Romans (LXXVI)


(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 9/13/09 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)

Please turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 9. I'll be reading verses 10 through 24:

Romans 9: (10) And not only so, but also Rebekah conceiving of one, our father Isaac, (11) for [the children] not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of the [One] calling, (12) it was said to her, The greater shall serve the lesser; (13) even as it has been written, I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau. (14) What then shall we say? [Is there] not unrighteousness with God? Let it not be! (15) For He said to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will pity whomever I will pity. (16) So, then, [it is] not of the [one] willing, nor of the [one] running, but of the [One] showing mercy, of God. (17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very thing I raised you up, so that I might display My power in you, and so that My name might be publicized in all the earth. (18) So, then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens. (19) You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? (20) Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the [One] forming [it], Why did You make me like this? (21) Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor? (22) But if God, desiring to demonstrate His wrath, and to make His power known, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction, (23) and that He make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He before prepared for glory, (24) whom He also called, not only us, of Jews, but also out of nations.

I stopped in verse 18 to preach three sermons on active hardening, and I hope you see why I spent so much time on it, especially in light of what we're about to go into, the Lord willing. It is a doctrine that is hated by most religionists who come in the name of Christianity, from Pelagians to Arminians to Calvinists.

Now what would be the most common objection to the doctrine that God actively hardens people by causing them to sin? I recently received an e-mail from someone who was reading the section on reprobation in the Christian Confession of Faith, which includes the following statement: "God actively causes the reprobate to hate His glory, persecute His people, and oppose His gospel, that He may justly punish them." The e-mailer's response was this: "... God just would not hold me responsible for something I cannot choose. It seems almost diabolical on God's part. ... It is contrary to His nature ..." Now look at how close this resembles the objection in Romans 9:19:

Romans 9: (19) You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?

As always, the Bible is right on the mark, isn't it? This person responded to the doctrine of active hardening by objecting to God's finding fault with someone whose sinful actions are completely controlled by God. Notice that our view of verse 18, which is God's active hardening and causation of sin, elicited the very objection that the Bible said would come out of the ungodly. It's a great confirmation that our understanding of verse 18 is correct. The objection follows from the doctrine, just like what we saw in the objection in verse 14. If the doctrine that was just put forth were anything less than God's active hardening, God's active causation of sin, then the objection would make no sense. And the answer to the objection in verses 20 and 21 would make no sense either, as we will go into later, the Lord willing.

Let's look in detail at this objection. It's in the form of two connected questions: "Why does He yet find fault?" And "For who has resisted His will?" You could put it into this one question: "Why does God yet find fault, since no one can resist His will?" And since these are rhetorical questions, you could also put it into this one statement: "God would be unfair and unjust to find fault, since no one can resist His will." The objector looks at the fact that God unconditionally, actively hardens certain people by causing them to sin, and then God finds fault with, is displeased with, this sin, and punishes these people for their sin. What could be more natural to an ungodly man than to say, "It is unfair and unjust for God to find fault with people whom God caused to sin. How could a just God cause someone to sin and then punish that person for the sin He caused?" In the objector's mind, what would be the only way in which God would be fair and just in finding fault and punishing sin? It would be if the sinner were totally free to sin however he wanted to sin, totally free from God's control. Then, and only then, would the objector be satisfied that God's finding fault and punishing people would be fair and just. Let me give you a quote that summarizes this:"Oh, Esau, it is in vain for thee to say, 'I lost my birthright by decree.' No, no. Jacob got it by decree, but you lost it because you sold it yourself--didn't you? Was it not your own bargain? Did you not take the mess of red pottage of your own voluntary will, in lieu of the birthright? Your destruction lies at your own door, because you sold your own soul at your own bargain, and you did it yourself. Did God influence Esau to do that? God forbid, God is not the author of sin. Esau voluntarily gave up his own birthright. And the doctrine is, that every man who loses heaven gives it up himself. Every man who loses everlasting life rejects it himself. God denies it not to him--he will not come that he may have life. Why is it that a man remains ungodly and does not fear God? It is because he says, 'I like this drink, I like this pleasure, I like this sabbath-breaking, better than I do the things of God.' No man is saved by his own free-will, but every man is damned by it that is damned. He does it of his own will; no one constrains him." This, of course, is from the famous Calvinist Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon believed that the reprobate have uninfluenced, unconstrained free will to sin and are damned based on the sin they perform out of their own free will. He believed that if it were any other way, then this would be to make God the unjust author of sin. And, as we will see in a later quote from Spurgeon, the Lord willing, he believed that if you believe that God created the reprobate in order to damn him and destroy him forever, you think meanly of God.

