God is Sovereign Man is Not

The Sovereignty of God is the biblical teaching that all things are under God’s rule and control, and that nothing happens without His direction or permission. God works not just some things but all things according to the counsel of His own will. Ephesians 1:1-11(ESV)1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful[a] in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[b] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
His purposes are all-inclusive and never derailed, nothing takes Him by surprise.
Isaiah 46:8-11(ESV)“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors,9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10  declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

The sovereignty of God is not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things, but that He does so, always and without exception. In other words, God is not merely sovereign de jure (in principle), but sovereign de facto (in practice).

The importance of getting this right is death and life,I heard this at one of our sister churches. “God is sovereign and because we are created in His image He has a sovereign will and we have a sovereign will and He cannot break our sovereign will.”

No doctrine is more despised by the natural mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. Human pride loathes the suggestion that God orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything. The carnal mind, burning with enmity against God, abhors the biblical teaching that nothing comes to pass except according to His eternal decrees. Most of all, the flesh hates the notion that salvation is entirely God’s work. If God chose who would be saved, and if His choice was settled before the foundation of the world, then believers deserve no credit for their salvation.

But that is, after all, precisely what Scripture teaches. Even faith is God’s gracious gift to His elect. Jesus said, John 6:65(ESV)65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”. Matthew 11:27(ESV)27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Therefore no one who is saved has anything to boast about.

Ephesians 2:8–9(ESV)For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

God’s sovereignty in salvation means that He saves whom He will, and those whom He saves owe nothing to anything in or of themselves. They are saved because God graciously chose them in eternity and regenerated and called them in history. They cannot even take credit for their faith because it is the gift that He Himself sovereignly bestows.

Everything that exists in the universe exists because God allowed it, decreed it, and called it into existence.
Psalm 115:3 (ESV)“Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases”.
Psalm 135:6 (ESV)“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps”. He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11)

Romans 11:36(ESV)36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

1 Corinthians 8:6(ESV)yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

What about sin? God is not the author of sin, but He certainly allowed it; it is essential to His eternal decree. God has a purpose for allowing it. He cannot be blamed for evil or tainted by its existence 1 Samuel 2:2(ESV)“There is none holy like the Lord:for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. But He certainly wasn’t caught off-guard or standing helpless to stop it when sin entered the universe. We do not know His purposes for allowing sin. If nothing else, He permitted it in order to destroy evil forever. And God sometimes uses evil to accomplish good (Genesis 50:20(ESV)20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Romans 8:28(ESV)28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. How can these things be? Scripture does not answer all the questions for us. But we know from His Word that God is utterly sovereign, He is perfectly holy, and He is absolutely just.

Admittedly, those truths are hard for the human mind to embrace, but Scripture is indisputable. God controls all things, right down to choosing who will be saved. Paul states the doctrine in inescapable terms in the ninth chapter of Romans, by showing that God chose Jacob and rejected his twin brother Esau “though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls” (Romans 9:6-24(ESV)But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Paul anticipated the argument against divine sovereignty: “You will say to me then, Romans 9:19(ESV)’Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’” In other words, doesn’t God’s sovereignty cancel out human responsibility? But rather than offering a philosophical answer or a deep spiritual argument, Paul simply reprimanded the skeptic:Romans 9:20-21(ESV) 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

Scripture affirms both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We must accept both sides of the truth, though we may not understand how they correspond to one another. People are responsible for what they do with the gospel—or with whatever light they have so that punishment is just if they reject the light. Romans 2:19-20(ESV)19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—. And those who reject do so voluntarily. Jesus lamented, John 5:40(ESV)40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. He told unbelievers, John 8:24(ESV)24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”. In John chapter 6, our Lord combined both divine sovereignty and human responsibility when He said, John 6:37-44(ESV)37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” 41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day and, John 6:65(ESV)65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”. How both of those two realities can be true simultaneously cannot be understood by the human mind—only by God.

