Theology Sovereignty Of God

By aadebayo · Mar 29, 2018 ·
  1. aadebayo
    There are many verses in scripture, which proclaim that God is the sovereign ruler of the universe and that God’s sovereignty is one of His principal attributes. Before examining any of these texts, I first want us to understand what sovereignty means, so we can have a correct understanding of this doctrine. The Mariam Webster dictionary defines sovereignty in the following way. It is the possession of the power to rule, without any inhibition from any external or internal force. The dictionary splits the definition into three elements as
    A. “Supreme power especially over every nation on earth and beyond;
    B. Freedom from external control: autonomy and
    C. Controlling influence.”

    Many rulers have claimed to be sovereign in the past; some claim to be sovereign today. Prominent among them is the North Korean President, Kim_Jong-un. However, his rule is subject to what the United Nations Security Council authorizes. There have been leaders in the past who have also claimed to be sovereign. Examples include the Late Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Fidel Castro of Cuba. However, as with the leader of North Korea, they were only able to exercise their authority to the extent allowed by the United Nations Security Council and more importantly it was only to the degree which they can get men to comply and carry out their bidding, so we have to ask if they are truly Sovereign in the true sense of the definition of the term. We will need to go back to biblical times to find someone who has claimed such power as a sovereign. Prominent among them was Nebuchadnezzar.

    In Daniel chapter 2, he demanded his wise men to tell him his dream and interpret it. Otherwise, they would be “cut to pieces and their houses made into a refuse heap.” (Dan. 2:5b) The wise men were able to escape death only because of God’s providence in giving Daniel details of the dream and its interpretation. In chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar’s command was also overruled because his desire to have Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael burnt in his fiery furnace came to naught, due to God’s intervention. (Dan. 3:1-30). He made a boast of building a kingdom by his might and power (Dan. 4:30) but was forced to admit in very positive terms that there was a Sovereign whose hand cannot be stayed and whose actions cannot be questioned by another. (Dan. 4:35)

    Sovereignty is defined as the ability to do anything that you like, whenever you like and at whatever time you like. It is where a being does not have to give an account of his actions and his actions subject to no contingency.

    The you.K Parliament claims to be sovereign in the stipulation of laws because its actions are not subject to any legal challenge. The Parliament defines it as

    A principle of the UK constitution. It makes Parliament the supreme legal authority in the UK, which can create or end any law. Generally, the courts cannot overrule its legislation, and no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change. Parliamentary sovereignty is the most important part of the UK constitution.[1]

    However, to maintain this sovereignty, it acknowledges that the laws it makes, are not binding on future Parliaments. All the leaders and the you.K. Parliament mentioned above and indeed all who have ever ruled throughout the history of the world lack at least one of the three attributes necessary for exercising sovereignty. The you.K Parliament, for example, is run by members of parliament (MPs), elected into office by their respective constituents. All MPs are accountable to their voters and are influenced by how they vote in respect to any policy or legislation set by the sitting government. Mobutu Sese Seko, who once claimed to be the Messiah of Zaire[2], was forced to flee from power in 1997. The North Korean President, though able to make any law in this country is aware of the fate of men such as Saddam Hussein, whose brutal regime was overthrown by President George W. Bush.

    God is the only being who can be described as sovereign, using the definition contained in the Merriam Webster dictionary. God, Himself not only describes Himself as sovereign but has both declared and demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt in His word that He is sovereign. In Isaiah 46:8-11, God expressly proclaims Himself as Sovereign by declaring that

    Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. 9 Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, “My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure”; 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it; surely I will do it."

    God in these verses proclaims that He has all the elements of sovereignty. He proclaims to have controlling influence - determining what will happen even before it does so, and states that there is none that could prevent, delay or divert His plans or purposes (My purpose shall be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure) Finally, He gives examples of how He will go about accomplishing His purposes in “calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of His purpose from a far country” to accomplish His purpose, God has used many men and women in history to accomplish His set purposes, without these men or women not even knowing that such is the end result of their actions, as enemies of God. Cyrus is one of such men.

    What makes God sovereign over the affairs of the whole universe (both known and unknown) is that He has infinite power (meaning that there is nothing external of Himself that can stop His ordained plans from being fulfilled). He has infinite wisdom, meaning that He makes every single event, past, present, and future conform to His purposes and what He has ordained will come to pass. His omnipresence means that He can see to it that He accomplishes all His purposes. He is immutable, which means that He will never change His mind regarding what He has promised or ordained. God’s plans are not subject to any contingencies. The events in the world today are part of a God’s master plan, not a reaction, it is not a plan B or plan C but plan A an unchangeable blueprint.

