Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Difficult to Reconcile: Sovereign God & Impotent Church

I am a big believer in the sovereignty of God over all of life. I believe the bible teaches about a God who is actively engaged with every nuance of what occurs in his universe. He created it, and he sustains it. Paul described this during his speech in Athens in Acts 17:24-25, "The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything."

God made humanity in such a way that we are responsible for our actions (we are not pre-programmed robots). What we do each day has real consequences. For example, if I choose to run a red light, there's a good chance I will get a much-deserved ticket.

In a way that is at least somewhat difficult for most of us to understand (myself included), God's sovereignty goes hand-in-hand with man's responsibility. This is the manner in which God designed it. These two truths may seem like opposites to us, but they are not. The fault is with our limited minds, not with God's design.

Sometimes God overrides man's plans with his own sovereign goals. Actually, this happens all the time, but we likely are not aware of it. When we look in the bible we see it again and again. For example, Abraham tried to come up with his own offspring (Ishmael), but God intervened with Isaac. Later, Pharaoh attempted to kill the Hebrews, but God freed them and then drowned the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. King Saul attempted to murder David repeatedly, but God stopped him every time. Later, the Babylonians took most of the Israelites away from Jerusalem and into captivity. God intervened by using the Persians of all people to enable the restoration of the temple.

In God's ultimate act of sovereignty, he directed the execution of his son to bring about salvation for humanity. While the religious leaders just wanted Jesus dead (as did Satan), the Father directed the actions to bring about redemption for his people. God was ultimately in charge. Peter said the following at Pentecost in Acts 2:23-24, "...this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it."

God is sovereign.

In light of his sovereignty I have trouble in my mind reconciling the impotency of his church. I'm referring specifically here to today's church in the West. Due in large part to man's traditions, the church does little more today than perpetuate itself (and it's not even very good at that). The entrenched professional pastors, worship services, and expensive church buildings have done much to stifle the vibrancy and life of the saved. Each Sunday millions of Christians attend a religious ceremony (or two) in order to hear a religious expert give a lecture. Most of these believers see this as the most important part of their religious week. Ugh.

Quite honestly, I just don't understand it. Why would sovereign God allow his church to become so impotent? Part of the answer to this question certainly has to do with man's responsibility for his own actions. We know, for example, that the church in Laodicea had all sorts of problems. And yet, God has a history of overriding man's sinfulness to accomplish his own goals and desires. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Despite this, it often seems like the "gates of hell" are prevailing against the church. I have a deep desire to see a church here in the West that stands for truth, loves the poor and needy, shares the gospel unashamedly, and lives holy lives that stand out to the world. Instead we see a church that looks largely like the world and generally does little of significance.

Why would God allow this to happen? I do not understand.


Randi Jo :) said...

We are with you!

and I also don't know why and I wonder.

Maybe He is allowing this - for a time - because "we" have made it clear to Him this system is what "we" want --- so as a good Father, He will give us what we want and all its consequences - until we learn.

Maybe it's because we often need contrast to see clearly. The light shines brightest in the dark type thing? sometimes we learn most effectively by wrongs....because we can see see what is NOT right/best.

I meet more people every day that are seeing the contrast and how fall short the system falls. I often wonder why God allowed ME/my husband to see His truth .... why us moreso than others I mean. I believe that if He wanted others to see what we see - He would simply remove the veil they have. So - Are HIs people not listening? Or is He not revealing for a time?

now I've jumbled myself all up lol -- All I know is that when we started to follow the Shepherd ourselves and read His Word ourselves.... it all changed. Are people not doing that ?

I'm trying my best to not think about it all so much and just LIVE it out! I try to fish for Jesus alone and not try to win people away from the institution --- but just focus on Jesus and building others up in Him! to Him.

Peter Horvatin said...


A key thought that you hit upon is man's responsibility towards God's truths expressed in the word. Today's body of believers has abdicated the truth of the word. If the body of believers was true to the word, each and every brother and sister in Christ would be contending for the faith in our current age and encouraging each other to do likewise. Also, the body is impotent because we have been buying into the world's beliefs.


Eric said...

Randi Jo,

Thanks for commenting. It is certainly a difficult situation, and God is under no compulsion to explain himself to us. I just hope we see some sort of reformation within the church in the West in my lifetime.

BTW - Have you gone off Facebook?

Eric said...


Thanks for your words. I suppose God is giving the Western church what it wants. May we see a reformation and soon!

Randi Jo :) said...

I hope so too!!! And I'm on my much needed annual facebook sabbatical 😄