“God as Sovereign Ruler of All He Made”

In all the hurry and hustle and confusion of modern living, the Lord
has a way. We believe that the Bible is God’s revelation of His way. We invite you to
join us for In Search of the Lord’s Way
with Mack Lyon. My friend, it’s
a real pleasure to welcome
you to our Bible study program, In Search
of the Lord’s Way. We’re hearing from some
of our hearing-impaired audience quite regularly
now –expressions of thanks for the
closed captioning. One viewer from Midwest
City, Oklahoma wrote the other day saying,
“Praises to Search. I find the closed captioning as good as is offered on TV. No doubt you’re aware
of the Merrill Lynch Investment firm’s figures
for the U.S.: 4 million deaf; 24 million with
hearing impairment. A little ciphering would
indicate two of every 21 people in this country need the CC. Appreciate it!” We appreciate your
letter, friend. We weren’t aware of the
Merrill Lynch figures. They’re interesting and
encouraging to those who make our closed-captioning
possible. Like all our ministry,
this service is made possible in these programs
by caring members of churches
of Christ. Today’s message is the
sixth in a series we’re studying now in Paul’s
Sermon on Mar’s Hill in the city
of Athens. His message is important
to us because of the similarities in
our two cultures. We discussed some of those
similarities and therefore the relevance of the
sermon in our first, the introductory message
in the series. We’re seeing them even more, the further we get into it. Our purpose in such a
study is to exalt the name of God, to enhance our
love and reverence for Him in our personal
and national life. The apostle Paul was
sorely grieved over the state of religious confusion of the people of Athens. In spite of the fact that
Athens was recognized as the center of learning,
the intellectuals there admitted that they
didn’t know God. They had many, many
gods, but not God. They had erected an altar
to “The Unknown God,” and Paul said, “Whom,
therefore, you ignorantly worship, him declare I
unto you.” And with that
the sermon began. Last week we saw how he
introduced God to them as the Creator of the world
and everything in it. Today’s message
is about God, The Sovereign
Ruler of the World. Ken Helterbrand is going
to lead us as we praise God in song, then
I’ll be back. We’re still reading in the book of Acts, the 17th chapter,
and beginning verse 22. Then Paul stood in the
midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens,
I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. (or very religious) For as I passed by, and
beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this
inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye
ignorantly worship, him declare
I unto you. God that made the world
and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of
heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples
made with hands; Now let us go to Him in prayer. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy great and thy holy name in all the earth. We’re seeking to know you better Lord as sovereign and Lord of the world and even in our own lives. These thoughts stretch our imaginations to the very limits are you
well know. They’re beyond our own understanding. We pray your presence and your blessings in our studies are we draw nearer still
nearer to you. May we be able to transfer our knowledge about you to a knowledge
of you. These things we’re learning in life everyday. Our prayer today in the lovely name of Jesus, Amen. It goes without saying, I
suppose, that a message about one God to people
of many gods, would be as objectionable as a sermon
about one church would be in most denominations of
our own day, regardless of the
truth of it. To say that this one God
is the God who created the world and everything
in it, to a group of intellectuals who believed
it’s all a result of mere chance, was (and is)
equally as unpopular. But, Paul went
even further. To an audience consisting
of Stoics, who believed the world was governed by
the Fates, and Epicureans who held that the god’s
weren’t interested in every-day affairs of the
world, he dared to say that his one God is also
Ruler of heaven and earth! Our immediate response to
all that might well be that Paul certainly
is not preaching a “seeker-friendly” gospel, but “the gospel of God” nonetheless. And, we’d
be right. Paul’s words are, “. . he is Lord of heaven and earth. . .” The King James Version
uses the word “Lord.” Other translations say
“Sovereign” or “Ruler.” In the first three chapters
of the King James Bible, in the accounts of
creation and the events in the garden, God is referred to as “Lord God” twenty times. He is “Lord God” 533 times
in all the Old Testament and 13 times
in the New. Four times He is “Lord God
Almighty,”–always in the book of Revelation– and
once He is “Lord God omnipotent.” That’s
Revelation 19:6 where majesty is ascribed
to Him, saying, “. . . the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!” That’s really what Paul
is saying on Mars’ Hill. This is my message in this
series –the majesty of the Sovereign God
of the universe! J. I. Packer says, “But, this is knowledge which Christians today largely lack: and
that is one reason why our faith is so feeble and
our worship so flabby. We are modern men, and
modern men, though they cherish great thoughts of
man, have as a rule small thoughts of God.” He says,
“When the man in the church, let alone the man
in the street, uses the word `God’, the thought in his mind is rarely of divine majesty”. Oh, he’s so right
about that, isn’t he? God is not a man as we
are, so let’s not enshroud Him in our
limitations! “The Lord reigneth, he is
clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength. . .” (Psalm 93:1). A. W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy, argues that to be Sovereign,
He would have to be (1) (1) “all-knowing, (2)
all-powerful, and (3) absolutely free.” Well,
let’s see if He is. First, how about this
all-knowing business? God can only be
“Sovereign” over all creation as Paul says He is, if He is indeed all-knowing. If there is one tiny
smidgen of knowledge that’s unknown to God,
His rule over all things breaks down at
that point. Even that little bit would
open the door to man to say that since one God
doesn’t know everything, there must be two or more
gods at work in the world. You see, then, how vital
it was for Paul to affirm to the Athenians the
Sovereignty or total knowledge of the
Almighty God. If God is “all-knowing”
or “omniscient,” as it’s sometimes said, then, He
never knew any less nor will He ever
know any more. As the prophet Isaiah puts
it, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel,
and who instructed him, and taught him in the path
of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and
showed him the way of understanding?”
