Christ Declares Divine Sovereignty (Matthew Sermon 47 of 151)
February 23, 2003 | Andrew Davis
Deity of Christ
Previous Aspects of Divine Sovereignty
We'll be looking this morning at Matthew 11, concentrating on verses 25 through 27. For the third week,we are looking at the issue of divine sovereignty. According to the book of Revelation, there is a throne in the center of Heaven. In Revelation 4, "John was lifted up in the spirit and in the Spirit he saw a throne in Heaven with someone sitting on it. And it says the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, a rainbow, resembling an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their head, and from the throne, came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. And these are the seven spirits of God. And also before the throne, there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes in front and in back."
There in Revelation Chapter 4, we have set before us in the center of everything, a throne and one who sat on it. This is God Almighty, who rules over all things. There is also set in the center of our hope of salvation, a throne as well. Is there not? It says in the Book of Hebrews, Chapter Four, "That since we have a great high priest, let us approach with confidence, the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” There is a throne of mercy and of grace, and there is one seated on that throne who dispenses grace and mercy in our lives. Yes, there's a throne in the center of my hope of salvation, but is there a throne in the center of the affairs of Earth? Is there one who rules over this turbulent churning sea of events that we read about? And is there one seated on that throne who rules over all of it?
Jesus addresses that in these verses, doesn't he? He addresses it saying, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and Earth,” and that's enough for me. The same Lord who rules over heaven, rules over Earth, even though somewhere on the Earth today now, there's a tyrant, planning to slaughter thousands of people with weapons of mass destruction. Even though somewhere on the Earth today, an old man will die without ever having heard the name of Jesus Christ. Even though somewhere on the Earth today, a baby will be born infected with AIDS, caught from his mother; even though people are starving and dying. Even though there may be questions of a similar scope among people sitting in the pews today. Despite all of these things, there is a God who sits on the throne and rules over the events of Earth and that throne is what Christ praises God for today. I want you to praise Him for it, too. I want you to be able to say, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and Earth."
We want to consider the flowing together of these mighty rivers of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, for the third time. We've already seen human responsibility in verses 20 through 24: Christ denounces the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed because they did not repent. And when he proclaims over them, "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! Woe to you, Capernaum!" He's saying, "You are responsible for your failure to repent, despite the miracles, despite the evidence that I gave you of my deity, and of my kingdom, you did not repent, you just ignored me and you are accountable, you are responsible. Woe onto you, for your failure to repent." This is human responsibility.
At the end of the text, we see, again, human responsibility as the Savior, like a shepherd, invites sheep to come into the fold. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." This is an invitation from a gracious king that we should throw down our weapons of rebellion and come back into the kingdom. Again, human responsibility. But in the center of this text as we have seen in the center of Heaven and the center of our hope of salvation, we have divine sovereignty. What's so remarkable here is that it's all flowing from the lips of Jesus. and they flow together without any controversy, without any difficulty. They are just side by side, divine sovereignty and human responsibility.
We've already looked at a number of aspects of divine sovereignty. I'll just mention them briefly. We've seen divine power in the miracles that Jesus did. He is denouncing the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed. These were displays of divine power, only God could do them. And everyone knew it. He would point to a paralyzed man and say, "Your sins are forgiven," and they would be offended, and he would say, "So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins, I say to you, rise and walk,” and the paralyzed man did rise and walk. This was a display of divine power. Only God can forgive sins. And only God can say to a paralyzed man, "Rise and walk.” Jesus has this kind of power to forgive sins and to heal disease.
We've also seen divine perception. Jesus said, if the miracles that had been performed in Bethsaida were performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Stop, how did He know that? Is He able to search hearts and minds? Is He able to know things that never will be? Yes, He has divine perception, Something only God could know, Jesus knew, and that extends back 2000 years in history to the city of Sodom destroyed under the wrath of God for its wickedness and perversion. Jesus said, "If I had done these miracles there, that city would still be here today."
