“…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:18-21)
Christians are right to take great comfort in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, especially in the times in which we live where the moral fabric of our society seems to be unraveling at an ever-quickening pace. It is good for us to remember those great themes we read and sing in the Psalter, like the words of Psalm 46, which inspired Luther to write that memorable and beloved hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalm 46:1-7)
As those who are members of an eternal kingdom which cannot be shaken and will not pass away (Hebrews 12:28), it is good to remind ourselves that our God reigns over all things and that He is ordering all things for His own glory and for the good of His Church in this fallen world. It may not always seem that way, but it is true. We will be reminded this coming Lord’s Day of God’s sovereignty and how He has “from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 3, Of God’s Eternal Decree). I pray that the Lord, through His Word and Spirit, would comfort our hearts even as we continue to pray our nation so greatly blessed by God over its relatively short history.
And yet, even as Christians take comfort in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty over all things, many have difficulty when that doctrine speaks of His eternal decree regarding the salvation of the elect. Our Confession goes on to speak in chapter three that “by the decree of God, for the manifestation of His own glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.” Many will want to limit God’s sovereignty to the sphere of creation and even the affairs of men, but they will draw the line when it comes to salvation. By nature, we remain jealously committed to being the ones who choose our own eternal destiny—we want the final say; we want to make the final decision; we want to be the final determiner of where we spend eternity. “It is my choice, not God’s,” some will say, denying the teaching of the Scriptures which so clearly teach that sinful man has no desire or ability to choose God or the salvation His arm alone has accomplished. These are hard things and as our Confession notes at the end of that same chapter, “this doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care.” Even so, there is abundant consolation and great assurance to be known by those who humbly attend to the revealed will of God in these things. Part of that consolation comes from knowing and resting in something else that God has foreordained from eternity past!
While believers may struggle with God’s sovereignty over all things, I have never met a follower of Jesus who objected to the fact that His sovereignty extended to the foreordaining of Christ to be our Savior. In his first letter, Peter uses the same word in 1:2 when he refers to believers being the “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” as he does in 1:20 when he says of Christ that “He was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” Christ was chosen before the foundation of the world to be our Savior, the One Who would bear the penalty for our sins. In chapter eight of our Confession we read that “it pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man…” This is the One chosen of God from before time began but manifested in these last times for us who through Him believe in God! It is by His precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, that we are redeemed from bondage to sin. It is in this Chosen One where we find our life, He having been raised from the dead as the firstfruits of all those who are raised to everlasting and indestructible life. And it will be before this Chosen and Precious One that we will gather this coming Lord’s Day at His Table, to feed upon Him spiritually, Who freely gives us grace upon grace as we come in faith, believing. Indeed, as Peter says, our faith and our hope are in God—the same God Who chose us in Christ before the world began! Take time at the end of this week to prepare yourself to come to His Table with gratitude in your heart, blessing the God Who has saved you through the death of His Chosen One in Whom He delights.
In the Name of Christ, the Chosen and Beloved of the Father,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar