I believe in God’s sovereignty, not in a fatalistic way or a double predestination one. Rather, God superintends His creation in such a manner to ensure that His will is completed. The Book of Revelation gives us a picture of the completion of that will:
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9)
This beautiful mosaic of God’s tapestry of creatures portrays a cacophony of people united together in worship of Him. The completion of God’s will also involves His people who have been predestined and blessed to join with Him to see all things united in Christ (Eph 1:10). At the same time, God sovereignly works in other ways to guarantee the outcome He foretold through the apostle John.
What we believe about God will determine how we live your lives. As Millard Erickson put it in Christian Theology, “One’s view of God might even be thought of as supplying the whole framework within which one’s theology is constructed and life is lived. It lends a particular coloration to one’s style of ministry and philosophy of life” (1984:263). We clearly see this idea lived out in the apostle Paul in his letters to the Ephesians and Timothy.
One of the ways that God works to complete His will is through the establishment of governments. Paul, writing in the context of the Roman Empire, but not quite yet under the subjugation of a crazed Emperor Nero, says that indeed God does institute authorities for the good of Christians as well as to maintain order in society (Rom 13:1-7). A few years before he wrote to the churches in Rome, Paul instructed Timothy to teach the churches in Ephesus to pray for political leaders in order to ensure a peaceful life with the freedom to share the gospel since God, “desires all people to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4).
Paul believed in God’s sovereignty over governments for the sole purpose of fulfilling God’s will. However, this did not leave the Christian with an excuse to be passive. Absolutely not! Paul was crystal clear in his instructions for the churches in Ephesus:
- You are to proclaim the gospel (1 Tim 1:12-2:7; 3:14-16).
- You are to correct false teaching (1 Tim 1:3-7; 4:1-5).
- You are to stand in the gap for the marginalized (1 Tim 2:8-15; 5:1-16).
Paul was not waiting for the government to take action. He took action because he was fully convinced that Christians had a role to play in joining with God on His mission. He didn’t call for protests against the Roman government. He didn’t call the church to take to the streets to demand justice. Instead, he called followers of Christ to enact Kingdom justice manifested in the proclamation of the gospel, the correction of false teaching, and the action against social injustice.
Headlines after the first 2020 Presidential Debate tell all: “Embarrassing,” “Debate Debacle,” “Amazing Disgrace,” “Chaos in Cleveland.” If the debate revealed anything, it revealed that Americans have a choice between the lesser of two evils. With what appeared to be an affirmation of Antifa by Biden and the Proud Boys by Trump, the country will continue to face uncertain times as division becomes increasingly acute. However, for the Christian, the debate provides an opportunity to reflect on what we truly believe about God’s sovereignty.
So, after the first 2020 Presidential Debate, I conclude with the following questions: If I genuinely believe that God sovereignly establishes a government as Paul seems to infer in Rom 13:1, is it not arrogant for me to think that my vote will somehow sway God’s sovereignty? Or does my vote somehow make me a participant in God’s sovereign establishment of the government? If the latter is true, then what about those Christians who will vote for the other candidate and who also believe in God’s sovereignty? If the former is true, would this not drive me to pray more fervently (1 Tim 2:1-3) and to continue on God’s mission (Eph 1:10) as Paul directs the churches in Ephesus to do?
How I answer these questions might reveal what I believe about God.