Bible Study Series
Contemplating the Almighty
The Sovereign God
The Sovereign God
How well do you know God’s sovereignty?
1) The sovereignty of God means
a) that He is the greatest in importance, power, and authority
b) that one day in the future He will reign over all creation
c) that even though there are other competing authorities, He rules as the greatest
2) Authority can come from
a) God alone
b) God or the Devil
c) God, the Devil, or human institutions
3) Because God is sovereign
a) He controls and causes everything so there really is not such a thing as free will
b) He can prevent or cause whatever He wants but usually allows us to make our own decisions
c) He does not force us to do anything but nearly always causes situations to occur in such a way that we almost always do what He wants in the long run
4) The fulfillment of Biblical prophecy is based on
a) God’s foreknowledge of what we will cause the future to be like
b) God’s causing that result regardless of our action
c) Hoping that we will not do something unforeseen and ruin things
5) God’s sovereignty
a) cannot overcome our stubborn, willful sinfulness
b) can justify those who were once corrupt, glorify those who were once depraved, and save the doomed
c) can be hindered by the Devil
6) The sovereignty of God
a) causes sin
b) is totally controlling and causes all things
c) can turn any situation to His will if He so chooses
7) The presence of sin and evil means that God
a) is not in control
b) has left for a while but will return one day to reign as King and set everything right
c) has always been the King and will, in His perfect time, fulfill His perfect plan
8) Ultimately those who will bow before God are
b) Only those in Heaven
c) No one because in Heaven God will not need to be worshipped
9) When we exalt our will or desires above God’s desires
a) we are committing Satan’s sin of self-exaltation
b) God just laughs because He knows how puny we really are
c) He will always adjust His plans to align with our own
10) That God is sovereign should cause us to
a) be confident in His promises and rejoice
b) not worry about it because it does not really have anything to do with one person
c) give up trying and let God take care of everything
The concept of the divine sovereignty embraces the truth that it is God who reigns supreme as the greatest in importance, power, and authority. This term, as applied to the Most High, does not merely denote Him as preeminent but, much more, to be the inclusive source of all authority. The Lord has the right and power to command, establish laws and standards, exact obedience, and then judge on the basis of these. He is also free to delegate authority as it so pleases Him. As Romans 13:1 avidly states, “For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.” A proper understanding of this attribute should convincingly dispel any notion of the Almighty as being a distant observer of the affairs of men. It is not that He will reign, but that He does reign. He will not become King; He is King.
One of the most awesome statements is that God is in the heavens and does whatever He pleases. For the many times that this is declared, there are no added conditions, no qualifying statements. Man’s pride may add such qualifications, but this realty will stand eternal. Through prayer and obedience, we may actuate God to accomplish what would have otherwise failed or been neglected, but we can never achieve or prevent that which the Lord has contrarily determined. We may think ourselves to be in a position where we can frustrate God and, thwart His plans, but scripture must be accepted as literal and unaffected, “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” Can we bend what He has straightened? Can we move what He has fixed?
God’s supremacy does not mean that He merely prevents matters from degenerating uncontrollably, but that He causes what He wants to occur. He controls affairs to the degree necessary to achieve His desired end. Man does have choice and free will, but that freedom is always superseded by God’s greater desires and goals. The choice which man has is only that afforded him by God. This measure of self-determination is our privilege and not His obligation. His ultimate purpose in everything is to glorify Himself, and to achieve this end, He has decreed innumerable subordinate ends concerning nations, times, and people, and He directs these so that the exact end is reached when and how He decreed it. “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… Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.”
When contemplating the illimitable sovereignty of God, we must not equate it with that of an earthly ruler or king. These earthly rulers, at the most, set forth their rules and then appoint magistrates to enforce them, punishing those who do evil and disobey and rewarding those who do good through obedience. God’s commands are not arbitrary dictates; they are absolutes. His goals are not mere hopes; they are total assurances. He does not relegate Himself to work around the misdeeds of His creation but uses even the wrath of man to praise Him. His control is consummate. He functions as more than a law-giver and subsequent enforcer; He controls, He destines, He plans, He accomplishes. God is not merely a know all who does nothing nor is He just a manipulator of circumstances-He truly does whatever He pleases. His sovereign reign does not consist exclusively of providing direction, but He is in absolute control of that which is necessary to achieve His declared purpose. His preordination is not merely the result of Him foreknowing what course we would chose. He does not declare as certain that which we have chosen, but that which He has chosen. His unchallengeable decrees stem forth from what He knows should happen, not from His knowing what will happen. He is omnipotent; His purpose will be accomplished on the earth. He eternally reigns as the supreme King. Let us fearfully never lose sight of this.