Who, then, is the wicked objector of verse 19? Why, it's Charles Spurgeon himself! Now wait - there's something familiar-sounding about all this, isn't there? Yes - Charles Spurgeon was also the wicked objector of verse 14! And here he is again, shaking his fist at God in verse 19! This should really show you how utterly evil Charles Spurgeon was. His teaching was in direct opposition to the truth of God's sovereignty. Now, just in case anyone out there might misunderstand, I am NOT saying that the objector of verse 14 and 19 is ONLY Charles Spurgeon. I'm using Spurgeon as the PRIME EXAMPLE of who the objector would be. And by using Spurgeon as the prime example, I am saying that the VAST MAJORITY of Calvinists are ALSO the wicked objectors, because they are aligned with the views of Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon has to be one of the most, if not THE most, popular preacher among Calvinists. And you know what? He is also very popular among Arminians. Why is that? Well, let's listen to another commentator on Romans 9:19. First note that he puts forth a good summary of the objection, and then note that in trying to explain the passage, he himself becomes the objector. Here's the quote: "Let this conditional proposition be converted into a simple or categorical statement, 'God can not justly find fault with those who are hardened by His own omnipotent will.' Such is the objection. ... These two things, then, are to be considered. First, 'God can not justly find fault with the hardened.' Second, 'Because He has hardened them by His omnipotent will, which can not be resisted.' The examination of the former consists in the discussion of this question. 'Who are they with whom God can justly find fault?' The examination of the second consists in the discussion of this: 'Whether and in what manner, they, who are hardened by the omnipotent will of God, may be exempted from the number of those with whom God can justly find fault?' The former question will be solved, if it may be explained, what that is, on account of which God can justly find fault, that is, what is the proper cause of the divine anger. The proper cause of the divine anger, and that, on account of which God can justly find fault with any one, is sin. But sin is the transgression of a law, that is, of one which is just, for, if a law be not just, it is not a law, and therefore, its transgression is not a sin. That a law may be just, it necessarily requires these two conditions, that it be enacted by him who has authority to command, and that it be enacted for him who has the power or rather ability to obey, ... that is, has ability of such a character as is hindered by no intervening decree, from doing that which he can do. Whence it is apparent that 'sin is a voluntary transgression of the law,' which the sinner, since he could avoid it (I speak now of the act), commits, of his own fault. On account of sin of this kind, and with a sinner of this kind, God can justly find fault. This condition being removed, God can not justly find fault with a man on account of sin, and, indeed, the man can not commit sin. I say this, for the sake of those, who think, though erroneously, that God can justly be angry with transgressors of the law, even if they can not, on account of an intervening decree, really obey it. An act, which is inevitable on account of the determination of any decree, does not deserve the name of sin. I doubt not that this is most certain; it shall be proved, when it is necessary. From this, therefore, it is clear who they are 'with whom God can justly find fault.' Now let us consider whether and how they, who are hardened by the omnipotent will of God, may be exempted from that number; that is, whether the omnipotent will of God, hardening a person, may remove the cause of just accusation, complaint and wrath. ... Is it secret who they are whom God wills to harden? By no means. Nothing is more plain in the Scripture, than that sinners, persevering in their sins against the long suffering of God, who invites them to repentance, are those whom God wills to harden. ... But to return; that omnipotent will removes the cause of just anger, if, by it, a man may be moved to the commission of sin, and by that power which ye can not resist, and so the hardened will be, by that will, excluded from the number of those with whom God can be justly angry, if they did that, on account of which they are hardened, being moved by that omnipotent will, which no one can resist. I do not speak, here, concerning compulsion. For 'God can not compel, nor can the will be compelled,' but it is sufficient to excuse the man, and to exempt him from the just wrath of God, if there exist any force of divine impulse, which is followed by the inevitable necessity of doing that to which he is moved. If, indeed, the man commits that which deserves hardening of free-will, he is subjected to blame, and is worthy of wrath, even if he may be hardened by that will, which can not be resisted. For resisting and that freely, the divine will, revealed in the word, which can be resisted, he is brought into that necessity of the divine decree, also revealed in the word, which can not be resisted, and so the will of God is done in reference to him, by whom the will of God is not done."

