Sovereignty = “supreme and unrestricted power, as of a state” (Collins Dictionary). In principle, the state of Kenya, by its government, has all authority to do whatever it likes in the country, with no other power from outside forcing it to do something else in principle (it might not always be true in practice).
The teaching of our 1689 Confession of Faith: “Over all His creatures He is sovereign. He uses them as He pleases, and does for them or to them all that He wills” (Chapter 2, Section 2). “From all eternity God decreed all that should happen in time, and this He did freely and unalterably, consulting His own wise and holy will” (Chapter 3, Section 1).
What does God accomplish? All that He pleases (Psalm 115:3, 135:6)
What was king Nebuchadnezzar forced to confess, after his experience of being humbled by God, that God does? God does according to his will (Daniel 4:35)
Where does God do this? Among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth
What can no one do to God? Stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
What things does God accomplish according to His will? All things (Ephesians 1:11)
Write down the words that describe God’s sovereignty in 1 Timothy 6:15 The blessed and only sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords
extent of god’s sovereignty
(1) Things which no one planned. God’s prophets had said that Ahab would die (1 Kings 21:19, 22:17). In the battle a certain man drew his bow at random (22:34) and Ahab died of his injuries. No one can plan the decision of the ‘lot’, but God does, as in life of Jonah (1:7). Whose decision alone does the ‘lot’ reveal? From the Lord (Proverbs 16:33).
(2) Details of our lives. What two things seem insignificant, yet they do not happen without the will of God? Read Matthew 10:29-30 Falling to the ground of a sparrow, numbering of the hairs of our head. What things did the traders forget were not under their control but under God’s control? Read James 4:13-15 What tomorrow will bring; the shortness of their lives.
(3) Affairs of nations. Which way does the heart of the king turn? Wherever the Lord wills (Proverbs 21:1). Who rules the kingdoms of men? (Daniel 4:17) The Most High. To which earthly ruler is any kingdom given? To whom the Lord wills.
(4) Even sinful actions of men. What was done to Jesus according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God? Delivering up of Jesus to crucifixion and death (Acts 2:23). What did the rulers and people, who were gathered together against Jesus, really do? Whatever God’s hand and plan had predestined to take place (Acts 4:27-28).
THE ALTERNATIVE TO THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
If God is not sovereign over everything, then who is in control of this world and our lives? Is the devil still fighting it out with God so that we cannot be sure who will get the final victory? Is there some other power above God? Many people so emphasize the freedom of man (free-will) that it appears that man is able to stop God from doing what he wants (so they teach). I remember a preacher in Nairobi from Uganda saying, “God took a chance in creating man, giving him the freedom to do what he wants”. To teach that God is not sovereign is to teach that His plans can fail (but read Isaiah 46:9-11); that the fulfillment of all His promises cannot be guaranteed; that no matter how we live we may perish in the end. If God is not sovereign then there can be no assurance about anything. Thank God He is sovereign!
PROBLEM OF THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD AND SIN
It is impossible to have full understanding of the fact that God is sovereign even in the sinful deeds of men. We believe it because the Scripture clearly teaches it. Why should we expect to understand how God works? What is the reply to one who argues against God finding fault with a man because He is sovereign? Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? (Romans 9:19-20).
It is often asked why God should judge Judas when he was only fulfilling God’s plan (prophecy) in betraying Jesus. But God did not force Judas to sin against his will. Judas betrayed his Master, not because he wanted to fulfill the will of God, but because he let Satan enter his heart by his wickedness (John 13:27), for he loved money and was a thief (John 12:6). We may have many questions, because we lack knowledge of the Bible, or just because it is impossible to fully understand God’s ways, but we must always confess with Abraham, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25).
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD AND OUR DAILY LIVES
(1) In the life of Joseph. Write down the words Joseph used to confess God’s sovereignty: It was not you who sent me here, but God (Genesis 45:8a). In Genesis 50:20 Joseph reminds his brothers they had meant evil against him; what were the evil things they did that got Joseph into Egypt? They were jealous of him (Genesis 37:11); they sold him to the Midianite traders for a slave (37:28). Yet Joseph acknowledged that God had a good purpose. Write down that purpose: To bring it about that many people should be kept alive (Genesis 50:20b). Because Joseph knew God was in control of his being in Egypt he told his brothers they had no need to fear his revenge now their father was dead.
Because you believe God is sovereign you will humbly submit to your circumstances in life, you will not seek to revenge wrongs done to you. How did Job show humble submission when he lost all his possessions? The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21, see 2:10).
(2) In our daily lives. Read Romans 8:28. For what purpose is God working in our lives? For good. In this is only the nice blessings we receive? No, in all things. Because God is sovereign, and He has called us according to His purpose, He will not let anything happen to us that will be for our spiritual destruction. You know this because the Bible teaches it. So do not be discouraged in the sufferings of this life; one day you will be glorified (Romans 8:30). God knows what He is doing, so have confidence in Him.
Write true or false for each of the following statements:
________ God has no control over the devil or the sinful actions of men
________ To complain about our lives is to doubt the sovereignty of God
________ God has purposed things in our lives that are spiritually harmful
________ Our earthly rulers have been appointed by the will of God
________ If it is possible for the will of God to fail, then we cannot have assurance
Two books for further study on this subject:
The Sovereignty of God, by A. W. Pink, pp.20-44
The Mystery of Providence, by John Flavel, 221 pages