We are in the concluding few lessons of our study on sovereignty. We looked at the sovereignty of God, because we needed to know the extent and application of God's sovereignty during time.

In our brief study of this subject, we found that God is the only and absolute sovereign! As a matter of fact, anything that God does is done in sovereignty, because He is sovereign. God is not sovereign because of some action, but God is sovereign because it is His nature -- His very essence. If God were to do anything contrary to sovereignty, He would cease to be God

We also found, from Scripture, that God can and often does limit the extent or application of His sovereignty. We use this phrase "limit His sovereignty", because English has no means of clearly expressing this truth. We have to be careful with such a statement, because it is not totally true. God's sovereignty is never limited. Even when God limits His actions, it is still done in sovereignty. The expression that God limits His sovereignty is only in the realm of human comprehension, such as power.

Wrapping our Minds Around God

When we are trying to describe the Person of God and His actions, any word or combination of finite human terms fall short of perfectly describing that divine and infinite Person, or His actions. Therefore, we must start with an imperfect human description, and attempt to modify that description in such a manner so it comes close to the reality.

As we wind down this study of sovereignty, I want to remind you of a few things. This study in no way exhausts the information concerning this subject in the Word of God. We directed our study to the area of: "Is it possible for a Believer to be controlled by Satan?" To even come close to an answer, we had to look at many of God's sovereign acts, and His declaration concerning those acts.

I am also attempting to answer a number of questions. Some of these questions relate directly to the subject of sovereignty, and some relate to how we, as humans, can comprehend such a vast and infinite subject. I'm interweaving the answers to those questions with the subject at hand, instead of directly answering the questions. These questions are related to the subject, and for some of them there is no clear answer apart from the subject of sovereignty.

We must be careful of becoming too affixed to theological terms associated with sovereignty, or we may become asphyxiated. When teaching Biblical truth, we often use terms, and even terms on top of terms in an effort to bring some human understanding to the vastness of any aspect of God. An illustration of that fact is seen when we use the combination of, "The sovereignty of God". Technically, that is an improper statement because sovereign and God have the same meaning

Humans think in terms of the sovereignty of a nation, a king, or a boss, etc. So when teaching, we start with a term that is known, even if it is very limited, and work to the unknown.

We think of a king as sovereign based on the extent of his actions and control. As humans, we can start by observing God's actions. As we observe all of the actions recorded in the Word of God, we begin to have some concept of the extent of God's sovereignty.

As we ponder, compare and accumulate those many actions of God, we soon come to the conclusion that there is no extent or limit to God. We begin to see God as sovereign in essence, not just a God Who is sovereign because of His actions.

Let's glean some Biblical facts, and allow those facts in harmony to help us see the picture. These passages, and the facts in them are only a small sampling of God's actions. However, they are a good cross section. If we will allow the Holy Spirit to compare these truths with other Biblical truths we already have, it will give us a very clear picture of why we must use words that are totally inadequate to describe God's greatness. This is true in the process of teaching the doctrine of God, or almost any spiritual subject.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

I will not attempt to put all of these passages in their proper and total context through Biblical comparison. To do so would require more time than we have for this lesson. However, for some of the phrases dealing with God's sovereignty, we will have to refer to the context or else a false conclusion could easily be made.

Paul points out elsewhere, that these things of God have been revealed by the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. Nonetheless, we cannot understand or find-out these great things by any human effort. Our finding-out and understanding of these great things of God are limited to our knowledge of the Word of God, and our willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to compare that Word in our minds. All that aside, the fact we want to see from this portion is that there is no human, material or physical way to search out or find the extent of God's greatness.

Job 26:14 Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?

What a beautiful word picture! Look at the magnitude of what has been presented in the verses before, and those things are just a "mere edge" or "small whisper" of the truths concerning God's doings.

Job 26:5-12 The dead tremble, those under the waters and those inhabiting them. 6 Sheol is naked before Him, and Destruction has no covering. 7 He stretches out the north over empty space; he hangs the earth on nothing. 8 He binds up the water in His thick clouds, yet the clouds are not broken under it. 9 He covers the face of His throne, and spreads His cloud over it. 10 He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness. 11 The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at His reproof. 12 He stirs up the sea with His power, and by His understanding He breaks up the storm.

We could spend a week or two just talking about these things that we know nothing about. These things are clear out of the realm of knowledge of our best science. Yet they are just the edge of His ways, and they are just a wee small whisper compared to the thunder of His mighty power.

Can we Perceive Eternity?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts (souls), except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

This is one of the passages we will be looking in the future. God has put "eternity" in their souls. That should be interesting. The ability to perceive eternity was part of the God breathed soul which was placed in Adam, and still is a part of every soul today. In spite of that God-given ability, mankind is still unable to perceive, or find out God's workings from eternity to eternity. As a matter of fact, as this verse points out, mankind can't even find out any one of God's works from beginning to its end.

As we can see from this short and very abbreviated study of the glory and magnitude of God's works, it is impossible to find finite human terms that even come close to adequately describing any action by God.

Keep in mind what we have just seen. No human can trace any one work of God from start to finish. Got that firm in your mind? Then hang on to your hat, and look at this next passage.

Ephesians 3:13-21 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. 14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

The Teaching of the Holy Spirit

Mankind can't find words to describe God's actions. Even with computers, we can't trace one work of God from start to finish. Yet, take one long look at verse 18 of the passage above.

Ephesians 3:18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height

That verse is talking about you--if you are a born again believer. There are no human words to describe God's actions. Nor do we have the human ability, even with eternity in our souls, to trace one work of God from beginning to end.

However, as a child of God, you may be able to comprehend what is the width and length and depth and height! That is far more than being able to trace one of God's works from first to last!

Not only is the believer able to trace a line from point to point (the beginning to the end of God's work), the believer can see God's works in3D. The believer, by the ministry of the Word of God through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, can see God's work from every angle.

We looked at this passage some time ago in the study of Ephesians. So let me just remind you of some of the conditions needed to know the width and length and depth and height of God's essence and love.

We must continually be in the state of being strengthened with God's might through His Spirit, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts. There is the Trinity at work.

With fear of stoning, let me again refer you back to 1 Corinthians 2. As we study God's Word, it is interesting to see that some of the deepest truths of God are revealed in relationship to some of the worst actions and rebellion of mankind. That is the case with 1 Corinthians.

Most of what we think of as the great prophecies were those given at a time when God was pronouncing judgment on Israel because of their sin. It seems as though God was asserting His authority, and demonstrating His sovereignty, in spite of their rebellion against Him.

There are accounts of Israel's failure to follow God's orders and plan, and it would seem, to human logic, that Satan had won the victory in this great conflict of the ages between Satan and God. Then towering over that dark dismal battle field of defeat comes the glorious pronouncement of God's sovereign plan for the ages!

When all human logic would declare Satan's forces the winner, God seems to speak out and say, "Don't be so quick to draw conclusions. I'm still on the throne and my plan is still on track." Quite often in our personal lives also, it is in the darkest hours that the light of His glory shines the brightest.

Pardon me, but I digress, and would love to go even farther. However, we need to come back and see why it is impossible through human terms, to properly explain God's Person and His great works.

1 Corinthians 2:3-5 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

The Object of Our Faith

Paul was capable of being strong and firm in his preaching and very persuasive with words of human wisdom. But he also knew that if the Word of God came to them in that manner, they would have faith. But that faith would not be in the power of God, it would be in the wisdom of men.

My friend, churches are full of people today whose faith is in the wisdom of some human, either written or spoken, rather than in the powerful Word of God! There are many today, and I hope you are not one of them, who have their faith based on some slick, well ordered presentation, but do not have the vaguest idea what the Bible says.

Paul knew that if they became followers of his wisdom and speech, they could never be strengthened with God's might through the Spirit in the inner man. If we as Bible teachers really knew, believed, and acted on that reality, then maybe more of our students would also know, believe, and act on that reality. Parents, this also applies to you and your teaching of your children.

Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 2 to state how we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit in the inner man. That strengthening comes as we allow the Holy Spirit to teach us the truths of God by comparing spiritual with spiritual. Over and over again the Holy Spirit points out in the Scriptures, that our spiritual (and sometimes physical) strength comes through the proper use of God's Word.

Colossians 1:9-12 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
Romans 4:19-22 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness."

