Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Sovereignty of God in the God-centered congregation

Numbers 1:45-46 So all the numbered men of the sons of Israel by their fathers’ households, from twenty years old and upward, whoever was able to go out to war in Israel, 46even all the numbered men were 603,550.

Over the past few days we have looked at what makes for a God-centered congregation from Numbers 1-4 and other passages.  We have noted two marks:
1. The strength of a God-centered congregation is scripture
2. The celebration of a God-centered congregation is redemption

Today we want to consider the focal point of the God-centered congregation - The Sovereignty of God.

What is God's Sovereignty?
God's rule and reign over the affairs of creation, history and salvation are covered under the heading of His Sovereignty.  God operates by both means and ends.  He excercises His Sovereignty by Providence in History and through His redemptive plan through God the Son, which will draw history to its conclusion.  He alone has the ability to accomplish His ends through whatever secondary means He deems necessary.  Sovereignty does not exclude human responsibility not the will of any creature.  If anything, a biblical understanding of Sovereignty and human responsibility will recognize the compatability of both, even if we cannot fully comprehend how both function in relationship with one another. 

Included in this definition is the idea that all whom He calls by grace through faith, and who truly and freely believe upon Him, will never be totally and finally lost.  

God's Sovereignty in His people's lives means not one of his people will ever be lost
This principle physically illustrated
Every New Testament truth has at least one Old Testament, physical illustration.  In the physical sense, every Israelite male coming out of Egypt did not physically perish.  In Numbers 2:46 we read that 603,550 came out of Egypt.  When we compare other scriptures - we discover just how Sovereign God was in protecting the physical lives of His people:

Exodus 38:26 a beka a head (that is, half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary), for each one who passed over to those who were numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men

Numbers 2:32 These are the numbered men of the sons of Israel by their fathers’ households; the total of the numbered men of the camps by their armies, 603,550.

This principle spiritually demonstrated
If this was true of the physical lives of the people coming out of physical Egypt, how much the more will not God Sovereignly protect the Spiritual lives of His people who believed on Him.  Those that came out of Egypt were physically spared, however they perished in the desert due to not ever having saving faith to begin (Hebrews 3-4).  By their fruits, that first generation sadly demonstrated they weren't God's people spiritually, even though they were physically protected and loved by Him.  Scripture is clear that they had no one to blame but themselves for failure to enter into the Divine rest of salvation. 

Understanding a little bit about the relationship between Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility
Its not that God's Sovereign intentions failed, rather the blame for unbelief falls upon man.  God's purpose to glorify Himself is still accomplished - since all he is obligated to do towards any human being is dispense His justice.  Anyone who believes on Jesus Christ does so due to God's saving grace - a gift which God freely dispenses soley out of His loving intention, rather than any obligation he owes to the creature. (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 John 4:19)  For eternity His Justice will be ever upon those who rejected Him, and His Mercy will be ever upon those who believed through His Graceful purpose at work in their lives. (John 3:17-19; Romans 9:22-26; 1 John 2:19; Revelation 21:6-9, 22:14-15) God will get the credit for all who are with Him in eternity, since their choosing of Jesus was due to the Spirit's work of conviction in their lives. (John 16:8-11; Jude 24-25) Whereas those who spend eternity in hell do so because they chose to reject God in Christ this life. (Luke 16) Paul writes of that first generation of Israelites that their lives and actions served as illustrations and warnings to us living in modern times. (1 Corinthians 10:6)

For those who by grace through faith truly believe on Jesus Christ, the promise is that they will be Sovereignly kept in their salvation.  Jesus Himself states in John 10:28-30 "and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30“I and the Father are one.” Peter tells us that true believers in Jesus Christ are being preserved until the day of His return. (1 Peter 1:5).  Additionally, Jude tells us that true believers will be presented before the Father's throne by Christ as faultless and blameless with great joy. (Jude 24-25)   

The Defining Marks of the God-centered congregation
And so the God-centered congregation has these following traits:

1. Their strength derives from scripture
2. Thy celebrate redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ
3. They are focused upon the Sovereignty of God, who keeps them in their salvation

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