Notice that this author not only agrees with Charles Spurgeon that God cannot justly find fault unless the sinner has free will to sin, but he also agrees with people like John Gill that God only hardens those who first harden themselves. So who is this commentator who is in league with Spurgeon and all the other God-haters who are the objectors of Romans 9:19? Does anybody know? It is none other than Arminius himself. Really, what difference is there between a Spurgeonite and an Arminian? There really isn't much, is there? Both do not believe in the sovereign God of the Bible. If you think about it, the objectors of Romans 9:19 hail from a very broad range of religious views. They include the atheists and agnostics and the religionists who don't come in the name of Christianity, as well as most religionists who come in the name of Christianity, from Pelagians to Arminians to Calvinists. They all hate this doctrine of active hardening by active causation of sin.

Another way that part of this objection comes up in conversation is that if God causes everything, then men are nothing but robots or puppets, with God controlling the robots or pulling the strings of the puppets. Have you heard that one? But if you think about it, the concept of God being a roboteer or a puppeteer makes God much too weak. People who are controlling a robot or a puppet are not in full control of all aspects of the robot or puppet. They are limited in what they can do, and things can go wrong. But with God, He controls every electron, every neutron, every atom, every protein, every cell - EVERYTHING. The objectors who bring up robots and puppets use this to accuse us of being too deterministic, but our response is that the robots and puppets illustration is NOT DETERMINISTIC ENOUGH! God actively determines and controls His creation to the minutest particle! If there is ANYTHING, even the TINIEST THING, that is outside of God's control, then God would not be God.

So it is absolutely true that no one resists God's will. Many commentators want to say that the question "For who has resisted His will?" shows that the objector misunderstood what Paul had said beforehand. If that were the case, not only would it be pointless for Paul to include this objection, but the answer to the objection, which we'll go over in the next sermon, the Lord willing, shows without a shadow of a doubt that the objector understood what Paul was saying about active hardening and then made an erroneous conclusion. Had the objector had a wrong understanding of the premise, Paul would have corrected this wrong understanding in his answer. Instead, he acknowledged that the objector correctly understood the premise, and he responded to the wrong conclusion that the objector made. The e-mailer that I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon understood what the Confession was talking about when it says that God actively causes the reprobate to sin so that He may justly punish them. His objection, which is the same objection put forth in Romans 9:19, SHOWED that he understood the premise. He just made a conclusion that didn't follow from the premise.

Once again, I want to make the biblical distinction between the DECRETIVE will of God and the PRECEPTIVE will of God. God's DECRETIVE will is His will by way of decree. God has decreed every single thing, including every single thought, action, and event, from before the foundation of the world. In this sense, God's will is always done. God's PRECEPTIVE will is His will by way of command. In this sense, we are commanded to do God's will, and we are to strive to do the will of God, which is to obey God's commands. God's preceptive will is not always done. So the will of God that is talked about in this passage is God's DECRETIVE will. No one resists God's decretive will. God decreed from before the foundation of the world that a person would sin, and in time, He carries out that decree by causing the person to sin, and there is no resisting this will. Sometimes God's decretive will is called His "secret will," and His preceptive will is called His "revealed will," but I really don't like these terms, because they can easily be misunderstood. God's decretive will is certainly revealed in the Bible, so in this sense it is not secret.

