A Crucial Distinction

Understanding the distinction between God's absolute power and his ordained power might solve a lot of theological problems among many evangelical Christians, especially among the (unwittingly) hyper-Calvinistic sort.

God's absolute power is that power to do that which he will not effect. He could turn my computer into a cupcake. But I don't expect him to do that, though after reading certain blog posts I wish he would....but I digress.

His ordained power involves his decree to do that which he has ordained to effect. 

Very simply, what God is able to do is not synonymous with what God has chosen to do.

Far from being scholasticism on steroids - though, there were variances of this distinction that even Calvin thought were barbaric - this distinction has rich biblical support. 

Here is an example of God's absolute power:

"And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham" (Matt. 3:9).

As far as we know, God did not in fact raise up from the stones "children for Abraham," but he could have (according to his absolute power).

In another place, Christ brings together the absolute power of God with his ordained power:

"Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?" (Matt. 26:53-54).

God could have sent more than twelve legions of angels to rescue Christ from his passion, but, according to his ordained power, he did not.

A hint of this doctrine may even be found in Christ's temptation. Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread to prove he was the Son of God. But Jesus (who could have done so according to his power) did not do so because the Scriptures were his rule of life, not the devil, or even what Jesus himself could have done (Matt. 4:3-4).

That's why this doctrine is so practical. We must resist the temptation to live in the world of God's absolute power, but instead trust in his ordained power, according to his Word. The aforementioned distinction relates closely to the way we live the Christian life.

According to God's absolute power, he could sanctify my congregation immediately by the power of his Spirit, quite apart from my preaching, the reading of God's Word, and the sacraments. But, according to his ordained power, he has not chosen to do so.

In other words, if I keep a "close watch" on myself and on "the teaching," and persist in doing so, then I can expect to save myself and my hearers (1 Tim. 4:16; see also Rom. 10:14-15).

God has ordained means to accomplish ends. 

Equally, God has ordained that prayer should accomplish certain ends. If I don't pray I won't receive (Jas. 4:2; Matt. 7:7-11).

True, God could accomplish all of his ends without the prayers of his people, but he has not ordained that that should be his way. He works powerfully through the prayers of his weak people (Rom. 8:26-27).

If I don't raise my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), should I have any reason to have confidence in God's covenantal promises to them? I raise my children according to the demands of the covenant, not the secret will of God (Deut. 29:29).

Moreover, a Christian lady might content herself with the idea that God could convert her husband as he walks down the street listening to Pavarotti; but she might want to consider 1 Pet. 3:1 instead as her hope.

God's ordained power makes use of human means, amazingly. And these means are rather ordinary - preaching, prayer, admonition, and godliness. 

God's ordained power involved Christ's weakness. Christ's weakness led to his life of power (Rom. 1:4). Indeed, 

"For [Jesus] was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God" (2 Cor. 13:4).

A weak, ordinary power is the only power worth living by.

Pastor Mark Jones's wife is always hearing about what he can do around the house versus what he chooses to do around the house.