In the last issue of the Beacon Lights, we discussed the underlying and fundamental truth of the sovereignty of God. This is fundamental to any discussion of the subject which faces us. Before we can understand what view we ought to take of the world and of life – and that particularly as Protestant Reformed people, it is first of all essential to understand that God is sovereign over all. And this sovereignty of God is always revealed and realized through Jesus Christ His Son. This we have already noticed.
SOVEREIGN OVER HIS PEOPLE
Without saying anything more about this subject in general, the point to be observed is that this has particular significance for the rule of Christ over the affairs of men.
Christ rules first of all however, over His people. It is, of course, true and always remains true that God rules over His people. But this rule of God is realized and manifested through Jesus Christ. God chose a people unto Himself. This people He chose to be His own possession from all eternity. And it is this people who He gives to Christ. Christ came into the world and walked among us the long and dark path that led to Calvary at the Head of His people. They belonged to Him because they were given to Him from eternity. And He purchased them with His own precious blood to make them His own. He took away all their sins and redeemed them from the power of sin and death which held them in unbreakable chains. He rose again from the dead in order that they might be justified with Him before the face of God. But because He bought them with His blood, they belong to Him alone. And because they are His possession, He is their King. He marched ahead of them in the bitter contest which was to be fought against Satan and His hosts. He challenged in their place all the powers of darkness to battle on the cross. And when He arose triumphant from the dead, He defeated completely all the forces that hell could muster and all the powers that sin had at its disposal to overthrow the kingdom of God. Thus He became the King of His people. But as their King, He rules over them by making them citizens of His kingdom which He had come to establish. He frees them from the guilt of sin and the influences of corruption so that they are no longer citizens of the kingdom of darkness, but translated into the kingdom of light. He established His throne within their hearts so as to rule over them by the gracious power of His Spirit.
The result of this is that they become willing subjects of His kingdom. Their eyes are opened to see the things of the kingdom of God which formerly they failed to notice because of the darkness of sin which closed their eyes and made them blind. Their ears are attuned to the sounds of the everlasting gospel of salvation which comes to them through the preaching of the Word so that while formerly they were deaf to all that was spiritual and heavenly, they now embrace in joy that which they hear. Their hearts are cleansed completely from the foolish notions of sin and the vanity of iniquity so that they set their inclinations and thoughts upon the things which are holy and just and good. While once they lived in open rebellion against their God, now they bow in humble adoration before the throne of the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth. They are not dragged by the scruff of the neck, so to speak, to acknowledge against their will the universal rule of Christ. Instead they love that rule of Christ, gratefully and willingly confessing it. They bow in recognition of their Lord’s sovereign rule before the throne of His grace. They never cease to sing doxologies of praise and adoration to Him Who is enthroned in the heavens. They see their hope and comfort, their joy and salvation, their peace and happiness in the rule of their Lord over their lives. There is no greater joy which life can afford than to kneel before their Lord and Maker. They see delight in serving their God. They are grateful that they may lay all their life on the altar of thanksgiving. They sing with the Psalmist of Israel, “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Psalm 84:10.
And it is well for us to notice that this rule of Christ over their lives they are ready to acknowledge as a sovereign rule. Those who are the people of God and who bow in allegiance before the throne of Christ are eager to confess that Christ’s rule is absolutely sovereign. Their Lord died for them. Their Lord saved them by His power and grace. Their Lord bestowed all the blessings of salvation upon them. Their Lord is always with them to rule over them, continuing to bless them, leading them through life until they are finally with Him. They will not and do not dare to introduce any element of their own power and strength as equal with or aiding and abetting the sovereignty of their Lord. For they know that if they do this, all their hope vanishes as a mirage in the heat of the desert. If their Lord is not their absolute Sovereign and King, they are destined to hopelessness and despair, for He alone can save them and their own efforts are always futile and vain.
Oh, perhaps this is not completely true of them in this life. Indeed, they know that they only very imperfectly recognize all this and direct their lives according to this principle; but they cling in faith to the cross where all their sins are washed away and they look for a better day to dawn when the weakness and sins which now characterize so much of their life will disappear as a bad dream.
But it can never be true that this kingdom of which the people of God are now citizens is a kingdom of this world. This is the vain dream of post-millennialism, but not the hope of the believer. This is true for more than one reason. In the first place, their Lord is not in this world. It is true that He was in this world for a little while. But when He came into this world, He came with the burden of our sins and guilt upon Him. And when this burden was all taken away by His suffering on the cross, then in this world He could stay no longer. When He arose from the dead, He did not come back to this life to establish His kingdom as the disciples fondly hoped, but He stood on the far and other side of the grave – on heaven’s side. He went on into His glory. We see our Lord only now in faith, but exalted high above all principalities and powers at the right hand of God. Repeatedly He told His disciples that His kingdom could not be established here below, because the way to His kingdom was not the way of the acclamation of the crowds that thronged about Him to be healed and to be fed with earthly bread. His kingdom was from this world that we are delivered. It is into this world that once we were born. Here we lived under the power of sin until we were delivered by the power of the cross. It is in this world that we suffer and are killed all the day long. It is here that we speak of life as a valley of tears and of the shadow of death. It is from this world that we are principally taken. And our hopes do not rest in a world from which we have been delivered. Our hope is fastened to another world, a heavenly world, where Jesus our Lord is and where we shall be free from sin and death to dwell with our Lord forever and ever.
And even though we must live here below for a little time, we nevertheless always appeal to our heavenly citizenship, that we are after all only pilgrims and strangers here below, that we look for a city which hath foundations, that we have all our hope and treasure above, that we cannot rest till we depart this life and rest in Jesus. Our Lord and Sovereign rules over us! To His kingdom we belong! We hasten on our way to arrive at the door of that kingdom. And in the measure that we do, the world fades away into insignificance!
Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 9 January 1960