The Sovereignty of God
Rev. Gise Van Baren
Many people in our day deny God and His control over
all things. These insist upon walking in their ignorance—for they refuse
any testimony from the Bible. Many Christians, however, also appear to
be unsure of the extent of the power and control of God. They are
willing to concede that God tries to save sinners—but they are not
certain whether God can really and fully accomplish His purpose. They
agree that God sends all good things—but are loath to maintain that God
sends wars and sickness. They are ready to say that God guides good
men—but hesitate to confess that wicked men are also under His direction
One of the truths which has been historically and
emphatically confessed by Reformed, Calvinistic churches is that of the
Sovereignty of our God. Sovereignty refers to absolute, total rule and
control over all things, a rule which God alone possesses. God's
Sovereignty is not limited. Nor is it given to Him. But it is without
limit and it is God's personal right. God is not the Ruler of some sort
of democracy in which He rules by the will of the people. His rule and
authority belong exclusively to Himself—and God fully exercises this
rule in His creation. He is the Sovereign One. Nothing and no one
escapes His rule.
This is a vital truth. Without it, or in distorting
it, one cannot but propose doctrines or beliefs contrary to God's Word.
Consider this once in the light of what the Bible itself teaches.
First of all, the Sovereignty of God includes the
fact that He has formed by His powerful Word the whole of the universe—and He preserves its existence. This fact staggers the imagination!
The universe itself is so vast that man knows not how to describe its
beginning or its end. The number of stars is so large as to be
uncountable. The energy expended by all these heavenly bodies in the
universe cannot be measured by man. There are those who claim to be
ignorant concerning the origin of this universe. Some suggest that
perhaps it is eternal. But the Bible tells us simply, "In the beginning
God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen.
Hebrews 11:3 states, "Through faith we understand that the worlds
were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not
made of things which do appear." Imagine! God created the vast universe—and He Himself is far above it, nor is He limited by it. So also did
Solomon pray in dedicating the temple at Jerusalem, "But will God indeed
dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens can not
contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?" (I
But the Sovereignty of God is not limited to the
formation of all things by His powerful Word. He is Sovereign in that He
directs and governs all things that take place. God places the sea
within its bounds:
Job 38:8, "Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth,
as if it had issued out of the womb?" Or again, He causes the rain to
fall and the grass to grow: "Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who
prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the
147:8). Striking, is it not, that the Sovereign God causes each drop
of rain to fall where He wills; He causes each flake of snow to descend
according to His good-pleasure. This is not the extent of His power,
however. God's power extends over the birds of the heavens and even over
the hairs which fall from one's head. Jesus said, "Are not two sparrows
sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground
without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matt.
But still more amazing, though disputed by many, is
the fact that God's power directs wars, pestilence, disease and winds
which come upon the earth. Not only does He as God send peace but He
also causes war. He not only gives health but He also sends sickness
and death. God says in
Isaiah 45:7, "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace
and create evil; I the Lord do all these things." Again we read in
Psalm 46:8, "Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he
hath made in the earth." When Christians, then, hear of or encounter
terrible hurricanes or tornadoes, when they behold the destruction of
disease, when they see the devastation of wars—let them confess: "The
hand of the Lord directs all these things!"
There is a yet more amazing wonder in this fact of
God's Sovereignty. He rule extends even over evil men—yes, and over the
devil himself. Many deny this. It is often suggested that God influences
and directs good men—but that evil men and the devil are minor forces
outside of the rule of God. It is conceded that God can frustrate the
evil designs of these forces of darkness, but the claim is that these
are nevertheless independent forces. If this view were correct, there
would be a serious limit to, or abridgment of, the Sovereignty of God.
Fact is, however, that God is also sovereign with respect to wicked men.
They cannot lift up one little finger, they cannot perform one evil act,
but this too is under the absolute control of God.
That this is true can also be shown clearly from
Scripture. We read in Exodus 3-4, that Moses, who earlier
had fled from Egypt, was caring for the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro. This had been his occupation during the past 40 years. Suddenly,
God changed the life of Moses. God met him at the burning, but
unconsumed, bush in the wilderness, and instructed him to go to Pharaoh
with the command to let God's people go. But then God told Moses, "When
thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all these wonders
before Pharaoh which I have put in thy hand; but I will harden his heart
that he shall not let the people go." It is not true that Pharaoh first
hardened his heart—and then God further hardened it. Before Pharaoh
was even aware of the existence of Moses, God emphasizes: "I will harden
Pharaoh's heart" (Ex.
4:21). As a result of this act of God, Pharaoh hardens his heart.
