The Attributes of God: Lesson 2: God is Sovereign

Sovereignty Defined

The word “sovereign” has as its root the verb “reign,” meaning to rule. The prefix sove is derived from super, meaning over or above. To say that God is sovereign is to say that He rules over all. He is the “God of gods” (Deut 10:17), the “King of kings” (1 Tim 6:15, Rev 17:14, 19:16), and the “Lord of lords” (Deut 10:17, 1 Tim 6:15, Rev 17:14, 19:16). As David exclaims in 1 Chronicles 29:11b-12a: “Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all” (see also Ps 22:28 and 103:19).

To put it in even simpler terms, God is the “boss” of everything. By virtue of the fact that He has created all things, He has the right to rule over them (see Rom 9:14-21). God does as He pleases with His creation (see Job 23:13, 42:2, Psalm 2, 115:3, 135:5-6, Isa 46:9-11, and Dan 4:35).

Some Things Over Which God is Sovereign

The weather (see Job 36:32, Jer 10:13, Jonah 1:4, 4:8, and Mark 4:41)

The animal kingdom (see Isa 46:11a, Jonah 1:17, 2:10, 4:7, and Matt 10:29)

The plant kingdom (see Jonah 4:6)

Human rulers (see Prov 21:1, Dan 2:21, 4:25, Rom 13:1, and Rev 17:17). This is a case of the-greater-to-the-lesser, i.e., if God is sovereign over the greatest of human beings, He is sovereign over all human beings. All human sovereigns are given their authority by the Sovereign and are merely instruments in His hand to accomplish His purposes (see Isa 44:28-45:1 and Rom 9:17).

Some Implications of God’s Sovereignty

Because God is sovereign, He has the right to tell us what to do. Because God is sovereign, He has the right to tell us what we should do, when we should do it, where we should do it, how we should do it, with and to whom we should do it, and why we should do it. The only proper response to God’s demands is unconditional obedience. This starts with surrendering oneself to God at salvation (lordship) and continues throughout one’s Christian life by obeying the commands of Scripture.

Because God is sovereign, we can rest secure. God controls all things. Nothing happens without His permission. There is no “maverick molecule” in the universe (McCune). This fact should give us great comfort. We don’t have to worry about anything. It’s all in His hands. Our only “concern” is to do what He tells us to do, leaving the results with Him.

Because God is sovereign, we should worship Him. Notice how God’s sovereignty is the basis for David’s worship in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13. See also Revelation 19:6, upon which are based the words to the AHallelujah@ chorus. “The doctrine of God’s sovereignty has very often appeared, an exceeding pleasant, bright and sweet doctrine to me: and absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God” (Jonathan Edwards, quoted in Storms, p. 29).

“There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought more earnestly to contend than the doctrine of their Master over all creation–the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands–the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that Throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and make stars. They will allow Him to be in His almonry [money house] to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth. And we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter . . . then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne whom we trust” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, quoted in Pink, pp. 32-33).


Some Objections to God’s Sovereignty Answered

In spite of the fact that the Bible clearly teaches God’s sovereignty, some have attempted to deny it or at least “water it down,” finding it difficult to reconcile divine sovereignty with human freedom (How can a man be genuinely free if God is in complete control of him?) and the presence of evil (If God is both in control of everything and holy, why does evil exist?). In response to the former, Ryrie states: “Sovereignty/freedom forms an antinomy (‘a contradiction between two apparently equally valid principles or between inferences correctly drawn from such principles’). Antinomies in the Bible, however, consist only of apparent contradictions, not ultimate ones. One can accept the truths of an antinomy and live with them, accepting by faith what cannot be reconciled; or one can try to harmonize the apparent contradictions in an antinomy which inevitably leads to overemphasizing one truth to the neglect or even denial of the other” (Ryrie, pp. 43-44). Storms (pp. 177-178) makes the same point with a rhetorical question: “How is one to reconcile these apparently conflicting assertions? Should one accept both as equally inspired declarations and simply acquiesce to the resultant mystery, trusting in the sufficiency of an infinitely powerful and wise God to so constitute and orchestrate the created order such that both are true?” This is a “suprarational” matter, i.e., one which is above and beyond the human intellect’s ability to grasp (suprarational ? irrational, however). Scripture affirms both truths (compare Jonah 1:15 with Jonah 2:3; Luke 22:22a with Luke 22:22b; Acts 2:23a with Acts 2:23b; Acts 4:27 with Acts 4:28; and Phil 2:12 with Phil 2:13). In response to the problem of evil, Tozer writes: “In His sovereign wisdom God has permitted evil to exist in carefully restricted areas of His creation, a kind of fugitive outlaw whose activities are temporary and limited in scope. In doing this God has acted according to His infinite wisdom and goodness. More than that no one knows at present; and more than that no one needs to know” (Tozer, p. 110).

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