Thirdly, we've seen divine prerogative. As a king, He makes choices. As a king, He has the authority to make them. He doesn't need to ask permission and He doesn't apologize for what He does, He just decides. He choose not to do miracles in Tyre and Sidon, like He did in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. This is His divine prerogative and He exercised it, even though He was there in Tyre, and He did one small miracle there. He did not do the river of miracles in the display that He did in His hometown of Capernaum. .
Fourthly, we've seen divine praise. From verses 20 through 24, and then verse 25, it's a remarkable connection. He's dealing with the failure of cities to repent. Jewish cities who should have known better, who should have repented. He's dealing with unbelief, He's dealing with people who are going to go to hell. “You, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you'll go down to Hades, you'll go down to the depths.” He's dealing with the most dreary and the most despicable topic and in the midst of that, in verse 25, He answers and responds and says, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and Earth.” Oh, this is jarring to us and surprising, but it is His nature, His desire to praise His Heavenly Father because He is a king who rules over all things, divine praise.
Fifthly, divine position. I love these titles. I praise you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, side by side, they are. A measurement and the second title of His sovereignty over all things, the same throne that rules in Heaven, rules over Earth. He is Lord of heaven and Earth. He's not a tribal deity, He's not localized, His jurisdiction doesn't end at a certain place, but it covers all of the Earth. He is Lord of heaven and of Earth, for He made it in six days. He is God over all things. He's also father, a position or a title of authority but also of endearment and of relationship, of love and compassion. A father who cares for His children and who loves them. “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and Earth.”
Then sixthly, divine preference. In verse 25, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and Earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, on the one hand, and revealed them to little children on the other.” Our sovereign God conceals and reveals, and Jesus praises Him for both. “I praise you Father, because you conceal and I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and Earth, because you reveal.” It's not a big challenge for us to rejoice in the second, we love a God who is self-revealing. We want to know God, we want to see Him in His glory. God does reveal Himself, but He also conceals. He conceals, it says, from the wise and learned, and He reveals Himself to little children.
There's nothing wrong with being wise. As a matter of fact, there's a whole book in the Scripture, the Book of Proverbs, which praises wisdom. But the wisdom that Christ is dealing with here is human wisdom, human knowledge, human academia, the intellectual pursuits of the human mind apart from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, seeking out the deep things of the universe, seeking out their conceptions of God. They will never find Him, not that way, for God has concealed Himself from those kinds of inquiries and will never be found that way. For since in the wisdom of God, God through His wisdom did not decide to reveal Christ that way, but rather only to those who've humbled themselves. “To those who are meek and lowly, to the lowly of heart, you have revealed them to little children.” To those who will humble themselves, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth. Unless you are converted to become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Jesus praises God for the concealing and He praises God for the revealing and this is His divine preference.
Seventh, divine pleasure. All things that God does, He does according to His pleasure. He's not under compulsion, He's not forced, He's not coerced, He's not irritable or out of sorts, He knows what He's doing when He sits on the throne. Aren't you glad? Don't you delight in a God who knows what He's doing and who does what He pleases in heaven and on Earth and under the Earth. This is a God of pleasure. In the end, our heavenly joy is tied up in the pleasure of God. He says, "Well done, good and faithful servant, you've been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Now, enter into the joy of your master." What kind of heaven would it be if there were no such thing as the joy of our master? Oh, but He has much joy, He has much pleasure, He knows what He's doing and He's ruling over all things for His glory. He says, "Enter into my pleasure, enter into what it feels like to be totally one with yourself, without any division any more over sin." I'm looking forward to that, aren't you? Looking forward to being as one as the Father and the Son are one, and not just by myself, but with all who have believed and trusted Him, from every tribe and language and people and nation. But He does all things according to His pleasure. He rules according to His pleasure. Even if His pleasure is a little shocking and surprising to us, sometimes. Would we ever have arranged a Gospel in which the second person in Trinity died on a wooden cross? It is not our way. His ways are different than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts as the heavens are above the Earth, and so He has pleasure in the death of His Son. Pleasure in crushing Him on the cross. Not in the thing itself, in the suffering and the pain, but rather, in the joy that's set before Him, in the end result, in a perfect new heaven and new Earth, a home of righteousness, which His death alone can accomplish. He has pleasure in that. That's a whirlwind review of the first seven.
