The Sovereignty of God – What is it? How is it expressed?

Posted: May 28, 2014 in Christian Living, Theology

Royalty's Throne. Ornate. On WhiteThe sovereignty of God is a doctrine central to the Christian faith. The hope of the Christian is primarily rooted in a God who has both the authority and the power to bring about his good and perfect will. C.D. Cole defines sovereignty as “the exercise of God’s supremacy. God is the one supreme and independent being. He is the only one in all the universe who has the right and the power to do absolutely as He pleases…The sovereignty of God means that He does as He pleases, always as He pleases. God is in control of all things and people, and is directing all things after His own will and to the praise of His own glory.” Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” Likewise, Isaiah 46:9-10 says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’”Although the sovereignty of God is not necessarily one of his attributes, it is however true on the basis of his other attributes, i.e. omnipotence, aseity, omniscience, etc.

So how exactly is God sovereign and where is his sovereignty exercised. There are thee general categories of the world where God’s sovereignty is manifested.

Sovereignty Over Creation

God, as creator of the universe, is completely separate from his creation. He was not constrained by it in any way before creation, nor did he take counsel from another in his design. He alone created as he pleased, in accord with his own nature. All things were formed ex nihilo by the word of his mouth. The opening chapters of Genesis showcase God’s sovereignty in creation. He alone created. He alone formed things as he wished. He alone made man in his image. He could have created any world he wanted, but this one he freely chose. Psalms 95:5 says, “The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” Similarly, Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

In addition to his free creating power, he possesses the right and power to uphold and direct the created order as he sees fit. He sends the rain (Matt. 5:45, Acts 14:17), rules over the seasons (Dan. 2:21), the life and death of his creatures (Job 30:25, Ps. 31:15), and the healing of his creatures (Job 30:23, Acts 19:10, Matt. 9:35). His power is shown forth in the normal course of nature as well as his miracles, where he shows his power even over the laws of nature. He caused the plagues to come upon Egypt, the floods to rise in the days of Noah, and the lion’s mouth to be shut up, leaving Daniel unharmed.

Sovereignty Over The Affairs of Man

Job 12:23 states, “He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them.” There is not one single event that bypasses the will of God. All things are working according to his will. That which he ordained from the beginning, before the world began, will come to pass. Whether it is the actions of men such as Judas or the decrees of kings like Pharaoh, the Lord has determined what will come to pass. As Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” Man is responsible and even free in some sense, but the Lord rules over his choices, even restraining the evil of men (Gen. 20:6).

Consider for a moment the events leading up to the exaltation of Joseph and the subsequent captivity of Israel. Joseph was betrayed, suffered injustice, and spent long years alone in prison. However, God granted him favor in the eyes of the king. From this exaltation and the God’s control over the weather, the Jews ended up residing in Egypt. Here the Jewish people could grow numerically as God intended (as the Egyptians would not intermarry as many Jews had disobediently done before), God could display his power over the Egyptians, and the prototype of the Salvation of Jesus could be established. The hand of God through the affairs of men orchestrated all these events. Seeing God’s hand at work in these events, Joseph says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

Sovereignty Over Salvation and Judgment

God reigns supreme over the salvation of his people and the just judgment of those who refuse his gospel. But in what ways is he sovereign? First, he sets forth the guidelines for salvation. It was he who declared that only the pure in heart could see God. Perfect righteousness is needed. It was God who declared that one man could die for his people; one perfect sacrifice could save many. Man cannot choose another way to God other than the Gospel. Second, God provides the means of salvation. Since man could not save himself through the keeping of the law or the sacrifice of animals, God provided another way. God gave his perfect son, and there is salvation in no other name. He established the method of salvation and provided the means for that salvation. He gives his spirit to draw and convict men and transform them by the Gospel of Jesus. Finally, God is sovereign over the application of salvation. No man is saved apart from God drawing him (John 6:65) and regenerating his heart (John 3:3). God must convict a man of his sin and reveal the Gospel to his heart before salvation can happen. Spiritually dead men cannot save themselves apart from the work of God in their hearts.



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