Dear Sovereignty Doubter
He wonders whether God controls everything
Thank God for your desire to know. If we had been discussing
anything less than the sovereignty of God, I might have been tempted to
think that you and I were "engaging in controversy for nothing useful,
to the upsetting of those who are hearing." (2 Tim. 2:14). But I don’t
think those hearing were upset, because the subject at hand was very
useful. Had we been arguing over the value of Fords over Chevys, or the
Colts’ draft picks, then we’d have been out of line. But the sovereignty
of God is one of the most important themes in Scripture.
I thank God for what you said, that we were not so much arguing
as sharpening one another in the faith (Pv. 27:17, Phil.1:27). I, for
one, enjoyed the encounter. Melody, though, always gets nervous about
stuff like that. Paul is spoken of as arguing nine times in the
Scriptures. The Greek elements of our English arguing are
THROUGH-SAY. It helps me to think of it as similar to following
through on a tennis stroke. Pertaining to discussions on
Scriptural themes, these elements bespeak thoroughness and commitment to
seeing a point through to its conclusion.
There is no middle ground on this subject. Either God is sovereign, or
He isn’t. Either He works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph.
1:11), or He doesn’t. Either no man can come to Christ unless the Father
draws him (Jn. 6:44), or men instigate salvation on their own behalf.
Either God hardens hearts as He wills (Rom. 9:18), or men have
free wills that can override this. Both cannot be true. If God
wills all mankind to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), then it must happen,
else God cannot accomplish His own will. If God cannot accomplish His
will, then He is not God (Dan 4:34-45). If man’s will in matters of
salvation can override God’s will (which will is here stated, that all
mankind be saved), then man’s will is stronger than God’s. Isaiah 14:27
and Romans 9:19, among other passages, deny this possibility.
The Scripture conclusively lays the matter to rest in Romans 9:11-16
when, speaking of Jacob and Esau, Moses and Pharaoh, it is written,
"Consequently, then, it is not of him who is willing, nor of him
who is racing, but of God, the merciful." Not of him who is
willing demolishes the free will of man in a stroke. So does Romans
For to vanity was the creation subjected, not voluntarily, but because
of Him." This is one of those verses that I like even better in the KJV:
"For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but
by reason of Him Who hath subjected the same...
The theological books you consulted were full of the reasonings of men.
Reasoning cannot simply believe what Scripture says. It must reason. These
simple passages of Scripture I have just presented must be, according to
reasoners, "understood," not believed. Ephesians 1:11 is so simple that a child
can understand and believe it. It is too hard for the theologian.
Knowing God, not as God do they glorify or thank Him, but vain were they
made in their reasonings, and darkened is their unintelligent
heart (Rom. 1:21).
They knew the facts about God, but deduced the wrong things about Him by
Over and over last night I strove to take the conversation out of the realm
of "I think," "I can’t understand how," and "Yeah, but" back to the Word of God.
I say this neither to my glory nor to the shame of others, but there was too
much human reasoning going on and not enough believing of Scripture. To quote
another: "Reason does not merely leave God’s revelation, but it rejects its
plainest declarations, and then asks for that which stares it in the face."
"To whom He will, He is merciful, yet whom He will, He is hardening" (Rom.
"Who has withstood His intention?" (Rom. 9:19).
"For the Lord of Hosts has planned it, who can frustrate it?" (Is. 14:27).
"God gives them (Israel) a spirit of stupor" (Rom. 11:8).
"The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the
day of evil" (Pv. 16:4)
"If you knew...what is for your peace—! Yet now it was hid from your eyes"
"God locks up all together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to
all" (Rom. 11:32).
"The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." ("Steps" is
from the Hebrew tsaad, "a step." Random House dictionary defines step as:
"A movement made by lifting the foot and setting it down again in a new
position, accompanied by a shifting of the body in the direction of the new
position." (Pv. 16:9).
"The lot is cast in the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord" (Pv.
"Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord, how then can man understand his way?"
"We cannot arrange our case because of darkness" (Job 37:19).
"Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to
exalt itself over the one who wields it?" (Is. 10:15).
"Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal
residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my
majesty?" (Dan. 4:30). ("Is this not the spiritual life of Martin Zender, the
fruit of which I myself have nourished and worked at, by the might of
my diligence and the careful attention to my Christian service?")
"You will be given grass...until you recognize that the Most High is ruler
over the realm of mankind" (Dan. 4:32).
"But at the end of that period I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward
heaven...and I blessed the Most High...for His dominion is an everlasting
dominion...and all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but
He does according to His will in the host of heaven, and among the inhabitants
of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?"
But at the end of that period I, Martin Zender, raised my eyes toward heaven,
and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever. And
all my Christian pride is accounted as nothing (Phil. 3:8), but He does
according to His will in my life (Rom. 9:16), operating in me both to
will as well as to work for the sake of His delight (Phil. 2:13). He is the One
imparting to me my very strength (Phil. 4:13), faith (Rom. 12:3) and love (Rom.
5:5), making ready my good works beforehand (Eph. 2:10), that I should be
walking in them (Eph. 2:10), by the steps He has ordained (Pv. 16:9), then
performing those works for me (Is. 26:12). So invigorated am I, by the grace of
Christ (2 Tim. 2:1), that it is no longer even I who live, but living in me is
Christ (Gal. 2:20). Where is boasting, then? It is debarred! (Rom. 3:27). For
what do I have that I did not obtain? (1 Cor. 4:7) And if I obtained it also,
why am I boasting as though not obtaining? (1 Cor. 4:7). So now I, Martin
Zender, praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true
and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride (Dan. 4:37).
* * *
Let God be found true, though every man a liar (Rom. 3:4). The Lord Jesus
Christ has put truth in your lap and heart. Do not turn from it toward the vain
reasonings of men. I say this in all love. Believe Scripture! Believe God as
well, not for my sake, but for the sake of the truth, which you long for, and
for the sake of His glory.
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, through the will of God."
It is hard to end this letter. God be with you and your family. Be growing
always in the realization of God, being endued with all power, in accord with
the might of His glory, for all endurance and patience with joy; at the same
time giving thanks to the Father, Who makes you competent for a part of
the allotment of the saints, in light" (Col. 1:11-12).