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The Sovereignty of God – Romans 11:36

Father, as we look now into Your Word, I pray that its truth would come penetrating into our minds and into our hearts, that You would use this to greatly conform us into the image of Christ to make us more and more like our Savior. I pray that You will meet with everyone who is watching this broadcast. I pray that You will meet with them in a very personal and individual way and that You will attend to all of their needs. Use this study to strengthen them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Well, we are in Romans 11 verse 36, and if you would take your Bible, I am going to begin reading in verse 33, but it is verse 36 that our focus will be on today. The title of this message, this study, is “The Sovereignty of God.” So I want to begin reading in verse 33, this climactic doxology that has led up to this mountain peak: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?” Now here is where we will be looking this morning, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

 

Here in condensed form is the truth of the sovereignty of God. This is the most foundational truth of all Christian theology. It is the bedrock of all doctrines. This is the Mount Everest of all truths. The truth of the sovereignty of God must be the first article of our Christian faith, and it is to say this, that God is, and the God who is is the God who reigns. That is what we mean by the sovereignty of God. Every other doctrinal teaching must be brought into alignment with this towering truth. It means that God is God and not merely a name only, but in the full reality of what it means for God to be God. It means that God does as He pleases, how He pleases, when He pleases, where He pleases, with whom He pleases. God is and God reigns.

 

Everything in the book of Romans has been ascending upward to this one verse as we now reach Romans 11 verse 36. This is the highest summit. This is the loftiest pinnacle. This is the highest mountain peak of the book of Romans. Paul’s entire building argument for the first eleven chapters has been going up this steep slope. We began in the valley with condemnation and the wrath of God revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men, and we began the steep incline upward to justification in chapters 3 through 5, that the just shall live by faith, and then sanctification in chapters 3 through 8, and then glorification at the end of chapter 8, and then election and predestination in chapters 9 through 11.

 

And so, we have been building and ascending upward to this very loftiest mountain peak as we come now to the capstone in this verse, Romans 11 verse 36 that “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” This verse is found in what we call a doxology, which is a short hymn of praise, and this is a resounding anthem of praise to God. That is why verse 36 concludes, “To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

 

And so, Paul is not a stoic saint. He doesn’t have a stiff upper lip. He has a heart that is about to leap out of his chest because of the excitement that fills him on these truths about God and His sovereign grace. And I trust this morning that there is a spiritual heartbeat within you of excitement for God and what He has done by His sovereign grace. So, what I want to do in verse 36 is just divide this into two halves. This will be very easy for you to see.

 

The first half of verse 36 is a God-centered theology. The second half of verse 36 is a God-centered doxology, and it is our theology that produces our doxology. It is the truth of the first half of the verse that ignites our heart with worship for God in the second half of this verse, and without the first half of this verse you will not experience the second half of this verse. This morning as we look at this, I am quite certain that we only have time to look at the first half of this verse, and I am praying, Kent, that we can even get in the first half of this verse. So, hey, this is my Bible study, okay? So, I am going at my own pace, and I want to do this under the sovereignty of God, but of course, so we are going to dig down into this, and let me read the first half of this verse one more time, and you probably know this is my favorite verse in the Bible.

 

So, it begins, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” I want you to know there is more in those three prepositional phrases than what may immediately meet the eye. Nothing lies outside of this statement, “all things.” From Him, through Him, to Him are all things. This is as high and as deep and as wide and as long as the entire universe. The entire universe and everything that takes place inside the entire universe fits inside of these three prepositional phrases, and there is nothing outside of these three prepositional phrases, except God Himself.

 

So, in these three prepositional phrases is Romans 1 through 11 in summary form. It is the entire Bible in miniature. It is a complete systematic theology in itself. Here is a comprehensive world view in these three prepositional phrases. Here is the Reformation in a nutshell. Here is the entire universe and all of human history and providence and salvation. We could even add, “and judgment and damnation.” Everything is found within these three prepositional phrases.