    The Sovereignty of God is unabridged and all-encompassing. In this paper, I will attempt to describe this central doctrine in relation to Creation, Providence, and Redemption.

    God’s Sovereignty in Creation
    The first five words in the Bible describe God’s sovereignty in creation. Those five words read “In the beginning, God created.” The inference from these words is that God created the beginning and all things after it. That is, there was a time when God in His sovereign majesty dwelt alone. Then He sovereignly decided to create. The period before these five words, stretches back to eternity past, when, the triune Godhead dwelt in unity, harmony, and love. When God decided to create, He did so, not because He lacked anything, or because He needed anything. Scripture describes God as Independent, that is, He is absolute. He is the primary cause of all existing things, so what He does is not subject to another’s will or influence. Hence the inference is that God created the universe because He wanted to, not because He had to. The ultimate reason why He created anything is a secret that as humans we are not allowed to investigate. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). God determined that there should be a beginning and He created it. He could have continued to live by Himself forever as Father, Son, Holy Spirit if He had so willed.

    The fact that God created the whole universe makes Him sovereign. Genesis chapter one contains the creation narrative. This narrative gives explicit information about the sovereignty of God as creator. Verses one and two give an introductory narrative explaining how the earth was formless and empty. This background information forms the basis of any information about how God made the world. That is, God created the world from nothing. The rest of the chapter provides detailed information about how God created the world. A phrase appears nine times in chapter one. This phrase is “God said ‘Let there be.’” It appeared first in verse three and is repeated in verses six, nine, eleven, fourteen, twenty, twenty-four and twenty-six. The phrase “and it was so” accompanies the first five appearances of this phrase. This accompanied phrase is present in verses 7, 9, 11, 15 and 24. God’s sovereignty in creation is manifest in that His command, “Let there be” becomes life, “and it was so.”

    There are other aspects of creation that show God’s sovereignty. The Genesis chapter one narrative does not just describe God’s creation of the world; it also describes other essential aspects of creation. These include the disposition, habitation, life expectancy, and variety of His creatures. God’s sovereignty in the disposition of all living creatures describes their nature, character, temperament, and personality. God’s sovereignty in the disposition of His nonliving creatures can be described in how they compare to each other. God’s disposition towards His creatures will be discussed under two sub-headings. They are Living Creatures and Non-Living Creatures. Living Creatures: God’s sovereignty in creating living creatures is described in three different categories. The first category (plants), is described in Gen. 1:11. Then Gen. 1:12 describes the result of God’s sovereign act of creating them. The reality of God’s sovereignty in creating plants can be seen in the variety of plants that exist today. There are plants that last only for days before they wither. There are trees that last for decades, if not centuries. These are so because God determined that they are so. A good example of God’s sovereignty in action, regarding the creation of plants, can be found in Jonah 4:6, where God provided a leafy plant for Jonah to ease his discomfort. Then in the following verse, God killed the plant by providing a worm, which chewed the plant. There are no detailed descriptions of issues such as why a flower looks more beautiful than another, or why one flower gives out the wonderful fragrance and a similar looking flower do not. However, God demonstrated His sovereignty in creating them by determining the features of every plant.

    God’s sovereignty in creating the next category (animals) is described in Gen. 1:20-25. The animals created by God and described in these verses are of many types. The narrative here represents the general description of God’s intentions. A detailed description is found when these animals are studied carefully. For example, it is God who determined that of all wild cats; lions will be the only ones that live in social groups known in the English world as a pride. Even as the lions are carnivores, (after the fall), God in His sovereign will close the mouth of lions when such please Him as in Daniel chapter 6, where God prevented the lions from feeding on Daniel and later in the chapter, God allowed them to devour Daniel’s adversaries. That God determined which animals will be herbivores, which animals will be carnivores and which ones will be omnivores is clear. The verses contain enough information for us to know that it was by God’s sovereign decree which animal lives in which habitation. His sovereign decree about this is also manifested in the design of every animal species, to ensure that each animal can survive where God decrees that they live.

