SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD - I
Scripture Passage: Psalm 135:6; Supporting Scripture: Psalm 115:3; Daniel 4:34-35. Psalm 135:6. “Whatever the LORD pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places.”
This will be the first in six articles addressing “Sovereignty.”
Sovereignty of God. Biblical teaching that God possesses all power and is the ruler of all things. God rules and works according to His eternal purpose, even through events that seem to contradict or oppose His rule. Scripture emphasizes God’s rule in three areas: creation, human history, and redemption.
Scripture testifies clearly to God’s rule over His Creation (Genesis 1; Mark 4:35-41; Romans 8:20-21), including Christ’s sustaining and governing of all things (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15-17). The Bible affirms also that God rules human history according to His purpose, from ordinary events in the lives of individuals (Judges 14:1-4; Proverbs 16:9 & 33) to the rise, affairs, and fall of nations (Psalms 22:28; Habakkuk 1:6; Acts 17:26). Scripture depicts redemption as the work of God alone.
God, according to His eternal purpose, takes the initiative in the provision and application of salvation and in enabling mankind’s willing acceptance (John 17:2; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2nd Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2nd Timothy 1:9-10).
I’ve offered up several Bible passages to help the sincere Bible student to take some time in God’s Word, to understand the emphasis God places on His Sovereignty – both in word and/or demonstration thereof. The next few articles [of encouragement] will help both the teacher and those in a small group setting, to come away with a solid clarity in understanding of what is meant by, God’s Sovereignty.
Five issues seem to be at odds with the claim of God’s absolute rule. Join me as we begin by looking at Sovereignty of Evil, Free Will, Human Responsibility, Evangelism, and Prayer.
SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD – II
Scripture Passage: Habakkuk 1:13; Supporting Scripture: James 1:13; Job 1:12 & 2:7; Isaiah 66:3-4; Acts 12:19-23; Revelation 20:11-15; Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28-29.
Habakkuk 1:13 NKJV. “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?”
This is the second of six articles addressing Sovereignty of God: SOVEREIGNTY and EVIL.
Our passage has Habakkuk, a minor prophet of God, wondering how God could look on as the wicked Babylonians perverted justice. “A person more righteous than he:” This was an ethical dilemma that faced Habakkuk: The Judeans were less corrupt and less idolatrous than the Babylonians, who were being used to judge the Judeans for their sins.
The Bible does not explain the relationship between Divine sovereignty and evil sovereignty. Scripture does teach that God neither does evil nor approves of evil; rather, though He allows it, He also restrains it (Job 1:12 & 2:7), and judges it (Isaiah 66:3-4; Acts 12:19-23; Revelation 20:11-15), uses it for the good of His children (all believers), and fulfillment of His purposes (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28-29).
God allows it and also restrains it: Job 1:12, “And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he (Job) has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”
Job 2:7, “So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”
God judges it: Isaiah 66:3-4. “He, who kills a bull is as if he slays a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck; He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood; He who burns incense as if an idol. Just their soul delights in their abominations, So will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them; because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear; but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight.”
God uses it for the good of His children: Genesis 50:20. “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Understanding God’s Sovereignty as its relationship between Divine or evil, we are to understand God does no evil nor does He approve, therefore He may allow it when it comes or, He may also restrain it, judge it, use it for good for His children and the fulfillment of His purposes. I want to encourage [you the reader to], read the other passages indicated above and the commentaries in your study Bible. We have to notice that if God allows evil in some cases, that means it (evil) has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is Satan! GOD IS SOVEREIGN, Satan is not! “Judgment is Mine, says the LORD.”
SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD – III
Scripture Passage: Romans 3:10-11 NKJV. Supporting Scripture: Psalm 14:3; Ephesians 2:1-3; 2nd Timothy 2:25-26; Exodus 9:16; Acts 2:23 & f:27-28; Acts 13:48 & 16:14.
This is the third of six articles addressing Sovereignty of God: SOVEREIGNTY and FREE WILL.
Romans 3:10-11 NKJV. “As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.”
The Apostle Paul is using the word righteous because he is discussing the unrighteous condition of all people. No one can be justified on the grounds of his or her own righteousness before God. People do not understand spiritual truth nor do they diligently seek after God. At best, people are satisfied with externals, with being “religious.”
Some see contradiction between Divine sovereignty and human free will, an often-misunderstood term. Man’s will is free, in that he makes willing choices that have actual consequences. Yet man’s will is not, morally neutral; rather, it is in bondage to sin, and without divine grace he chooses freely and consistently to reject God (Romans 3:10-11 above).
Ephesians 2:1-3: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
Scripture affirms both Divine Sovereignty and man’s willing activity, e.g., Pharaoh’s rise to power was entirely in accordance with his own will; it was also entirely by the hand of God (Exodus 9:16). The Crucifixion of Christ was fully the free act of sinful men, and at the same time fully the purpose of God:
Acts 2:23 “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death; whom God raised up,” Understand, Jesus Christ was God’s provision for the judgment of sin; yet it was our sinfulness that made His death necessary. In other words, it was both the sinlessness of humanity and God’s plan that put Jesus to Death on the Cross. God exercises sovereign control over all events – even the death of His Son. Yet at the same time, people are still responsible for their own sinful actions (free will and consequences).
Conversions are reported in Acts in a manner consistent with both concepts: Acts 13:48. “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”
To understand this, man is indeed free in his will to choose Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. At the same time, He is free do deny Jesus Christ and choose his own path to walk, his free will choice has consequences. As we see, God’s offer of Grace remains as a choice or opportunity for conversion.
SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD – IV
Scripture Passage: Romans 2:5-11 NKJV. Supporting Scripture: Romans 3:19; Romans 9:19-29.
This is the fourth of six articles addressing Sovereignty of God: SOVEREIGNTY AND HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY.
Romans 2:5-11 NKJV. Though God is Sovereign, man continues to be accountable to God for his actions. The relationship between God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility is perhaps, somewhat mysterious but certainly not contradictory. “But in accordance with your hardness and you impenitent heart you are treasuring up for your wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness-indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also the Greek (Gentile); but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”
“Wrath” as used in this passage differs from “wrath of God” found in Genesis 1:18. There, God’s wrath was His present anger; in our passage, “wrath” refers to God’s future wrath. Most take this future wrath to refer to the Day of Judgment. That said, people who continue in their rebellion against God are accumulating wrath for themselves.
Be careful! According to this verse, it seems that eternal life can be gained by doing good. Romans 3:22 clearly teaches us that justification is by faith. The subject of this verse is judgment, not justification. Those believers who continue with their good works will receive rewards in their eternal life. When Scripture speaks of eternal life as a present possession, it is a gift by faith (John 3:16); but whenever it refers to eternal life as something else to be received in the future by those who are already believers, therefore, it refers to eternal rewards. How so? Rewards will be based on works accomplished here on earth. Salvation and Rewards are two separate things.
Romans 9:19-29 is a bit lengthy for my limited space. Let me share Verse 20-21. NKJV. “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing that formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?"
Apostle Paul rebukes anyone who would raise such objections, which in the end are only a protest against God’s ways, and not a sincere request for an explanation. Please, keep your focus, we’re addressing the Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility. Paul is raising the issue but, rather than resolving the tension, simply affirms both.
SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD – V
Scripture Passage: Matthew 11:25-30. Supporting Scripture: Romans 9:1-5; Romans 10:1 & 10:12-13; 2nd Timothy 1:12 & 13; & 2:10.
This is the fifth of six articles addressing Sovereignty of God: SOVEREIGNTY AND EVANGELISM
Matthew 11:25-30 NKJV. Jesus affirmed the absolute sovereignty of God and in the same context invited sinners to Himself for Salvation. At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord in heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden light.”
The Apostles were the first evangelists; in Romans 9:1-5 Paul began his profound treatment of divine sovereignty by expressing his burden of lost kinsmen; in the same context he expressed his heartfelt prayer for their salvation in Romans 10:12-13, and affirmed the promise of salvation to “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same LORD over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” KJV. Based upon those passages is an affirmation of divine sovereignty consistent with evangelism, with missionary labors (2nd Timothy 1:12 & 2:10), and with desiring and praying for the salvation of any lost person or people.
2nd Timothy 1:12. “For this reason I also suffer these things, nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” Paul’s confidence in the Gospel and his Savior enabled him to suffer without any shame. He expresses his unshakable trust in his Savior; thus, “what I have committed” is not a reference to what Paul may have done for Christ, rather to something he had entrusted to Christ, like a deposit in a savings account.
With our focus on Sovereignty of God, Paul speaks not of confidence in himself but Christ’s trustworthiness. Thus, Paul was confident that God would keep his (Paul’s) commitment to what Paul had entrusted along with his life and the eternal rewards of his ministry. Paul has spent his time, resources, and even his life on proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, (evangelism) and this investment in Christ’s Kingdom would bring him an abundant reward in eternity. Our, Sovereign God, can and will protect us in life and death. He will not forget a life of faithful service to Him when He Returns.
Sometimes people are unappreciative or forgetful of the good that we do for them; however, all that we do in faithful service for our Savior will be remembered and rewarded (Matthew 10:42). He is Sovereign!
SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD – VI
Scripture Passage: Romans 8:31. Supporting Scripture: Romans 8:32; 1st John 5:14-15.
This is the final of six articles addressing Sovereignty of God: SOVEREIGNTY AND PRAYER
Romans 8:31 NKJV. God’s Sovereignty means for the believer that, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" speaks of God’s everlasting love. “These things” as used in this passage refers to God’s purpose: Verses 28-30: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also glorified." NKJV. If God has done everything from foreknowledge to glorification “for us”, all adversaries are powerless.
That said, God’s Sovereignty - we can understand; God works out all things – not just isolated incidents – for our good. This doesn’t mean that all that happens to us is good. Evil is prevalent in our fallen world. He’s not working to make us happy, rather to fulfill His purpose. Two points, (1) This promise is not for everyone. It can be claimed only by those who truly love God and are fitting into His plans. (2) Those who are “called” are those which the Holy Spirit convinces and enables to receive Christ.
Understand, some believe these verses mean that before the beginning of the world, God chose of His own free will certain people to receive His gift of Salvation. Others believe that God foreknew those who would respond to Him and upon those He set His mark (predestined). What is clear is that God’s purpose for many was not an afterthought; it was settled before the foundation of the world. Mankind is to serve and honor God. If you have believed in Him, rejoice in the fact that He has always known you. His love is eternal. His wisdom and power are supreme. He will guide and protect you until you one day stand in His presence.
Scripture declares abundantly God’s willingness to grant the believer’s request, in prayer (Romans 8:32; 1st John 5:14-15). The believer can pray with confidence that his/her prayers will be heard and answered.
Footnote: As I completed my research and study of Sovereignty of God, I studied on “Providence”, which is a study of divine foreknowledge. That said, since God sovereignly directs whatever happens, He has complete knowledge and control of those events yet to occur. Isaiah 24:8-9. “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” NKJV