My Dear Friends,
The longer I am a Christian, the more my heart and mind are gladdened by the truth of God’s unassailable sovereignty. Far from being a forbidding doctrine that fills me with a sense of dread, it is a doctrine that breathes security and sweetness to my soul. It is nothing less than tragic, however, that a truth that God’s word intends to support, encourage and reassure us, has been a cause of controversy among Christians. Why should this be so? Two reasons come to mind:
First, Christians have often been reluctant to live by faith and not by sight. Believing God is all about trusting him, even when we cannot fully understand him. Just how God’s unassailable sovereignty can be reconciled with our unambiguous responsibility may not be clear to us, but that is no reason for questioning, far less denying, the absoluteness or unconditionality of God’s sovereignty. When the Bible confronts us with these twin truths, the expectation is not that we will happily reconcile them, but that we will humbly receive them and live our lives in the light of them. Indeed, we should expect to find ourselves out of our depths, saying with Paul: “O the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how un-searchable are his ways and his paths beyond tracing out. For who has known the mind of the Lord and who has been his counsellor?” It does not take great faith to believe in God’s unassailable sovereignty, it simply takes a willingness to let God be God. We truly see through a glass darkly. But our as yet dimly perceiving spiritual sight should not dictate whether we embrace God’s absolute sovereignty or deny it. If Scripture teaches it (and it does) we should humbly and wholeheartedly believe it and embrace it.
There is a second reason why this truth has been controversial among Christians. Too often, God’s sovereignty has been detached from his character. This has led to God’s sovereignty being seen as dispassionate arbitrariness. Robert Burns satirised God’s sovereignty in his poem “Holy Willie’s Prayer” - “ane to Heaven an' ten to Hell.” This is nothing less than a monumental travesty of what God’s unconditional sovereignty is. In the first place, God’s sovereignty is just. It is just of necessity because he himself is just. There is nothing coldly or clinically arbitrary about God’s sovereignty. If he is holy, just and good, rich in mercy and slow to anger, we can be sure that his decrees will reflect his character. This fact is heightened when God acts in relation to his blood-brought children. His sovereignty in our lives is not the sovereignty of a remote despot, but of a loving Father. The Christian life is lived in the conscious sense of our sonship to God. There is a familial atmosphere to the believing life which enables us to say, “It is the Lord” when sore and inexplicable providences touch our lives or overwhelm us, our families, or the nations of our world.
Unassailable sovereignty is simply a more theological way of saying, “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” Would you want your life, indeed the whole of life to be under-girded by anything else?
Unassailable sovereignty is not a Reformed shibboleth, it is the Christian’s sweet comfort. In this great truth our Lord Jesus anchored his soul as he faced the cross - “You would have no power over me, unless it were given to you from above.”
Unassailable sovereignty should be the sweetest of truths to the child of God. To know in the midst of a turbulent world that “Our God reigns” is the greatest of comforts, precisely because it is “Our God” who reigns. There is a Lamb in the centre of the throne of the cosmos.
Yours as ever in Christ