    For example, the narrative in Gen 1:20a “Let the water teem with living creatures,” describes that God designed animals such as fish, whale, and Dolphins with the required features for survival in water. For example, God used ravens to feed Elijah with meat for many months. (1 Kg. 17). (The narrative in 1 Kings 17 does not specify how long Elijah was fed for, but in verse four, God commanded the Raven to feed Elijah. In verse six, the ravens fed Elijah twice a day until the brook dried up.) The fact that ravens are greedy, self-centered birds that feed on meat was no barrier to God in using them for His purpose of feeding Elijah meat.

    Humans: God in His sovereign wisdom changed the pattern of creation when He came to create man. God in creating other creatures created them by the words of His mouth. However, there was a change in His approach when it came to creating humans. Gen 1:26 describes the triune Godhead actively involved in creating humans. “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,” represents God’s sovereign choice of creating humans in His image. The rest of the verse informs us why God made this sovereign choice. “So that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created humans to take dominion over His creation.

    Non-Living Creatures: God’s sovereignty in creating non-living creatures is described in Gen 1:3-10. He determined that there would be light during the day and darkness during the night. He determined the formation of the sky, the sea, the oceans, the rivers, the lake and other forms of water. God determined that the earth would be comprised of seventy percent water and thirty percent land and that a vast portion of the land is uninhabitable. He determined that all the planets would orbit the sun at speeds He decreed. He determined that only one of the planets (earth) should be habitable; by creating conditions conducive to supporting life. God created the stars, with some shining very brightly and others that can only be viewed with special equipment and others still that cannot be seen with even the best equipment available[3]. (I believe that man in his finite, sinful capacity is unable to account for all of God’s creation within planet earth, let alone beyond planet earth, hence my assertion that there are stars or other planets that cannot be discovered, even using the best equipment that man has made.) He did all this because it pleased Him to do so. A. W. Pink paints an excellent picture of how God demonstrated His sovereignty in creation, regarding the variety of His creatures. He writes

    Come now to our planet. Why should two-thirds of its surface be covered with water, and why should so much of its remaining third be unfit for human cultivation or habitation? Why should there be vast stretches of marshes, deserts, and ice-fields? Why should one country be so inferior, topographically, from another? Why should one be fertile, and another almost barren? Why should one be rich in minerals and another own none? Why should the climate of one be congenial and healthy, and another uncongenial and unhealthy? Why should one abound in rivers and lakes, and another be almost devoid of them? Why should one be constantly troubled by earthquakes, and another be almost entirely free from them? Why? Because thus it pleased the Creator and Upholder of all things. [4]

    God’s Sovereignty in Providence
    God is not the only sovereign in creation, but He is also sovereign in Providence. There are many texts that teach the doctrine of God’s providence. Rom 8:28 reads “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Ps. 103:19 reads “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.” Ps. 115:3 “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” There is a general theme that runs through these verses, which is that God is the controller and ruler of the world. This is precisely what providence is. It is the fact that God has ordained everything that will ever occur in the world, from creation to the end of this world, even though He is not the author of the sins associated with what He has ordained. God is infinitely Holy and Righteous and Perfect to allow any sin to proceed from Himself. God has a purpose in everything that He does or allows. God may be willing to reveal some to us, or He may determine that we do not need to know. Deut. 29:29 is a very comforting verse that indicates that God has the prerogative to keep secrets to Himself or reveal them through His word.

    God, manifesting His sovereign will in providence is demonstrated throughout the Old and New Testaments. In Job 1:8 – 12 God initiates a dialogue with Satan when He says “Have you considered my servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Satan, not willing to affirm what God declares about Job replies “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have you not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse you to your face.” A few things need to be considered from this dialogue. It is God who initiates the dialogue with Satan in asking him that “Have you considered my servant Job?” God speaks very well of Job, calling Job His servant. God has put a hedge around Job and his household and all his possessions. God has blessed the work of Job’s hands. This may imply that God has determined that Job was free from any attack by the devil. It may also imply that Satan had desired to attack Job prior to this dialogue ever taking place.

    God allows Satan to attack Job’s possessions, including his children. We need to understand here that God is not responding to Satan, rather He is instructing Satan to do what God had ordained ever before this conversation took place. God defines the boundaries of Satan’s operation. God says “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan is permitted to attack all of Job’s possessions, including his children. However, Satan is prevented from attacking Job. The conclusion to be drawn is, the events described in Job 1:13-19 happened with God’s willing permission. God was not forced or manipulated into permitting Satan to attack Job’s possessions. Job acknowledges God’s role in blessing him and taking the blessing away. He understood God’s Sovereignty in Providence; that all blessings and trials are God’s providential way of dealing with us.

