3. Somebody Is In Charge
Every new space probe sent out to determine if "life" exists somewhere else in the universe reminds us of the story of a shipwrecked sailor who spent his first days ashore wandering over his island and calling out, "Helloooooooo! Is anybody there?"
When people deny the existence and providence of a personal God, they begin to feel terribly alone in the universe.
Volumes have been written and will be written on the compelling evidences of Divine activity and purpose in creation. And everyone should become acquainted with these evidences.
Look around you. Read. Think! All the complexity and design evident in nature could not possibly have happened by the chance operation of unintelligent, blind forces. The odds against it are astronomical.
Somebody is there and He is not idle. He has the power and the intelligence to create a universe of mind-boggling magnitude, and He is running it by physical laws that are amazing in their complexity, precision and dependability! And He is also governing His universe morally. Almighty God has an overriding moral purpose in His creation, and His moral government is just as vast, active and benevolent as His purpose is. Here is a good definition of the nature and purpose of God's moral government:
"Moral government consists in the declaration and administration of moral law. It is the government of free will by motives as distinguished from the government of substance by force...." 17
We all know how physical control or government works. We push a button, or pull a lever, and a machine, circuit, or some other device goes into operation. Turn the steering wheel and the car turns. Step on the gas, and it goes. Hit the brakes, and it stops. That is physical control.
But moral control does not operate that way. We might know enough about people's psychological nature--what makes them "tick"--to be able to manipulate their emotions and behavior by certain words and actions. But this is still following a law of sequence, a "law of necessity." It is not moral persuasion by an appeal to reason. It is manipulation by externally applied motivation (stimuli).
Moral government operates on an entirely different principle. It tries to secure voluntary and intelligent obedience to moral law by internal motivation. It presents values to the reason in an appeal to the will of the person to choose those values and live by them. True, external motivations (stimulation of certain emotions, the promise of reward and the threat of punishment) are used to make the choice of the values easier and to minimize the appeals of opposing emotions and circumstances. But moral government is essentially an appeal to reason, with appropriate built-in consequnces of acceptance or rejection of the appeal to reason.
We are ready now to talk about the reason for moral government. Government must be based on valid reason, or it has no right to exist. Nobody has a right to exercise authority over others unless there is a basis for that right.
Does moral government rest on a solid basis? Is there an obligating reason for God to exercise moral government over His universe, including the inhabitants of this planet?
Yes, indeed. God's right to rule the heart is based on a very solid foundation. We will never have a world where everybody agrees. Even if everyone were virtuous and living up to all the light he has, not everybody would have the same degree of light or knowledge. Nothing would guarantee that we would not drift into ignorance. So then, we need someone to reveal, establish and uphold moral law and moral order. We need moral government. This need for moral government is the basis for its existence.
The fundamental reason for moral government, therefore, is the necessity for moral government as an indispensable means of securing the highest good. Without it there would be moral disintegration. The resulting moral anarchy would be an intolerable catastrophe for the whole universe. Who would want to live in a society where the well-being of the members of that society is not maintained by appropriate moral authority? So we need moral government to sustain moral order for the good of the universe.
But who has the right to govern? Obviously, the One who is best qualified. That, of course, is God. We have every reason to believe that God is the Moral Governor of the universe. Would a God of love create beings who need His moral supervision, and then refuse to provide that supervision? Of course not. Everything that God does clearly demostrates His determination to uphold moral order. He has given us His Word, the Bible, to show us the way. He sent His Son to die for us to save us from our sins and our sinning. Now His Holy Spirit is here doing everything morally possible to move human hearts to God and righteousness--that is, everything short of violating man's free will.
We see clearly that God's sovereignty over the universe is a just and legitimate sovereignty. He rules because our good requires it, and not merely because He happens to be powerful enough to force His authority upon us.
If God did not love us, He would not bother to commit His infinite energies to administer faithfully the vast and complex moral government that we need so desperately. He is working earnestly for our good, even though most of the inhabitants of this planet Earth are in open rebellion against His just and benevolent rule. Oh, how great is God's love! God is the only one qualified to govern the universe. For that reason it is His right and His obligation to govern.
And what does this imply? Just this:
A. "... the duty or obligation to govern. There can be no right in this case without corresponding obligation, for the right to govern is founded in the necessity of government and the necessity of government imposes obligation to govern.
B. "... obligation on the part of the subject to obey. It cannot be the right or duty of the governor to govern unless it is the duty of the subject to obey. The governor and subjects are alike dependent upon government as the indispensable means of promoting the highest good.
C. "... the right and duty to dispense just and necessary rewards and punishments...whenever the public interest demands....
D. "... obligation on the part both of the ruler and the ruled...to make any personal and private sacrifice demanded by the higher public good....
E. "... the right and duty to employ any force which is indispensable to the maintenance of order...and sustaining the supremacy of moral law.... To deny this right is to deny the right to govern." 18
Again, the good of all is dependent upon the moral government of God. And God is faithful in His benevolent administration, always acting in the highest interest of His creatures.
Oh, how good and reasonable it is to yield heart-obedience to Him! How wicked and unreasonable it is to rebel in heart against His rightful authority in our lives! Man's selfish determination to be independent of God's holy will and rule is most destructive. The person who refuses to allow God to rule upon the throne of his heart is his own enemy as well as the enemy of the highest good of the universe.
THE LIMIT OF THE RIGHT TO GOVERN
It is important to define the limit of the right to govern. Since the right to govern is based on the necessity for government, it follows that the right cannot go beyond the necessity.
God is the Creator. And God is uniquely qualified to govern the universe He has created. If He were not, He would have no right to govern, no matter how much the universe needed to be governed. On the other hand, no matter how much God is able and qualified to govern, He would have no right to govern the universe unless it needed to be governed. The fact that it needs to be governed is the basis of God's right to govern it, and His unique qualifications are the conditions of His right to govern it.
This means then that God is not a bully, ruling us just because He has the power to do so. There is a compelling reason for Him to govern and for us to obey. We need God, and we cannot get along without Him and His moral authority!
But, base government on anything else than the necessity of government for the good of all, and rulers will see no limit to their authority. Look at the parade of history. Kings, generals, Caesars, prelates, emperors march through its pages. How many of them ruled for the good of the people? How many followed the principle that their right to rule went no farther than the people's actual need for their rule?
Look at the sad record. From ancient Nimrod to this evening's news we see a long line of monarchs, tyrants and demagogues ruling for their own ends on the basis of power and might. Only now and then will you find a ruler who governs truly for the highest good of the people and who limits his power by the actual requirements of the people.
In contrast, let us look at the majestic moral government of God.
Now it is true that God is sovereign. He does not ask anyone for permission to govern His universe. He does not ask anyone's advice how to run it. But the sovereignty of God, though complete, is not arbitrary. God's authority (and duty) to govern is based on the necessity for moral government and is conditioned on His unique qualifications to govern.
And God is fulfilling His moral obligation to govern. God's sovereignty is being directed by His infinite love and wisdom. In all that He does, God is guided by His determined purpose to secure our greatest good and His highest glory by the best, wisest and most just means possible. Truly, "God is love" (1 John 4:8).
Loving submission to the sovereign will of God is the only morally justifiable course of action for reasonable creatures. Sin is the basest form of treason ever introduced into the universe, because, remember, all who refuse to obey God are working directly and violently against the good of the universe, against the good of their community, against the good of their family, and against their own personal good.