The sovereignty of God is perhaps most dramatically seen in how He has ordered world history. He has declared, through prophecy, the events and attitudes of the end times, and we can be confident that they will occur exactly as foretold because He reigns. All past prophecy has been dogmatically fulfilled; the future shall be also. This area is indeed one of the greatest evidences for the divine inspiration of the Bible. If God decreed an event to occur, it will come to pass. The entire outline of history of all existence has been preordained and man is powerless to change it. An examination of world history and the Bible leads us to the same conclusion as Nebuchadnessar in Daniel 4:34-35, “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’” It is God who “changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes king.” Since no might exists apart from God, through what agency might He be hindered? Who can deceive the omniscient and who can overcome the omnipotent? Though the nations shall stand together to oppose the Almighty, their annihilation by His terrible wrath is swift and certain. They shall prove unable to even minutely delay His predetermined plans. The Christ will establish His visible reign on the earth and we will reign with Him. We must guard our hearts from underestimating the eternal, sovereign reign of God.
The sovereignty of God permits Him to accomplish whatever He pleases. He can utilize the consequences of man’s wretched sinfulness to His own praise and glory. What man has hardened, God can call. What man has corrupted, God can justify. What man has depraved, God can glorify. He will choose the foolish to shame the wise and the weak to shame the strong. Indeed, the stone which the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone.
To be in total control is not synonymous with totally controlling. Though all of His purposes are and will be achieved, much is left to the choice of man. To say that God causes all things to work together for good is not the same as saying that God causes all things. He is not the author of sin; however, H is still always and completely in control. All good is from God; all evil is from man and the fallen angels. No mountain of sin is ever too high or too hard to be quickly ground to dust and removed. No temptation is ever too great that it cannot be escaped. No depression is too deep that it cannot be filled with the peace and joy of the Lord. Regardless of the situation, we must never underestimate God. He can accomplish what He desires.
Satan is called “the ruler of this world” (John 16:11), “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), but it is the Almighty who is the “great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:2).
As the world witnesses the international events and attitudes of its time, it concludes that God is, at best, an ineffective and apathetic observer. This judgment is generally based on world situations which are inconsistent with man’s opinions of what the divine operations should be. “Suffering and pain should not be as prevalent. Famine and war, crime and hatred, these are the results of God’s management of the earth? The violent slaying of an innocent man and a criminal going free, is this the justice of God? If there is a God, why then does He not act? Why does He not show Himself? He is not One who has distinguished Himself as concerned and certainly not as One who is deserving o be worshipped. The world situation is definitely not one which a truly loving and holy God would permit.” This scornful attitude strikes at the very heart of man’s evil nature-one of arrogance. What man is innocent? Who has suffered more than their sin rightly deserved? For what does the Most High owe anyone?
How naïve the wicked are to the calculated power of God. They draw their erroneous conclusions from the ignorance of a heart given to exalt the creature and neglect the day when they are confronted with the truth as God has decreed in Romans 14:11, “For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God,’” and again, “that at the name of Jesus every knew should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” None will scorn Him to His face on that day. None will complain; all will understand and all the wicked will be condemned.
The primary truth is that, “In the beginning God.” This establishes the whole Biblical framework which we must realize and accept. From this declaration, all priority is defined. Nothing preceded God, and nothing shall usurp Him. What originally was the absolute remains authoritatively as the absolute. The superlative reign of God cannot be challenged. All power issues forth only from the Most High. He created all, sustains all, controls all. It is Jehovah who has planned, established, and executed according to His good pleasure. Job confidently asserted, “But He is unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desired, that He does. For He performs what is appointed for me, and many such decrees are with Him.” And again, Isaiah sublimely records, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, and informed Him of the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.”
To reject the supremacy of the Almighty is the sin of Satan, “I will make myself like the Most High,” and the subsequent deception of man, “you will be like Elohim.” The consequence of the fall is a heart of independence and self-direction. It is an establishment of goals and purposes apart from those of God, an experimental turning to our own ways and the establishment of self. This slanders all that God has said and forms the lie of man’s self-deification. Romans 1:25 says, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” God’s order and government will not be mocked. He somberly warns, “’Woe to the rebellious children,’ declares the Lord, ‘Who executes a plan, but not Mine.’” We must empty ourselves, as did Christ, and give our lives wholly to the obedience and glory of the Lord. We have the very significant choice of either solely seeking our own interests or glorifying the Almighty God. Therefore, we must be careful to never take lightly our choosing of goals and purposes.