The next thing I want to mention is something called "theodicy," which comes from the Greek words for "God" and "justice." So "theodicy" has to do with the justice of God, particularly with the so-called "problem of evil." The main question in theodicy is this: How can a perfectly good God cause or permit evil? Atheists like to use this to argue that God does not exist. Their logic goes like this: Premise 1: If a perfectly good God exists, then there is no evil in the world. Premise 2: There is evil in the world. Conclusion: Therefore, a perfectly good God does not exist. What's the problem with this syllogism? It's the first premise, isn't it? A perfectly good God exists, AND there is evil in the world BECAUSE a perfectly good God exists. The perfectly good God causes evil for His own perfectly good glory, to manifest His perfectly good attributes.

Finally, let's go over some Scriptures that show God's causing of sin and then finding fault with the people who sinned. These are going to be familiar passages that we read not too long ago, but I want us to look at them in light of not only God's causing the sin, but God judging them for the sin. First, let's turn to Exodus chapter 7 and read verses 2 through 4:

Exodus 7: (2) You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh. And he will send away the sons of Israel from his land. (3) And I will harden the heart of Pharaoh. And I will multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. (4) And Pharaoh will not listen to you. And I will put My hand on Egypt, and will bring My armies, My people, the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt with great judgments.

God, through Moses and Aaron, commanded Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. But God hardened Pharaoh's heart so Pharaoh would disobey God's commands, and Pharaoh's disobedience resulted in great judgments. The plagues came on Pharaoh and the Egyptians, including the killing of all the first-born in Egypt, from Pharaoh's first-born to the first-born prisoners to the first-born animals. And then after Pharaoh let the Israelites go, God again caused Pharaoh and his armies to sin in pursuing the Israelites, and this sin resulted in the great judgment at the Red Sea in which the waters rushed back and covered the chariots and the horsemen and all the army of Pharaoh that had pursued the Israelites, so not one of them was left alive. The objector would say, "Why did God find fault with Pharaoh? Why all these judgments with the plagues and the Red Sea, if God was the one who caused Pharaoh to disobey?"

Another telling of this is in Psalm 105, verses 25 to 36:

Psalm 105: (25) He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants. (26) He sent His servant Moses [and] Aaron whom He had chosen. (27) They put things of His signs among them; yea, wonders in the land of Ham. (28) He sent darkness and made it dark; and they did not rebel against His Word. (29) He turned their waters into blood and killed their fish. (30) Their land swarmed with frogs in the rooms of their kings. (31) He spoke, and [fly] swarms came; gnats in all their borders. (32) He gave hail [for] their rain, flaming fire in their land. (33) He struck their vines also, and their fig trees; and [He] broke the trees of their borders. (34) [He] spoke, and locusts came; and larvae without number; (35) and they ate up all the plants in the land; yea, ate the fruit of their ground. (36) He also struck all the first-born in their land, the firstfruit of all their vigor.

The objector would say, "Why did God find fault with the Egyptians? Why all these judgments, if God was the one who turned their heart to hate His people?"

Now let's turn to Deuteronomy 2:30-33:

Deuteronomy 2: (30) And Sihon the king of Heshbon was not willing to let us pass by him, for Jehovah your God had hardened his spirit, and had emboldened his heart, so as to give him into your hand, as [it is] this day. (31) And Jehovah said to me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before you; begin to possess, in order to possess his land. (32) And Sihon came out to meet us, he and all his people, to battle at Jahaz. (33) And Jehovah our God delivered him before us, and we struck him and his sons, and all his people.

God made Sihon, the king of Heshbon, refuse to let Israel pass through, and as a result, Sihon and his sons and all his people were killed. The objector would say, "Why did God find fault with Sihon, if God was the one who hardened Sihon's heart to disobey?"