 

Let me give you just a quick overview of this. “From Him” means God is the source of all things. “Through Him” means that God is the means of all things. And “To Him,” God is the goal of all things. Did you get that? He is the source, from Him; the means, through Him; and the goal, to Him, of all things. To put it another way, that all things are from Him means He is the architect of all things. Through Him means He is the administrator of all things. And to Him means He is the aim of all things. Or to put it another way, that all things are from His sovereign will, all things are through His sovereign activity, and all things are to His sovereign glory. There is so much packed into these three prepositional phrases. All things are found within these three prepositional phrases; Selah, pause and meditate. Now, this is not unique to this verse. This is found in multiple passages of Scripture throughout the Bible, and I want to give you some cross-references as we are just getting some traction here to begin our study of this verse.

 

But let me give you some of these cross-references: 1 Corinthians 8 and verse 6, “There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” 1 Corinthians 8 verse 6 has four prepositional phrases, that all things are from Him, for Him, by Him, and through Him. This is big boy theology, okay? I mean, we are not in the wading pool. We are in the depths of the reality of who God is.

 

1 Corinthians 11 verse 12 says, “All things originate from God,” Ephesians 4 and verse 6, “There is one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” Y’all! So, it is all, who is over all, through all, and in all. The profundity of what is packed into these little two-word prepositional phrases is mind-boggling. Colossians 1 verse 16, this one relates to the Lord Jesus Christ, “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 through Him and for Him.”

 

It is wonderful. Praise the Lord for this, that nothing out there is random. Everything has divine purpose as it has come from the hand of God. Now, God is not the author of sin. Nevertheless, God is the author of a plan that includes sin for His greater glory. We would know nothing of God’s grace were it not for a plan that has sin and evil. We would know nothing of God’s longsuffering and patience. We would know nothing of His wrath and His righteousness if there was not this plan that God has designed from all eternity past that includes all things.

 

Let me give you one more verse, cross reference, and we are still just building the front porch here to get into a massive house. Alright, Hebrews 2 verse 10, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and through whom are all things.” So, what I have wanted you to see is here in Romans 11:36, this isn’t the only place in the Bible where these comprehensive all-inclusive prepositional phrases are found. And this is really what we would call the macro perspective where we see the totality of what God is doing from all eternity past through time into eternity future, but what is astounding is it is not only the macro; it is also the micro. As R.C. Sproul would say, “There are no maverick molecules in the universe,” both the big picture and the small picture. You see, God is in even the details. We hear the little expression, “The devil is in the details.” Don’t believe it for a second. God is in the details as well as the wide-angle lens.

 

So, I want us to think now about these three prepositional phrases on three different planes. I want us to think about it first as this relates to creation, then second as it relates to providence and history, and then third as it relates to salvation. Let me repeat that. We are going to look at these three prepositional phrases, first as it relates to creation, then second as it relates to providence and human history, then third as it relates to salvation. We want to see it on all three levels.

 

Let us begin with creation. We certainly would agree that all things in the physical universe are from God. God is the Creator of all that there is. Genesis 1 verse 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Everything that is in existence has come from God. He spoke everything into being out of nothing. Galaxies came dripping out of His fingertips as God spoke everything into being, and we saw that earlier in the book of Romans, in Romans 1 and verse 20, just to tack this or tie this into the book of Romans. Verse 20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so they are without excuse.”

 

James Montgomery Boice, great Bible teacher from the last century said, “If anything exists, then God who is the uncaused first cause must exist and be the Creator of it all.” So, God is the uncreated Creator. He is the uncaused first cause. It has all come from God and by God’s perfect design. It was God who determined exactly where the earth would be and where the heights of the mountains would be and the depths of the ocean and just the right angle that He would set the earth on its axis and spin it perfectly at just the right speed and it would be situated just the right distance from the sun and the moon and the orbit and the changing of the seasons and the amount of water and the hydration, seasons, and periods. All of this has come from the infinite genius of God, and God has spoken it into being. So, it is all from God. There is no denial that God is the Creator of all that there is. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God,'” Psalm 14 verse 1.

 

Now, not only is it all from Him, but it is all through Him, meaning He continues to hold the entire world in His hand and God is governing and upholding His entire physical universe. It is God who sustains and maintains all that He has made. If God would take His hands off of His physical creation, everything would just go spinning into chaos. So, it is all through Him in the sense of His continued activity to oversee and uphold all of the laws of physics and thermodynamics and gravity and all of the rest.

 

Let me give you two verses. Colossians 1:17, “In Him all things hold together.” He is the glue that is holding all things together. That is why I said a couple of weeks ago in our Bible study, “This world is not going to blow up until God is ready for it to blow up at the end of time.” History is not coming to an end until God determines it will come to an end. The human race will not come to an end until God determines His physical creation will come to an end. We cannot circumvent the sovereign will of God. Hebrews 1:3, “He upholds all things by the word of His power.” Did you hear that? He upholds all things by the word of His power. This is our God, and any other view of God is sheer imagination of a fallen mind.

 

Then, it is “all to Him,” meaning it is all for God’s glory. Everything that God has created is a reflection of His genius and His power and His mighty attributes, and it is all for His own pleasure, and it is to reveal the transcendence and the immensity of who God is. Psalm 19 verse 1, “The heavens are declaring the glory of God.” The heavens are just but almost like a mirror to reflect the glory of God. John Calvin writing in his Institutes of the Christian Religion has said that the entire created order is but a theater for the glory of God. You can imagine going to a theater and sitting there, and there is the screen in such large proportion, and you are observing with your eyes what is being shown on the screen. For us to look at the created order is like being in a theater and beholding the glory and the greatness of our God. So, we would say this is obviously true in creation, and this is why we so strongly oppose the lie of evolution. Evolution is a frontal assault, an attack on the glory of God. When you replace God as the source of all things, you replace God as the purpose of all things. We believe that all things are from God. Therefore, all things are to God. And if you say all things are not from Him and through Him, you have robbed God of the glory that is due His name. So, this is why we begin with creation. And I am certain as you are hearing this that there is an “amen” within your heart as you hear me speak these truths if you are a believer in the Bible and a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Well, this leads us now second to history and providence, history and providence, and I want us to look at these three prepositional phrases one more time, and I want us to see that not only has God created the entire physical order almost like a stage for this theater, but He has also written the script for everything that will take place on this stage, and He is the director of everything that will occur in human history.

 

So, let us think this through. First of all, all things are from Him. God is the grand Architect of His master plan for human history. Let me just tell you this, God is not making this up as He goes, and God is not going from plan B to plan C to plan D, and by the time now we are in the year 2020 we are on plan twenty gazillion. No, there is only one plan A from all eternity past, and it is all inclusive of everything that comes to pass. We call this in theology, “God’s eternal decree” and it is referred to in different ways in the Bible. I am going to just give you some cross-references. I want you to know that there is one master plan from before time began in which God laid out His blueprint for all of human history, not only in the big picture, but to every little minute detail that would come to pass.

 

In Acts 2:23, it is referred to as “the predetermined plan.” God has a predetermined plan. In Ephesians 1:11, it is referred to as “the counsel of His will.” In Ephesians 3:11, it is referred to as “the eternal purpose.” In Romans 8 verse 28, it is referred to as “His purpose,” and in Romans 9 verse 11 it is “God’s purpose,” and in Hebrews 6 verse 17 it is “the unchangeableness of His purpose.” So, God has a purpose from eternity past, His eternal purpose, for everything that will come to pass. And let me tell you, God pre-scripted the day of your birth, who your parents would be, when and where in history you would be born, what your gender would be, what your IQ would be, who would live next door to you, where you would go to school, all of the events of your life down to the day of your death. All of your days were numbered in His book “when as yet there was not one of them,” Psalm 139 verse 16. And so, God has this master plan. All things are from this genius mind and this master plan of God, and all things are through Him, meaning He is the one who is overseeing the execution of His plan. Some things are from Him, other things He allows, but He is controlling all things.

 

So let me give you some verses on this. Isaiah 14 verses 26 and 27, “This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has planned it, and who can frustrate it?” It is a rhetorical question, the answer of which is “no one can resist the eternal plan and purpose of God.” Then he says, “And as for His stretched-out hand,” referring to God’s, “who can turn it back?” Question mark. Answer: No one. No one can slap God’s hand. No one can push it away from the table. All that God does with His outstretched hand will come to pass. To use a word, He is the Executor of His own eternal decree. He is a make-it-happen God.

 

Let me give you one more verse, Isaiah 46:8 through 11. Kent, are you writing this down? Okay, I need you on this now. Isaiah 46:8 through 11: “Remember this, and be assured; recall it to mind, you transgressors.” Why would he say that? Because we in the midst of the fray of life are so easily prone to forget this. That is why he says, “Remember this, recall it to mind.” Verse 9, “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me.”

 

Now, here is the question: What distinguishes God as God? What is the godness of God? What sets God apart from all His creation, from you and from me? He gives us the answer in verse 10, “Declaring the end from the beginning.” That is to say, from before the beginning God declares the end of human history all the way back to the beginning. And what is implied? And everything between the end and the beginning God declares it. God decrees it. Notice, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done.” Even before history occurs, God has already declared what it will be. “Saying,” this is what God says, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure.” This is irrevocable. This is immutable. This is unchangeable. History is “His story.”

 

Now verse 11, “Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country.” Let me just give you a footnote. That is referring to Cyrus, who was the ruler of the Medes and the Persians. He was an unbeliever. He was what we would call a reprobate and he was like a pet bird in the sovereign will of God, and when God whistles Cyrus comes. God is working not just through believers; God is working through even unbelievers to accomplish His sovereign purpose.

 

Proverbs 21 verse 1, “The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord. Like rivers of water, He channels it whichever way He wills.” Even the king’s heart is in the hand of God and God is channeling the king’s heart whichever way God determines it will go. Now, the end of verse 11, Isaiah 46 verse 11, “Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.” Close quote. That is the sovereignty of God. And this is true for all of human history and all that will come to pass. And why does God do this? God does it for His own glory, for His own good pleasure. Isaiah 48 verse 3, “I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.” Now, verse 11, in Isaiah 48 verse 11, “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.” Why does God act in human history? Ultimately, for His own glory, for His own sake. This is the sovereignty of God for His own good pleasure.

 

I remember the day in class when R.C. Sproul told us, “The sovereignty of God is God’s favorite doctrine, and it would be your favorite doctrine if you were God.” It means you are in control of the universe. You are the chairman of the board of everything. So, everything that comes to pass is according to God’s good pleasure. If you want to write down some cross-references, Proverbs 16:33, Proverbs 19:21, Proverbs 21 verse 1, Proverbs 21 verse 31, Psalm 33 verse 10, and it is just killing me to not be reading these cross-references right now. You have no idea how filled with the Spirit I am with self-control to not be, and you can throw in Romans 8:28, to not be reading all of these verses that testify that all things are through Him. He is guiding, directing, controlling the flow of human history to its appointed end. And even what they mean for evil, God means for good. God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick.

 

Now, therefore, before I move on to the third level, there is no such thing as good luck, bad luck, blind faith, random chance, accidental occurrences, good karma, bad karma. Those are all a fictitious imagination of a fallen mind. It is a religious superstition. It is paganism on steroids. It is hedonism taken to its fullest extent. No, God has the whole world in the palm of His hand, even Pharaoh’s heart, and He is controlling, directing, guiding everything to its appointed end. And you may say, “Well, what about human responsibility?” Well, just see every other previous message I have given from the book of Romans, and you are going to see human responsibility coming out of my mouth in every single lesson, but you need to see in the ultimate sense there is only one free will and that belongs to God.

 

Now this leads us, third, to salvation. We have seen these three prepositional phrases; from Him, through Him, to Him. We have seen it as it relates to creation, history, and providence. But now, third, to salvation. Nowhere is this verse more true than in the matter of salvation, and as Paul writes this in verse 36 of Romans 11, that is what is most dominant on his mind. Everything from Romans 1 verse 1 to Romans 11 verse 36 has had as its main focus that salvation is from God and through God and to God.

 

So, let us give thought to this and I don’t know that I can pack all this in in the time that remains, but I just have to tell you I am enjoying this. And you know who’s enjoying this the most? God, because this is bringing pleasure to God. It is magnifying and elevating the name of God. It is giving greatest glory to God. God is most delighting in hearing His own truths about Himself being made known.

