I’ve been working my way through Iain Murray’s biography of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones lived from 1899-1981 and is often considered to be one of if not the most powerful preachers of the 20th century.
Lloyd-Jones is known for his prayer, evangelistic zeal, and other pastoral qualities, but foremost he is known for his preaching. The doctor was not fancy. He believed in the sufficiency of God’s Word and the Spirit’s power to use the regular preaching of God’s Word to bring about change in one’s heart. His preaching is powerful, clear, and full of conviction.
One subject Lloyd-Jones spoke much about was the sovereignty of God. He believed it to be the bedrock of Christian belief, a doctrine that affected so many others. I have found myself loving the sovereignty of God in heightened ways over the years. No other doctrine stands as clear in my mind as much as this truth: God is sovereign.
However, there was a time I didn’t love the sovereignty of God. Of course I recognized it. What Christian would deny its existence? But like so many others, I was quick to qualify it. “Yes God is sovereign, but only to a point” I would say. And that point where the sovereignty of God was restrained was often found at the intersection of God’s power and man’s free will.
I was happy for God to be sovereign so long as He didn’t impose anything on my “sovereign will” as I arrogantly thought.
In God’s kindness, he patiently showed me the error of my thinking. As I kicked and screamed against His sovereignty, he slowly softened my heart and eventually opened my eyes to the wonderful beauty of his sovereign power. As I thought I was defending the will of man, in reality, I had been like an ant shaking his fist at the sun.
I could go on, but since that point, God has also been kind to grow my affection for him and his glorious display of sovereignty. This is one meaning of being a creature of the Creator–I rejoice in his power over me and not in my own power. However, some people often question like I did at one point, “Why is the sovereignty of God so important? Some people seem to love it more than others. Am I missing something? Does it matter as much as some people think?”
How often did I ask that question myself!
Well, in reading a section of the Murray biography on Lloyd-Jones, I found a section of Lloyd-Jones speaking on this subject, and I thought it was good enough to share. What follows is Iain Murray writing on Lloyd-Jones’ view of God’s sovereignty.
The Sovereignty of God means that all that exists and happens does so because he wills it. Sovereignty is not to be considered as an attribute of God–in the sense of being a quality which exists in God (such as omnipotence and omniscience). He acts sovereignly because of who and what he is, God is God. To assert divine sovereignty is to assert the supremacy of God.
Why do we hear so little of this doctrine today? Why are sermons or articles on the subject so rare? He believed that there were two main reasons.
First: All doctrine is at a discount today, both outside and inside the church. This doctrine particularly is disliked because of its implications to man. In his pride he has no wish to hear that God ‘sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers’ (Isa. 40:22). Therefore, men represent this truth as unfair and unjust.
Second: Human philosophy militates against this doctrine. Men start with their own ideas and thoughts and do not like the sovereignty of God. But the truth is that only as God graciously reveals himself can he be known: ‘Canst thou by searching find out God?’ (Job 11:7); ‘The world by wisdom knew not God’ (1 Cor. 1:21) Philosophy is the greatest enemy of Christian truth.
Lloyd-Jones then proceeded to ask further, ‘Why is divine sovereignty heard so little even among evangelicals?’ The answer, he believed, was that in their anxiety to present salvation in terms of the person and work of Christ, evangelicals had become unbalanced and tended to forget God the Father. There was a danger of ‘Jesusology.’ The worship of God as three Persons must always be remembered. In particular, the emphasis, ‘I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,’ needed to be restored–not simply God the Saviour, but before that, God the Creator. He pointed out that modern hymns and choruses had encouraged the tendency which he criticized, a tendency which had reached a point at which evangelicals would rather have talks on ‘Personal Work’ than on the character of God.
Lloyd Jones comments further on the doctrine but ultimately concludes ‘No doctrine so glorifies God and so humbles man as this.’
And I believe that is why I love this doctrine of God’s sovereignty so much. No other doctrine so glorifies God as this. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).
And thank God he does!