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Sovereignty of God
The sovereignty of God in creation, revelation, redemption, and final judgement
The word ‘sovereignty’ in the human realm is used in a relative sense; Sovereignty – the state of being sovereign e.g., India is sovereign: India is sovereign within its geographical and political boundaries and allows no foreign hand to manipulate its internal affairs. Similarly, a king is sovereign but within the limits of his empire. Sovereign– supreme power, free from any external control; unquestionable authority; only one kingship; whatever he plans flows from his own will and purpose. But to say, God is sovereign is to declare that He is absolutely Sovereign, i.e., He has absolute freedom to will and plan and limitless power to execute His plans in His own time and style. No one can counsel God or control His hand. All authority, power and dominion are under his control, nothing that happens does so without his permission and knowledge.
Is 46: 8-11: “Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfil my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do. So,
v He declares how things will turn out even before things happen
v He declares not just the natural events but also human events
Let us summarize what it means by sovereignty of God. God has the absolute and rightful authority, the freedom, the wisdom and the power to bring about everything that he intends to happen. And therefore, everything he intends to come about does come about, which means God plans and governs all things. In other words, everything that happened or will happen is purposed by God to happen. So, sovereignty of God covers major two areas –
(a) Governing natural events:
Prov 16: 33; Mt 10:29-30; Jonah 1:17, 4:6, 4:7; Is 40:26; Ps 147:15-18; Job 37:11-13; Amos 3:6. So, from snow, cyclone, winds, pandemic all are subject to God. When he was in the midst of storm all he had to do was to say, “be still” (Mk 4:39). Ex 4:11; I Peter 3:17, 4:19; Job 1:21. Roll of a dice, the fall of bird, crawl of a woman, movement of stars, falling of snow, blowing of wind, loss of sight, suffering of saints, death of many - all these are included in the word of God: I will accomplish my purpose- from the smallest to the greatest.
(b) Governing human events:
Dan 2:21, Dan 4:17; Prov 21:1; Ps 33:10-11; Acts 4:27-28.
2. God is sovereign
God being sovereign can be understood by understanding the personality of God. It is difficult to grasp but will help us develop a deeper understanding. The word ‘sovereignty’ refers to a supreme power, free of any external control or influence. Therefore, sovereignty refers to God’s supreme power. There is no other power which controls or influences His will to do anything. Whatever He does, flows from His own will and pleasure (Ephesians 1:5, 9, 11). So, creation, revelation, redemption and judgment are to be regarded as wilful acts of God.
(a) He is he high and lofty one (Is 6:1-4; I Ch 29:11)
(b) He does what pleases him (Is 46:10b)
(c) Nothing is impossible with him (Jer 32:17; Mt 19:29)
(d) No one and nothing can frustrate his purpose or plans (Job 42:2; Jer 23:20)
(e) He overrules and guides human actions to achieve his purpose
3. The Scope of God’s Sovereignty
Though the scope of God’s Sovereignty is infinitely vast and impossible to describe, it is classified for our understanding. The second statement of the doctrine declares that God is Sovereign in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgment.
(a) God is Sovereign over Creation
“In the beginning God created” so begins the Bible. God’s creation differs from that of man’s for God creates out of nothing! Man needs matter, without which man is absolutely helpless and totally handicapped. But God needs nothing, simply nothing to create something. Before ‘the beginning’ there was nothing and God spoke, and matter came into existence along with time (Heb 11:3). It’s God’s sovereign ability that He can create anything out of nothing and reverse the process within no time (2 Pet 3:10, 12). The Biblical view of God’s creative work includes His continuous, unbroken sustenance of the Universe (Heb 1:30; Col 1:17; Acts 17:25,28)
(i) He created everything (Gen 2:7; Gen 2:21-22; Acts 14:15; Acts 17: 24-25; Heb 11:3)
(ii) He created everything out of nothing (Gen 1:1; Ps 33: 6, 9; Jn 1: 3; Col 1: 16; Rev 4: 11)
(iii) He created everything for his glory (Is 43: 7; Ps 19: 1-2)
(iv) He sustains his creation (Heb 1: 3)
Other views on creation:
Deism: God created this world with some built in natural laws and left it alone to its own fate. He will neither control it nor interfere in its affairs - means that God creates but has no control over His created order and therefore, becomes a helpless passive spectator of the happenings of the world & hence cannot be sovereign.
Pantheism: Hindu school of philosophy which says God is absolutely immanent in this world. For a pantheist, there is no distinction between God and the universe; the Universe is only an extension of God the ultimate. It urges that God is in everything-that god is all and all is God.
If God is in everything, anything can contain God who is infinite; this is an illogical concept.
Implication: We are stewards of creation. God’s creation is beautiful and orderly. So should our lives be as well. Creation not to be idolized as it is from & not God.
(b) God is Sovereign over Revelation
The Bible indicates that God revealed Himself in various ways.
In the cosmos (Rom 18:21),
In our conscience (Rom 2:14-15)
Through inspired Scripture (Rev 1:1, Ps 19:7-8) and finally,
Through Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God (Jn: 1:1, 1:18, Col 1:15, Heb 1:3).
But whether through general or special revelation, man cannot know God unless otherwise God discloses Himself. To reveal or not to reveal is God’s sovereign choice. All religious efforts (Yagna, Tapasya….) of man to know God are only futile attempts because of:
God’s Infinitude: infinity is the foremost characteristic of God’s natural attribute.
God’s Incomprehensibility: His greatness cannot be conceived because the finite cannot contain (& comprehend) the infinite God, for God is greater than the human mind. (Ps 139:6; Is 55:8-9).
We may conclude by saying –
a) No one can know God on one’s own. If God is to be known, He must reveal Himself
b) God has revealed Himself
(i) in nature (Ps 19:1-6, Rom 1:19,20) in the constitution and operation of human mind and conscience and in history (Rom 2:14,15)
(ii) in Scripture- Ps 19:7-14, Rom 16:25-26
(iii) in Jesus Christ- Jn 1:14, 18,14:9, Heb 1:3
c) But everything about God cannot be known – (Is 45:15; 55:8,9; Rom 11:33; Dt 29:29)
Implication: It is our duty to study, obey & teach what God has revealed about Himself (Ezra 7:20).
(c) God is Sovereign over Redemption
Redemption is from man’s slavery to sin & Satan (Jn 8:34; 2 Tim 2:26).
The central aspect of the Biblical concept of redemption is that it is not a human enterprise but a divine providence. It is accomplished and applied by God.
He redeemed us by the blood of His own Son (Mk 10:45; Rom16:17,18; Eph 1:7; 1 Pet 1:18,19).
From the beginning to the end, our salvation is due to His grace (Eph 2:8-10)
(i) When man sinned, he punished them (Gen 3:16-17)
(ii) He planned salvation for man (first prophecy of salvation in Gen 3:15)
(iii) He redeemed us by the blood of his own Son Jesus (Eph 1: 7)
(iv) He chose us before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4-6)
(v) From beginning to end our salvation is due to his grace (Eph 2:8-9; Jn 6:44; Mt 11:27)
Implication: Thank God and Worship Him for planning and initiating our salvation. We are also ambassadors of this great grace.
(d) God is Sovereign over Final Judgment
God is the ultimate Judge. He is a law unto himself, He is sovereign in His judgment. Thus nothing can escape His judgment. (Ecc 12:14)
In the OT, God often appears as a judge (Gen 18:25; Dt 1:17, Ps 50:4, 75:7) ruthlessly dealing with wickedness. This does not mean He is not love. It is His mercy and wrath working together in human history (Dt 10:18, 28:15ff; Hos 1:10)
In the NT, God’s judgment is intrinsic to His nature (1 Pet 1:17). It is already at work in human life (Rom 1:18-20). It is particularly associated with Christ who exercises the Father’s judgment (John 5:30). The stress is on the judgment that is to come – in the return of Christ (Mt 25:31-45). All would come under God’s Judgment (2 Tim 4:1; Ec 12:14). Christians are no exception (1 Cor 3:12-15; 2 Cor 5:10). However, the judgment scale will differ from that of unbelievers. We will not be judged unto eternal damnation but for the quality of life (1 Cor 3:13-15).
(a) God has set aside a day of judgement (Acts 17:31)
(b) All will give their account to Him. (Rom 14:12)
(c) Each will be judged according to what he has done. (Rev 20:13, 2 Cor 5:10, Rom 2:16)
(d) God will judge the nations. (Ps 110:6, Joel 3:12)
(e) He will judge in righteousness and truth. (Ps 50:6; 96:10,13; 2 Ch 19:7)
4. Basis of God’s Judgment: (Sovereignty)
Absolute Justice of God (Gen 18:25)
Absolute Knowledge of God: (Heb 4:13)
Revelation of God through Creation: (Rom 1:18-20)
Revelation of God through Conscience: (Rom 2:14-15)
Revelation of God through Scripture: (Rom 2:12)
Revelation of God in the Person & work of Jesus Christ: (Jn 3:16-18; Acts 17:31)
Implication: We need to fear God, love righteousness and hate evil. It is terrible to fall into the hands of the living God on that judgment day.
5. Implications of the doctrine of Sovereignty of God
Trust God: we are safe in the hands of a sovereign God. (Jn 10:29)
Fear Him and shun evil (Job 1:1, Heb 10:31)
Submit to God in everything- He has every right to rule over us.
Share the gospel to all. Predestination is known only to God.
We have to be concerned about society and the world around us because the sovereign God is concerned and interested in His creation.
Since God overrules human activities and events, we should not be passive onlookers of the evil in society, but we have to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in this world. (Rom 12:9,17, 21; Mt 5:13,14)