Now over to Joshua 11:20:

Joshua 11: (20) For it was of Jehovah to harden their hearts, so that they should come against Israel in battle, so that they might be destroyed, so that they might have no favor, but that He might destroy them, as Jehovah commanded Moses.

God hardened the hearts of the kings, causing them to come against Israel in battle, in order that they would have no favor and that God would destroy them. The objector would say, "Why did God find fault with these kings, if God was the one who hardened their heart to come against Israel?"

Now let's read 1 Samuel 2:25:

1 Samuel 2: (25) If a man sins against a man, then God shall judge him. But if a man sins against Jehovah, who shall pray for him? But they did not listen to the voice of their father because Jehovah desired to put them to death.

God caused Eli's sons not to listen to their father, and as a result of their disobedience that God caused, God killed them. The objector would say, "Why did God find fault with Eli's sons, if God was the one who caused them to not listen to their father?"

Now let's turn over to 2 Samuel chapter 17 and read verse 14:

2 Samuel 17: (14) And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite [is] better than the counsel of Ahithophel. And Jehovah had ordained to break down the good counsel of Ahithophel, for the sake of bringing the evil of Jehovah to Absalom.

God caused Absalom to follow the bad counsel of Hushai, and as a result, Absalom was killed. The objector would say, "Why did God find fault with Absalom, if God was the one who caused Absalom to follow the bad counsel of Hushai?"

And we can think of the nations that God caused to come against Israel to punish Israel, and then God punished those nations whom He caused to come against Israel. You can see this time and time again in the writings of the prophets. Let's look at one example. Turn to Isaiah 8:7-8:

Isaiah 8: (7) Behold, therefore the Lord also brings on them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And he shall come up over all its channels, and go over all its banks. (8) And he shall pass through Judah. He shall overflow and go over. He shall reach to the neck; and his wings will be stretching out, filling the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.

This is talking about God's causing the king of Assyria and his armies to capture Israel and overrun Judah. Now look at Isaiah 10:5-15:

Isaiah 10: (5) Woe [to] Assyria, the rod of My anger! And My fury is the staff in their hand. (6) I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath. I will command him to plunder, and to strip off spoil, and to trample them like the mud of the streets. (7) Yet he does not purpose this, nor does his heart think so. For it [is] in his heart to destroy, and to cut off not a few nations. (8) For he says, [Are] not my commanders all like kings? (9) [Is] not Calno like Carchemish? [Is] Hamath not like Arpad? [Is] Samaria not like Damascus? (10) As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols (for their carved images [excelled] Jerusalem's and Samaria's); (11) shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her idols? (12) And it will be, when the Lord has broken off all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will visit on the fruit of the proud heart of the king of Assyria, and on the glory of his lofty eyes. (13) For he says, I have worked by the strength of my hand and by my wisdom; for I am wise. And I take away the borders of peoples, and have robbed their treasures. And like a mighty one, I put down [ones] living [in it]. (14) And my hand has found the riches of the people. Like a nest, I also have gathered all the earth, as forsaken eggs [are] gathered. And there was not one moving a wing, or opening a mouth, or one chirping. (15) Shall the axe glorify itself over him chopping with it? Or shall the saw magnify itself over him moving it? As [if] a rod [could] wave those who lift [it]. As [if] a staff [could] raise [what is] not wood!

Do you see what is going on here? God sent Assyria against Israel and then punishes the king of Assyria for being so proud as to think that he was the one defeating Israel in his own strength rather than God causing him to do it. He compares the king of Assyria to an axe, a saw, a rod, and a staff. Can the axe chop down anything by itself without a person moving the axe? Can a saw saw anything by itself without a person moving the saw? Can a rod or a staff do anything of themselves without a person moving them? So God compares Himself to the person who moves the axe, the saw, the rod, and the staff. The king of Assyria, represented by the axe, the saw, the rod, and the staff, can do nothing unless he is caused to do it by God. This shows God's complete control over the actions of the king of Assyria. GOD was the one who moved the heart of the king of Assyria to come against Israel. GOD was the one who caused Assyria to capture Israel. GOD was the one who caused the king of Assyria to proudly boast that he had done it without God's causation. And GOD was the one who punished the king of Assyria for all of the sins that God caused the king to commit. The objector would say, "Why did God find fault with the king of Assyria, if God was the one who caused the king of Assyria to sin?"