All of His promises and warnings find their assurance in His sovereignty. He is wholly able to fulfill all that He has said, and no effort of man can nullify His word. Every one of His promises are fulfilled and when rebellion is not confronted by its immediate, just punishment, it is because God has been merciful and not because man has been astute. Both His promises and His warnings are our joy and should be considered with all seriousness and obedience. They are not mere suggestions, but are our insights into spiritual reality.
As independent as we may consider ourselves, the truth, of which scripture often reminds us, is that we are always servants or slaves to someone. We cannot serve two masters, but we will always serve one. Either Satan is working in and energizing the sons of disobedience-the unsaved-or it is the Holy Spirit in those who believe. As believers, we too have the choice of either presenting ourselves as instruments of unrighteousness or of righteousness, but we must choose only from these. We are creatures designed to obey. That God is Lord and that He does reign must be recognized. He is the true, eternal King and it is only His government that will last forever. Jesus Christ must be acknowledged as Lord in our lives, not only positionally, but also practically. W cannot escape authority; therefore, may it always be the Lord’s to which we submit in whatever form it is present.
Though the abundance of sin is exceedingly evident and the forces of darkness so prevalent and though Satan prowls about like a roaring lion seeking to devour, it is no indication that God has temporarily and voluntarily relinquished any of His authority. God is absolutely sovereign; He is as much now as He will be after sin and Satan are executed and the eternal state is established. His everlasting dominion has not been interrupted by this age of sin. What may appear chaotic to the eyes of man is instrumental to the mind of God.
To realize that God is fully and always in control should produce in us a heart of peace and security. There are no accidents or coincidences. He is the King who reigns on high and we are His people. The scriptures declare, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” His power and authority are absolute and we have, only because He has given. Let our hearts be as Psalm 97:1 proclaims, “The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice.”
What does God’s sovereignty mean to us?
He is not merely a distant observer.
Jeremiah 23:23 declares, “’Am I a God who is near,’ declares the LORD, ‘And not a God far off?’” God has His hand in everything so we can be confident that He is always in control and able to heal, provide guidance, support, encourage, and lead us in triumph. God is a king who is deeply involved in every affair under His rule. Even a sparrow can’t fall to the ground without God being aware of it.
God can direct and control whatever He wants
Romans 8:28 states, “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.” Notice the key word “causes.” God does not merely hope that the best path for us is available; He is able to cause it to be there if He so chooses.
We never have to be overcome by Satan or by any other evil or sin.
Nothing can keep us from doing what is right if we truly want to do what is right. We always have a choice of whether to sin or not to sin, but this is only because God is sovereign.
In medieval Europe a certain man’s village was overrun by barbarians from the north, but having been a citizen of the Roman Empire he still wanted to live under the laws and culture of Rome. But he was unable to do so because the barbarians now controlled him and his village. He had no choice; he had to submit to the ways of the barbarians. In our spiritual battle if we want to serve God nothing can prevent that from happening because God is sovereign everywhere all of the time.
Answers to quiz
George is not a Christian and every time that you try to bring up the Gospel his response is that he would never want to serve a God that allows such horrors as genocide, torture, and war. So if God really is in control, he will say, then He must not care what happens to people and so is not worthy of our worship. The only other option, he will continue, is that God really is not in control and so then how could He guarantee our eternal future? After giving it careful thought, how would you answer George’s contention?
1) In addition to the ones discussed above, what are some other assurances that God’s sovereignty means to us?
2) If God is sovereign then why do bad things still happen? Does not this mean that He has relinquished at least a little of His power or authority?
3) How does knowing that God is in control help us in our struggles?
4) If God is sovereign then why did He allow sin into the world?
5) If God is in control then why does not He just come back now and set everything straight?
6) If God is in control then why do the wicked prosper and the righteous struggle?
7) What are some ways that we can give God greater control of our lives?
8) Why would we want God to be in control of our lives?
9) What is the difference between God’s sovereignty and the sovereignty of a country’s dictator?
10) Can you think of any examples of God’s sovereignty being demonstrated in any of the people in the Bible?
11) What book in the Bible do you think might best demonstrate God’s sovereignty and why?
Copyright Bob La Forge 2011 email: firstname.lastname@example.org