Christ stopped one storm. But does he govern every storm thereafter? Is this connection a leap? Or is it logical? It’s a question from a listener named Sophia. “Pastor John, hello! I have a question for you about God’s sovereignty over natural disasters, including tsunamis and tornadoes and floods. In the Gospels, we read that Jesus once calmed the wind and waves, leading the disciples to ask each other the glorious question in Mark 4:41: ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ Jesus can step in and stop any storm — yes and amen — an awesome and comforting reality.
“However, over the years, as I read your take on natural disasters, you seem to make an additional conclusion to say that because Jesus dissolved one storm that he ever and always controls the natural powers behind every other storm. From then on, all the winds and waves only perpetually obey Christ. Can you explain this logical connection? How do you move from Jesus’s dissolving of one storm to Jesus’s supervising control over the intensity of every storm thereafter?”
Well, congratulations to Sophia for asking the right kind of question. I think it is wise to question a conclusion that is illogical. She’s concerned with the question, How does this logic work here, from one specific instance to the general? What I mean by illogical conclusion is one that doesn’t follow in a valid way from the premises. For example, this would be illogical:
Premise 1: Jesus, in his earthly life, stilled a storm.
Premise 2: There is a storm in the Atlantic Ocean today in 2020.
Conclusion: Jesus can still this storm.
“The sovereignty of God in the Bible over all things is pervasive and all-encompassing.”
That’s not a valid argument. It’s true. I believe the conclusion is true, but it doesn’t follow logically from the premises because the premises don’t contain enough information to draw that conclusion. If Sophia thinks that’s the way I have come to my conviction about Jesus ruling today over all storms, she ought to be concerned about Piper’s thinking. But that’s not the way I’m thinking. I’m not moving from a single premise (“Jesus stilled a storm”). And I’m not moving from nothing else.
Nine Steps to Absolute Sovereignty
I have at least nine premises to get to the conclusion that Jesus today rules over all storms, everywhere, at all time. Yes, I do believe that. I believe the Bible teaches that. Let me give you my nine premises.
1. Jesus is the Son of God.
When the disciples saw Jesus still the storm, the conclusion they drew was not simply that this particular miracle was an isolated event from a random Jewish teacher. They drew the conclusion that this was a particular kind of person. They saw his power as general, not specific. They said, “What sort of man is this, that even winds [not wind, but winds] and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:27). The answer in Matthew’s context, the answer to their question that Matthew wants us to draw — so, this is a teaching of the Bible — is this: he’s the Son of God. That’s who he is. That is the sort of man he is.
So, rightly understood, the stilling of the storm is a revelation of who he is, and therefore it’s general. That sort of man doesn’t just luck out in this scenario, like, “Whoa, look at that. It actually works.” He doesn’t just luck out sometimes in his ability to see and still storms. It’s a general statement: the winds and the sea, in general — that’s the kind of man he is — obey him. That’s my first premise: the Son of God is the sort of person who can do this.
2. Jesus is unchanging.
Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” He has the same power in 2020 that he had in the first century. He is still that sort of person.
3. God oversees even what seems insignificant.
This same Jesus said to his disciples, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29). I’m assuming that Jesus acts in concert with his Father here. They’re not at odds with each other, like “Oh, the Father can govern the fall of sparrows, but Jesus, he can’t. He’s out of step with that; he can’t do that. Only the Father can do that.”
“What happens ‘in the seas and all deeps’ is owing to ‘whatever the Lord pleases.’”
What the Father does, the Son does, Jesus says (John 5:19). And he says that the Father oversees, governs, the fall of every sparrow — which is an illustration of the most insignificant event Jesus could come up with at the time, I think. Like ripples on the sea. Jesus could’ve said, “Not one ripple happens in the sea apart from your Father,” instead of “Not one sparrow falls to the ground.”
If someone says, “This only means God watches the sparrows fall, but doesn’t govern it,” I would say that in the context of comforting the disciples as they are being killed — that’s the context: “They’re going to kill your body; don’t worry; I’ve got you” (Matthew 10:16–28) — in the context of being killed, that is zero comfort. “Oh, my God watches, but he can’t do anything. My God is inactive. He’s powerless.” I don’t think so. That’s not what’s going on here. This is not just saying, “Hey, God watches while you get killed. He can’t do anything, but he just watches. Take heart.” I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant at all in the context of Matthew 10.
4. Jesus Christ upholds everything.
Paul says that the reigning Jesus, who is the same forever and ever, holds everything together (Colossians 1:17). Hebrews 1:3 says, “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” The world is not like a clock that Jesus wound up, set to running, and then watches from a distance, and has no involvement in it. Psalm 147:8 says, “He prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills.”
Jesus is holding every wave and all the wind in being. He’s holding it in being. He’s got the whole world in his hands. It seems highly unlikely to me that he would be holding a tsunami in being as it rolls over a village, but that he has no plan for it as it rolls over the village. He’s got it totally in his hand, holding it in being. He could flatten the tsunami at any moment because he holds it in being. “I don’t know what I’m doing.” There’s no way. That is not the way God thinks.
5. God’s will always comes to pass.
Paul says in Ephesians 1:11 that God “works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Not some things — all things. His will — not our will.
6. God does what he pleases everywhere.
Psalm 135:6 says, “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” — which is where earthquakes happen that cause tsunamis. When it says “in the seas and all deeps,” this is not a limited statement. It says that what happens “in the seas and all deeps” is owing to “whatever the Lord pleases.”
7. God gives and takes.
When anyone dies in a tornado or hurricane or tsunami, this is not an exception to the reality described by the writer of Job and James when they said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21), and “You ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15). We will survive this tsunami or we won’t. We will live and do this or that — if the Lord wills. Life and death are, finally, in the hand of the Lord. The natural causes of death are in the hand of the Lord, like wind and waves.
8. God is never capricious.
If we believe the Bible, and if we believe the Bible teaches the foreknowledge of God (which I do), then when he foresees a tsunami heading for a village or a virus heading for a pandemic, and he permits all that he sees, then this permitted act is part of his plan, since he could have stopped it. He doesn’t make such choices to permit or to stop whimsically or aimlessly. He is infinitely wise. He makes such choices to permit or not to permit wisely — that is, according to the counsel of his will.
9. The Bible plainly and pervasively teaches God’s absolute sovereignty.
I have texts for all these, but I won’t read them. The sovereignty of God in the Bible over all things is pervasive and all-encompassing. You don’t have to logically infer it; it’s just everywhere. It says he governs
- the wind,
- the sun,
- prison doors,
- every disease,
- travel plans,
- the hearts of kings,
- spiritual deadness,
- and on and on.
And they all obey his sovereign will. My confidence that Jesus rules all waves and all seas is not based on his stilling one storm, but on his being the Son of God, who is God, and who Scripture teaches works all things according to the counsel of his will.