thinking between the lines

God Is Sovereign? God Is Love? Which Is It?

Sometimes when I’m on my soapbox insisting that God’s love covers all things, somebody will encourage me not to forget about God’s sovereignty. Now, I know what they’re getting at; God doesn’t overlook sin as if it’s meaningless. He is holy and pure. I get that. But still, the indication is troubling because they are right. God is sovereign. So, how does an all-sovereign God exercise love?

Is he like the parent who prefaces punishing a child with the phrase, “I love you, but I simply can’t let this go, not this time”? Does he have some celestial sensor that triggers a switch between love and sovereignty as each situation necessitates? Maybe it works like an onion and God’s sovereignty envelopes all his other traits – his love, holiness, patience, mercy, faithfulness, etc.

If the latter is correct, then everything that is God exercises itself under the control of his sovereignty. His sovereignty commands his love, his faithfulness, his patience, and so on. Following this line of thinking, it is easy to see where God’s image is falsely represented as a lightning bolt God who gnashes his teeth at mortals and their failures.

But what if God’s love and sovereignty isn’t like an onion where the skin entraps all his traits or a see-saw where one trait wins over the other depending on the weight of circumstances? What if God’s essence, his spirit, is more like light, an orb radiating all his characteristics from a core of some type of energy, say love?

Not only does this configuration fit scripture declaring that God is spirit (John 4:24), that he is light (1 John 1:5), and that he is love (1 John 4:8), but it also fits the living out of God’s image in the body of Jesus Christ. In him, we do not witness a love regulated by sovereignty, but a sovereignty regulated by love.

Thinking and living in these terms does not in any way shelve the idea of God’s sovereignty, but it does place it within the heart of God’s love. From love, he rules.

Therefore, instead of asking how an all-sovereign God exercises his love, we might ask how an all-loving God exercises his sovereignty. This, I think, is the better conversation.

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4 Responses »

  1. His ways are not our ways. Therefore, we must ask what the definition of “is”, is. One of the deepest roots of the cursed tree is one of condemnation, a perspective that keeps many of His children in bondage. Remember, there is NO sin under Christ. I see so many believers attempting to “earn” or “keep” the wonderful gift of salvation, which is essentially literal slap to the face of The Lord. This line of thinking says, “What Jesus did wasn’t good enough…”. Jesus did more than fulfill the law and pay for us; he over paid. When agape love is fully understood through meaning and/or example, we can rest in His blessed assurance and gladly share it with others.

    We often attempt to interpret scripture for individual interpretation, so keep in mind the entire Bible is written of and about Jesus. Individual change, growth, and healing is an indirect result of gazing upon Him in scripture. In other words, look for what scripture says about Christ and compare scripture with scripture. The letter of the law kills, the spirit gives life.

    • Thanks for posting, Justin! Trust me when I say you’re preaching to the choir here. My whole drive in teaching is the message of an overflowing fountain of grace that many Christians have tried to cap off for centuries. Our works-driven nature just can’t accept the totality of Christ’s sacrifice motivated by a never ending love for us. Again, thanks for the post!

  2. Agreed, and you are welcome! When the Jews were under grace in the wilderness, they complained and wanted law. As soon as Moses came off Mt. Sinai and delivered the law, 3,000 perished. I’ll take grace for free, please and thank you. For me personally, one of the biggest hurdles was accepting and believing that God really is that good! Curse Him and he blesses more?? That’s so… unworldly 😉 I have just learned to smile and boast “That’s my Abba!”.

    Regarding the fountain of grace, that is one tactic of warfare. Disinformation. The social issues we face today are an indirect effect from lack of understanding (I’ve never seen that phrase before…). The enemy has NO right to accuse unless we allow it. Social issues we face today are a direct result of similar attempts. How else can one keep so many people in bondage without being omnipresent? Pretty smart foe… Sorry for the ramblings, I could discuss this all day 🙂 Have a great day!

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