Becoming Skilled in the Word

Let's take these threads of information, and weave them in one solid strand in our thinking before we move on. To teach the wonderful works of God and His glorious Person, we don't have adequate human words to express such divine truth. Because of this, teachers and the Word of God often have to use words, or combination of words that really don't fit the spiritual truth being addressed. The reason for this problem is that God's judgments are unsearchable (by human means) and His ways are past finding out (by human research).

Even with our best observations of God and His work, what the human mind can see is only the mere edge of a vast plane that stretches out to the horizon and beyond. The greatest and deepest truths that the human mind can see only scratch the surface of God's riches, and are only a small whisper compared to the great thunder of God's revelation. The best of human minds cannot trace one of God's works from beginning to end, even though God placed within each soul both the concept of eternity, and eternity itself.

After seeing these facts, and many like them throughout the Scriptures, a person would have a tendency to say, "What's the use? There is no way of even getting close to a Biblical understanding of God's revelation!"

That would be true, if it were not that God has, through His Word and the teaching of the Holy Spirit, made it possible to know the beginning and the ending of God's work, and to go far beyond just being able to trace a work of God from beginning to end. If we are willing to become skillful in the Word of Righteousness, we can comprehend the width and length and depth and height of God's revelation.

Hebrews 5:8-13 Though He (Christ) was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek," 11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Hebrews 6:1-3 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.

We become "skilled" in the Word of Righteousness in a similar manner similar to becoming skilled in any other field, with one major exception. Look first at the similarity to other skills, then we will look at the exception.

You become skilled at anything by doing if over and over again. Not only do you have to do it over and over again to become skilled, you must make sure that those repetitions are done correctly each time, and continue to strive for improvement each time you do it.

We would love to become skilled in the Word if it only meant coming to church, raising our hand, or walking down the aisle. But to give ourselves to the consistent study of the Word of God? "Well," some might say, "God is just going to have to come up with a better plan, if we are to become skilled."

Sorry, God has only one plan. It's a take it or leave it situation.

Practicing the Word

That brings us to the question that was asked, and I mentioned at the close of the last lesson. That question went something like this, "I know so little of the Word of God! Even if I gave myself to serious study, it would take years before I would have any real skill in the use of the Word of Righteousness. How long, or how much study do I have to put in before I will be spiritual? It almost seems unfair that it takes so much time to get understanding of the Word, and therefore a holy life."

I gave a brief answer when this question was asked. Now I will try to give a more orderly answer. The background and part of the answer was given earlier in this study.

You do not have to know all the Bible to start on this path to Biblical skillfulness. As a matter of fact, you don't have to know very much of the Bible to get a good start.

No matter how much of the Word of God you learn, you will never come to the end of the process of becoming skilled in the Word of Righteousness. Plus, many do not have the time to devote to a concentrated study of the Bible to become skillful.

We won't have the time in this lesson, but I hope in the next lessons we will be able to show you some very practical ways to become skillful without finding any more time in the day than you have right now. For this lesson, let's lay out some Biblical principles of Bible Study given by the Holy Spirit that are a must, No matter how much time you devote to formal study of the Bible.

Philippians 3:12-17 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. 17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

Paul, as he came to the end of his life (which had been a great and productive life by any standard) said that not even he had arrived as of yet. We need to notice and remember, No matter how successful we have been in Bible study and the Christian walk, there is still more to be gained. Paul penned 13 books of the Holy Spirit inspired New Testament, yet he still had not arrived at that point.

I love old books of theology written by great men of God who were the pillars of the church. However, listen and hear me well when I say that if we do not have a better understanding of Biblical truth than even those great men of God, then we have failed in using God's principles of Bible Study.

With the advantage of past studies, computers, as well as their own studies, Pastor Trey and Pastor Eric should be able to surpass my Biblical understanding, and in some areas already have.

The Bible is not like the manual for your computer, or your dish washer. Remember, God's ways are past finding out! Come to think about it, those manuals are somewhat past finding out also, but in an entirely different manner.

No, there will not be any new revelation given from God to mankind until Christ returns to this earth. But the Holy Spirit will continue to reveal, to those who are willing, the deeper and deeper truths from the revelation He has already given.

Paul states that He was not going to rest on past achievements, or past failures. He was continuing to reach forward, because there is so much more to be achieved. Not only does Paul say he was going to continue pressing on, he stated that any mature believer would have this attitude.

