Our Awesome God | 6

With the USA elections looming large the debate surrounding the best form of government rears its head once again. We are of course not so naïve as to assume that democracy is the best model out there. In recent years, crippling weaknesses have been exposed in even the more mature western democracies. Democracy is however preferable to communism or despotic rule. When Peter and John were released from prison in Acts 4, they gathered the church to pray. In vrs 24 they prayed, “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. The Greek word they used to refer to God is despotes, from which we get our word despot. A despot is someone who has absolute power but who wields it in a cruel and oppressive manner. It has well been said that the best form of government is a benevolent dictator. Someone who has absolute power (a despot) but who can be depended on only to use such power for the good of the people. No such human being exists but the apostles addressed this benevolent dictator in prayer. The same word despotes is used of God in Luke 2:29; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 4 and Revelation 6:10.

Over the years, theologians have written many long and complicated definitions of God’s sovereignty. In the end, they all come down to one word – authority. God can do whatever He wants, and also has the authority to make everyone do whatever He wants also. In Psalm 115:3 we are told, our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. In Ephesians 1:11 we are told that God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. The “all things” in Ephesians 1:11 extends to –

  1. Satan – In Job 1:11, 12; 2:5, 6 Satan has to ask God permission before he does anything to Job. In Luke 22:31 Jesus affirms this when he says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”
  2. Little things – In Proverbs 16:33 God’s sovereignty extends to the roll of a dice. In Matthew 10:29 Jesus says, are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
  3. Big things – In Proverbs 21:1 we are reminded, the king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. The same truth is articulated in Daniel 2:21.
  4. Everyday providences – One of the most encouraging assurances we have as God’s children is taught in Psalm 139:16 all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Nothing can happen to me that has not been ordered by the Lord. Think about how this worked itself out for Joseph who was sold into slavery by jealous brothers, and then after distinguishing himself in Potiphars’ household ended up in prison for righteousness sake. Later in life in Genesis 50:20 he could tell his brothers, you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
  5. Bad things – In Isaiah 45:7 God himself says, I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things. In Amos 3:6 we read, when disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it? The most notable example of this truth is the cross of Christ itself. In Acts 4:27, 28 the apostles prayed, indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
  6. Human salvation – God’s sovereignty extends to the salvation of men and women. In John 6:44 Jesus says, no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. In Ephesians 1:4 Paul states, for he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In Acts 13:48 we have a summary of Paul’s first missionary journey; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

The best form of government is a benevolent dictator. God would be a terrible tyrant if He had absolute authority but was not at the same time infinitely good. But He is good. Lord Acton’s famous saying “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” may apply to men and women – but not God.