What comes into our minds when we think about God?
Psalm 50:1; 90:2; 115:3; Isaiah 40:15; 45:9; 46:10; Dan.4:35; Romans 9:20-21; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 1; 1 Timothy 6:15
But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. Psalm 115:3
No religion or theological system is greater than its idea of God! Who God is rates as the utmost of importance not only to our understanding of Him, but our understanding of life as well. What comes into our mind when we think of God is perhaps the most fundamental and important thing in the theology of the Christian life. Who God is and who we are in Him will determine every aspect of our lives, our response to Christ, and our response to others. The question is, who is God in your life? Is He Sovereign, or is He an idol?
What is Sovereignty?
The sovereignty of God basically means that God is God, and He is in complete control, He is the Creator, King, and Sustainer of the universe. God can do as He pleases, as He wishes, without constraint; He has no limits or confines. Nothing else in concept or reality can move or exercise power or influence over Him. Nothing can have direction or permission outside of His knowledge and control. God's purpose is all-comprehensive and can never be thwarted.
"Sovereignty," as a word, occurs many times in the English Bible, as well as the clear idea thereof. It can refer to God's power and control or a earthly king's dominion (Gen. 15:2-8; Ex. 23:17; 34:23; Duet. 3:24; 9:26; Josh. 7:7; Judges 6:22; 16:28; 2 Sam. 7:18-29; 1 Kings 2:26; 8:53; Psalm 68:20; 71:5,16; 73:28; 109:21; 140:7-8; Isa. 7:7; 25:8,16; 30:15; 40:10; 48:16; 49:22; 50:4-9; 51:22; 52:4; 56:8; 61:1,11; 65:13-15; Jer.1:6; 2:22; 4:10; 7:20; 14:13; 32:17; 32:25; 44:26; 50:25; Ezek. 2:4; 3:11, 27; 4:14; 5:11; Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 1:4; Rev. 6:10-and there are 233 more!). Sovereignty, as a term, logically expresses the idea of what God is; He is The Supreme Creator and has total providence and absolute authority as ruler of all that exists in the totality of creation. Whether or not we acknowledge Him, His nature remains the same! Whether or not we acknowledge Him, we are dependent upon Him for every breath, every step we take!
God is the independent, self-existing, self-governing, and autonomous, supreme ruler over all things. He caused all created things to come into existence and has absolute control of any possible outcome of them beyond our comprehension. There is no random chance or occurrence in the universe; nothing is beyond His knowledge, influence, or command. Thus, nothing happens in our lives without a reason or a purpose, even things we do not see or understand! The sole purpose of the universe is for His pleasure and for His glory, as all that is created was created by Him (Prov. 16:4;33; 45:7; Rom. 11:36; Eph. 1:11). We need to ask ourselves, how do I glorify Him?
God is immutable; this means He is unchallengeable, fully, absolutely, and totally in control! He alone chooses who will be clued into His truth, and who is not worthy or ready to know . Thus, God is the One in whom we can have faith and worship! God is fully God, supreme, sovereign, independent, autonomous, and self-governing; thus, there is no external power, law, or influence on Him that can thwart Him, and there is nothing either in existence or even conceivable that is greater than He. This means we can trust Him! Furthermore, He has the absolute ability to exercise His power and control according to His will. He created the universe out of nothing; thus, all things come from Him and are dependent upon Him. God's Sovereignty means He has the absolute right to do with His creation as He pleases. He is not obligated to give us anything, and owes us nothing. Yet, He loves us and gives us the grace that we do not deserve. His grace and love are given to us because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and rose again for our sins (Gen. 1:1-31; Psalm 11:4; 45:6; Prov. 16:33; 21:1; Isa. 24:23).
God is the One who chooses and dispenses wisdom and life. He is the only One who is capable and sufficient in knowledge, wisdom, justice, and mercy to do so. God reveals Himself in the heart and through His Word. We cannot come to know or understand God from any secular means; no learning, science, or power can grasp whom God is or what He is up to. Everything in the universe belongs to God. Since He is God, Creator, and Sustainer, He has the right and authority to create and to control as He pleases. Thus, we belong to Him and our lives must line up to His precepts and will. Even the number of hairs on our heads are under His sovereignty; thus, we are to look to Him in truth in our dealings with one another, and not pay attention to material gain or dishonest gain, which give us nothing, since nothing is ours (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 47; 93; 96:10; 97; 99:1-5; 146:10; Isa. 6:1; Ezra. 1:26; Dan. 4:34-35; 5:21-28; 6:26; 7:9; Matt. 10:29-31; Rev. 3:21; 4:2)!
Romans Spells Sovereignty
The Sovereignty of God is clearly spelled out in the book of Romans, yet Paul is poured out and sorrowful; in Rom. 10:1, he is worshiping and in Rom. 11:33-36, he is praying. The big picture is, God is totally Sovereign, and we have free will and responsibility! God's sovereignty does not nullify our responsibility or call! Free will and sovereignty go together like roots and leaves; they may not need each other from God's perspective, but they do from ours. Spurgeon says "they are friends;" Augustine says, "we must work and do as it all depends on us, and pray and trust as it all depended on God". The God who ordains the ends (from creation to salvation) and numbers our hairs, also ordains the means to the ends; our prayers, witness, and free will are God's foreordained decrees and are far beyond our feeble understanding or the choices we make. God is sovereign and we have free will; the Bible teaches both. We may not fully understand it, but there it is. We are the elect and chosen although we know we have no right to it. Thus, our responsibility and call must be directive and purpose driven-His purpose! To sit and hide behind theology and claim we need to do nothing else is a coward's and reprobate's way out! We are called to be doers (James 1:22-25)!
Whether or not we acknowledge Him, God is also in total control and sovereign over our salvation and life. We cannot come to Him without He first interdicts upon us. We human beings think we control our destiny and our salvation because we can choose; but, we cannot choose because we are filled with a sinful nature that prevents us. We have no ability or power of our own to receive Christ as Savior; only the Holy Spirit can intervene upon our hearts and wills as we respond to the grace He has given to us, making us completely dependent on Him. This is not domination; it is incredible love! Which would you rather have making such a decision-your limited thinking and experience, or the Sovereign God of the universe who is completely fair and loving (Ex. 33:19; Deut. 7:7; John 6:44, 65; Rom. 9:15; Gal. 3:3-6; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 2:12-13)?
Do all Christians believe in Sovereignty? Surprisingly, the answer is no! Many Reformed people believe that the reason Arminianism developed and has been so adhered to over the centuries is that it gives us the comfort that we, in some way, have control over our lives. However, this is a false comfort in choices and will. Again, whom would you want to make the choices in your life, you and me who are flawed and sinful, or the One who is all-knowing and all-loving?
What is Arminianism (I was one for many years until I really started to study and understand Romans and then I had to convert my views to God's percepts and became more Reformed in my theological understandings)? It is a system of belief that has many aspects. There are three major points regarding Sovereignty:
1. God chose us (elect) because of His foreknowledge, thus it is ultimately by our works that God sees in advance and not because of His will or purpose. This would nullify the work of Christ on the cross for our behalf as we would have earned our salvation in some way.
2. Christ died for anyone and everyone (saved and unsaved) and we choose. (This leaves out God's perfect plan and authority.)
3. We can resist God's grace, thus nullifying His omniscient and potency attributes.
There are,of course, other aspects too (see our articles, Calvinism From the Critics and The Pelagian Captivity of the Church). Arminianism leads us to believe that we make the decisions in what matters in life, and God merely provides us with options and choices. In a way that may be true, but only from our limited perspective! Arminianism places the focus on the responsibility of man and devalues the purpose and control of God. The Bible clearly teaches, as in Reformed thinking, that the focus is on God's sovereignty, glory, and purpose. We cannot choose our own will and claim it as His! Christians may disagree and bicker over this, but consider this: what is your focus? Is it about you, or about God?
Classic Judaism taught a balance between our responsibility and God's sovereignty. We are not forced or manipulated by God. We have choices, and the ability to make both right ones and wrong ones. Rabbis taught that people with poor morals stumble just like people with poor eyes. Most problems in our churches and theology come down to how fully we understand who and what God is and His Divine Sovereignty! If we do not understand and trust God all we do in life will be skewed and come to nothing but stress and disdain!
The Sovereignty of God, also called "Providence" (Genesis 50:20; Job. 38:1-41:34; Psalm 103: 19; Daniel 4:34-35; Acts 2:22-24; 14:16; Romans 1:26-32; 11:33-36; James 1:13-17) means that God sees beforehand and provides. This ties in with His Sovereignty because this is about God's control as He totally holds, directs, disposes, and governs all of His creation. This is an essential doctrine to know and understand because our Lord is no spectator! Providence is the doctrine that gives us the knowledge and comfort that God is sovereign, and thus, He is in control. We are not mere rats in a meaningless maze, without any divine plan or purpose.
Our Great Comfort is That God is Indeed in Control!
God, indeed, is in control. He does, indeed, have a plan; there is no stray molecule in the universe that does not have His hand of control over it. Jesus tells us that God knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground. He knows the number of hairs on our head--or the number of hairs we do not have. Therefore, there is no chance, no luck, no gambling, no fate (in the worldly sense), to what if or what may have been or what is, as all things happen according to His plan.
At the same time, we have free choice, as well as determination. Somehow, beyond our capacity to reason, these two seemingly conflicting sets of reason come together as friends (St. Augustine and Spurgeon). In theological terms, this is called Concurrence. This is the coterminous relationship between God's decree and our free choice that somehow are shared in our journey through life, that our free will and choices work into His foreordained decrees without assault to His will and absolute control, or even, to some degree, our decisions.
Thus, if we do not receive His Grace and Salvation, even though His election exists, it is because we choose to not accept Him. He sees this by His foreknowledge, as applied to His purpose first. To what extent this occurs is a matter of hot debate amongst theologians over the centuries. But, it is safe to say that He is ultimately in charge. (Yes, this will "blow your mind," i.e. your thinking ability!) Even Calvin spent more time defending and explaining human responsibility and our duty to prayer more than any other subjects in his writings. So, it is all in His hands, and it is up to us to get to work, trusting and obeying Him.
Providence also refers to God's foreknowledge. That means that God sees beforehand, and provides. It is a word we do not see much of today, but it has a rich history amongst the Puritans and Reformers as the great comfort that God is God and LORD over all. God is no clockmaker who made the world, set it in motion, and then left it, as the Deists or some Natural theologians have proclaimed. God has ultimate authority and sovereignty over all the affairs of humanity. He is directing, involved, and working through it all, giving us mercy and guidance. He creates, He sustains. The universe is dependent upon His involvement, moment upon moment.
Providence gives us the comfort that He is in charge; there are no accidents or mistakes. You are here for a purpose and a reason; you are no accident (even if your parents told you that!) If you feel you married the wrong person--well, you did not! There should be no negative words or thinking coming from you or by listening to others! You are His loved one and in His plan if you are in Christ! You may feel you have made a lot of bad decisions. Well, you have-we all have-but God is still working things out for good. This is what Romans 8 is all about. Therefore, we have no need to dwell upon the past, complain, or play the what if games, nor should we allow past mistakes to hold us hostage from His plan for us now. Rather, we are to move ahead in the parameters of His fruit and in the knowledge that He is, indeed, in control.
Jesus affirmed Sovereignty as He preached the Kingdom of Heaven, which is both now and also is to come (Matt. 3:2; 4:23; 5:3,10,19-20; 6:10; 33; 7:21; 10:7; 13:24-47). The term, Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew is the same thing as the Kingdom of God in the other three Gospels. They both mean God's rule and sovereignty. They point to the church today and our eternal future. The Kingdom of Heaven will culminate with our Lord's second coming and a new heaven and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13-14; Rev. 21-22).
"Forasmuch as some people imagine that they must look on God as a respecter of persons if they believe that without any respect had to the previous merits of men, He hath mercy on whom He will, and calls whom it is His pleasure to call, and makes good whom He pleases. The scrupulousness of such people arises from their not duly attending to this one thing, namely, that damnation is rendered to the wicked as a matter of debt, justice and desert, whereas the grace given to those who are delivered is free and unmerited, so that the condemned sinner cannot allege that he is unworthy of his punishment, nor the saint vaunt or boast as if he was worthy of his reward (Augustine)."
The Sovereignty of God is clearly spelled out in Scripture: Ex 20:3; Job 25:2; 33:13; 41:11; Psalm 19:1-14; 44:4; 47:8; 50:1; 59:13; 74:12; 82:1, 8; 83:18; 93:1-2; 95:3-5; 96:10; 97:1, 5, 9; 98:6; 103:19; 105:7; 113:4; 115:3, 16; 136:2-3; Isa. 24:23; 33:22; 40:15, 22-23; 43:15; 44:6; 46:10-11; 52:7; 66:1; La 3:37; Micah 4:7, 13; Mal. 1:14; John 10:29; 19:11; Ac 7:49; Rom. 9:19; 11:36; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 6:15-16; Heb. 1:3; James 4:12; Rev. 4:11; 19:6. Is it spelled out in your awareness of Him?
© 1999, 2001, totally revised 2005 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Discipleship Tools www.discipleshiptools.org/