Above all, we must not conclude that God is unjust because He chooses to bestow grace on some but not to everyone. God is never to be measured by what seems fair to human judgment. Are we so foolish as to assume that we who are fallen, sinful creatures have a higher standard of what is right than an unfallen and infinitely, eternally holy God? What kind of pride is that?
In Psalm 50:21(ESV)These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. God says, “You thought that I was just like you.” But God is not like us, nor can He be held to human standards. Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)“‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’”.

We step out of bounds when we conclude that anything God does isn’t fair. In Romans 11:33–34(ESV)33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

Here are a few scriptures on His Sovereignty

1 Chronicles 29:11-12 (ESV)Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.

Psalm 115:3 (ESV)Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Isaiah 46:9-10 (ESV)Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

Job 42:2 (ESV)“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Psalm 103:19 (ESV)The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 9:21 (ESV)Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

Romans 9:18 (ESV)So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Lamentations 3:37 (ESV)Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?

Ephesians 1:11-12 (ESV)In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Psalm 135:6 (ESV)Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

Romans 9:19-20 (ESV)You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

Proverbs 16:4 (ESV)The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Daniel 4:35 (ESV)All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Isaiah 45:7 (ESV)I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.

Proverbs 16:33 (ESV)The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

Ephesians 1:11 (ESV)In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

Isaiah 14:24 (ESV)The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand,

Job 23:13 (ESV)But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does.

Deuteronomy 32:39 (ESV)“‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

John 6:44 (ESV)No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Jeremiah 32:27 (ESV)“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

1 Timothy 6:15 (ESV)Which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

Ephesians 1:4 (ESV)Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

2 Chronicles 20:6 (ESV)And said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.

Isaiah 14:27 (ESV)For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

Philippians 2:13 (ESV)For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Jeremiah 32:17 (ESV)‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

Job 12:23 (ESV)He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away.

1 Samuel 2:6 (ESV)The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 (ESV)Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

Proverbs 21:30 (ESV) No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.

God has a plan for every life, but the details of this plan are carried out by the free choices of each person involved. As we said before, however, God’s plan is not always the same as His desires. The degree to which God’s desires are carried out in His plan for our lives is our responsibility. God, for instance, desires that we come to love Him for who He is and what He has done for us. But we are not robots programmed to say, “Praise you! Praise you!” No one can truly love God (or anyone else) without the power to choose.

The Christian’s walk with God is a divine-human process. God is always at work in the believer to produce the fruit of righteousness and Christlikeness, but the believer is also responsible for acting. It is not a matter of “let go and let God” on the one hand, or of living in the power of the flesh on the other hand.

Paul communicates this balance clearly, Galatians 2:20(ESV)20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Philippians 2:12-13(ESV)12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

God is at work in us, but we are also to act in obedience.This is called Sanctification.

Responsibility and voluntary choice are not the same thing as free will. We affirm that man is indeed responsible for the choices he makes, yet we deny that the Bible teaches that man has a free will since it is no where taught in the pages of Scripture. The Bible teaches, rather, that God ordains all things that come to pass (Ephesians 1:11) and it also teaches that man is culpable for his choices (Ezekiel 18:20, Matthew 12:37). Since the Scripture is our ultimate authority and highest presuppsosition, the multitude of clear scriptural declarations on this matter outweigh all unaided human logic. We find that almost always the objections to God’s meticulous providence over all things are moral and philosophical rather than exegetical or scriptural. This means we must strive to consciously affirm what the Scripture declares over all our finite understanding and sinful inner drive for independence.

In biblical terminology, fallen man is in bondage to a corruption of nature and that is why the biblical writers considered him not free (see Romans 6). Jesus Himself affirms that the one who sins is a “slave to sin” and only the Son can set him free. Note that even Jesus speaks of a kind of freedom here. He is not speaking of freedom from God but freedom from the bondage of sin, which is the kind of freedom those have who are in Christ. In this sense God is the most free Person since He is holy, set apart from sin… yet He cannot make choices contrary to His essence, i.e. He cannot be unholy. So, we must conclude, according to Jesus in John 8:31-36, that the natural man does not have a free will. The will is in bondage to sin and only He can set us free.

Excerpts from Theopedia and Grace to You.

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