    God takes responsibility for the loss of Job’s possessions and children when He tells Satan that “Have you considered my servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blamelests and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to ruin him without cause”. Satan is shown to be a liar in Job, “holding fast to his integrity,” in spite of Satan “inciting God to ruin Job without cause” (Job 2:3). The key statement that shows Satan to be a liar is in verse 22, which reads “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”

    In spite of Satan being shown to be a liar, he does not relent in his attack on God’s character. He still accuses God of not representing Job reasonably, in spite of the atrocities that have been inflicted on Job. Job 2:4-5 by saying “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse you to your face.” God increases Satan’s limited power to attack Job’s health.

    Many sins have been committed against God in these events. Chief amongst them is Satan who orchestrated these acts. Then there are the individuals who participated in the atrocities against Job. We may wonder how God can be absolved of allowing these things to happen. There are two ways of responding to our questions. The first is very brief but to the point. It is that God is under no obligation to give an account of how He runs His world. God is holy, righteous and just. He can do no wrong. God has given us information from His word in explaining these events. John Calvin, commenting on Job 1 writes

    For illustration, let us refer to the calamities brought upon holy Job by the Chaldeans. They having slain his shepherds, carry off his flocks. The wickedness of their deed is manifest, as is also the hand of Satan, who, as the history informs us, was the instigator of the whole. Job, however, recognizes it as the work of God, saying, that what the Chaldeans had plundered, "the Lord" had "taken away." How can we attribute the same work to God, to Satan, and to man, without either excusing Satan by the interference of God or making God the author of the crime? This is easily done, if we look first to the end, and then to the mode of acting.

    The Lord designs to exercise the patience of his servant by adversity; Satan plans to drive him to despair; while the Chaldeans are bent on making unlawful gain by plunder. Such diversity of purpose makes a wide distinction in the act. In the mode, there is not less difference. The Lord permits Satan to afflict his servant; and the Chaldeans, who had been chosen as the ministers to execute the deed, he hands over to the impulses of Satan, who, pricking on the already depraved Chaldeans with his poisoned darts, instigates them to commit the crime. They rush furiously on to the unrighteous deed and become its guilty perpetrators. Here Satan is properly said to act in the reprobate, over whom he exercises his sway, which is that of wickedness. God also is said to act in his way; because even Satan when he is the instrument of divine wrath, is completely under the command of God, who turns him as he will in the execution of his just judgments.[5]

    A few things can be drawn from Calvin’s commentary. Calvin asks this crucial question, "How can we attribute the same work to God, to Satan, and to man, without either excusing Satan by the interference of God or making God the author of the crime?”. This is a crucial question because one of the major doctrines of the Christian faith is the infinite holiness and righteousness of God. It is important that God’s holiness is defended, yet it is also important that God’s right to do as He pleases is defended. Calvin rightly answers this question by pointing out that Satan and the Chaldeans are those, who God permits to afflict Job. Calvin does not absolve Satan or the Chaldeans of any responsibility. He argues that “Satan is properly said to act in the reprobate, over whom he exercises his sway, which is that of wickedness.” Finally, Calvin closes by arguing the guilt of Satan and the Chaldeans as accountable to God for their sins about their wicked acts of Job. Calvin writes “The Lord designs to exercise the patience of his servant by adversity; Satan plans to drive him to despair; while the Chaldeans are bent on making unlawful gain by plunder. Such diversity of purpose makes a wide distinction in the act.”[6]

    So though God has ordained these acts committed by the Chaldeans, the reason for God ordaining them is to exercise the patience of Job. Satan’s purpose is to drive Job to despair, while the Chaldeans purpose is to rob Job. Three different purposes for a single act. Calvin explains the consistency of these purposes as “We thus see that there is no inconsistency in attributing the same act to God, to Satan, and to man, while, from the difference in the end and mode of action, the spotless righteousness of God shines forth at the same time that the iniquity of Satan and of man is manifested in all its deformity.”[7] God in his Sovereignty had also determined that Job would not sin against Him through the whole saga as if to further reiterate the fact of the sovereignty of God over the minds and conduct of men irrespective of what Satan machinates or does to alter his mind. Satan did his worst, yet Job did not curse God.

