THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
(Written and Edited by Michael Nevins)
"Enter the rock and hide in the dust From the terror of the Lord and from the splendor of His majesty. The proud look of man will be abased, And the loftiness of man will be humbled, And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. For the Lord of hosts will have a day [of reckoning] Against everyone who is proud and lofty, And against everyone who is lifted up, That he may be abased. And [it will be] against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up, Against all the oaks of Bashan, Against all the lofty mountains, Against all the hills that are lifted up, Against every high tower, Against every fortified wall, Against all the ships of Tarshish, And against all the beautiful craft. And the pride of man will be humbled, And the loftiness of men will be abased, And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. But the idols will completely vanish. And [men] will go into caves of the rocks, And into holes of the ground Before the terror of the Lord, And before the splendor of His majesty, When He arises to make the earth tremble. In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats their idols of silver and their idols of gold, Which they made for themselves to worship, In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, Before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, When He arises to make the earth tremble. Stop regarding man, whose breath [of life] is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed?" (Isai 2:10-22; NASB)
"Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all" (1Ch 29:11, KJV).
The Total Sovereignty of God is a declaration that was once proclaimed in religious literature and frequently expounded from the pulpit. It was a truth, which brought comfort to many hearts and actualized the perfection of faith and humility to its hearers. However, to make mention of the preeminence of God's sovereignty today is like speaking in an unknown tongue. This doctrine which is the key to history, the elucidation of divine providence, and the premise of scripture, is the foundation of Christian theology. To fail to properly understand this truth is the antecedent to despair and the derivation of distrust among the saints.
What do we mean by the declaration, "The Total Sovereignty of God"? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the godhood of God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that God is All, the great I AM. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that he is the Most High, doing according to his will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay his hand or say unto him what doest thou? (Dan 4:35 KJV). To say that God is sovereign is to declare that he is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat his counsels, thwart his purpose, or resist his will (Psa 115:3 KJV). To say that God is sovereign is to declare that he is "The Governor among the nations" (Psa 22:28 KJV), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as it pleaseth him best. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that he is the "Only Sovereign, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (1 Tim 6:15 KJV). To say that God is sovereign is to declare Him as the only Power, the one Person and the one and only Will in the universe.
How different is the one God of the Holy Scriptures declared from the God of modern Christendom! The current conception of Deity which overshadows the church today, even among those who profess to give heed to the Bible, is a miserable caricature, a blasphemous travesty of the Truth. The God of the twentieth century is seen in a deistic light of disrespect and distrust. The God of the popular mind is the creation of a perverted helpless Deity of prissy permissiveness who seemingly allows events to happen. He is seen as a deity who apparently has a split will, one perfect the other tolerable and permissive. The God of many a present day pulpit is an object of pity rather than of awe-inspiring reverence. To say that God the Father has purposed the salvation of all mankind, that God the Son died with the express intention of saving the whole human race, and that God the Holy Spirit is now seeking to win the world to Christ; when, as a matter of common observation, it is clear that the great majority of our fellow men are dying in sin: is to say that God the Father is disappointed, that God the Son is dissatisfied, and that God the Holy Spirit is defeated. We have stated the issue loosely, but there is no escaping the conclusion. To argue that God is "trying his best" to save all mankind, but that the majority of men will not let him save them, is to insist that the will of the Creator is impotent, and that the will of the creature is omnipotent. To throw the blame, as many do, upon the Devil, does not remove the difficulty, for if Satan is defeating the purpose of God, then, Satan is Almighty and God is no longer the Supreme Being. Many worship and reverence the Devil more than they do God, with all the fear and power they lavish upon him.
To declare that the Creator's original plan has been frustrated by sin is to dethrone God. To suggest that God was taken by surprise in Eden and that he is now attempting to remedy an unforeseen calamity, is to degrade the Most High to the level of a finite, blundering mortal. To argue that man is a free moral agent and the determiner of his own destiny, and that he has the power to checkmate his Maker, is to strip God of the attribute of Omnipotence and proclaim that the body of Christ will be incomplete, limping around for all eternity in a handicapped state due to the arrogantly proclaimed volition of men. To say that the creature has burst the bounds assigned by his Creator, and that God is now practically a helpless spectator before the sin and suffering entailed by Adam's fall, is to repudiate the express declaration of scripture. In a word, to deny the total sovereignty of God is to enter upon a path which, if followed to its logical conclusion, would arrive at a point of absolute atheism.
The sovereignty of the God of Scripture is absolute, irresistible, and infinite. When we say that God is sovereign we affirm his right to govern the universe, which he has made for his own glory, just as he pleases. We maintain that his right is the right of the Potter over the clay, i.e., that he may mould that clay into whatsoever form he chooses, fashioning out of the same lump one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour. We affirm that he is under no rule or law outside of his own will and nature, that God is a law unto himself, and that he is under no obligation to give an account of his matters to any.
Total sovereignty characterizes the entire Being of God. He is sovereign in all his attributes. He is sovereign in the exercise of his power. His power is exercised as he wills, when he wills, where he wills and is active in all things (good and evil) not just some things, as many polytheistic so called Christian's would have you believe. "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things" This fact is evidenced on every page of Scripture. For a long season that power appears to be dormant, and then it is put forth in irresistible might. Pharaoh dared to hinder Israel from going forth to worship Jehovah in the wilderness-what happened? God exercised his power, his people were delivered and there cruel taskmasters slain. But a little later, the Amalekites dared to attack these same Israelites in the wilderness, and what happened? Did God put forth his power on this occasion and display his hand as he did at the Red Sea? Were these enemies of his people promptly overthrown and destroyed? No, on the contrary, the Lord swore that he would "have war with Amalek from generation to generation" (Ex 17:16 KJV). Again, when Israel entered the land of Canaan, God's power was signally displayed. The city of Jericho barred their progress-what happened? Israel did not draw a bow nor strike a blow: the Lord stretched forth his hand and the walls fell down flat. But the miracle was never repeated! No other city fell in this manner. Every other city had to be captured by the sword! Many other instances might be cited illustrating the sovereign exercise of God's power. Take one other example; God put forth his power and David was delivered from Goliath, the giant; the mouths of the lions were closed and Daniel escaped unhurt. But God's power did not always interpose for the deliverance of his people, for we read:" And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of, bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented" (Heb 11:36,37 KJV). But why? Why were not these men of faith delivered like the others? Or, why were not the others suffered to be killed like these? Why should God's power interpose and rescue some and not the others? Why was Stephen stoned to death, and then Peter delivered from prison?
God is sovereign in the delegation of his power to others. Why did God endow Methuselah with a vitality, which enabled him to outlive all his contemporaries? Why did God impart to Samson a physical strength, which no other human has ever possessed? Again; it is written, "But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth" (Deu 8:18 KJV), but God does not bestow this power on all alike. Why not? The answer to all of these questions is, because God is Sovereign, and being Sovereign he does as he pleases according to His will.
Job stated, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15; KJV). The three Hebrew children were cast into the burning fiery furnace and came forth unharmed and unscorched. Just before they were cast in to the furnace they said, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up," (Dan 3:17-18; KJV). Both Job and the Hebrew children new that God was sovereign and that whatever He decided was His perfect purposes. God is sovereign in the exercise of his mercy. For mercy is directed by the will of him that shows mercy. Mercy is not a right to which man is entitled. No man desires the mercy of God without first God revealing to that man his depravity and despair by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mercy is that adorable attribute of God by which he pities and relieves. To speak of deserving mercy is a contradiction of terms.
God bestows his mercies on whom he pleases and withholds them as seemeth good unto himself. A remarkable illustration of this fact is seen in the manner that God responded to the prayers of two men offered under very similar circumstances. Sentence of death was passed upon Moses for one act of disobedience, and he besought the Lord for a reprieve. But was his desire gratified? No; he told Israel, "The Lord is wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee" (Due 3:26 KJV). Now mark the second case: --"In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, 'Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live'. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, 'I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight'. And Hezekiah wept sore. And it came to pass, before Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years'" (2 Kings 20:1-6 KJV). Both of these men had the sentence of death in themselves, and both prayed earnestly unto the Lord for a reprieve: the one wrote: "The Lord would not hear me", and died; but to the other it was said, "I have heard thy prayer", and his life was spared. What an illustration and exemplification of the truth expressed in (Rom 9:15; KJV)! --"For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."
By rectitude of the self-evident truth that God has formed all things that subsist, He is the absolute Owner and final Disposer of all that He has created. He does not wield about creation on a deistical cloud of serenity, but actually rules the world with an unequivocal power, which clearly manifests His power in all His creation. All the nations of the earth are nothing when compared with His greatness; and far sooner might a man stop the sun in its course than God be hindered in His work or in His will. Among all the seeming defeats and discrepancies of life God actually moves on in undisturbed majesty as He propels all things to their clear conclusion! Even the wickedness of men occurs only by His predetermined purposes. And since he directs not unwillingly but willingly, all that comes to pass, including the actions and ultimate destiny of all men; it must be, in a pure sense, in accordance with what He has desired and purposed from the foundation of the world. Therefore nothing can come to pass differently than how He knows it will come to pass.
The human mind goes forth believing to gain greater abilities and personal power. It desires nothing better than to control the universe. It comes out usually with a bad case of will power, or an astonishing ability to hypnotize itself as well as the world believing it somehow controls its own destiny. This believe in a personal will power is where we have moved to believe that we make history instead of realizing that it is God who writes history out on the hearts and lives of man.
The affairs of the universe, then, are controlled and guided, how? "According to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will." The present day tendency is to set aside the doctrines of Divine Sovereignty and Predestination in order to make room for the arrogant autocracy of the human will. The insolent pride and presumption of man, on the one hand, and his ignorance and depravity on the other, lead him to exclude God and to exalt himself; and both of these tendencies combine to lead the great majority of mankind away from the faith of God.
The beneficial aspiration in understanding the sovereignty of God is three fold:
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled (KJV)
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Union Life Ministry Center 1826 Horton Road Jackson, Michigan 49203
Writer and Editor: Michael Nevins
This is an edited and paraphrased edition from several articles, including writings by A.W. Pink, Loraine Boettner and some of the editor's own writings on the Sovereignty of God. The editor's purpose was to simplify and present this truth in a way that would be more understandable to all. There is no copyright, so feel free to copy and distribute this article as you wish. We would ask you not to alter this article in anyway or charge for the copies.
Recommended Reading:The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination by Lorriane Boettner
Related Link: Predestination
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