THE SOVEREIGNITY OF GOD IN MISSIONS.
God’s sovereignty refers to how the One who is above all in His divine excellence relates to created things: to time and space as well as to willful created beings. By His absolute authority, Almighty God will resolutely accomplish His eternal plan. God is all-knowing, all powerful, and everywhere present – these three “Omni-attributes,” along with His unchangeableness are the basis of divine sovereignty. God’s authority is supreme over the entire universe – in all realms both seen and unseen. By His will and power, He alone created all things, sustains all things, and directs all things to His established purpose that cannot be thwarted. Sovereignty refers to the resolute independence of God’s rule and dominion (Micah. 5:2 with Matt. 2:6; Psalm 22:28; Dan. 4:32-37; 6:26; 7:13-14).
If God is in absolute control of the entire universe, then why should we need to worry about missions and reaching out to the lost? Is it any use even to pray? God indeed is sovereign and this sovereign ruler of the universe calls us to evangelize and to pray. There is no contradiction in God, just truth in tension and many things that are hard for the human mind to understand. Let us embrace ambiguity in faith. God is in absolute control of His universe, even though He has created rational beings with the capability to choose for or against Him. Natural and spiritual powers, the highest kings to lowly ants, stars and angels to the birds of the air – all are subject to the government of God and fulfill His eternal purposes. By His almighty power He will work in all things for His glory. God’s sovereignty – His absolute dominion – is described under various terms throughout the Scriptures. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. God is in control of the entire universe, and at the time of His choosing He can send a mere angel to bind Satan with a chain. God directs all things, from the rise of nations to the fall of a lowly bird (Matt. 10:29-31). Because God is Sovereign, we can have confidence in the glorious outcome which He has planned. Let us yearn for the working out of that plan in the establishment of His kingdom. Rather than asking God to bless our own plans and ideas, let us search out His purpose and participate in His unfolding plan.
Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
The sovereignty of God does not mean that everything that happens in the created world conforms perfectly to His desire. Sin is contrary to the will of God. His creation defies Him and acts contrary to His will. God is genuinely grieved when people choose against His good plan (Matt. 23:37; Eph. 4:30); nevertheless, He will ultimately bring about all that He has purposed. God’s plan includes giving humans genuine choices and making them responsible for those choices. Man is ultimately held responsible for his moral choices even as God maintains His complete sovereignty (Ezek. 18:20; John 19:11; Rom. 3:23). Jesus, knowing that He was in sovereign control of the universe, commanded His disciples to proclaim the gospel in every nation (Matt. 28:18-20). Divine sovereignty does not diminish the urgency to evangelize (1 Cor. 1:17-18). Rather, it empowers evangelism. God’s sovereign plan assures us that people will be saved when we obey His command to reach out to the lost. He prepares people to receive the Gospel, but it must be preached by human vessels in order for sinners to respond (Matt. 9:36-38; Rom. 10:13-15). Men are responsible to make a choice for or against God and our words are ordained to bring about that choice.
We live in an age in which mission work, evangelism, and outreach are discussed as if they were primarily a work of man. Man’s activity becomes the focus: “What we do.” The result of this man-centered approach to missions and evangelism is that much that is contrary to the Word of God is introduced. For when we focus on man, we are inclined to also go off in our own wisdom and after our own imagination. God certainly uses the means of the preaching, labor, and witness of men in missions and evangelism. But He uses the means He has appointed, in the way He has ordained, and He uses it according to His sovereign good pleasure. Genuine mission work and evangelism, therefore, by the church and its members, requires an obedient labor according to the means which God has ordained. We are also called to humbly labor in dependence upon the Lord Who alone can make that labor fruitful unto the salvation of His elect and the gathering of His church. We are to labor, therefore, in the consciousness of God’s sovereignty.
Having this in mind, there are a few things that we need to know about God’s Sovereignity in Missions:
- It is God who does the Calling, Commissioning and the Sending
What is mission? And what is the principal foundation for the mission of the church? The word mission itself comes from the Latin verb missio, which means “to send.” So literally, missions have to do with sending. In the Scriptures, we see the verb “to send” being used over and over again, in a multitude of ways. There is a way in which the whole life of the church and the whole experience of the Christian are ultimately rooted in this kind of sending that is founded in the authority and the action of God Himself. God is in the responsibility of burdening His people for this noble task of reaching out. He alone is the one who is able to convict men and women of the call to The Great Commission, Commission and anoint them for the work as well as sending them in His own will and ways.
- That it is God who directs the Missionary Work
This is an assurance and promise to us as we labor in the gospel, to just do the work of evangelism, and seek to live as witnesses among people. Our calling is to preach and confess our faith and confirm it with a godly walk. We are to sow the seed. It depends on the Lord to give the increase. Exactly because He has promised us that it will bear the fruit He intends; we may be rest contented with the way He leads us. The Lord calls us to work in faithfulness, by preaching and confession of our faith, but it is ultimately in the Lord’s hands. He is the real power and strength in the work of missions. He directs it and makes it fruitful. For us as Reformed believers, this means that we do not become caught up in the current fads of those who trust in men and forsake the means of grace, which God has ordained and Christ has commanded us when he told us to go and preach the gospel. He commanded us to preach, just preach! To depart from that way is to forsake His sovereign direction, nor will God bless it. We are to therefore labour prayerfully in the consciousness of His sovereign direction in every aspect of the work of missions and evangelism. We do so also with the knowledge that it is His grace and power that blesses our labors and that His is also the glory, “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” I Cor. 1:29. He is the one solely directing His work.
- He is the one at work to bring souls to Himself
It is the voice of the Spirit through Christ that saves. We as missionaries, have no power whatsoever to convince any soul to accept Jesus. Our convincing words are just useless if not ordered by God because man’s heart needs God’s move to transform. The Holy Spirit plays a major role in the application of salvation to the individual. It is the Spirit who brings conviction to the unbeliever and causes him to see the truth of the gospel in a clear light. Those who respond to this conviction and place their faith in Jesus Christ receive eternal life and a new nature. So, unless the power of God and His Sovereignty works in human heart, there is no way they could be saved.
- Jesus Christ must be the Centre of the Gospel we preach if we embrace the Sovereignty of God in Missions.
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one, we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-10). Jesus Christ proclaimed, “I am the Way, and the truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). The Apostles echoed this claim, stating, “And there is salvation in no one else; there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS!” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:14, 15, 17). God in His sovereignty will perfectly accomplish His eternal plan for all of creation. We can choose to enter into the grand fulfillment and culmination of that plan – the establishment of His eternal kingdom. Amen!