    In Isaiah 44:28, God implicitly proclaims Himself as sovereign when He declares that “It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd! And he will perform all my desire.’ And He declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’" Here, God speaks through the prophet Isaiah about something that will occur over a century later, mentioning the person who will authorize it by name. He calls Cyrus “His shepherd,” who will do what God has determined. He goes on to say that Jerusalem will be built and the foundation of the temple will be laid. At first glance by a casual reader of the bible, this appears to be just a statement that can just be brushed aside.

    However, when this verse is given a closer look, the following is what transpires: 1. the book of Isaiah was written in about 700 BC. All reformed theologians are united in agreement with this. Archer Gleason gives a robust defense of this view in the wake of many attacks on the unity and date of Isaiah in the past two hundred and fifty years. [8] 2. Isaiah talks about two events as if they have already taken place, even though they will not occur until over a century later. The second statement says that Jerusalem and the Temple will be rebuilt, even though neither will be destroyed until over a century later (by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon in 586 BC). Finally, Isaiah names Cyrus as the man who will rebuild them, though he will not be born until about a century and a half later in 539 BC.

    God in these verses, determined the end (the building of Jerusalem and the Temple) from the beginning (over one century before it will ever become necessary for both to be rebuilt); naming the main participant of this. God in doing so and bringing these events to pass, proclaims that He is the sovereign ruler of the world. This verse demonstrates God’s sovereignty from the three elements described above. There is a fourth element that needs to be added too. This element is the fact that God is not the author of any sin associated with what He has ordained to come to pass. This element is very crucial because God is Holy. Everything that God does is good. He owes no explanation for whatever He does or ordains irrespective of how His enemies view His actions.

    Another instance of God demonstrating His sovereignty in Providence is in the Genesis narrative of the events between Joseph and his brothers, where out of wicked jealousy against Joseph, his brothers sold him into slavery (Gen. 37:26-28). Later, Joseph became the second most powerful man in Egypt (Gen. 41:38-44) and gave food to his brothers when Canaan was hit by a famine (Gen. 44). When Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, he explains that

    Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant of the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

    Joseph in these verses, explains that God has sent him to Egypt. He gives the reason as “to preserve” the lives of his brothers and keep them alive “by a great deliverance. Joseph's brothers are not in any way absolved of their sin against God in relation to how they treated Joseph even though their sin has served God’s purpose.

    The most significant of God acting in Providence is in the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. God’s providential hand can be seen in every event that culminates in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The many Old Testament prophesies giving specific details of events of His birth, life, betrayal and death on the cross, bear testimony to the fact that God has sovereign control over the events of this world. These include the nature of His betrayal, Ps. 41:9, the manner of His death Zech. 13:6 and Ps. 22:16. The Apostle Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost in Act. 2:22-24 explains

    Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

    The key words in this text are “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Foreknowledge, as used in this verse, is not just God knowing this event beforehand, but instead, God ordained this event before it ever occurred. So the reason why Christ was crucified was that God ordained that Christ would be crucified by the hands of godless men. God’s ordination of this event can be seen in the many Old Testament prophesies of this event.

    It should be noted that God’s sovereignty in providence is evident in the fact that there have been times when God has overruled the commission of sin. The inference that can be drawn is that God only allows sin if such is part of His eternal plan in accomplishing His purpose. Abimelech was prevented from violating Abram’s wife (Gen. 20:3); Laban was prevented from harming Jacob (Gen. 31:29); Balaam was prevented from cursing God’s people (Num. 22:22-33). God sent an angel to kill one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers to defend Judah from attack (2 Kings 19:35).

    Finally, there are two brothers in Christ whose testimony illustrate this. They have both submitted to God’s providence, even in very distressing circumstances. The first is John Farese, who has now gone to be with the Lord. John was born with a very severe condition that has rendered him bedridden for all his life. He says

    Surely the Bible says that God always does what is right? Yes, it does – and he does! I have come to see that suffering is one of the many ways in which God demonstrates his unfailing love to those who have come to put their trust in him. Writing out of his own painful experience, the Psalmist says, ‘It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees’ (Psalm 119:71) – and I gladly endorse every word of that testimony.

