I have been pondering the implications of God’s sovereignty, or the loss of it, rather. It is a rather unpopular notion that God is in control of all things, and by all things, I mean all of them. God sustains every particle of existence by His will; He is in control of the events of history by the grace of His determination. This does not mean humanity is not responsible for our actions, because we are. There is a clear depiction of God’s sovereignty in human history and man’s responsibility in Acts 2:23 where Peter is delivering the first sermon after Pentecost. Peter says, “this Man [that is, Jesus], 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.” You will notice that God set plans in motion to have His own Son killed, and these plans were in the mind of God from before the beginning of the world. However, Peter does not leave us with that alone, he says that, “you nailed [him] to a cross,” he is holding the people before him accountable for the death of Christ…and it pierced their hearts, verse 37.
So what do we lose if we give up the notion that God is supremely in control of all things?
(1) We lose the promises of God. How can God’s promises from millennia ago be fulfilled if He is not in control of all things? How could God make promises to His people, if He does not plan to fulfill them and how could he plan to fulfill them if He were not in control of all things? The fulfillment of God’s promises necessitates His sovereignty.
(2) We lose justice. God says that vengeance, justice, is His to pay back, not ours, see Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; and Hebrews 10:30. In Revelation we see the prophecies of God’s judgment upon this earth in the last days, we see that His wrath will be poured out, Revelation 19: 11-16. In addition, He will avenge the blood of the martyrs, Revelation 6: 9-11. We see that God will wipe away every tear and set all things right, Revelation 21:4. How can this be? How can God avenge all His children that fall victim to the oppression of this world? Ultimate justice cannot stand, or come to culmination at the end of days, unless God is sovereign.
(3) Justice leads us to the next point, meaning in suffering. We, as Christians, are promised suffering, see 2 Timothy 3:12. In the first letter of Peter we read that suffering has a purpose, in fact, that very suffering is sent by God to His children, see 1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:12-13; and 4:19. The purpose of suffering, that God sends to His children, is a testing of faith so that we will entrust ourselves to God and pursue what is right. If God is not sovereign, then trials are merely pointless, random acts suffering with no goal. However, God is sovereign, and all trials come from His fatherly hand for our good and His glory.
(4) If God is not sovereign we will lose the church. It is God who created the church and God who sustains the church. Jesus tells his disciples to make disciples and to baptize them into the church, Matthew 28: 18-20. Baptism is the means by which we enter the visible church and this sacrament has been given to us by Jesus. Christ also has given us Communion as a sacrament to sustain the church, Matthew 26: 26-29. The Lord’s Supper is a means of sustaining grace for His church. Both sacraments have power for the church for the growing and sealing of faith and the promises of the Gospel. The sovereignty of God is essential for the Spirit’s work in His church around the globe.
(5) Well, how about conversion? If God were not sovereign, no one would be added to His church, John 6:44, 63-65. The process of regeneration, as explained by Christ in John 3, is a work of the Holy Spirit not of man, see also Romans 9:16. We see the sovereign power of God in regeneration in Lydia’s life where God was the one who opened her heart to the Gospel preached by Paul, see Acts 16:14. For a wonderful exposition of God’s act in regeneration and election, read Ephesians 1.
(6) If God is not sovereign, we lose all impetus for missions. If God is not sovereign then we have no guarantee that anyone would respond to the Gospel. Without a promise from God that there are those in this world who will respond to the Good News of the cross of Christ, we would not have any courage to go into the world, face persecution, torture, and death, for the sake of the fame of our King. When Paul decides to turn away from preaching to the Jews and turns to the Gentiles in Corinth, God encourages him by telling him in a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city” Acts 18: 9-10, emphasis added. God has children from every tribe, tongue, and nation that will respond to the call of the Gospel. God’s sovereignty in all things is the power and reason for missions.
(7) Marriage is an institution that rests upon God’s sovereignty. It is my understanding that marriages are often ended because the couple fails to see God’s sovereign hand. God instituted marriage, Genesis 2:24, for the purpose of exhibiting Christ and his church to the world, Ephesians 5: 22-33. God, in His sovereignty, also brings man and woman together in marriage, Matthew 19:6. When a married couple begins to realize their purpose in marriage, to exhibit Christ and the church, and power of God that brought them together, they will establish their relationship on something beyond their own fallible notions and weak constitutions. They will establish their marriage on the foundation of God’s sovereignty. A marriage that lasts needs God’s sovereignty.
(8) If God is not sovereign, we lose the Bible. The Bible contains 66 books and numerous authors. If God has not overseen its writing, its transmission, its translation, then we are all being duped. The Bible teaches that all of Scripture is God-breathed, or inspired by God, 2 Timothy 3:16. We call this the superintendence of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Bible was written by men, but was also written by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God oversaw the composition of the Scriptures and we can trust them because God is trustworthy, see Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Titus 1:2; and Hebrews 6:18. God cannot lie, and if God is the Author of Scripture, we can believe that it is true. If God is not sovereign, the Bible loses its power and authority for Christian life today.
(9) If God is not sovereign, we cannot be assured that the Kingdom of Heaven will triumph over the Kingdom of Satan, Matthew 28:18. If God is not sovereign, we cannot be sure that He limits the work of Satan, Job 1:12; 2:6. If God is not sovereign, we cannot be certain that the attacks of the Devil have a purpose for our faith. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a messenger of Satan sent to him by God for the purpose of keeping him humble, see 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10. It is a good thing, then, that our God is sovereign in all things.
(10) If God is not sovereign, we lose the Gospel. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” Romans 3:23-26 (emphasis added). It is a gift of grace that we are redeemed through the blood of Christ through faith, and this faith is also a gift from God, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8. The sovereignty of God is how the Gospel is given to sinners.
God’s sovereignty is necessary for the Christian. We must uphold that God is sovereign in all circumstances, no matter how tragic they may be. Christians cannot neglect the passages in Scripture that support God’s sovereign will, Job 2:10 and Ephesians 1:11 for example. If we fail to realize the magnificence of our Almighty God we will no longer have the God of the Bible, but a god built in the image of man. God’s sovereignty is always for the good of His children, see Romans 8:28, and more importantly for His glory, see Ezekiel 36:22 and read what God says through Isaiah,
“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another.” Isaiah 48:10-11
I also recommend reading, The One Who Bled by Doug Wilson a blog post recommended to me by a friend.