The Sovereignty of God
Many people have a favorable response to the truth that God is love. It is reassuring to think of His mercy and His grace. What a comfort to know that God is faithful, that He will keep His covenant and remember His promises. It gives hope and courage too know that God pities us even a father pities His child, and that He is ready to hear us when we call on Him in our time of trouble.
The scriptures also teach us that God is sovereign. The word “sovereign” is not in the Bible but certainly the principle is. “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” (Psalm 115:3).
To say that God is sovereign is just another way of saying that God is God. God has the right to do what He pleases. He is a God of purpose, so what He does, He does in accord with His purpose.
If He chooses not to intervene in a matter, it is in keeping with His purposes that He does not intervene (Isaiah 46:9-11). But there is something in man’s fallen nature that resists the truth of sovereignty. Love, grace and mercy are all appealing, but God on the throne is another matter. Man prefers to think he can expect God to operate within certain bounds that he feels to be acceptable and on a level he can understand. The pride of the human heart leads men to believe that God owes them something and that they are capable of determining their own destiny.
In the end, what really counts is what God says about Himself.
Human reasoning, personal preferences, strong feelings are really not the issue. What God reveals about Himself in His word is the only authoritative source to which we can turn.
Adam disobeyed God’s sovereign command and by partaking of the forbidden fruit and plunged himself and his posterity into condemnation. Pharaoh scoffed at the sovereignty of God by asking, “Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?” But God displayed His power and subdued this proud monarch. Nebuchadnezzar boasted of his own power and majesty, but God laid him low until he acknowledged “He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, ore say unto him, what doest thou?”
God obviously knew what man’s objections to His sovereignty would be before they were ever made. So as the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the Roman epistle, those objections are considered and God’s answers are given. After speaking of the fact that God loved Jacob and hated Esau the question is then asked, “What shall we say then: Is there unrighteousness with God?” (Romans 9:14). Maybe that was your initial question when you first looked at the truth of sovereignty, “If God chose some and passed others by, that doesn’t seem fair.” Often someone suggests that God must treat everyone the same and so it would not be right to save some and not save all. But when the question is asked, “Is there unrighteousness with God?” the answer is given, “God forbid.”
There is no unrighteousness with God. “God is light and there is no darkness in him at all” (1 John 1:5b).
There is no dark side to God. All that He does is in harmony with His holy character.
We may not understand what He does or why He does it, but what He does is right and good. Paul puts further emphasis on divine sovereignty in verses 15 and 16 of Romans chapter 9. “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. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” God has the right to bestow mercy on whom He will. The conclusion of this is that salvation is not produced by the human will or human effort but is given entirely by the grace of God according to His good pleasure.
Another objection often raised to God’s sovereignty is: if God is in control how can man be held accountable for his actions. The Holy Spirit anticipated this question and provides the answer. “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared through all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” (Romans 9:17-18). Here then is another plain declaration of God’s sovereignty. He raised up Pharaoh, He put him where he was and His purpose was that His name might be declared throughout out all the earth. Now man has a problem with that. He says if God raised up Pharaoh he cannot hold him responsible for what he did. The Holy Spirit knew men would raise the objection. “Thou will say then unto me, Why doeth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will.” Then follows the answer. “Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:19-21).
The fact is that since God is sovereign He has the right to raise up this pagan king that His name might be declared through the earth. It is also a fact that God did not coerce Pharaoh to sin. The king did exactly what he wanted to do. He acted on the impulses of his own wicked heart and the depravity of his nature. He was accountable for his actions and God judged him accordingly.
The same principle is seen the crucifixion of our Savior. Jesus Christ was delivered by “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23). Jesus Christ died at the time and the place determined by God. But the wicked men that nailed Him to the cross did so because that is what they wanted to do, they hated the Son of God. Yet at that dark hour when to men it appeared Jesus Christ was defeated, the greatest victory of all ages was realized. The elect of God were redeemed; the salvation of the chosen was secured.
When at last pride is humbled and human reasoning is rejected, the joy of seeing the King on His throne floods the heart and all praise and gory is given to His great name. It is a relief to know, God is in control. It is a comfort to know the God of heaven will always do what is right. There is peace in knowing what he does He does for the glory of His name and the good of His people. God is sovereign and it is a wonderful blessing to know it.