    ()

    Another brother (Steve Saint) became an orphan at a very young age when his father was murdered along with four other missionaries by the Auca Indians in Ecuador. He also lost his daughter just after she returned from a mission trip. He says

    Why is it that we want every chapter to be good when God promises only that in the last chapter he will make all the other chapters make sense, and he doesn’t promise we’ll see that last chapter here? When Stephanie was dying, the doctor said, “There’s no hope for recovery from an injury like this.” I realized that this was either the time to lose my faith or an opportunity to show the God who gave his only Son to die for my sin that I love and trust him. And then I watched. I watched my sweet wife accept this as God’s will and God’s plan. And you know what God has done through this? He changed my heart. He broke it. He shredded it.[9]

    God’s Sovereignty in Redemption
    God’s sovereignty in redemption is described as the doctrine of election. (Eph. 1:4-5) This doctrine teaches that God has determined, before the foundation of the world, to elect some people to salvation and others to reprobation. The decision by God to do this has been made before the world was ever created. Many may be wondering about the “fairness” of this doctrine. The first response is that we, as human beings tainted by sin are not able to determine what is fair to God, who is infinitely holy and infinitely righteous. The second response is that without God electing some unto salvation; none would ever be saved.

    Rom. 5:12 explains that the guilt of Adam and Eve has been extended to all humans that have lived ever since. The verse reads “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” So God ultimately links Adam’s sin to all humans after that, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” Rom. 5:19a. The result of sin is that all humans are alienated from God. Man naturally hates God and would rather have nothing to do with Him. Adam and Eve attempted to hide from God when He called them. This hatred of God has been inherited by all humans since. Rom. 3:9-12 explains this alienation from God. The text reads “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;” These verses make it plain that there is none righteous. The keywords about alienation can be found in verse 12. “There is none who seeks for God.” Why do none seek for God? Because sin spiritually killed us all. Alienated us from God so that we have no desire to fellowship, to obey, to glorify or to worship Him. But by the sovereign grace of God, He chose or elected to save some and Christ gladly accepted to pay the price of their redemption. Ephesians 2:5 says "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).”

    The only solution to this problem was explained to Nicodemus by Jesus Christ. He told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn. 3:3) Christ explains that unless a person is born of water and spirit, they cannot enter the kingdom of God. Christ continued “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is a spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (Jn. 3:6-7) Christ drew a distinction between the physical birth of a human and the spiritual birth of a new believer, after reiterating the fact that both needed to occur before a man could enter heaven.

    All humans experience the physical birth. The only two humans never to experience the physical birth are Adam and Eve, who were directly created by God. Our Lord Jesus Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. This was unique in that He was not conceived in sin as is the rest of humanity were. Every human at birth has a natural inclination to sin, which is what makes humans rebel against God. Given a choice, we rather do our own thing, than obey God. For example, nobody teaches a child how to be disobedient to parents or to be selfish. Rather it is we parents who teach our children to be obedient and to put others first. Rom. 6:6, informs us that the body of the unsaved people “is ruled by sin.” Rom. 8:3 refers to it as “sinful flesh,” Col. 3:5 commands us to “put to death” what is “earthly in us” this includes “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” David rued the fact that he was born with the principle of sin already at work within him: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). Elsewhere, he said, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies” (Ps. 58:3).

    Included in the sin nature is a hatred of God. This hatred is evidenced by a sinner’s unwillingness to have anything to do with God or His word. This person would rather that God did not exist. The Atheist is an obvious example of such a person. They claim that God does not exist, yet they become extremely angry when confronted with God’s claim on their lives. Why is the atheist angry about a God that he/she claims does not exist? Is it not true that the atheist’s conscience bears testimony to the fact that God has a valid claim, which he willfully refuses to acknowledge? The churchgoer is another example. He to accept God’s definition of who He is, so also hates Him. He actually worships a god who is limited by his narrow imagination of God’s true identity. Such a person burst’s out in fits of rage if he is confronted with the fact that the true God of Scripture is in full control of this world and that He orders this world according to the counsel of His own will.

