How is the gospel connected to God’s absolute sovereignty? Are they connected? Yes, they are — inseparably so. And millions of people in the US and around the globe, over the past few decades, have been waking up to this incredible connection, as Pastor John explained in his 2019 Gospel Coalition National Conference message a year ago. I wanted to revisit his message on Mark 8:31–38. Here’s Pastor John in Indianapolis to explain.
Now, something has been happening in the last fifty years that’s amazing in the world in relation to this text. The Gospel Coalition, for example, has come into existence, along with hundreds and hundreds — I first wrote thousands, but thought I’d stay with hundreds just because I could probably find them. I think it’s probably thousands, but there are at least hundreds and hundreds of ministries, churches, schools, mission agencies, publishing houses, websites, spiritual movements in dozens of countries around the world, in which millions of people have been waking up to the beautiful interweaving of the sovereignty of God with the gospel.
More and more people are coming to see and cherish that the ultimate control of God over all things is different than they thought it was. Millions of people are discovering that the sovereignty of God is not peripheral. It’s not troublesome. It’s not academic, just for debate or argument. It is a glorious, divine reality, and is the very stitching that holds the gospel together.
God’s Providence in Our Redemption
When Jesus says in Mark 8:31 that the Son of Man must suffer, must be rejected, must be killed, must rise because God has spoken, God performs his word, God has planned this for an invincible purpose, he is saying that there is no gospel apart from the sovereignty of God — the all-controlling sovereignty of God. There isn’t. It doesn’t exist.
Let’s be more specific: the sovereign control of God over the innocent suffering of Christ, the sovereign control of God over the sinful rejection of Christ, the sovereign control of God over the wicked murder of the Son of Man — without those sovereign acts over that suffering, that rejection, that death, there would be no gospel. It would be random. Random death saves nobody. Unplanned, un-prophesied, unperformed, un-purposed suffering, rejection, and murder saves nobody. They save precisely to the degree that they are woven together by God. It’s his work for us, and he saw to it at every level, in every minute detail, that it would be successful. There is no gospel without the sovereignty of God.
And I’m not saying that there are not people who make the effort to disconnect the all-controlling sovereignty of God from the innocent suffering, the sinful rejection, the wicked murder of Jesus. There are millions of them: laypeople, pastors, seminary teachers who make the effort to disconnect the all-controlling sovereignty of God from the gospel. I’m not saying they don’t exist.
I’m saying that in the last fifty years, millions of people around the world are seeing that that effort is futile, unbiblical, undesirable. It is a rending of the precious fabric of the gospel because they see, over and over again in Scripture, that the sovereignty of God is the stitching that holds the gospel together. They see a beautiful interweaving of the gospel of Christ with the sovereignty of God.
Sweetness in Sovereignty
They read Mark 8:31 — “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected . . . and be killed, and after three days rise again” — and without any long exegesis, millions are seeing it. They just see it: must suffer, must be rejected, must be murdered by lawless men. And they find themselves worshiping and singing.
They say, “This was your Son. This was your plan. This was your work. This was your hand. Innocent suffering — your hand. Sinful rejection — your hand. Wicked murder for me, for my forgiveness, for my everlasting happiness. The greatest gift at the greatest cost to the least deserving.” And millions of people find themselves bowing down and saying, “I love you. I love you.” That’s what’s happening. No debates being won. God is opening eyes to the stitching.
So, the reality of the sovereignty of God has been sweetened in the minds of millions. It’s a sweet thing, as they come to see it is the golden stitching that holds the fabric of the gospel together.