“His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; 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?”’ (Daniel 4:34-35)
These are the words of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of ancient Babylon. He thought that he was a god and everyone and everything was subservient to him. God drove him insane but restored him after Daniel’s prophesied period of time. This great king was brought to his knees by the only sovereign God!
As a pastor of a Church, a member congregation in a Reformed Denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, I am often asked by visitors what is Reformed Theology? Why are we so adamant in describing ourselves as Reformed? My response is that Reformed Theology is Biblical Theology recovered by the Protestant Reformers. Primarily, Reformed Theology is grounded in the absolute sovereignty of God. We are adamant about our name because we are adamant in teaching, preaching and living the truth revealed by the Sovereign God who humbled the great king Nebuchadnezzar.
Nebuchadnezzar learned this truth the hard way. God humbled this man who was full of pride. God caused him to live like a wild animal. Even his appearance was changed. The Prophet Daniel described the king with these words, “He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” (Daniel 4:33)
We can choose to believe whatever we want to believe. But we are not free to define God in our own image or comfort. God has revealed Himself and one fundamental attribute of God is His sovereignty. Sovereignty means rule. When we speak of the sovereignty of God, we are referring to His absolute rule of all of His Creation.
You may be thinking, “Doesn’t every church believe that God is sovereign?” You’re right. Every church that professes belief in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ also believes in the sovereignty of God. So then, what’s this “Reformed Theology” all about? Those who claim to be reformed in faith and practice look at every aspect of life through the lens of the sovereign character of God.
For example, our salvation depends upon a sovereign God. The Bible teaches that men are incapable of turning to God. All men are born spiritually dead. Only a God who is absolutely sovereign can save us. God breaks into the life of a man causing him to see the truth of life in Jesus. We do not have the ability within us to believe in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. God must raise us from spiritual death to spiritual life. Only a sovereign God can promise that nothing will ever separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39) and keep His word.
In fact, I can’t think of anything in life that doesn’t depend upon the sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah was in mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:37-38) Jeremiah declared that God ordains everything that happens!
I can hear the skeptics, “If the sovereign God ordains everything then what’s the point of doing anything?” God did not create robots. God’s sovereignty does not contradict our wills. Every single human being will do whatever he desires. God holds us accountable for what we do. But, God’s will stands above man’s will. He acts without any encumbrances. Whatever He wills is done.
God’s rule is absolute and inclusive. The fact that all men do not submit to God’s rule does not nullify it. There will come a time when God’s sovereign rule will be seen. When Jesus, the sovereign King, returns, every creature will submit to Him. Until then the visible rule of God is seen in the church. Reformed theology affirms that the church is the visible kingdom of God.
So, “What’s in a name?” Our name represents what we believe. The one true God is absolutely sovereign in everything. Jesus Christ is the King and Head of the church.
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is the pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church.