(Isa. 40:13-14). That God is absolutely
all-knowing is an awesome thought,
isn’t it? I mean, it’s humbling
and even frightening! That’s only
natural. But it’s just as natural
for it to be the cause of much joy in a
person’s life, too. If God knows everything
about everything, He knows everything about me and
my life, too, doesn’t He? To some that’s frightening; to others it’s a joy. We’re going to
discuss this more in another part of Paul’s sermon. Secondly, according to
Tozer, to be the Supreme Ruler and Lord of heaven
and earth, God must be
all-powerful, too. This is Paul’s emphasis in
the use of the word “Lord”
here in Athens. If it could be shown that
there is just one tiny stray atom of power that
the Lord God doesn’t control, He would be seen
as a limited ruler and not Sovereign
at all. That’s what Jesus meant
when He said in Matthew 19:26, “. . . with God all things are possible.” Nothing is too hard for the
Lord” (Gen. 18:14). John saw it in his vision
on Patmos and wrote, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!”
(Rev. 19:6). We spoke at length
of His mighty –His incomprehensible
power last week. “Let all the earth fear
the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world
stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was
done; he commanded, and it stood fast”
(Psalm 33:8-9). But God’s infinite
knowledge and power are meaningless if He isn’t
free to exercise them according to
His own will. The Psalmist asks,
“Wherefore should the heathen say, Where
is now their God? But our God is in the
heavens:” he says, “he hath done whatsoever he
hath pleased.” In sharp contrast to that, he says,
“Their idols (the idols of the heathen) are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they
speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They
have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but
they smell not: They have hands, but they handle
not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither
speak they through their throat. They that make them are
like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them” (Psa. 115:1-8). But remember, “Our God is
in the heavens: he has done whatsoever he hath
pleased.” Fundamental to the biblical doctrine of
creation is the truth that God brought the universe
into existence, not of necessity, but of
His own free will. Wilbur M. Smith argues this point on page 280 of his book, Therefore Stand with a quote from W. Lindsay Alexander that “He
[God] freely willed the existence of creatures
(which I understand to be animal and human life]
being equally free not to will it had He pleased; or
to will the existence of creatures other than those
actually created had that been
His choice. This is the only
legitimate inference from the infinitude of the
divine perfection.” What he’s saying is this:
–and it’s true — If God created the universe out
of necessity, it could be argued that creation was
required to supply some prior deficiency,
therefore, God was and is something less
than perfect. To infinite perfection
nothing is lacking and nothing more
can be added. That’s equally as true with governing the world around us. The Bible says that God
not only created the world, but “He upholds all
things by the word of
his power” (Heb. 1:3). Or as other versions have
it, He “sustains all things by the power of his
word.” The Sovereignty of God is the resolution
of the conflict between
science and faith. For example, it was
reported by Reuter news agency –and it was in our
paper –on Monday December 11, 1995 that the day before, NASA scientists received the first data
from the spacecraft Galileo’s probe — a
message beamed over 2.3 billion miles, to give
Earth its first close-up look at the giant
planet Jupiter. Galileo was launched six
years earlier –with precise timing to rendezvous with Jupiter at that moment. Scientists and
technologists had to foreknow the position
of Jupiter in its relationship to the earth
and its moons and other planets to launch the
spacecraft so it would be at the right place at the
right time six years later in order to
accomplish this fete. It is only because God
runs this universe with such exactness and
dependability, through what we call His natural
laws, that man can achieve these and other
great things. Yes, God is in control
of this world; He is the Sovereign Ruler of the
heavens and the earth. That’s what Paul was saying and that’s what I’m saying. If we couldn’t depend on
an apple to fall earthward every time one is detached
from a tree, or water always to seek its own
level, we would live in a state of constant
confusion, wouldn’t we? But the sovereignty of God
demands a place for His freedom to supernaturally
or miraculously intervene in that system
when He chooses. If He doesn’t possess that
freedom, then He’s not absolutely free and
He is not sovereign. Well, the believer
confidently maintains that the waters of the Red Sea
did part and that the children of Israel did
pass through as on dry round just as
the Bible says. He really believes there
was a universal flood just as you read in Genesis,
and in Joshua’s long day. He will argue the
miraculous conception and virgin birth of Jesus,
and the reality of His resurrection
from the dead. What about such
interventions of the supernatural into
the natural world? Could those things
really have happened. Well, we heartily agree
with Elton Trueblood that “there doesn’t seem to be
much reason for worshiping a God who has made a
world such that He is effectually shut out from
participation in its management.” However, in
view of some present-day claims to such power,
we need to mention some things important about
God’s exercise of His freedom to
do miracles. First is: God never
acts capriciously or impulsively –but always consistently and purposefully. I mean He is not a
side-show artist doing miracles just to “show
off” or just because He can. Also, we must remember
that God is also free not to do miracles
and still be God. If He does not have that
freedom, He is not the Sovereign Ruler of the
heavens and the earth as
Paul says He is. Then too, we must always
remember that there is no more of the power of God
seen in a miracle than there is in His ordinary
workings as we were talking about
only a moment ago. He is just as much in
charge and equally as powerful, when acting
through His established order as He is in
performing miracles. God is not limited,
by being God, to not demonstrate His unbounded
power by a miracle, as Pentecostal
theology has it. Yes, “The Lord God
Omnipotent Reigneth.” Let all the earth
fear the Lord. Let all the inhabitants of
the earth stand in awe of Him.” Dear Lord and sovereign ruler of this world that you have made. We’re awed again today in our meditation at your unlimited knowledge and power and total freedom. Still we recognize our personal responsibility for the choices we make in our personal behavior, our salvation, our ultimate
destiny. Attend our ways today
keep us by thy hand. We pray in the exalted name of Jesus Christ, Amen. For centuries there’s been
a struggle in the minds of some people between God’s
sovereignty and human choice in
salvation. Some believe that Divine
sovereignty negates human choice in the
matter of salvation. Others believe that human
choice denies God’s infinite knowledge and
power –and His freedom
to exercise them. It’s actually a debate
about the place of human responsibility for
behavior, salvation and destiny. But, God’s sovereignty
does not negate the choice you and I have in the
matters of our behavior or our salvation or
our destinies. For example on the day of
Pentecost, the events of which are recorded in
Acts 2, the apostle Peter preached to a Jewish
audience, many of whom were present at the trial
and crucifixion of Jesus less than two months earlier –and some had even participated. Well, he said to them, “Ye
men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth,
a man approved of God among you by miracles and
wonders and signs, which God did by him in the
midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him,
being delivered by the determinate counsel and
foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked
hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up. . .” (Verses 22-24). God foreknew the
crucifixion of Christ, even planned it before the
foundation of the world as the way of reconciling
sinful man to Himself. Caiaphas and the others of
their own choice, did it, and God held them
accountable for it. God’s foreknowledge and
His predetermination of it didn’t annul the free
choice of the persons involved. Neither did their
choices frustrate the foreknowledge or
the power of God. So it is
with us. “Salvation is of the
Lord” (Jonah 2:9). The gospel is God’s power
to save people –that is, all who will
believe it (Rom. 1:16). That clearly means that
man does not, indeed, in no way can he save
himself, but he has a choice in whether
he will be saved. The Bible’s last
invitation in Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and
the bride say, Come. And let him that
heareth say, Come. And let him that
is athirst come. And whosoever will, let
him take the water of life freely” is without meaning
if man doesn’t have that choice. And that golden text of
the Bible, a verse that’s dear to all believers,
(John 3:16), “For God so loved the world, that he
gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life” is also meaningless if man
doesn’t have a choice. The people on Pentecost
who had helped crucify the Lord, exercised that faith
and asked, “What shall do?” “Then Peter said unto
them, Repent, and be baptized every one of
you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission
of sins, and ye shall receive the gift
of the Holy Ghost. . . Then they that gladly
received his word were baptized: and the same day
there were added unto them about three thousand
souls (Verses 37,38, 41). What about you,
my friend? Will you? Our program is brought
your way by some friends of yours in churches of
Christ with the prayer and hope that you
will choose God. We’d dearly love to have you worship with us, too –right away.
Will you? Free audio cassette tapes
and printed transcripts of this program are
available for the asking. Write us, In Search of
the Lord’s Way, P.O. Box 371,
Edmond, OK 73083. Or you may use our
toll-free telephone number to call,
if you like. The number is
1-800-321-8633. You won’t need to send
money, but it would help us a lot, if you’ll
request the program by title –Lord of
Heaven And Earth. Thanks for being
with us today. Do it again next
week, will you? God bless you.
We love you.

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