    This hatred of God needs to be replaced with a nature that loves God and hates sin. However, this experience cannot be brought about by human endeavors. The problem is that all men are under the wrath of God and unless God had elected some to salvation, none could have been saved. Our Lord Jesus Christ made it plain that no one can come to Him except God the Father draws him (Jn. 6:44, 65). There are many options that God could have pursued when Adam and Eve sinned. He could have cast both into Hell, create new humans and start all over again. He could have allowed them to live, but consign them and future generations of humans to hell, without any redemption plan. (God sealed the eternal destiny of fallen angels when they rebelled against Him). The reason why God chose so many human beings for election to salvation is a mystery and secret that He has kept to Himself. (Deut. 29:29). Election demonstrates God’s love and mercy towards those whom God has chosen for salvation. A. W. Pink explains this doctrine as

    The doctrine of election means that from all eternity God chose those who were to be His special treasure, His dear children, and the coheirs of Christ. The doctrine of election means that before His Son became incarnate God marked out the ones who should be saved by Him. The doctrine of election means that God has left nothing to chance: the accomplishment of His purpose, the success of Christ's undertaking, the peopling of heaven, is not contingent upon the fickle caprice of the creature. God's will, and not man's will, fixes destiny.[10]

    Pink explains very well that it is God who marked out those that will be saved, it is also God who ensured that the success of this election was not based on anything on the part of the elect. Paul in Rom. 9:11-13 describes this doctrine with regards to Jacob and Esau “11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” God’s election of Jacob to salvation and Esau to reprobation was regardless of any sin committed by either of them. God’s election of Jacob to salvation was not because He foresaw Jacob’s faith in God’s promise of the Messiah. Note the phrase in Paul’s description “not because of works but because of Him who calls,” meaning that it was not because of Jacob’s works contributing to salvation, but because God chose Jacob to be a recipient of His sovereign grace.

    The question that many may ask is how does this fit in with a human being’s responsibility to believe the gospel when preached? (Act. 17:30) The preaching of the gospel to everyone is known as a general call to salvation. This call may be rejected. There is also the effectual call of salvation, which is when the Holy Spirit irresistibly draws the sinner to Christ. This call, (only made to the elect) is never rejected. The 1689 Baptist Confession defines it as

    Those whom God hath predestined unto life, He is pleased in His appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call,1 by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ;2 enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God;3 taking away their heart of stone, and giving to them a heart of flesh;4 renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ;5 yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.[11]

    This doctrine does not remove the culpability of the sin of those who reject the general call to the gospel. Many may wonder why this is the case. Paul anticipated this in these words “You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” (Rom. 9:19). Paul here, contemplated people asking why God should find them culpable of sin for rejecting the gospel if God had not elected them to salvation. He (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) responded with these instructive words “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?” (Rom. 9:20) We as humans, who have been tainted by sin are not in a position to question the decision of God, who is infinitely holy and righteous. Also, God does not damn people to eternal punishment solely because they reject the gospel, (though rejecting the gospel is a sin in its own right (Heb. 2:3)), rather He damns souls to hell for breaking His commandments.

    He has done this to many without giving them an opportunity of hearing the gospel. Examples include 1) Gen. 15:16, where God had sealed the Amorites’ punishment and destruction by Abraham’s descendants over 400 years beforehand, 2) Mt. 11:20-24 where the fact that if the works that were done in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum had been done in Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, these cities would have repented in sackcloth and ashes, yet these works were never done, and those cities perished. 3) 1 Sam. 15, where God commanded Saul to destroy all the Amalekites for what their forefathers, of over 100 years earlier did to the Israelites, while they were in the wilderness. Ultimately the emphasis of this doctrine is about God’s mercy being extended to a vast number of people who equally deserve to be eternally damned to hell.

    It is important to state that this doctrine does not contradict Jn. 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The context of this verse is that those who will never perish are those who believe in God’s only begotten Son. Neither does this doctrine contradict 2 Pet. 3:9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” The question to ask is, who is the “you” referring to in “but is patient toward you”? Identifying the “you” is key to identifying the “any” and the “all” in “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” of this verse. The verse itself does not provide enough information for identifying the “who.”

    However, by looking at this with the previous one, we find that the context identifies things. So let’s look at this and the previous verse. Both verses (2 Pet. 3:8-9) read “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Peter referred to beloved in the second clause of this verse as the audience of both verses. This beloved he greets in Chapter 1 verse 1. So it can be concluded that the audience in 2 Pet. 3:9 are believers, to whom Peter wrote this letter.

    Holiness is the reason why God elects someone to salvation. That is the end that God has in view. Ephesians 1 verse 4 states that “God chose us … that we should be holy and blameless before Him”. Hence when God elects a sinner, holiness is the mark that shows that a person has been elected by God.