Now, let's look, at the last three. Divine presentation. The Father commits the universe to the son. In verse 27, whereas Jesus was praising His father for divine sovereignty, so He's praying it up to God in a prayer. He's giving thanks for it. Here, He's instructing us about it. He's instructing us about sovereignty. He says, "All things have been committed to me by my Father." This is divine presentation. “All things have been committed to me.” He is claiming here, dominion over the entire Earth. This is a remarkably shocking claim, if Jesus is not deity. If He's not God in the flesh, what kind of person would say, "I want you to know that God has entrusted the entire world, the whole universe to me." What would you do if you knew somebody like that? But Jesus is God and this is a true statement. He never utters a word lightly. "And all things have been given to me, God has entrusted.. " This word "committed" in the NIV, means “handed over.” Entrusted is a good way to put it. They've been surrendered to me. They've been handed over. He's talking about dominion over the Earth. This is the very thing that the devil claimed in Luke 4, when he was tempting Jesus. The devil led Jesus up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world, and said to Him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to." The devil's such a liar. Oh yes, he's god of this world, but it's temporary, isn't it? Jesus brushed to the side and said, "I'm going to get it anyway, but not from you. I'm going to get it from my Father. He's going to entrust it to me, all things." And why? Because Psalm 24:1 says, "The Earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." The world, and all who live in it, it belongs to God, not to the Devil. Don't be deceived when the devil promises you the world. He can't deliver, for God has entrusted all things to the Son.
What has He entrusted? Everything to do with the universe has been entrusted in Christ's hands, "All authority," said Jesus, "in heaven and on Earth has been given to me," It says in Ephesians 1:22-23, "God placed all things under Christ's feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way." He's also entrusted or committed to Him, the authority to forgive sins. As we've already mentioned, in Matthew 9:6, He said, over that paralyzed man, "The Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins. He also has the authority to judge sinners." In John 5:22, it says, "Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted, He has committed all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father." All judgment has been entrusted to Jesus and that's what it reflects in Matthew 25, "The sheep and the goats, He's going to gather all nations before Him, and He will separate them, one from another, as a shepherd separates sheep from the goats." And why? He has the right to do it. It's been entrusted to Him by His Father.
He also has the authority to rule over God's enemies for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 15 says, "Then the end will come, when He, Christ, hands over the Kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power, for He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet, the last enemy to be destroyed is death."Some day, He's going to destroy death. Death is the last enemy. All things have been committed, but especially here, I believe, it is people who have been committed to Him. Elsewhere called the elected, the chosen of God. Many times, in the book of John, it speaks of people who are given from the Father to the Son. In John 6:37-39, "All that the Father gives me will come to me. And whoever comes to me, I will never drive away. For I've come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of Him who sent me, and this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given to me, but shall raise them up at the last day." Also in John 10, He says, "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 can snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me is greater than all. And no one can snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and the Father are one." Then there is great high priestly prayer in John 17, "After this, Jesus looked up to Heaven and prayed, ‘Father the time has come. Glorify your son, that your son may glorify you, for you granted him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to those whom you have given Him.’” There are people entrusted to Jesus. In effect the Father says, “Here are people, take care of them, they're precious to me, bring them to heaven, die for them, pour out your blood that their sins might be forgiven, keep them safely the rest of the way and bring them to me so that I might have eternal fellowship with them. I've entrusted them to you, bring them to me.” In John 17:6-7, Jesus says, "I revealed You to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours, You gave them to me and they have obeyed your word." If you are a Christian, you are a love gift from the Father to the Son. The son sees you as something that's been committed or entrusted to Him. He will not lose any of you. You are precious to Him and He will protect you with His life. In fact, He's willing to pour out His life that you might be protected from wrath. This is the Sovereign God that we have.
