When you get the sovereignty of God straight, everything gets straighter. Going wrong here will lead to error in all kinds of unexpected places. O how I pray that God will give us clarity and conviction and joy in our vision of God’s absolute sovereignty at Bethlehem.
Take the issue of assurance and eternal security and the possibility of falling away from Christ. On Sunday, October 13th, we tackled the sobering text of Hebrews 6:4-8. There it says that you can be “enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” and then fall away from it all and be eternally lost.
I gave five reasons why this does not mean that you can be truly born again, justified, called and saved and then lose all that and perish. You can download or read the sermon (“When Is Saving Repentance Impossible?”) to see how I argued from five crucial texts in Hebrews (6:7-8; 6:9; 3:14; 10:14; 13:20-21). Instead I said that the meaning is something almost as shocking, namely, that you can experience all those things (enlightenment, Holy Spirit, Word of God, and miracles) and never have been saved! This is shocking because it means that people may be deluded into thinking they are Christians when they are not.
So the text and the message raises the question of assurance. How can we be sure we will persevere to the end and not fall away and become like Esau who tried to return but could not repent (Hebrews 12:16-17)? Here is where the sovereignty of God becomes so crucial.
The book of Hebrews exults in the new and better covenant which God has made through the blood of Christ with all who are his people. The old covenant made at Mount Sinai was vulnerable to the people’s weakness (Romans 8:3). Hebrews 8:9 says, "'They did not continue in my covenant, and so I paid no heed to them,' says the Lord." But the new covenant is radically different in that it is not vulnerable to our weakness. Rather it assures that God’s sovereignty will overcome our weakness and prevent us from breaking the covenant.
Thus Hebrews 8:10 says, “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” In other words, God will not just tell us what we must do, he will see to it that we will do it by working in us. This is what Hebrews 13:21 says about the new covenant: “[May God] equip you in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” This is the sanctifying, keeping, saving sovereignty of God. And it is precious beyond words.
In the new covenant our assurance rests firmly on the sovereignty of God. We know we will not fall away because this is a promise of the new covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus. For example, in Jeremiah 32:40, God promises, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from me.”
This is the practical precious reality of the sovereignty of God. I pray that you will understand it and believe it and revel in the security and joy of it.