with the fact That He was cut off from the land of the living [by His death] For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke [of death] was due? His grave was assigned with the wicked, But He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. Yet the Lord was willing To crush Him, causing Him to suffer; If He would give Himself as a guilt offering [an atonement for sin], He shall see His [spiritual] offspring, He shall prolong His days, And the will (good pleasure) of the Lord shall succeed and prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He shall see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge [of what He has accomplished] the Righteous One, My Servant, shall justify the many [making them righteous—upright before God, in right standing with Him], For He shall bear [the responsibility for] their sins. Therefore, I will divide and give Him a portion with the great [kings and rulers], And He shall divide the spoils with the mighty, Because He [willingly] poured out His life to death, And was counted among the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore and took away the sin of many, And interceded [with the Father] for the transgressors.
It is only when we grasp this incredible love of God can we then trust Him fully. When we know His love, we find His grace and recognize that even in our suffering His mercy keeps us from the full effects; that Christ Himself bears the greater of the burden.
Jerry Bridges makes the point that we as believers are inseparable from Christ. He is the Head and we are the Body. We must conclude then that anything that God allows us to go through, He goes through with us. We must discard the idea that God is an outside spectator watching us in the trials and storms of life. Two incidences portray this with Christ and the disciples. In the first storm, we read that the disciples have been separated from Christ. They are on the sea in the midst of a storm and He is on the mountain in prayer. Scripture says that while on the mountain, He saw them in the storm. He could have stayed in that place of safety and observed their struggles, but instead He chose to come off the mountain and walk through the storm to be with them and rescue them. We may find ourselves at times feeling separated from God through some storm, but we can never be separated from His love. He may allow us to go through a storm, but we will never be left to our own wits and strength. He always joins us and when we feel His presence even though the waves are crashing and the wind is roaring, we find His peace and security. In the second storm, Jesus is on the boat, but He is asleep. The disciples ask a question. “Do you not care if we perish?” Now let’s think about that for a moment. Yes, the disciples were in a boat in a storm, but so was Christ. Remember He was in the flesh and subject to all that human flesh is subject to including drowning. The disciples saw themselves in the storm but somehow never grasped that Christ was too. So for their sakes and His, He exercised His sovereignty and commanded the sea and the winds to cease.
Paul repeatedly connects the believer with Christ. He uses the head- body, the oneness of a couple in marriage as examples to teach us that everything that happens in our lives also happens to Christ who has chosen to make us one with Him.
Therefore, we take heart that even if we are at this present moment not understanding the purpose of all that is happening around us; we know two things. God’s love for us is immeasurable and He always exercises His sovereignty for our good and His glory.
Dr. John Thompson