THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD Lesson #3
The Sovereignty of God Psalm 135:6
“Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and in all deep places.” With these words David declares the sovereignty of God and calls for us to make him alone the object of our faith, worship, and praise.
There is no attribute of God more comforting and delightful to his children than his great and glorious sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, and when enduring the most heavy trials, we rejoice to know that our God has sovereignly ordained our afflictions, that he sovereignly overrules them, and that he sovereignly sanctifies them to our good and his own glory. Every believer rejoices in the sovereignty of God. There is no truth of Holy Scripture for which we must more earnestly contend than God’s dominion over all creation, his sovereignty over all the works of his hands, the supremacy of his throne and his right to sit upon it.
God’s saints rejoice to hear him say, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?” (Matt. 20:15). