My deepest desire is to see the church grow. I want to see the church grow in number and in spiritual strength. I want to see my brothers and sisters in Christ experience all the blessings God has stored up for them.
Satan wishes to see otherwise. Satan recognizes that as long as Christians are submitting themselves to God as the only sovereign and the only lawgiver, they will in fact be blessed by God. For this reason, Satan wants Christians to believe that they can find success independent of God’s authority.
Satan has often tempted man to rebel against the authority of God. The Bible begins by telling us of Satan tempting Eve to trust the serpent’s lies in the garden (Gen. 3), and the Bible ends by telling of the destruction of those who worshiped the dragon and gave authority to the beast (Rev. 13). In the pages which lie between, there are dozens of instances of Satan tempting men to reject or rebel against the authority of God. When Satan is successful in turning men away from God’s authority, he is likewise successful in keeping them from the blessings God has in store for them.
Scripture is abundantly clear, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy” (Jas. 4.12). I suspect that most Christians will readily admit this fact. But our adversary is deceptive. Satan finds his success, not by tempting Christians to openly deny the fact that God is sovereign, but by tempting them to reject and rebel against the authority of God in practice. For example, if I were to claim to believe in the sovereignty of God, but then in practice I speak evil of any Christian who does not agree with my personal opinions, or judge those who don’t live up to my personal expectations for how a Christian should appear, have I not ceased to submit to the authority of God? Have I not rather, in practice, acted as if my own personal opinions and judgments are every bit as authoritative as scripture?
Even when we claim that we submit to God as the only sovereign, when Satan tempts us to act upon our own personal authority, we have in practice jumped up onto the judgment seat of God and proclaimed ourselves equals with God! When Satan tempts us to respect general consensus of preachers and elders to the point that we have ceased to honestly examine the truth as taught by Scripture, we have in practice acted as if those men are themselves co-authorities with God. When we exalt and defend any man-made laws or man-made judgments above God’s word, we are in practice rebelling against the authority of God.
If Christians are going to both proclaim and live as if God is sovereign, we must first really understand, believe and take the heart that God is sovereign, and He is the only lawgiver. If we fail to understand this very important point, we will miss the blessings God has promised to those who submit to His rule.
God is Sovereign
The Bible emphasizes the sovereignty of God in a number of ways. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is above all things, and preexisted all things. He is the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 21.6). “By Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible”, including but not limited to all earthly “thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” (Col. 1.16). There is no limit to His wisdom and knowledge, and His judgments and ways are unsearchable (Rom. 11.33). Absolutely nothing is too difficult for Him (Jer. 32.17). God is in control of all things and rules over all things. He has power and authority over nature, earthly kings, history, angels and demons (Ps. 103.19). Even Satan Himself has to ask God’s permission before he can act. (Job 1.11-12).
God is the ultimate source of all power and authority. There has only ever been one Man, Christ Jesus, who can share these exalted claims with God Himself. It is Christ alone who has been exalted “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body” (Eph. 1.21-22).
Besides this one Man, there has never been, nor will there ever be, any emperor, king, president or congressman, no church leader, passionate preacher, nor charismatic elder who will ever come anywhere close to claiming this kind of authority. God reigns through Christ alone. There is only one lawgiver.
Two Contrasting Attitudes towards God’s Rule
The book of Genesis tells of two sharply contrasting attitudes towards God. This book of “beginnings” tells not only of the “beginnings” of God’s nation of Israel, but it also tells of the “beginnings” of the gentile nations surrounding Israel.
The origins of the gentile nations are described in Genesis 10-11. (I’ve written a whole article on this topic here). These nations were dispersed across the earth as a result of the rebellion at Babel. Here at Babel, men had attempted to “make a name for themselves” by building a tower to the heavens. By building this tower, they believed they could prevent themselves from being scattered abroad over the whole earth (Gen 11.4). This action was in direct rebellion to God’s commandment to Noah to “populate the earth abundantly and multiply it.” The men at Babel rebelled against God’s authority, and the result as “confusion.” All the nations surrounding Israel found their origin in this outright rebellion against God’s authority.
