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How does God govern?

on September 5th, 2013

In the midst of great turbulence and suffering, we still have a Ruler who governs over the whole world. Many, however, say - how can He be ruling if His rule is unacknowledged by the great majority of people upon this planet? If His people have always been oppressed by those who serve Satan? If Satan seems to have a free rein to do whatever he wants upon this planet? How can God be in control? How does He govern?

The truth is, all of this amazingly complex and tumultuous period of time that the earth has been in existence was planned by God, so that He would be glorified to the maximum extent through the brilliant display of both His love and His justice. God’s amazing mercy forgives sinners through faith in Christ, yet the unrepentant will feel the iron rod of His justice. I’ll be writing more on this topic of God and the problem of evil in a future post.

Right now, I’ll spend some time discussing the nature of God’s rule over Earth. Obviously, it is not yet come to full fruition, for He has not yet visibly crushed Satan under the feet of the victorious Church - but that does not mean that God is not ruling. A king may be in the process of quelling a rebellion, but his rule still extends over his whole kingdom.

God rules over the whole world, even though it has rebelled against Him. The world still knows that there is a God even as it seeks to suppress and deny Him, as Romans 1 makes evident. However, as I’ve written in prior posts, God continues to testify that He made the world and still providentially cares for it, by giving food and drink and shelter and rain upon all its inhabitants, both believers and unbelievers. Ever since the Genesis Flood, when God reaffirmed His providential rule over the earth, He has been ruling the world in this way and provides ample evidence of His sovereign reign through natural revelation, which is complemented and fully interpreted by special revelation. Thus nations across this world still have basic laws and recognize that there is a moral order that they ought to follow, even if they rebel against it.

Yet there is another way in which God rules, and that is over His people, whom He has gathered for His own special possession. The Church is a kingdom of priests in intimate communion and covenant with God. To His people throughout history, whether it was the Church in Old Testament Israel or the Church in the New Testament, God has granted great privileges and blessings. As Christians, we have the Bible, God’s precious special revelation, as our ultimate authority. We have loving, caring pastors, elders, and deacons who minister to us and tend us, that we may grow fully mature in Christ. God encourages us by the preaching of the Word and the administration of the two sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism. However, God also rules over His Church through discipline, commanding members who persist in unrepentant sin to be excommunicated so that they may see how hopeless life is in a vile and broken world outside and thus be driven back to Him for grace and mercy. As a loving father, He is passionate for the well-being and purity of His Church, and so He rules it as a perfectly just yet gracious King.

God, thus, does not rule over the world and the Church in the same way. Believers live in both realms and are called to live quiet, peaceful lives as they serve their neighbors in this world. Yet when the Church assembles on each Lord’s Day, God gives a tantalizing preview of the Age to come when His rule will be fully established visibly upon this world that still mostly denies Him. The Church may still suffer greatly, battered to and fro by the rebellious powers of this world and by Satan’s forces of darkness, but its victory is assured. This present time is not a time of defeat; it is a time of great conquest as more and more people are gathered into the Church in spite of all that its foes can do against it. Thus, God continues to paradoxically build up His Kingdom: through persecution, suffering, martyrdom, faithfulness, perseverance, and fortitude. And one day Christ will return, and then the Church will preside over the whole world, and God’s rule will be made fully manifest, His enemies having been cast into eternal fire. There will be no more rebellion, but all of the subjects of the Great King will love and cherish Him, and His Kingdom will endure forever and ever, never to end.

Let us long for that day and eagerly expect it, crying out: “Maranatha!” - “Our Lord, Come!”