God’s Sovereignty: A Misunderstood Doctrine that Answers Our Toughest Questions
The more I grow in my faith the more I love the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. And, the more I realize that many Christians don’t truly understand this critical doctrine. Worse still, Christians often say they believe in this doctrine until they are pressed and, only then is it revealed that they don’t really believe in God’s sovereignty.
We first need to define God’s sovereignty.
R.C. Sproul wrote a book in which he addresses God’s sovereignty. In the book, he explains the doctrine like this:
“In my classes in the seminary, I raise questions like, “Is God in control of every single molecule in the universe?” When I raise that question, I say, “The answer to that question will not determine whether you are a Christian or a Moslem, a Calvinist or an Arminian, but it will determine whether you are a theist or an atheist.” Sometimes the students can’t see the connection. And I say to them, “Don’t you realize that if there is one molecule in this universe running around loose outside the scope or the sphere of God’s divine control and authority and power, then that single maverick molecule may be the grain of sand that changes the entire course of human history, that blocks God from keeping the promises he has made to his people?” It may be that one maverick molecule that will prevent Christ from the consummation of his kingdom. For if there is one maverick molecule, it would mean that God is not sovereign. If there is any element of the universe that is outside of his authority, then he no longer is God over all. In other words, sovereignty belongs to deity. Sovereignty is a natural attribute of the Creator. God owns what he makes, and he rules what he owns.”
That is a great place to start because it gives us a picture of exactly what it means to be sovereign and let’s us know that only God is capable of being sovereign. Since sovereignty entails absolute control over something, we need to first realize and understand that only God can be, or is sovereign.
We also need to understand that God’s sovereignty extends to everything that He has created. Practically speaking, this means that God has absolute authority and control over…everything. There is nothing outside of God’s scope of sovereignty. This means that every planet, every ocean, every animal, every human, and every atom in existence is under the ultimate and absolute authority and control of God.
The fact of God’s sovereignty is well established in Scripture. It’s not a man-made argument or something that results from church tradition. It is, without a doubt, a doctrine concretely grounded in the pages of God’s Word. Sam Storms recently wrote a blog discussing “10 Things You Should Know About the Sovereignty of God.” It is an excellent primer on Gods sovereignty that every Christian should read and wrestle with. (You owe it to yourself to read the entire article.) I particularly enjoyed his comments explaining the difference between the moral/perceptive will of God, and the secret/decretive will of God. This is the aspect of God’s sovereignty that many struggle with the most. Storms’ comments are clarifying. Some of the highlights of his article that I also found helpful include:
“(1) Numerous biblical texts explicitly teach that God exerts complete sovereignty and meticulous control over all the so-called forces of “nature.” I encourage you to take time to read Psalms 104; 147:8-9, 14-18; 148:1-12. Also consider Job 9:5-10; 26:7-14; 37:2-24; 38:8-41. Other texts include: Jer. 10:12-13; Jer. 14:22; Amos 4:7; Psalm 105:16; Mark 4:39-41.”
“(5) God is even sovereign over the disabilities with which some are born. Then the LORD said to [Moses], ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’ (Exodus 4:11).”
“(7) God is also sovereign over the choices of human beings. If God does have sovereignty even over the choices of human beings, and they do evil things, is God morally culpable for their actions? No. This is the mystery of compatibilism, according to which both the sovereignty of God and the moral responsibility of human beings are perfectly compatible, neither canceling out the other. Several texts should be noted; Genesis 20:6; Prov. 21:1; Ezra 1:1; Deut. 2:30; Joshua 11:20; Judges 7:2-3,22; 1 Sam. 14:6,15,20; 2 Sam. 17:14; 1 Kings 12:15; 20:28-29; 2 Chron. 13:14-16; Acts 4:27-28; 2 Cor. 8:16-17; Rev. 17:17.”
“(8) God is sovereign over whether or not a woman becomes pregnant. For this, see Genesis 16:2; 29:31; 1 Sam. 1:5; Judges 13:3.”
Wow! The sovereignty of God is breathtaking in its scope. Nothing takes place in the universe without God knowing, authorizing, or allowing it to happen. It is only by some direct/intentional, divine action of God that anything happens.
For the Christian, the sovereignty of God should be one of the most joyous, comforting doctrines of all. We can rest in the assurance that nothing happens in our life that does not first pass through God’s authority. Every day that we wake up, every breath we breathe, every step we take, are all because God has allowed it. This was, I believe, the confidence that Job had in the face of his trials. He stood firm in the reality that God was sovereign, he belonged to God, and all that happened was allowed by God for a purpose.
Of this reality, Charles Spurgeon once wrote:
“There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought more earnestly to contend than the doctrine of their Master over all creation – the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands – the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that Throne.”
Does this mean that God ordains/allows Tsunami’s? Does God decree cancer? Did God allow my child to die? Did God choose not to stop the accident? These are tough questions that need answers. The answers are in the pages of Scripture and many are answered in the article by Sam Storms referenced above. I encourage you to read it.
The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is one of the most amazing, critical, difficult, and noteworthy doctrines in all of Scripture. It must be clearly understood if we hope to have a proper understanding of who God is. We must study and wrestle with this doctrine until we have a thorough understanding and peace with it.
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