THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
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.
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
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
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN SALVATION
Because God is sovereign over everything, then he is also sovereign in our salvation. Our 1689 Confession of Faith states: “By His decree, and for the manifestation of His glory, God has predestined (or foreordained) certain men and angels to eternal life through Jesus Christ, thus revealing His grace. Others, whom he has left to perish in their sins, show the terrors of His justice” (Ch.3, Sect.3). Also read Sects.4-7.
biblical doctrine of election
Election = to choose, just as when Kenya has a general election MP are chosen by the voters. The idea that Christians have been chosen by God occurs about 40 times in the New Testament. The “elect” is often another name for a Christian (Matthew 24:22,24,31, Luke 18:7, Romans 8:33, Colossians 3;12, 2 Timothy 2:10, Titus 1:1, 2 John 1,13, Revelation 17:14). Read Ephesians 1:3-4 that teaches us that being chosen by God is one of the spiritual blessings we should thank God for.
When did God choose us? He chose us in him before the foundation of the world
What are the two little words that describe the relationship of our election to Christ? in him
What was the purpose for which God chose us? That we should be holy and blameless before him.
Romans 9:6-24 is the most detailed passage about the sovereignty of God in election. Paul is answering the objection that salvation is not certain because so many of God’s people, the Jews, refused to believe in Christ. The passage teaches that it was God’s purpose to save some and not all. One of his examples is Jacob and Esau. God chose to love Jacob before either child was born, so His choice was not because of (their) works, but because He already had a purpose of election (v.11). This calling to salvation does not depend upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy (v.16).
The doctrine of election not only fits in with God’s sovereignty, but also with the fact that because of sin man is totally unable to do anything to save himself. Unless God saves, all men will continue in their sins and go to hell. We are like a drowning man totally dependent upon another to choose to rescue us from certain death.
“Predestination” is another word that is used, and it emphasizes the purpose (or goal) for which God has chosen us (see Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:5). “Foreknowledge” is a word used to emphasize that it is God who first enters into a close relationship with men with the purpose of saving them from their utter helplessness of sin (Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:2).
a false view of election
Everyone believes the Bible teaches election and predestination, but many explain it in a false way. Such believe that God chooses people to salvation because he knows they will believe in Christ. This makes salvation totally dependent upon whether a person chooses to believe or not. They teach, “If a person uses his free-will to choose Christ, then God will respond by choosing him to salvation”. This makes man sovereign and not God! How can this be answered?
(1) Jacob was not loved unto salvation because of anything he had done, either good or bad.
(Romans 9:11). But faith is something good that a man exercises towards Christ.
(2) The Bible denies that being one of the true people of God depends on them (Romans 9:16), and positively teaches that God has mercy on whomever he will show mercy (Romans 9:18).
(3) Faith is the fruit of election. In Antioch, who were the ones who believed? As many as were appointed to eternal life (Acts 13:48).
(4) Our will is not free to choose Christ whenever we want. What did Jesus say it is impossible for the sinner to do unless the Father draws him? to come to Him_ (John 6:44,65). What two things does Paul teach are impossible for the person who is “in the flesh”? submit to God's law and to please God (Romans 8:7-8).
common objections to the doctrine of election
(1) God is unjust to save only some and condemn the rest. How does the apostle Paul answer this question in Romans 9:14? By no means!. What did God say to Moses about His sovereignty that shows he is not unjust? "I will have mercy on whom “I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (Romans 9:15). Because all men are sinners, all men deserve condemnation. If some are saved it is only because God is merciful.
(2) God says He does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). This means that he does not condemn the wicked gladly; He takes no pleasure in casting people into hell (Ezekiel 33:11). He is pleased when a sinner repents. If anyone is lost it is because he refuses to repent.
(3) If someone is not chosen he cannot be saved even if he wants to be. Everyone who wants to be saved, and calls upon the name of Christ, will surely be saved (Romans 10:13). What assurance did Jesus give to anyone who comes to Him? All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out (John 6:37). Note the first part of John 6:37; who are the only ones that will come to Christ? only those the Father gives to Christ If a person truly wants to be saved it shows that God has already been at work in him.
(4) Election destroys human responsibility. This is not true, as the Bible teaches both God’s sovereignty in election, and man’s responsibility to believe and be saved (this is not the same as free-will). Throughout the Bible God addresses men as fully responsible for their own actions, yet they are unable to do anything spiritually good by their own efforts (for example, Jeremiah 13:23). What is an evil man unable to do? to do good (Matthew 12:34).
the practical benefits of the doctrine of election
The doctrine of election is very practical, and is not only for special students of the Bible.
· It brings praise to God. What does Paul do to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as he thinks about being chosen? he blessed Him (Ephesians 1:3). What does Paul do to God because He chose the Thessalonians? Thanked Him (2 Thessalonians 2:13). If I am chosen by God, it is by grace (Romans 11:5), and not because I have done anything to deserve it (Romans 11:6). If the only reason I am saved is because of God’s eternal choice then I must eternally praise Him.
· It gives assurance to the Christian. What three other blessings does God guarantee to the one He has predestinated? Called, justified and glorified (Romans 8:30). If I am saved because of God’s gracious choice, there is nothing that can make God change His mind. This is how I can be sure that in my life God works everything for my good (Romans 8:28).
· It makes us sinners humble. The key of the door of salvation is in God’s hand and not in mine! It is impossible to know the Father unless the Son reveals Him (Matthew 11:27). I can do nothing to save myself; I deserve nothing but condemnation.
Question. How can I know if God has chosen me? How did Paul know the Thessalonians had been chosen by God? Write out the first half of 1 Thessalonians 1:5 ”because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” Has this happened to you?
Further reading on this subject.
The Sovereignty of God, by A. W. Pink, pp.45-55.
Saving Grace, by John Cheeseman, pp.52-77.
Spurgeon on Election (2 Thessalonains 2:13-14).
Write true or false for each of the following statements:
______ God chooses to save a person because He foreknows they will believe
______ The belief in election makes a big difference to our Christian living
______ Those God does not graciously choose to save he chooses to condemn for their sins
______ No one can be saved unless God chooses them to be saved
______ It is impossible to know if I have been chosen by God unto salvation