Theology Thursday – Sovereignty of God

Our mini-series within Theology Thursday on God’s Nature keeps rolling along with this week’s installment focusing on the Sovereignty of God.  Last week we examined God’s Omnipresence.  We’ve also studied God’s Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Eternality.

The Sovereignty of God begins, as do all things about God, in Scripture.

“”Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;” {Isa 46:9-10 NASB}



Sovereignty is control.  It is decision making.  It is the right to do as one wishes.  God, in all things, is sovereign.  This is different than saying God is omnipotent.  Omnipotence means there is nothing that He cannot accomplish.  God is, undoubtedly, all powerful.  “Nothing is too difficult for Him” (Gen 18:14, Jer 32:17,27).  If it can be conceived of, God can accomplish it.  His power is without limit.  On the surface, this would seem enough to argue for the sovereignty of God.  Yet, when we look closer we see that power and control are not related.  One may have it in his power to take his neighbor’s house, but does one have the RIGHT to take his neighbor’s house.  Sovereignty without power is weakness.  Power without sovereignty is feckless.  God is neither weak nor is his power useless.  He has all power to accomplish any task, and ALSO there is nothing outside of His RIGHT to accomplish.  In short, God can do what He wants.

This is expressed perfectly in Isaiah 46.  God doesn’t do what we think is best, but what HE thinks is best.  God is not concerned necessarily with serving others, but in doing what He desires to do.  The phrase “My purpose will be established” is important.  Not only does it show that God does what He wants, but it demonstrates that God is not arbitrary in His doing.  He has a purpose (His Glory) and is accomplishing it forever.  Literally everything that happens happens because God desires it to happen.  There isn’t a thing done that God does not want to be done.

We see this control and exercising of His rights played out in the ministry of Jesus.  There was not a single thing that happened that Jesus did not allow to happen.  Look at Mark 1:36-41.

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for Him; they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. {Mar 1:35-42 NASB}

When the disciples came looking for Jesus and explained that a lot of people were looking for Him, Jesus was under no compulsion to minister where He did not desire to minister.  His response is clear and decisive “Let us go somewhere else.”  God is not subject to the whims of people, even those who seek after Him (for one purpose or another).  This stands in stark contrast to many who often pray as if ordering God or those whose habit is to “give permission” for God to do something.  God does what He wants, He doesn’t need our permission.

Of course, immediately Mark tells us that Jesus went to Galilee where He preached and cast out demons.  This was effortless for God.  The spiritual world has no power over Him and He didn’t have to negotiate with the demons to leave (we see this in Matthew 8, which we’ll discuss shortly).  Note also that the leper had a proper understanding of Jesus and His sovereignty and His omnipotence.  He says “if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  The first part is conditional and assumes a dependence on Jesus will.  A will that, as Mark demonstrated a few verses earlier, is subject to no person or people.  The second part is confident.  The leper knows Jesus has the power to do what he asks.  Humbly depending on the will of God, and confidently trusting in His power, this leper’s request is a model for how to approach God with the right mindset.

Matthew picks up the account in chapter 8 of his gospel.  He tells us of the centurion who had a servant who was “paralyzed” and “fearfully tormented”.  His request to Jesus captures the essence of Christ’s sovereignty:

But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. “For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” {Mat 8:8-9 NASB}

This career military man knew what it meant to be in charge, and He recognized that authority in Jesus.  He did the right thing in the presence of such power… he humbled himself.  He knew Jesus didn’t even need to be on the planet let alone in the same room because Christ’s power was so great He accomplish the healing.  The only question was if Jesus was willing.  Our gracious God was willing, and the servant was healed.

Jesus’ control over nature was next on display in chapter 8 when, with merely a word, the raging storm became calm.  Even nature is under His control.  The spiritual realm is at His feet too.  Matthew rounds out his eighth chapter with the story of the demon possessed violent men in the country of the Gaderenes.  Note how even the demons view the level of control possessed by Jesus:

When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. {Mat 8:28-32 NASB}

First, they lived under the expectation of defeat.  The devil may lie and make those who follow him believe that they are the winners and will defeat God, but his demons know the truth.  They’ll be tormented at the right time.  Second, they knew they were powerless to stop Jesus’ will; the only thing left was to negotiate the surrender.  If Jesus were going to do what He wanted and cast them out, perhaps they could be cast out someplace agreeable to them.  Jesus, in his discretion, allowed it.  Third, they immediately obeyed God’s command.  One word: “Go!” and they left the men they possessed and entered the swine.  At no point do we gather that the demons had any bit of power to stop any of this.  God was in complete control.

The variety of Heresy in this area is astonishing.  This is the area most attacked in our modern times and traditionally has been attached to salvation.  For some reason people want to retain the idea that they can choose and reject salvation as they please.  But a quick examination of what salvation is and is not dispels this myth.  Salvation is not people tired of sin finding an end to it, relieved and overjoyed that they can finally take the next step in life.  Salvation is not someone who is trying hard that just needs a final boost.  Salvation is not something we are capable of or want (Romans 3).  Instead, Salvation is a radical alteration of a person through a means not their own.  It’s as if a dead person became alive again.  The dead have, literally, no control over it.  This is not to say they don’t have a responsibility to act as God calls them to act, but it is to say that they can’t save themselves.  Since God must save them wholly, it also follows that how, who, when, where, and why God saves is also entirely his purview.  Salvation is MONERGISTIC, not SYNERGISTIC.  There’s nothing we can do to affect our own salvation and nothing we can provide.  God is sovereign over the whole thing.

This is why, naturally, we ought to expect to find the doctrine of election in Scripture; and naturally, why it is so found.

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