Now let's again look at the betrayal, delivery, torture, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Let's first turn to Luke 22:22:

Luke 22: (22) And, indeed, the Son of Man goes according as was determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!

God determined from before the foundation of the world the manner in which Jesus Christ would be betrayed, delivered, tortured, and crucified. And in time, God caused everything He determined to come to pass. God caused Judas to betray Jesus Christ. Yet Jesus Christ pronounces a woe on Judas for doing this wicked thing that God caused. The objector would say, "Why did God find fault with Judas, if God was the one who caused Judas to betray Jesus?"

Now to Acts 2:22-23:

Acts 2: (22) Men, Israelites, hear these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a Man from God, having been approved among you by works of power and wonders and [miraculous] signs, which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know, (23) this One given [to you] by the before-determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, [you] having taken by lawless hands, having crucified [Him], you killed [Him].

Now over to Acts 4:27-28:

Acts 4: (27) For truly both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the nations and [the] peoples of Israel, were assembled against Your holy child Jesus, whom You anointed, (28) to do whatever Your hand and Your counsel before-determined to be done.

Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Jews, and the Gentiles were all assembled against Jesus Christ. Lawless, wicked hands murdered Christ. And all of this was by the before-determined purpose and foreknowledge of God. The objector would say, "Why did God find fault with these people, if God was the one who caused these people to do these things?"

We Christians know that God's causing of sin and then finding fault with the people who sinned is not a paradox. We know that God's sovereignty and man's responsibility are not two opposing concepts that need to be reconciled. The truth is that God's sovereignty actually ESTABLISHES man's responsibility. The responsibility of man does not presuppose their supposed freedom from God's irresistible, omnipotent, and active control over their thoughts, words, and actions. Man is responsible BECAUSE God is sovereign, NOT because they are free. Think of the preface to the Ten Commandments: "I [am] Jehovah your God, who has brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." Before giving His divine Law, which people are RESPONSIBLE to obey, God asserts His divine SOVEREIGNTY. Before giving His commandments, He asserts His right to GIVE such commandments. Whatever God commands us to do is Law by virtue of the sovereignty of the one giving the command. HE and HE ALONE has the power to establish responsibility, because HE and HE ALONE is the sovereign creator and controller of the universe.

In light of this, I want to address those of you who are unbelievers. Do you have a legitimate excuse for not believing the gospel? Would you say to God, "You can't find fault with me, because I can't resist Your will"? Would you say that since God sovereignly controls all actions and events, then God cannot be angry with you for disobeying His command to repent and believe the gospel? Do you think that if you die an unbeliever, then you will be able to tell God that He cannot justly punish you in hell because you were just doing what He made you do? No, you will have no such excuse. Turn to 2 Thessalonians 1, verses 8 and 9:

2 Thessalonians 1: (8) in flaming fire giving full vengeance to those not knowing God, and to those not obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, (9) who will pay the penalty: everlasting destruction from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His strength,

Now over to 1 Peter 4:17:

1 Peter 4: (17) Because the time [has come] to begin the judgment from the house of God; and if firstly from us, what [will be] the end of the ones disobeying the gospel of God?

Those who do not obey the gospel of God will pay the penalty of everlasting fire in hell. God now strictly commands all men everywhere to repent, because He set a day in which He is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a Man whom He appointed, having given proof to all by raising Him from the dead. You are commanded TODAY to repent of your dead works and evil deeds and to believe the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. It is your RESPONSIBILITY to repent and believe the gospel. It is your DUTY to repent and believe the gospel. And God will justly find fault with and punish all who do not repent and do not believe the gospel, for He says in Mark 16:16 that all who do not believe the gospel will be damned. May we bow down before the sovereign God who works all things according to the counsel of His own will and commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.