“What is Calvinism?” I asked earnestly, and nervously, after gathering a large amount of courage to enter into uncharted theological waters with my pastor and several church staff members.
I was at a youth event at Dave & Busters. While my friends were running around racing cars, spending tokens, and earning tickets, my 15 year-old self wanted to talk about 400+ year old theological terms. My youth pastor held up his hands in apparent surrender and said with a smile and chuckle, “I’m out of this one.” My pastor looked surprised, impressed, perhaps amused, and took a moment to gather his thoughts.
To be honest, I was prompted by more than mere theological curiosity. My niece had passed away only a few month prior and that loss was so painful and confusing. Especially when my understanding of God was built around… well, me. I had a predominantly self-centered understanding of how God worked, rather than recognizing Him as the glorious, exalted, Lord of all things who is sovereign over all things, I had thought of Him as my personal genie (though I would never have said that out loud).
God was doing a work in my young heart; I searched the Scriptures and old theological writings to find out what I had been missing. If God was good and answered my prayers, why didn’t He answer the one for healing?
With all of this swirling in my mind, my pastor gave me a short, dense, definition (at least to me at that time) I recall him mentioning free will, eternal perspective versus human perspective, and sovereignty; the rest is lost to the past. It made me realize two things: 1. I knew nothing. 2. I needed to know more.
It was shortly after this brief exchange that I asked God to reveal more of Himself to me. It seemed that He was silent; and yet, the more I read the Bible, the more I saw that my version of “genie god” was absent. Certainly, He brought blessings to His people, but He also allowed curses. He formed creation in perfection, yet the plan of redemption was never the “back-up plan”. God is so supremely, infinitely knowledgable, that He was never surprised and He had an eternal rescue plan to save His people from their sins. (Matt. 1:21)
I began to recognize that what I thought I deserved, (good health, riches, etc.) was not at all what I truly deserved. In comparison to God’s holiness, I deserved nothing but judgment, wrath, and eternal despair. (Eph. 2:3) My former way of thinking, bypassed this reality. I saw the cross as a way to escape reality and pain. True Christianity is not escape from trouble, it is following Christ through trouble to the eternal glory that He has prepared for those who love Him; a glory too incredible for us even to imagine. (1 Cor. 2:9)
God is not the butler to my kingdom and I am not the King of my life. God is the King, the ruler, the Creator, the Sovereign over all things. (Ps. 115:3, Prov. 19:21, Job 42:2, Rom. 9:21, Is. 45:7, Dan. 2:21, Ex. 11…) This list could continue for pages and pages about how God is in control of all things. Some call this emphasis on divine sovereignty “calvinism”, the reality is that the idea of sovereignty didn’t originate with a French theologian. God has been in control of all things before the dawn of creation and continues to hold all things together to this very day. This should fill us with awe, instill in us peace, make us worship, and give us hope.
As I beheld these glorious truths of God’s role in His creation from the Word of God, I am tremendously thankful for a Christian theologian by the name of Dr. R.C. Sproul. Through his writings, he helped me connect the dots from all of these thoughts and Bible verses chaotically disordered in my mind. By illumination of the Holy Spirit, and with some theological assistance from the little book “Chosen by God”, I began to see how God orchestrated everything according to His sovereign purposes. As Dr. Sproul commented,
“If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.”-R.C. Sproul Chosen By God
The very character of God is at stake when we sacrifice our awe of His sovereignty for the supposed safety of our autonomy. This sovereign control is also powerfully demonstrated to us in the part of the story we celebrate at Christmas time. Don’t forget that the birth we celebrate is not simply the birth of a historic figure, but the incarnation of the King of the universe, our Redeemer. Paul reminds us of this in the letter he wrote to the Galatian church,
“When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”Galatians 4:4
This is the glorious truth of Christmas! God in His sovereignty became flesh and dwelt among us. The Father sent Jesus to be born, live a sinless life, die an atoning death, and raise to life for you and me. He is so unfathomably glorious, yet allows us to know Him and even be called His children.
“…he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”I Timothy 6:15b-16
Wherever you land on the debatable issues of divine sovereignty, don’t let those debates detract from the glory of God and the joy found in Him. When I think of my niece that has gone on to be with the Lord, I have confidence in God and in His timing. I don’t always understand why He does what He does, but I know that His ways are higher and perfect (2 Samuel 22:31, Is. 55:9). There is such peace and comfort that comes from knowing that Christ the King is in control and that we can rest in Him. As Charles Spurgeon once said,
Looking for more information of God’s sovereignty? Here are links to one article/post from these ministries on divine sovereignty!
Desiring God Ministries
Grace To You Ministries