Next, number nine: Divine privacy. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son. No one knows the Son. You say, “Wait a minute now, I know a lot of things about Jesus. I know that he was born in Bethlehem, I know that He did such and such miracles, I know that He never sinned, I know His mother's name, I know His step-father's name, I know a lot of things. I could take a theology exam on Jesus.” Yes, but do you know Him? The Greek word is “epignosis” that means “a full complete rich relational knowledge.” Do you know Him? Jesus already answered the question. “You don't know me, not yet, not yet, no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son.” Jesus says the goal of which there's no greater value in the universe, is knowing God. In Jeremiah 9:23-24, the Lord says, " ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches but let him who boast boast about this, that he understands and knows me,' says the Lord." That's what you should boast over, that should be your treasure. No accomplishment compares to knowing God, nothing. Jesus said, "You don't know me and you don't know my father.” What He is saying is this knowledge is the essence of our life. This is eternal life. John 17:3, "That they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom I have sent.” So eternal life is knowing the Father and the Son but we don't, not naturally and why? Well, Isaiah 45:15 says,”Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel." Really, our God is a God who hides himself. That's what it says, “You are a God who hides Himself, O God and Savior of Israel.”
Many times in the Psalms, the Psalmist struggles with this, doesn't he? "How long, O Lord will you hide your face from me?" Do you experience this in your Christian life or do you have unbroken face-to-face fellowship with God now here on earth? Of course, you don't because God is a God who hides Himself even to His children. David wrestled with this, he struggled. He was not in constant face-to-face fellowship with God. God was concealing Himself somewhat. God therefore does hide Himself even from His children and He hides Himself from rebels and from the wicked because of their sins. He will not hear their prayers because their sins have separated Him from them. He has hidden His face from them. This is the problem. The whole thing started with Adam and Eve hiding from God but it is God who hides His face from us. He conceals Himself and will not reveal Himself unless He wills.
The Father knows His Son, doesn't He? He delights in His Son. Do you remember when He was baptized? A voice came down from heaven saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” God knows Him very well and delights in Him. The Son knows His Father, also. John 17:25, "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you.” The Son knows the Father and the Father knows the Son, and no one can get any further in knowing God than God wills. You can't up and know God if He does not reveal Himself. You can't search Him out, you'll never find Him unless He reveals Himself.
Praise God He didn't stop there. Number 10 says, with divine privilege the Son chooses to reveal the Father to some. "No one knows the Father except the Son and. . .” Stop there. Do you see that little word “and”? You say I didn't think “and” was that big a deal. Oh, it's a big deal because God could have stopped there. He could have said no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son— end of story — the whole human race goes to hell. He could have done it. Don't think He couldn't have, He did it with the demons, they don't know God, they tremble but they don't know Him. But he adds the word “and”. Praise God, that there are some among us who will know God face-to-face. No one knows the Father, except the Son and those people to whom the Son chooses or wills to reveal Him. I think it's incredible. You should be if you're a child of God, right now just praising God that he has willed to reveal himself to you. It’s astonishing, especially when we sell it so cheaply, when we think so little really of knowing God; that it's really not that big a deal for me to know God. Oh yes, it is — it's eternal life and God knows that even if you don't fully. He is revealing himself to you.
God sent his Son into the world to reveal himself. In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets, at many times and in various ways. But in these last days, He has spoken to us by his Son whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory; that's revelation language, isn't it? He's shining out God's glory and the exact representation of his being sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sin, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven. After He died on the cross for sinners like you and me, He sat down and that's where He reigns from. In John 14: 6 and following, Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” “If you really knew me, you would know my Father, as well." From now on, you do know him and have seen him. Isn't that incredible? From that point on, we know him, and we have seen him. Philip didn't get it, did he? “Lord show us the Father and it will be enough for us.” “Oh, Philip, have I been with you all this time and you don't know me? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Do you see that? The Son chooses to reveal.
