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  • Writer's pictureTravis Maxey

What does it mean that God is Sovereign?

God's sovereignty is often abused. Simply because it isn't properly understood.

So, what does it mean that God is Sovereign and All-Powerful? This means that God is all-powerful, that God is able to do all His holy will and no one can thwart His plans (Luke 1:37; Jeremiah 32:17; Psalm 115:3; Job 42:2). Thus, when we say that God is sovereign, we are declaring that there is no one above God (Isaiah 45:5). That He has the only supreme power (Psalm 147:5, Jeremiah 32:17, Job 42:2. He has the only authority over what He has made (Daniel 4:35, Revelation 1:8, 19:6, Matthew 28:18).

God's sovereignty and power isn't some cliché thing. It isn't something to be thrown around as an explanation for all the bad things that happen in our lives. God is sovereign, let's discover what this means.

What it doesn't mean?

I spoke with a dear sister in Christ about some trials she was going through. She told me that her trials were little compared to her step-mom who lost her mother and husband within a period of nine days. This would be difficult for anyone, even for the most seasoned of believers.

How do you answer the question of suffering? Why would God do this, or even allow this to happen to us as humans? I will tell you that I have heard it repeatedly, “God is sovereign.” It has become the cliché answer for any sort of suffering in the world today. To both the believer and non-believer.

  • A loved one died – God is sovereign

  • You lost a home – God is sovereign

  • Your child is sick - God is sovereign

  • You have cancer - God is sovereign

  • You lost your job - God is sovereign

  • You were abused - God is sovereign

The list goes on. This is terrible and gives an incorrect and damaging witness of who God is and what He is doing. This sort of thinking makes God out to be some monster who gets pleasure out of the suffering of His creation. This simply is not true.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

God doesn’t take pleasure in sickness, death, destruction, or suffering. He takes no pleasure in the death even of the wicked (Exodus 33:11). God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean that He controls every action of every being every second of existence. As if we were all in some sort of cosmic puppet show. The word sovereignty means supreme power and authority.

Supreme Power and Authority

God is Sovereign. God is all-powerful. That God is able to do all His holy will and no one can thwart His plans (Luke 1:37; Jeremiah 32:17; Psalm 115:3; Job 42:2). Thus, when we say that God is sovereign, we are declaring that there is no one above God (Isaiah 45:5). That He has the only supreme power (Psalm 147:5, Jeremiah 32:17, Job 42:2. He has the only authority over what He has made (Daniel 4:35, Revelation 1:8, 19:6, Matthew 28:18). Many theologians don’t add the sovereignty of God as an attribute. Perhaps it is more of a title. They speak of God being omnipotent. This means that God is all-powerful, that God can do all His holy will and no one can thwart His plans. There is nowhere in Scripture where we see that God controls the actions and thoughts of His creation. What we see is the sovereign God who says He will do something, is faithful to do it, and is powerful enough to bring it about. God had declared from the beginning:

  • That through the seed of woman He will bring about the Savior who will crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).

  • That through the offspring of Abraham all the nations of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3).

  • That God would deliver His people from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 3:10).

  • That David’s throne would be established forever through the Messiah (2 Samuel 7:16).

  • That if Israel obeyed the Lord they would be blessed, but if they disobeyed they would be cursed (Deuteronomy 27-28).

  • That both Israel and Judah would be taken into captivity and dispersed from their land because of their disobedience (1 Chronicles 9:1).

  • That Israel would become a nation again, dwelling in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 36:8-12).

  • That the Messiah would be coming again to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him and judge the world in righteousness (Hebrews 9:28, Acts 17:31).

This list of the promises of God is not very extensive. These small points have only scratched the surface. The point is to demonstrate that every time the sovereign God speaks, He is able to, and does bring it to pass because He has no rivals. None can thwart His plan, His holy will. As the one and only sovereign, God purposed to save sinful men by the sending of His Son. Not just at any time, but in the fullness of the time. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5 God had sent His Son at the precise moment that was necessary for the Christ to come. Notice that it doesn’t say that God brought every event to pass to send His Son into the world. It simply says when the time was right, He sent His Son.

  • The timing of Christ’s coming and death was a fulfillment of the specific prophecy given in Daniel 9:24-27.

  • The timing was right according to the Roman influence in the area which played a specific role in God’s redemptive plan.

  • The timing of the Jewish synagogue network played an important role in the spread of Christianity.

  • The timing of the Roman crucifixion on a wooden tree was also vitally important in this timing.

God waited patiently and worked diligently for the right time in which the Messiah would be sent into the world. Even all the rulers, powers, and principalities could not stop God from this task. Even at the end of Jesus’s earthly life, the rulers of the age thought that they were thwarting God’s plan by crucifying Him. Instead, they brought about their destruction and the redemption of mankind. Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 So, if God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean that He is controlling the world as if it was some gigantic puppet show, and God is all-powerful then why does it seem like the wicked prosper? Why? The existence of sin and evil in the world has served as a stumbling block for many. Why is it here? Why doesn’t God simply get rid of it? He is omnipotent after all? If this is true, God has the power to destroy sin, disease, evil, wickedness, etc. God is seated upon the throne, high and lifted up. He is omnipotent and able to do all He has said He will do. We must remember that God from the very beginning has declared that He is going to save a people for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9). This is God’s will, that none should perish but that all would have eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). God could indeed destroy all disease, sickness, death, sin, evil, wickedness. But that would mean that He would have to destroy man. But it is not God’s will that man would be destroyed but that man would be saved. This is exactly what Peter speaks of in 2 Peter 3:8-18: 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. 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. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (bold added) God will one day destroy this earth and all its works. The mighty mountains will crumble. The vast and deep sea will be dried up. The great clouds will shrivel. Everything will be burnt up. For God has the power to do this. However, it has not happened yet. Why? The answer is found in verse 15, regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. The omnipotent King is a patient King. He in His power has brought forth the Messiah the Savior of the world. He in His authority has sent His disciples into the world to proclaim the glorious salvation that is offered in Christ alone. He in His patience now waits for the fullness of the Gentiles to be brought into the church (Romans 11:25). This patience is not to be seen as weakness. But as strength, as meekness. God chooses not to exercise His power and authority in destroying the world. Rather, He is gentle and patient with sinful man. So that we who are sinners would have the opportunity to repent of our wrong beliefs and wicked ways and believe in the Savior, Jesus the Christ. I cannot fathom the amount of patience that the Lord has. To put up with created beings who constantly rebel against His commands. Who defy His authority. Who spurn His holy name. There have been countless times in my life where people look down on me, say all kinds of mean things, do all kinds of mean things to me and my family. When this happens, it can get my blood boiling. It causes me to be upset or even angry. But I am not all-powerful. I, in truth, can’t do anything about this other than attempt to ignore it, distance myself from the situation, and pray for those who look down on me. This is not so for God. He has the power to give life and take it away (Job 1:21). He has the power to end the rebellion of the nations, instantaneously. Yet, He doesn’t. All are His subjects, He is the King of everything. He allows them to persist in their rebellion because He is patient with them. He is working through His people to send the gospel into the world. Calling sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. The world is to regard the patience of the omnipotent Lord, not as weakness, but as salvation. (Most of the content on this page is taken out of my book: Knowing the God We Proclaim) (To discover more about God, see our page, Who is God?)

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