Friday, April 9, 2010

Sovereign Philosophy

Is God sovereign? That was the first question on my son’s worksheet for a college philosophy class. His lap-top computer wasn’t routing properly to the home printer, so he emailed the worksheet to me so I could print it out before he left for class. Like any good mother would… I peeked at his answer (as well as several others). I must say, the years of Sunday school, family devotions, and church youth functions appear to have been fruitful.

I wondered what the Philosophy professor might discuss in the class. I struggled with the idea of an unknown teacher debating the sovereignty of our Lord with my son (without using Scripture!). The truth of God’s sovereign rule and ability to work through His people (and sometimes in spite of His people) to bring about His divine will is best revealed through His Word. Immediately, I thought of an incident in Scripture that helped me solidify the concept of God’s sovereignty.

There was a Centurion in the Italian Regiment named Cornelius. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly (Acts 10:2 NIV). In a vision, Cornelius saw an angel who told him to send men to the home of tanner who lived in Joppa. The Apostle Peter was staying with the tanner at the time. The angel instructed Cornelius to have the men bring Peter to his house. Cornelius sent two of his servants and a devout soldier to Joppa as the angel instructed.

About the time the men were approaching the city of Joppa, Peter went up on the roof of the tanner’s house to pray. Peter fell into a trance and also saw a vision. In Peter’s vision, He saw something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat” (Acts 10:11-13 NIV). The sheet contained not only animals that Jews would consider “kosher” or “clean” and acceptable to eat, but also many that were considered “unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15 NIV). While Peter was still trying to understand the vision, Cornelius’s men arrived at the house asking for him.

The Spirit said to Peter, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them” (Vs. 19-20). The next day Peter went with the men to Cornelius’s house in Caesarea. Interestingly, Cornelius had gathered his relatives and close friends at this house, anticipating Peter’s arrival. Peter stepped inside and said, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

Isn’t that amazing? Peter left with Cornelius’s men even though it was against Jewish law to associate with Gentiles, and he went without even knowing the purpose of the visit. Peter was told by the Spirit not to hesitate and he obeyed, without objection, without question. Peter was a man deeply devoted to the Jewish laws. Only a work of God upon his heart could have persuaded him to break Jewish law and visit a Gentile home.

And how does the story end? Peter preached and shared that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and told the group that Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead on the third day. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:44-45 NIV). The entire group was baptized and salvation was extended to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, just as God promised Abraham about two thousand years earlier when He said, all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:3).

God spoke to two men living in different cities with precise timing. The messages were specific enough to clearly guide each man’s decisions. Our Lord is indeed sovereign. He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:11). He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him (Daniel 2:21-22). And Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because He always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25). For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities –all things have been created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).

We can rest in the truth that the One who created all things in heaven and on earth is the same God who works out everything according to His divine purposes and even grants wisdom to those who consider themselves wise. Yes, our God has a sovereign philosophy.

Hmm... I wonder if I can slip into that class!

-Mindy Ferguson

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