The fourth of ten topics in Piper’s new book, Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks from a Lifetime of Preaching (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2014), is the sovereignty of God. Continue reading . . .
The fourth of ten topics in Piper’s new book, Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks from a Lifetime of Preaching (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2014), is the sovereignty of God.
When Piper refers to the sovereignty of God he has far more in mind than the subject of divine election or the traditional five points of Calvinism. He’s talking about the reign of God over all of creation, the meticulous divine providence that he exerts in directing the affairs of mankind, and the simple truth as it is stated in Psalm 115:3 – “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”
He also appeals to Isaiah 46:8-11, particularly verse 10 where the Lord says, “I declare the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done.” This is what it means for God to be God. This declaration or decree is all-encompassing, including not only natural events but human events as well, which is to say, the choices of free moral agents.
But this is more than mere foreknowledge of what will come to pass. God also tells us how he foreknows the end and how he foreknows the things not yet done: “the way he declares his foreknowledge is by declaring his fore-counsel and his fore-purposing” (61). What this means is “that the reason God knows the future is because he plans the future and accomplishes it” (61). Thus “God is not a fortuneteller, a soothsayer, a mere predictor. He doesn’t have a crystal ball. He knows what’s coming because he plans what’s coming and he performs what he plans” (61).
From this and numerous other texts Piper gives us this definition of divine sovereignty: “God has the rightful authority, the freedom, the wisdom, and the power to bring about everything that he intends to happen. And therefore, everything he intends to come about does come about. Which means: God plans and governs all things” (61-62).
Or again, what God means in Isaiah 46:10 is “that nothing has ever happened, or will ever happen that God did not purpose to happen” (62). If that is upsetting to you, given the fact that a lot of sinful and unpleasant things happen, you must remember that God is often pleased to decree his own displeasure. Or again, there are numerous things that God has forbidden in Scripture that he has eternally decreed will occur. And he has commanded things in Scripture that he has decreed will never come to pass. This is based on the distinction that we find everywhere in God’s Word between God’s decretive or secret will, on the one hand, and his moral/perceptive or revealed will, on the other. The rule of life for us is the latter, and we must never make decisions as if we had access to or knowledge about the former. If that distinction strikes you as odd, I urge you to read Piper’s explanation of how there can be “two wills” in God as found in his book, The Pleasures of God.
I’ll conclude this with seven exhortations from Piper for how to live in the light of God’s sovereignty.
(1) Let us stand in awe of the sovereign authority and freedom and wisdom and power of God.
(2) And let us never trifle with life as though it were a small or light affair.
(3) Let us marvel at our own salvation – that God bought it and wrought it with sovereign power, and we are not our own.
(4) Let us grown over the God-belittling man-centeredness of our culture and much of the church.
(5) Let us be bold at the throne of grace, knowing that our prayers for the most difficult things can be answered. Nothing is too hard for God.
(6) Let us rejoice that our evangelism will not be in vain because there is no sinner so hard the sovereign grace of God cannot break through.
(7) Let us be thrilled and calm in these days of great upheaval because victory belongs to God, and no purposes that he wills to accomplish can be stopped.