Sometimes, there are statements made in the Bible which are very meaningful, yet easy to overlook.
I believe that this passage in the Sermon on the Mount is one such statement.
Jesus is telling us something about the nature of God in this passage which is so sublime that it should cause our very knees to buckle beneath us, and yet we often read it without giving any serious consideration to the weightiness contained therein.
This verse makes a very powerful statement in a somewhat subtle way.
It tells us that God knows our needs before we even ask of Him.
That may seem like a very simple thing, especially since orthodox Christianity has always affirmed God’s omniscience, His knowledge of all things.
We know that God knows everything; He is OMNISCIENT.
Omniscience is one of the three major “Omni” definitions of God.
Omniscience - All Knowledge - there no limit to His knowledge
Omnipotence - All Power - there is no limit to His power
Omnipresence - All Present - there is no limit to His presence
It would stand to reason that He Who is omniscient would know what we need before we ask.
But this inspires an important question, “How does God know all things?”
There is actually an entire philosophical system which says God does not actually know the future with exact certainty.
Open Theism teaches that God is not aware for certain of the future free acts of individuals because they have not yet been decided.
An Open Theist would say that he believes in God’s omniscience, but he limits the definition of that term.
He would say God knows “all things which can be known” and since the future free choices of people “cannot be known” then God “cannot have that knowledge”.
This errant theology leaves God in the dark when it comes to future events and is rightly described as a heretical teaching.
We rightly deny the teaching of Open Theism... It is HERESY.
Orthodox Christians have always held that God has absolute and exhaustive knowledge of everything, including the future.
But how is He certain about the future?
Some propose that God can simply “foresee” the future.
But the problem is this belief in this “bare foreknowledge” view is that it makes God the passive observer of history.
In this view, God only knows what will happen because He can see that it will happen.
From this perspective, He is not really managing history, He is just witnessing it beforehand.
This is not the Biblical teaching.
Though, admittedly this is better than the view of Open Theism.
At least the one who holds to “bare foreknowledge” accepts that God knows for certain the future, the Open Theist will not even accept that.
The biblical view is that God knows all things because He has declared the end from the beginning.
Isaiah 46:8-11 “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”
We call this declaration the Decree of God.
A Decree is an official order handed down by one in authority; to say the “Decree” of God is to say that He has ordered the world in such a way.
I want to quote from the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.
Note: I realize that these confessions are not Scripture, but the writers of them were committed to Scriptural truths and invested their lives in making these truths clear for future generations like ours.
1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith God has decreed in Himself from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things which shall ever come to pass.
- Yet in such a way that God is neither the author of sin nor does He have fellowship with any in the committing of sins, nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
- In all this God's wisdom is displayed, disposing all things, and also His power and faithfulness in accomplishing His decree.
You see, we believe that God has decreed all things.
But we do not believe that this makes us puppets or that it makes God the author of sin.
What God has done in His decree is declare that His Will is the ultimate guiding force in this world and will bring Him the glory and victory in the end.
Some do not like the word “Decree” simply because they do not understand it.
The noted Baptist theologian James Pedigru Boyce helps us in that area.
James P. Boyce “The term "decree" is liable to some misapprehension and objection, because it conveys the idea of an edict, or of some compulsory determination. "Purpose" has been suggested as a better word. "Plan" will sometimes be still more suitable. The mere use of these words will remove from many some difficulties and prejudices which make them unwilling to accept this doctrine. They perceive that, in the creation, preservation, and government of the world, God must have had a plan, and that that plan must have been just, wise and holy, tending both to his own glory and the happiness of his creatures. They recognize that a man who has no purpose, nor aim, especially in important matters, and who cannot, or does not, devise the means by which to carry out his purpose, is without wisdom and capacity, and unworthy of his nature. Consequently, they readily believe and admit that the more comprehensive, and, at the same time, the more definite is the plan of God, the more worthy is it of infinite wisdom. Indeed they are compelled to the conclusion that God cannot be what he is, without forming such a purpose or plan.”
So, when we talk about the “Decree” of God, we are talking about the “Definitive Plan and Purpose” of God.
He has planned that the world will work out in a certain way, and not another way; and no one can thwart His plan.
Even the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar understood this important truth.
After God had caused his mental faculties to leave him for a season, he was restored to sanity and he uttered a very important truth regarding the power of God’s plan.
Daniel 4:34-35 “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
It is not just that God “knows” the future, but He has a plan for everything which is happening in time, and this plan “establishes” what the future will be.
Those who object to this view and still believe in God’s perfect foreknowledge are actually objecting to themselves.
Jonathan Edwards said: “Whether God has decreed all things that ever come to pass or not, all that own the being of a God, own that He knows all things beforehand. Now, it is self-evident that if He knows all things beforehand, He either doth approve of them or doth not approve of them; that is, He either is willing they should be, or He is not willing they should be. But to will that they should be is to decree them.”