    Application and Conclusion
    This doctrine, like all doctrines of Scripture, is a comfort to all believers. It is always wonderful to know that God, who rules the universe, has all things under His control. The teaching that God has ordained every single event in history, including every single act by Humans and animals alike is a comfort to all believers. A question to take is how we would deal with a trial that comes to our lives? Will we (1) Accuse God of injustice, which in reality is blasphemy? (2) Submit to God, but resist the affliction? Many in the West are capable of finding ways out of affliction, though these ways will only work if God allows such. (3) Finally, do we submit to the affliction, knowing that God’s will brought it about? When the trial comes, the first thing a Christian should do is pray. The following thoughts should be borne in mind while praying. God could have prevented this trial from coming. Hence, we must ask if there is a purpose for God sending this trial to us. God may have sent it to enable us to seek Him. In this instance, where does the believer begin? Do we initially ask God to take it away or do we thank Him for sending this trial to us?

    How sovereign is God? God is sovereign in everything, in time and out of time. He is sovereign in creation; God is sovereign in redemption; God is sovereign in the events and happening on earth; God is sovereign over what has, is and will happen; God is sovereign in the affairs and actions of all men. God is sovereign in life and death; God is sovereign in natural disasters; God is sovereign over war and peace; God is sovereign over the devil; God is sovereign over good; God is sovereign over evil; God is sovereign in the heavens; God is sovereign in all man’s coming and going; God is sovereign over when Christ will return; God is sovereign over when the world will end; God is sovereign over how the world will end; God is sovereign in the final judgment of all things, and God is sovereign over and concerning His word and promises (both positive and negative promises) to bring them to pass.

    There is no such thing as the "permissive will" of God, in the context of Him not being in control of certain events. If we define ‘permissive’ in its legal application which is: “Allowed but not obligatory; optional." For every law of God is obligatory for man to obey, and everything living and non-living to conform to his sovereign directives. If man then refuses to obey, then God's sovereign word kicks into recompense. God's will is absolutely sovereign in all things. It needs to be said though that this is nothing to do with fatalism, which is: "The belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable," events not necessarily orchestrated by God. This is not what we are referring to when we talk about the sovereignty of God. In the case of the sovereignty of God, in all things (pertaining to man), we are active participants, not passive, playing our part in, but at the same time God Almighty is the one who “pulls all the strings” to bring everything to conform to his will and glory within the actions of the free will of man.

    If God is not sovereign in and over everything, then He is Sovereign over nothing, and He is not God. This doctrine is beyond the logic, comprehension, reasoning, understanding, analysis and the capacity of a man to explain without the Holy Spirit of God. Anyone who claims to know and serve God, and has a view which differs from one of God is absolutely sovereign in everything from Creation, to redemption and eschatology, has not been taught that view by God.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY

    1. Government, UK. "Parliamentary sovereignty." Westminster, London, UK, 2018. Accessed January 14, 2018. https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/role/sovereignty.

    2. Young, Crawford, and Thomas Turner. The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State. Baltimore, MD: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.

    3. Pink, Arthur. Sovereignty of God. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1928.

    4. Calvin, John. The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008.

    5. Calvin, John. The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008.

    6. Calvin, John. The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008.

    7. Gleason, Archer. New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001.

    8. Piper, John, and Justin Taylor. Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Carol Stream, IL: Crossway Pub, 2006.

    9. Pink, Arthur. Doctrine of Election. Morrisville, NC: LULU Press, 2013.

    10. 2LBCF (1677/89), X,I

    FOOTNOTES

    [1] UK Government, “Parliamentary sovereignty” (London, UK), accessed January 14, 2018, https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/role/sovereignty.

    [2] Crawford Young and Thomas Turner, The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State, (Baltimore, MD University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), 169

    [4] Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (Carlisle, PA Banner of Truth 1928), 22

    [5] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008), II.iv.2-3, 191-192.

    [6] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008), II.iv.2, 192.

    [7] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008), II.iv.2, 192.

    [8] Gleason Archer, New International Encyclopaedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001), 264 - 267.

    [9] John Piper & Justin Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Carol Stream, IL: Crossway Pub, 2006), 119-120

    [10] Arthur W. Pink Doctrine of Election (Morrisville, NC LULU Press, 2013), 34.

    [11] 2LBCF (1677/89), X,I

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