Though God hardened Pharaoh's heart, yet Pharaoh himself is held
responsible and is terribly punished, through the ten plagues, for his
And why should God harden Pharaoh's heart? The
apostle Paul answers with the words of
Romans 9:17, "For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this
same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee,
and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth."
Other instances are mentioned in Scripture. There is
the account of I Kings 22, where Ahab sought advice through his false
prophets concerning his plan to fight against Syria. These false
prophets unanimously urged him to go to battle—with the assurance of
victory. But then Ahab called God's prophet Micaiah. Micaiah explained
to Ahab that it was God who placed a lying spirit in the mouths of
Ahab's false prophets—in order to lead Ahab to his destruction in this
battle. God was Sovereign even over those false prophets.
But there is more too, for even the devil himself is
under the direct control of God. Possibly the clearest evidence of this
is found in the book of Job. In the first chapter, we read that Satan
appeared before God. God reminded Satan of Job who was "a perfect and
upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil." "Ah," says Satan,
"but does Job serve God for nothing? Touch what he has and he shall
curse Thee." God then tells Satan in verse 12, "Behold, all that he hath
is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand." Thus did
God give Satan specific but limited power to carry out the evil design
of trying to cause Job to curse God.
But there is a yet more wonderful, amazing evidence
of the Sovereignty of God revealed in Scripture. This Almighty God,
through His own power alone, saves His people from sin and death and
brings them to heavenly glory. Many mistaken preachers will claim that
Jesus stands outside the sinner's heart and insistently knocks upon the
door. The decisive action leading unto salvation must be taken by man.
But that is not the presentation of Scripture. In
Jeremiah 31:18-19 we read, "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for
thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented;
and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed,
yea, even confounded, but I did bear the reproach of my youth." And we
read concerning the preaching of the missionaries Paul and Barnabas,
"And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the Word
of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts
13:48). And on another missionary journey, Paul spoke to women
worshipping at a riverside near Philippi. One of these women, Lydia,
believed. Concerning her, we read, "Whose heart the Lord opened that she
attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul" (Acts
Further, it was the Sovereignty of God which was
evident at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. When one views what happened
at the cross, one might be inclined to suggest that matters had gotten
out of hand. It almost seemed as though God had lost control. It
appeared as though Satan was about to have the victory. Yet that is
exactly what did not happen. God had all things under control at
the cross. What took place, took place in harmony with His grand
purpose. So also did Peter explain to the audience at Pentecost when he
told them, "Jesus, being delivered by the determinate counsel and
foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified
and slain" (Acts
2:23). God had determined that the cross must come—but wicked men
took and crucified the Christ. Thus did God use the evil action of
wicked men to accomplish His glorious purpose.
It is also this same sovereign, almighty power of God
whereby He preserves His people in the salvation He gives unto them. We
Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which
hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus
The Sovereign God has revealed His absolute control
over all things in saving a people from sin and bringing them to heaven
with all of its glories.
Is it important that the faithful Christian maintain
this scriptural presentation of God's Sovereignty? Most definitely! The
very reason that the whole of the universe exists is that God's Name
might be highly exalted. All that has taken place, all that shall yet
occur, must serve the purpose of glorifying God. No one or nothing may
attempt to take away from the Sovereignty of our God.
It is the characteristic mark of all heresy that the
truth of God's Sovereignty is compromised. Man would introduce that
which exalts man, that which exalts man's power or ability, that which
claims that man has a certain ability to earn or merit something of God.
Or man deliberately attempts to detract from God's absolute rule by
suggesting that others, outside of God, possess an independent power.
But it is the mark of a faithful Christian and of the
true church that these believe and confess the scriptural truth of the
absolute Sovereignty of God. All doctrine, every confession, must be
founded upon the truth of God's Sovereignty. Whatever detracts in any
way from this truth must be rejected. True doctrine must follow out of
and reveal the truth that God is the Sovereign One.
The Christian must live and walk in the consciousness
of this truth too. All too often one would think of himself as
independent—free from the power and authority of God. He does not
seek God's face in prayer as he ought. He does not support the cause of
God's kingdom as a faithful child of God is called to do. He finds
pleasure in this world with all of its lusts. Such an one lives as
though God is not the Sovereign One.
What a wonderful truth is this confession of God's
Sovereignty! My God is He who hears and can answer my prayer. My God
directs all things for my good (Rom.
8:28). Because my God is absolutely sovereign, there are no real
accidents which befall me. And I shall surely dwell in the house of the
Lord forever—my Sovereign God sees to this through His Son Jesus Christ.
What comfort, what assurance, it is for the Christian
to know and confess God's Sovereignty. There is nothing, then, that can
ever separate me from the love of God. "For," says God's Word, "I am
persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor
depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the
love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom.
8:38-39). That is true because God is the sovereign God. Thank God
that He is!