The Suffering of Christ and the Sovereignty of God

by | Aug 20, 2017 | The Sovereignty of God: How Suffering and Justice Meet, Featured

As we examine the topic of the suffering of Christ and sovereignty of God, we see that it is one that many people face and struggle with mightily. In this article, we will begin the journey through this topic by considering what is said in the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 13:8, as the Apostle John is in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, he writes, “All who dwell on earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.”

Something very important things must be noted here: before the world was created there was a book called the “Book of Life of the Lamb who was Slain”. The Lamb is Jesus Christ crucified. The book is the book of Jesus Christ crucified. Therefore, before God made the world, He had in His sovereign view His son, Jesus Christ, slain. Which means that our Sovereign God had in view a people purchased by His blood, whose names were written in this book.

Therefore, the suffering of Jesus was not an afterthought or a “Plan B”. There are many who believe that God’s work of creation did not go the way He planned. This text puts this idea to rest because, before the foundation of the world, God had a book called “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain”. The suffering of Christ was in view before the work of creation began.

Overflowing Grace

Yet, something else is in the sight of our Sovereign God before the foundations of the world. In 2nd Timothy 1:9, Paul looks back into eternity past and says that God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.

What does Paul mean here? Our sovereign God gave His people undeserved favor—grace—in Christ Jesus before the ages began. The world had not yet been created; God’s people had not yet been created. Yet, God had already decreed that this blood-bought grace of Christ would be sufficient for His people. So there is a “book of life of the Lamb who was slain”, and there is an overflowing grace flowing to undeserving sinners who are not yet created. Therefore, before the foundations of the world, the slaughter of the Son of God is in the mind and plan of God. His people will be forgiven and restored through the Lamb of God will suffer. That’s the plan.

To the Praise of His Glorious Grace

But for what purpose is God’s plan? To answer this, a major Scriptural text needs to be examined. In Ephesians 1:4-6, Paul says, “Even as [God] chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

The goal of the entire history of redemption is to bring praise and glory to the name of our Sovereign God. And it is clear here that, as Paul writes, this plan happened “in Christ”, with the suffering of Christ in His mind. To put it as simplest as possible, our calling, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification could not happen apart from the suffering and death of Christ.

Therefore, Paul is proclaiming that God chose us “in Christ” and planned to adopt us “through Christ.” This was the plan of the suffering and death of His Son, set before the foundation of the world. Furthermore, Paul makes plain that the goal of this plan was to bring about “the praise of the glory of the grace of God”.

And, as sin enters into the world in Genesis 3, the stage is set. The drama of redemptive history begins to develop. Sin is now in full and deadly force. Suffering and death are near and prepared to consume the Son of God when He comes. All things are now in place for the greatest possible display of the glory of the grace of God.

Therefore, in the fullness of time, God sent His Son into the world to suffer in the place of sinners. Every facet of His saving work was accomplished by suffering. In the life and death of Christ, He displays the greatness of the glory of the grace of God!

Everything that Christ accomplished for sinners, He accomplished by suffering. Christ took on the wrath of God on our behalf. Christ bore our sins and secured our forgiveness. Christ lived a perfect life in our place and that righteousness is imputed to us. Christ defeated death. Christ destroyed the works of the devil. Christ obtained our glorification. Christ will ultimately bring us to God. Christ did this all through His suffering.

The Lamb Who Was Slain

In closing, consider this from Revelation 5:9-12. It is here that the multitudes in heaven are worshiping the Lamb. And why were they worshipping the Lamb? They worship Him because He was slain and worthy to open the scroll! See this glorious picture of the worship in Heaven:

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

All of heaven focuses their worship not simply on the Lamb, but specifically the “Lamb who was slain”. And they are still singing this song! Clearly, the centerpiece of worship in heaven for all eternity will be the display of the glory of the grace of God in the slaughtered Lamb.

The heavenly multitude and all the redeemed will sing of the suffering of Christ forever and ever. The suffering of the Son of God will never be forgotten. The sovereign plan of the Lord and of our suffering Servant will be at the center of our worship for all eternity. As previously mentioned, and a humbling fact, this is not an afterthought to God. This is the plan from before the foundation of the world. This plan displays the greatness of the glory of the grace of our Sovereign in the suffering of the Beloved is what will be enjoyed forever and ever by His people in heaven!

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