Some might object and say, “God’s plan cannot include sin, because that would make God evil.”
First, we know that God’s plan does include sin because sin exists.
If we say sin is outside of God’s plan, then we are saying that there are things - many things - MOST things - over which God has no control.
God has control over all things, including the evil of this world... If we didn’t believe that, how could we have any peace???
Second, we know that God’s plan includes sin because the Bible clearly says so.
There was no greater sin than the acts which were done leading to Christ’s crucifixion - the only completely innocent man in history was murdered by evil men.
Yet, Scripture clearly says this happened in accordance with the decree of God.
Acts 2:23 “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
Acts 4:27-28 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
Someone might object and say, “Well, yes God ‘ALLOWS’ sin, but that doesn’t mean He has ‘DECREED’ sin.
This may come down to simply a misunderstanding of terms.
Decree does not mean to be the author of something, but it does mean to have ultimate control over something.
God is ultimately in control of all things.
Everything God allows He has a purpose for, and if He did not have a purpose for it He would not allow it.
As such, to simply say God passively allows something is really a meaningless statement, because the only things which He allows are things that ultimately bring about His purpose and plan, which means He decreed that they should be as they are and not another way.
CONSIDER THIS: If we do not believe in the immutable decree of almighty God, we have no reason to have any confidence in the promise that He will cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. We could never affirm Romans 8:28 if we did not believe that God actually does have a plan for all things and He is working out that plan in time.
So, how does God know all things?
Because He has determined all things by His Divine Decree.
This morning, as a way to bolster our confidence and understanding of the Sovereign Decree of God, I want us to look to Scripture and see two ways that God’s decree - God’s plan - is active in the world.
We are going to look at God’s Decree on a Global and an Individual Scale.
God’s Decree on a Global Scale
In the establishment of authorities
Jesus told Pilate, “You would have no power unless it had been given you by God” (John 19:11), and Paul reaffirms this in Romans 13 when he says, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
This does not mean that all people in power are there for our blessing - some are there for our judgment.
But all are under the sovereign authority of God.
Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.”
Daniel 2:20-21 “Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.”
In the rising and falling of nations
Speaking of the Lord, Job tells us, “He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away” (Job 12:23).
In the processes of nature
Psalm 135:5-7 “For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. 7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.”
In the establishment of the church
God spoke through the Prophets of His coming Son, and through His Son, the Church was established.
Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
He didn’t say, “I will TRY to build my church”, but He said, “I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH.”
Christ, as God the Son, has sovereignly established His Church in this world, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it; He has decreed that it will stand.
It is obvious God’s Decree is active on a global scale... but many folks think that God’s sovereignty is limited over the individual life... but the Bible shows that His decree does extend to the individual...
God’s Decree on an Individual Scale
In the birth of an individual
Psalm 139:14-16 “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
In the death of an individual
Deuteronomy 32:39 “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”
1 Samuel 2:6 “The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.”
People often ask about those who “die before their time”.
There is actually no such person; no person has ever died outside the time which God had allotted for that individual.
We are absolutely immortal until the days which God has fashioned for us are concluded; and once those days are concluded, there is no physician that could save our lives.
In the salvation of an individual
Psalm 65:4 “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts!”
John 6:37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
Acts 13:48 “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
John 9:18 “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”
These passages remind us that God is sovereign, even over the salvation of man.
It is His will to either open or harden the rebellious heart.
One of the biggest problems of the modern church is a rejection of God’s Power, His Omniscience and His Sovereign Decree.
QUOTE: A.W. Pink “The ‘god’ of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The ‘god’ who is now talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday School, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible Conferences is the figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality.… A ‘god’ whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship, merits naught but contempt.”
We who believe in the Biblical God - the true God - the God, God - have a much different view, as Pink goes on to describe for us...
QUOTE: A.W. Pink “Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him. So His own Word expressly declares: ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’ (Isa. 46:10); ‘He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand’ (Dan. 4:34). Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things ‘after the counsel of His own will’ (Eph. 1:11).”
CONCLUSION: We began today by looking at the words of Christ regarding prayer.
He told us that God knows what we need before we ask.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ask... Christ is not discouraging us from praying.
What He is encouraging is our trust.
We are commended by Christ to trust God fully and completely, without any hesitation or reservation.
But how can we exercise a trust like that?
By understanding that God is the one who is in control of all things.
There is nothing in this world... in his universe... which is outside of God’s control.
QUOTE: R.C. Sproul “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.”
But the beautiful reality is that there is no rogue molecule.
Everything in this universe ultimately is under the sovereign authority of our Mighty God.
He is God, and there is no other.
He is God, and there is none like Him.
When the Christian lays his head down at night to rest, the peace which should undergird his rest is the complete and total sovereignty of His Lord.