The Son does make a choice in this matter. “Goulema” is the verb, it's “he wills, he chooses to reveal”. He has a decision in this matter and He's a king and not everyone gets the same revelation. Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum got something different than Tyre and Sidon did. Individuals like Simon Peter get something different than Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. Do you remember in Caesarea Philippi? Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am? Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets. What about you? Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered for all believers for all time, at that moment. Peter said, “ You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” What did Jesus say? “You finally figured it out, Peter, through your careful and strict inquiries.” Not at all. “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah for this was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in heaven.” Jesus chooses to reveal himself so that we may know Him. Matthew 11 forever removes the false assumption that Christ must and does reveal the Father equally to everyone. Sodom got no healing miracles only wrath and judgment. Tyre and Sidon got one healing miracle but not leading to their repentance. Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum got the incarnate Son of God living in their hometown but they did not have Simon Peter's revelation. Simon Peter got revelation unto salvation and he's in heaven now.
What kind of application can we take from this? First of all, be humbled. There's no stairway to heaven we can erect or construct ourselves. The doctrine has a powerful work of humbling the soul. Be one of those little children to whom God reveals all things. Secondly, be incredibly joyful; realize that if the son has revealed the father to you, and the father is revealing the son to you, and if you're his sheep, you are given to Christ, you realize nothing in heaven or on earth or under the earth will separate you from the love of God, and that you will be saved and go to heaven. You have already won what there is to win in this world, eternal life. You have the faith that overcomes the world.
Thirdly, be expectant. There's more yet to know about God. Do you realize even when you die, you will not immediately know everything there is to know about God? John 17:26, "I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and I myself maybe in them." That's forever brothers and sisters, he's gonna be revealing and revealing and revealing the father forever and ever.
Fourthly, while here on earth, be seeking God constantly. Sometimes God will hide himself from you because your heart is prone to wander and go off into idles, so that you don't prize the love and knowledge of God properly and God wants to strip that from you. He wants to wean you off it and so he will pull back from you. At that point you know what you need to do, stop everything else, and pursue God, seek him with all diligence, even with fasting and prayer. Psalm 27:7-9 says, "Hear my voice when I call, oh Lord, be merciful to me, and answer me. My heart says of you seek his face, your face Lord I will seek, hide not your face from me." That should be the cry of every child of God in this place. Your heart speaking to you, seek his face, seek him.
Be sorrowful, genuinely grieving over the cities and individuals that hear this message and don't repent. Do you realize probably in this room there are people who are hearing this message, and yet have not, nor will repent? Be sorrowful, over those who hear this and do not repent. Be steadfast doctrinally. Christ is the only savior. Is there anyone else who can reveal the Father to us than Jesus? This doctrine is under attack these days. In our own city, there is a Baptist pastor who stood up, and preached to his congregation that Christ is not the only way to God. The analogy he used was of underground river and many wells going down and water coming up out of each well Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, whatever, right in our own city, false doctrine. Be very careful there is only one way to God and it is Jesus Christ.
Be consistent in repentance, realize that as you hear this preaching just like Ezra, you're going to feel conviction of sin. Repent, be glad to repent and be rid of those things that are hiding God from you. Be evangelizing constantly. Go out, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him, go and preach this Gospel. The Gospel of the kingdom so that people can find out who the true King is, Jesus Christ. Speak to your neighbors, your co-workers, other students, speak to them about Christ, that they might have eternal life. Delight in God's sovereignty, as much as He does. Realize that that frees us from anxiety over the future because God is sovereign. Finally, come to Christ. If you don't know the Lord, if you've never come to faith in Christ, how could you possibly walk out of this room, out of this message, without repenting and yielding. As Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle, and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”