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I have never heard a Christian say he does not believe that God is sovereign. But I have heard many professing Christians define the sovereignty of God in a way that ultimately makes man sovereign over God. It is a view of sovereignty where man is big and God is small. People will say, “I know God is sovereign, but . . .” Truthfully, many professing Christians don’t actually believe that God is sovereign. And if we don’t believe that God is sovereign, we don’t actually believe that God is God. Yet, the problem goes much deeper than that.
Many Christians who profess to believe that God is sovereign over all believe in a sort of sovereignty that is more akin to Islamic determinism than biblical theism, a sort of theistic nihilism that believes nothing we do really matters—that God is sovereign and we are mere puppets on a string. That is not the biblical teaching on the sovereignty of God. He reveals in Scripture that He is indeed sovereign over all things, that He has foreordained all things that come to pass, and that He is neither the author nor approver of sin (Isa. 46:10; James 1:13; Westminster Confession of Faith 3.1). He reveals that He is sovereign over all and that we are culpable for our actions (Acts 2:23). He discloses that He is the primary cause and that He uses secondary causes—such as us—to bring about His ultimate ends (Prov. 16:33; John 19:11). He reveals that while He has ordained the ends of all things, He has also ordained the means to all ends (Acts 4:27–28).
When it comes to our worship of God, too many Christians think that it doesn’t really matter what we do or how we do it because our sovereign God can use any means to accomplish His ultimate purposes. That, however, does not justify our using means that God has not given us. Nevertheless, many Christians and many churches believe that we may use whatever cleverly devised means we invent to bring about our desired ends.
If we actually believe God is sovereign, we must trust His sovereignly appointed means to bring about His desired ends. The means that God has appointed for our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace are what we call the ordinary means of grace—namely, the Word, prayer, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and, necessarily joined to these, the church’s discipline and care of souls. These means are appointed by God, are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and point us to Christ, and they sustain us and nourish us in our union with Christ as we rest in the sovereign ends of our triune God.