As a Bible believer, we believe that God has divine sovereignty, but we do not teach that he has absolute sovereignty (as quoted by teachers such as John Piper). We will examine in this article that He has sovereign control over many things. However, there are limits to His sovereignty.
What is the meaning of God’s Sovereignty?
The supreme right to do what God wants with His own.
Daniel 4:35: “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”
The goal of creation: Men are created for God’s pleasure.
Revelation 4:11: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
Men must never question His ways.
Because they are His, they belong to Him.
Matthew 20:9-15: “And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”
The evil people may seem to be having it easier than others, but God does what He wants.
Matthew 5:45: “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Job realizes that God has the right to take back what belongs to Him, including his family and livestock.
Job 1:21: “And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Job 2:10: “But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.”
Extent of Sovereignty
How much sovereignty does God have? Nearly everything.
Deuteronomy 10:14: “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is.”
1 Chronicles 29:11: “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.”
Colossians 1:16: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:”
- Authority over nature:
God is in control of the weather.
Psalm 78:26: “He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.”
Psalm 105:16: “Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread.”
God brings the rain and the flood.
Jeremiah 14:22: “Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.”
Matthew 6:30: “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”
Matthew 21:19: “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.”
Jonah 4:6: “And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.”
Job 12:23: “He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.”
Daniel 4:25: “That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”
Romans 13:1-2: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
- Human life (also, animal life)
Job 12:10: “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.”
Luke 12:20: “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”
John 21:22: “Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.”
- Mankind (individual lives)
Exodus 4:11: “And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?”
Proverbs 20:24: “Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?”
Romans 9:18: “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”
Romans 9:20: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”
- All things for His glory
Isaiah 46:9-11: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”
John 11:4: “When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”
1 Peter 1:6-7: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”
Ephesians 1:9-11: “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:”
Limits of Sovereignty
- Existence of sin
When God created everything, it was all good.
Genesis 1:31: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
A person’s sin is enough to cause a big tragedy. Why? To show men how much God hates sin, to show them how dreadful sin is.
Romans 5:12: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”
Why can’t God just make men live through their problems and not let them suffer? If God did that, then another person would say the same thing. In the end, there would be no suffering for sins. But God said that there will be suffering for sin, so if He does that then it would make Him a liar.
God can make sin worse.
Romans 1:21: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
Romans 1:24: “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:”
God can prevent a sin.
Genesis 20:6: “And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.”
God can determine the limits of temptation that Satan’s going to attack a person with.
Job 1:12: “And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.”
God can use sin for His own glory.
Psalm 76:10: “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.”
God can cleanse away one’s sin, giving eternal life.
1 John 1:7: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
- Freewill of Man
God wants man to love Him out of his own free will.
Joshua 24:15: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
cf John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
God doesn’t want men to perish.
2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
God can weep for man’s will to follow His will.
Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
God does not want bad things to happen, but He will use it for His glory.
2 Thessalonians 2:10-12: “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
God can let man’s will follow Satan’s will.
2 Timothy 2:26: “And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”
God can fashion man’s will of righteousness to discover His perfect will. If men follow God’s will, He is going to mature them spiritually. As time passes by, they are going to understand what His perfect will is.
Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
- Privilege of Prayer
Prayer has the power to influence or change things.
James 5:16-18: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”
Why does God command one to pray if it’s going to happen anyway?
1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray without ceasing.”
God can let prayer change His plans.
Numbers 14:11-12: “And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.”
Numbers 14:19-20: “Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word:”
God can let prayer change His punishment.
Jonah 3:9-10: “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”
God can let prayer change His giving.
Matthew 7:11: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
God can let prayer change His timing of life.
2 Kings 20:1-6: “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying, I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.”
God will never let prayer interfere with His will.
1 John 5:14: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:”
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