So, how does your maturity rate on that scale?

Paul wraps up this matter by stating that there is nothing you can do to change the past. Whether your past has been good and productive, or bad and wasted, you can't change one thing about what has already happened except to receive God's forgiveness.

I know, it's getting towards the end of the class and you can almost smell the pizza. But put that thought in the back of your mind for just a few more minutes and give your best attention to what Paul says next in the next passage.

Paul starts off with the word "nevertheless".

The Greek word is attempting to distract from or to de-emphasize what proceeded. The Greek word says take your focus off of what has proceeded and come down to reality, or give close heed to what is about to be presented.

Paul is saying that what proceeded has little bearing on what he was about to say. So listen up! We need to live by the growth and knowledge we have already attained. Whatever you know of the Word of God right now, be that great or small, live by it! If you want the Holy Spirit to teach you more, then use what He has already given you.

Matthew 7:6 Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

The reason you don't give pigs pearls is because they don't know how to use them, and they will destroy them simply by doing what comes naturally. The Holy Spirit is not going to give the deep things of God to those who are going to destroy them instead of use them. In like manner, don't expect the Holy Spirit to put the pearls of the Word of God on your spiritual plate, unless you are properly using what He has already given you.

There are Bible teachers and Bible students who want to study the Bible in the same manner we study other subjects such as math, history, and English. They want to start at point A and move progressively through to point Z. If that was the way God intended for us to study and teach the Bible, He would have written it in that manner.

Here a Little, there a Little

Isaiah 28:9-13 "Whom will he teach knowledge? and whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little." 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, 12 to whom He said, "This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest," And, "This is the refreshing"; yet they would not hear. 13 But the word of the Lord was to them, "Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little," that they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught.

God gave us His Word in a piecemeal manner, and it is in this manner we are to study it. We get a line over here, and a line over there. We put those lines together and we have a precept. We see that there is a precept over here and then we learn a precept over there. We get a little over here and little over there. This whole process can seem so illogical.

However day in and day out, if we continue to take in those lines and precepts from here and there and everywhere, then the Holy Spirit can take those seemly unrelated lines and precepts, and through His spiritual comparison bring us to an understanding of the deep things of God.

We do not have human words that even come close to expressing the truth of God. Therefore God says that the Holy Spirit will transcend this failure. If the Word of God is taught in this manner, the Holy Spirit will commune with our spirit, and then we will know the deep things of God.

By the way, the Holy Spirit helps our prayer life in this same manner. Romans 8:26 tells us that we do not know what to pray for or how to pray for it. The Holy Spirit makes our request known to God through groaning that have no human utterance.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2 that we are to teach the Word of God in the same manner as the Holy Spirit teaches. Line upon line, and precept upon precept. When you study the Bible in this manner, it seems like you're not getting very far. The reason? Because we are accustomed to the way the world teaches.

But do you know what? When you continue to study the Bible in this manner, there comes a time when a truth of the Word makes sense. Not because someone set you down and gave you points one, two, and three, but because the Holy Spirit communed or fellowshipped with your spirit using the lines and precepts you gleaned from here and over there. Then He makes spiritual sense of them. We are to take in the information and live by it, and in due time the Holy Spirit will bring it into the reality in our minds.

I see this over and over again. I'll have someone come to me after a lesson and say, "Boy! That really made sense today." When I ask, "What made sense?", their answer is usually not the subject I was teaching in that lesson. Instead, they had been getting a line over here and one over there. Then during the lesson, another line was received. When that line went upon the other lines, it made a whole.

That seems like a strange way to study the Bible, but it is God's way. I would much rather study the Bible in this strange manner and be able to know the width and length and depth and height of God's revelation, rather than to study the Bible in an manner acceptable to the world, and only be able to see the mere edge of God's way or only hear a small whisper of God's great thunder of power.

Job 26:14 indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?"

I would put you folks from MBF up against almost anyone I know as to the perception of the Word of God. No, we may not know what all the cults believe, or what the latest doctrinal fad might be. But when those from MBF who have been faithful in their study, are confronted with the cults or the latest doctrinal fads, they can compare them to the truth of Word of God, and find them lacking.