 

So, as this relates to salvation, all things are from Him. Every aspect of salvation is from God. This speaks to the doctrine of sovereign election. This speaks to the doctrine of sovereign foreknowledge and foreordination. It speaks to the doctrine of predestination from before time began. Ephesians 1:4, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” God chose His elect: “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.” God made a distinguishing choice even within the womb to love the one, to pass over the other. This is all from the sovereign will of God, but more than that, the gospel of how these chosen ones would be saved is from God.

 

In Romans 1 verse 1, it ends with “the gospel of God,” that is to say, it is the gospel that has come from God, from the infinite genius of God. He is the master architect of the plan of salvation of how His elect would be saved. It is God who designed the virgin birth, the sinless life, the substitutionary death, the bodily resurrection, the present enthronement. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. All of this has come from the stunning brilliance of God to design this. And not only that, but in eternity past God gave His elect to His Son to be His love gift, if you will. And we were all given to Christ from before time began.

 

All of this is from God. It is also through God, meaning God is the One who has brought it to pass. God is the One who has appointed the placement of each one of us on the globe as we have already talked about, but more than that where you would be when He would call you to Himself. Who would bring the gospel message to you? None of these were random events. This was all brought about by the sovereign will of God, and God was the one who convicted you of sin. God is the one who called you to Himself. God is the one who regenerated you and birthed you into His kingdom. God is the one who opened your spiritually blind eyes, who opened your spiritually deaf ears. God is the one who opened your hardened heart. God is the one who gave you repentance and faith. God is the one who acted upon you and brought you into His kingdom.

 

You were running away from God. God was the one who ran after you and drew you to Himself and brought you into His kingdom. This has all come through God. It is all God’s doing, not you and God, not you, but God and God alone, and all of this is to God’s glory. That is why Ephesians 1 verse 6, verse 12, and verse 14 all end in the same way, “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” This is all for God’s glory, all for God’s grace.

 

That is why when we get to heaven and God puts a crown on us we are going to immediately cast it back at His feet. “You were the one you chose me. You were the one who predestined my salvation. You were the one who drew me out of the pit of sin. You were the one who birthed me into the kingdom. I didn’t birth myself. You were the one who gave me the gifts of repentance and faith. This crown can’t remain on my head.” My only contribution was my sin that was laid upon Jesus Christ at the cross. All of this is for the glory of God and to give Him the honor that belongs to Him alone.

 

Any other understanding, any lesser understanding of salvation robs God of His glory. If your salvation is part God and part you, then part of the glory will only go to God and part of the glory will go to you. That makes perfect sense. Even if it was ninety percent God and just ten percent you, then still ten percent of the credit would be yours. But when it is hundred percent God then one hundred percent of the glory goes to God. Surely, this must be true so that all glory will go to God. So, any lesser understanding, any other understanding of salvation robs God of His glory. Any understanding of baptismal regeneration, universalism, annihilationism, legalism, Catholicism, pluralism, any view of salvation that is not by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the predetermined eternal purpose and plan of God, whether you realize it or not is in one degree or another an attempt to cling to some of the glory for yourself, and that is a great evil.

 

So, as we bring this to conclusion, let me just give you three points of application and then, Kent, I can hear your phone. We have got some questions coming in, and I’m just going to say, “Awesome! Bring them on!”

 

Let me tell you three things. Number one, open your eyes. Open your eyes and behold the sovereignty of God. See how much bigger and greater and grander God is than you ever dreamed. Open your eyes.

 

Second, open your heart. Love this God, adore this God. In your heart of heart, your soul should be filled with greater love for this God for what He has done for you from all eternity past. You can’t just sit there and be a sphinx with a straight face. There has to be in your heart and soul an excitement and an enthusiasm for the Lord.

 

And then third and finally, open your mouth. Give Him the glory, worship Him. Let there be praise and honor come from your mouth to this God. Do not be silent as you know these truths, and open your mouth and teach your children these truths. Open your mouth and testify of this to others. Give all the glory to God. Well, I am going to stop here at this point.

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