Held in stark contrast to this rebellion is the account of Abraham, beginning in Genesis 12. Abraham was a man of great faith who submitted Himself to God’s rule. Abraham refused to trust in the strength and authority of man. In Genesis 14 after Abram helped rescue Lot and the people of Sodom, the king of Sodom offered to give Abram a gift. Abram’s response makes it very clear where Abram placed his faith. “Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to the LORD God most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’” Not only did Abram have faith that God was the one who gave him his blessings, but he refused to even accept a gift from this gentile king, lest there be any confusion over where Abram’s great blessings came from! God gave Abram his riches, and Abram wanted God to get all the credit!
Moses the Law-giver
When the family of Abraham grew into a nation, God gave them their laws. Moses became the lawgiver. It is sometimes said that Moses was Israel’s lawmaker, but this is a mistake. God was Israel’s lawmaker. Moses was his lawgiver. God still maintained sovereignty over his people. Even in the very nation He established, God never gave any human or power beneath his throne the right to make laws or to govern his people. He reserved this right to rule for Himself.
God separated this nation of people from all the gentile nations surrounding them (Deut. 7.6). The Israelites were explicitly forbidden from marrying or making alliances with any of those surrounding nations who did not submit to God’s authority (Exod. 11.7, 23.32-34; Deut. 7.1-8). Israel was under God’s government, and therefore they were not to bind themselves in any way to those nations which were founded upon rebellion to God’s authority.
Israel’s Attempt at Self-Rule
Whenever Israel trusted in God’s rule, God blessed them with success. However, it wasn’t long before Israel departed from God’s authority and therefore began to reap the consequences of her rebellion (Judg. 3.5-8; 4.2). From that time, the state of affairs in Israel continued to digress until the time of Samuel. In 1 Samuel 8, the people asked Samuel for a king “like all the nations.” God permitted Israel to have a king, but he never approved of their request (Hos. 13.11).
With very few exceptions, the kings of Israel and Judah were very wicked, who continually turned Israel further and further from God’s rule. They continually turned Israel to idols, to alliances with foreign nations, and to self-rule. From the time of the crowning of King Saul through the end of the Old Testament, Israel continually suffered disaster after disaster, exactly as God had warned that they would (1 Sam. 8.10-22).
Applying Lessons from Israel Today
Throughout the entire disastrous history of Israel, God had one thing on his mind: the raising up of His anointed, His king, and the establishment of His kingdom. Just like the nation of Israel, God has never surrendered His sovereignty to man. Even Jesus Christ our King said, “I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak” (John 12.49).
Israel eventually found out that God actually knew what was best. Israel thought that she could rule herself. She thought that the wisdom of a “king” would lead her to be more successful and more prosperous. She thought she could both follow God and make alliances with the ungodly nations at the same time. Israel’s rebellion against God’s authority resulted in her ruin.
Therefore, let us remember:
- Regardless of how much we respect our preacher, there is only one lawgiver.
- Regardless of how kind and loving our elders may be, there is only one lawgiver.
- Regardless of how much we may trust the “general consensus” of those in our particular sect of believers, there is still only one lawgiver.
- Regardless of how “right” we might think our own personal opinions may be, they will never share the same authority as those laws which are given by the one lawgiver.
- Regardless of how practical, how wise, or how much “common sense” our opinions may be, there is still only one lawgiver.
May God’s Kingdom, the church, never follow after Israel’s mistakes! May we never seek to rule ourselves! May we never seek to “tweek” God’s laws to make them better! May we never seek to make alliances with non-believers or with their “gods” to advance God’s kingdom! May we continue to submit to the one and only lawmaker!
God will continually bless those who willingly submit to His righteous rule. He will rule His submissive children with grace and love. He will bless those who serve Him.
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor?