Contend Earnestly: God is Sovereign

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

God is Sovereign

Where has the sovereignty of God gone? I recently read a book by James White, called The Sovereign Grace of God, and before going into his beliefs on Calvinism he first had to defend God’s sovereignty. Where have we gone in modern Christendom? Where have we gone that we have to defend, amongst Christians, that God is completely sovereign? I know the debates are strong in the area of Calvinism and Arminianism but God’s sovereignty should not be apart of this debate as this is our core of beliefs. Of course this belief on God leaving us humans to our “free will” has gone exactly where anyone could have guessed, to Process Theology and complete Open Theism. I am excited to have Dr. Bruce Ware coming up to Seattle and discuss this issue at hand, but to think that this is not a discussion between pagans and Christians, but against those who believe in Yahweh, is astonishing. If God is not completely sovereign, yes even in salvation, how can we hope in His omnipotence and omniscience? Some say that God knows all things but does not ordain all things, but Scripture speaks completely to the opposite. Not only can we see this in narrative parts of Scripture but also in the prophets and wisdom literature as well. Let us see the three different areas in compact form. I just want to show one example from each so you can see that God not only knows the future but He actually ordains the future as well, very important to understand.

First, in narrative Scripture.

“Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is
my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have
done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the
integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning
against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.”

Genesis 20:5,6

This comes from when Abraham was traveling with his wife Sarah and came to the land of Gerar (Gerar was near the coast about 12 miles south of Gaza and about 50 miles south of Hebron, in the land of the Philistines) where he tells King Abimelech that Sarah is his sister so that the King does not kill Abraham for his wife. Notice that God says that He “kept” the King “from sinning;” which literally means to restrain or hold back, showing that if the King were left to his own desires the King would have surely done as Abraham predicted (for you don’t have to restrain something unless it is fighting against another force, like restraining water with a dam). God also, “did not let” the King touch her. God shows that from His hand He truly decrees what will happen. We don’t know what would have happened if God didn’t intervene, one can only imagine, but that was not apart of God’s plan so He did not allow it to happen. So you can see the King did not have a “free will” to choose what he would do, but God directed the King’s heart and kept him from sinning.

The second comes from the Prophets:

“Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Because you have not obeyed My words,
behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ declares the
LORD, ‘and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will
bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these
nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and
a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. ‘Moreover, I will take from them
the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the
voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. ‘This
whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the
king of Babylon seventy years. ‘Then it will be when seventy years are completed
I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD, ‘for
their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting

Jeremiah 25:8-12

Notice here the great insight to the plans of the Lord. God says, speaking through Jeremiah, that it is only Him who will do all these things. In these five verses God uses the phrase “I will” six times. God is making sure that we know exactly who is declaring these times of destruction of not only His people but also those who were allowed to carry out their sinful and darkened ways. The discussion of the punishment of this sin is for another discussion but shows again, God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in sin. But in all this, God is the one who is doing the sending and the destruction.

The last is in the Wisdom literature:

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.
Proverbs 21:1

The first verse is a very strong verse. The word for “directs” means to literally “to be securely determined.” So even though we as men might have thoughts and intents on what we will be doing it is God who determines our steps. This is why David can say in Psalm 139 that God “leads him with His hand” and that all his ways were “ordained” or “predetermined” before David was even born.

The second verse is again to show that even the highest courts of men cannot do anything that is not from the hand of God. God turns the King’s heart wherever God wishes, or better yet, wherever God “is pleased to.” Would make sense so that we can truly cry out that no matter what, “God is glorified.”

These are just a quick overview of some great verses in the Bible that speak to the sovereignty of God; which is important to truly trust, so that we can believe Paul when he says,

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who
love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28

How can one believe that these words are true unless they believe that God is completely sovereign in all things? This should not be something that is “debated” amongst Christians, this should be an afterthought. For if God is not completely sovereign, then just one mistake out of someone’s “free will” would cause all the preceding verses and revelatory verses to crumble.

I truly would like someone who doesn’t believe in complete sovereignty to exegete these passages above to show they could mean something besides God pre ordaining all things.

I love the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and it allows me much hope and security in times of distress and trials to know that God is in complete control; even in the lives of those I know that don’t know Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Lance Roberts said...

The belief in sovereignty has been diminishing because people want to do what they want to do. A large example for today is birth control. Either God is sovereign over the womb, or he isn't.

Daniel said...


God's complete sovereignty is not the issue between historic Arminianism and Calvinism. Arminians believe that God is in complete control of his universe. Nothing happens that God doesn't cause or allow. The difference is that Calvinism holds that God is the direct cause of everything. Arminianism teaches that God directly causes somethings and indirectly causes others.

Historical Arminianism doesn't believe that the human will is free. It is in bondage to sin. God's grace must work in the unbeliever's heart in order for him to accept His gracious provision in Christ Jesus.

Seth McBee said...

daniel...when you say that God indirectly causes others...that is saying that God is not sovereign matter how you package it.

If you believe that God's grace must work in the unbeliever's heart and you also believe as you say, which I don't believe you actually do, that man is in bondage to sin or better yet, dead in sin, how does God choose who He will "work in" and who He won't?

This is where we differ, which is found in defining God's foreknowledge (click here for my post on the subject) and also in Eph 1:11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will

Notice it is the counsel of His will and nothing outside of that counsel.

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