King of kings: H.C. Question 51

How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?

Acts 2:33 – Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Ephesians 4:7-12 – But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

Psalm 110:1-2 – The Lord says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”

John 10:27-30 – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

Revelation 19:11-16 – I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.

 



It's all in the Plan: H.C. Lord's Day 10

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 10

Q 27. What do you understand by the providence of God?
A 27. The almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.

Q 28. How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?
A 28. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love.  For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.

One of the chief characteristics of God that we hold to be true is His sovereignty over all of Creation.  Essentially, this means that we believe that God has power and authority over all of what He has created, and He exercises that power and authority to bring about His will in the world.  For some, this makes God appear to be more like a dictator, especially if their experience of life has been substantially harder.  We start to ask questions like “why did God make this happen to me?” or “What did I do to deserve this.”

If God is a dictator, however, He certainly is a benign and loving one.  Perhaps, in this instance, the language that the Heidelberg Catechism uses is much better and more appropriate for the discussion.  The writers talk about God’s sovereignty in terms of “providence,” the root word of which is of course, “provide.”  This offers a much more appropriate context for God’s ruling and works in the world.  God is indeed love, and Scripture says that God is working out all things for the good of those who love Him.  We also know that God is actively working to bring restoration to the world which will culminate in Christ’s return and the setting right of all things.  In addition to this, we also know that God is patient, not wishing that any would perish, but providing ample time for people to turn to Him because of His great love for us.

The language of the questions and answers in Lord’s Day 10 can be a bit uncomfortable, though, as well; “all things come from [God’s] hand.”  All things?  Really?  Something about that makes us cringe on the inside.  It’s definitely easier to blame sin, satan, or our own foolish acts for some of the difficult times in life that we experience.  Certainly, our difficulties can come from those things, but Scripture is clear that “all things come from God’s hand,” which means that even if the difficulties we face are a result of a spiritual attack from the satan himself, it is under the direction and purview of God’s power and will.

Let’s be clear about a couple things, though, as we talk about God’s providence.  This is not an excuse to act foolishly or sinfully, only to blame the results on God.  Scripture affirms human responsibility when it comes to the results of actions in our lives, hence the need for a Savior.  The Bible is also clear that temptation to sin does not come from God, which would also allow us to blame God for sin.  But there are seemingly negative things in our lives that do find their source in God in some way.  God is sovereign over creation, over nations and rulers, over both good people and bad.  God has sent trouble and calamity, destroyed nations and people groups, and even hardens the hearts of some.  He uses all of the created order to work His will in the world and His plans cannot be thwarted.

So what does this mean for us?  Should we be scared and living in fear of a God who can do anything at any time just because it pleases Him?  No.  I don’t think so.  When we understand God in human terms, we often think of the worst case scenario.  If we give a ruler too much power, He/She can do whatever they want without any check or balance.  God is not like that.  All of God’s power is exercised in love, as a loving parent exercises loving authority over their children for their benefit.

Lord’s Day 10 is very clear about how this benefits us as well.  When things seem to be going against us, we can be patient knowing that God is working His will and that God is always working for the good of those who love Him.  Think of Joseph or even the Israelite slavery in Egypt, both seemed profoundly negative at the time.  Out of those events, however, great things came to be.  This does take a profound amount of trust, something we have and will continue to talk about here.  These are the times when our faith is tested; they are also the times when God does some of His deepest work in us.

We can also be thankful when things go well, remembering that all good and perfect gifts come from God.  How often do we stop to thank God when we’ve had a good day, a successful meeting, a positive experience with a friend, or anything else for that matter.  It is easy for us to run to God in the bad times, but do we do so in the good times as well?

Finally, we can have confidence in the future knowing that, even if all of our worries and fears come true, God will never leave us and He is always working out His perfect will.  God’s ways are higher than our ways, and He is far above all rule and authority on this earth, but He is always with us and always ready to listen.  We can face the future unafraid because we know that nothing moves except by the hand of God.



Romans 13 – Government and Freedom

Read Romans 13

It seems like a contradiction in terms to talk about submission to an entity and freedom in the same thought process.  Yet Paul navigates this ambiguity well, speaking into a context in which many people question whether or not to follow Ceasar or not.  To be fair, the Roman Empire was known for the “imperial cult,” or the worship of their current ruler.  This person was raised to “god status,” often times after they died, and were worshiped along with the pantheon of Roman gods and goddesses.

In this context, it is not difficult to see why Paul would have to address the place of government in the life of new Christians.  Along with the Jewish influence of wanting to throw off Roman rule, it was a rather tenuous place to be.  Those who didn’t participate in the imperial cult worship risked arrest and possibly even death.

Paul recognizes God the Father’s ultimate authority upon the earth.  No matter who the ruler is, it seems, that person’s power and authority has been given by God and therefore we must honor that.  But when stated like this, it makes no sense to worship that ruler as their power is limited. One wouldn’t worship a governor because their seat was given to them; therefore worship would be directed to one who gave the power.

This is the manner in which Paul sets up honoring earthly authority while reserving worship for God alone.  As a matter of fact, doing this acknowledges God’s sovereignty, places us in a position of trusting His work and His will, even if we don’t understand it.  Despite the political divisions that we see in the U.S. today, Scripture still calls us to honor the authority; which ultimately means trusting God’s choice, His will, and His work.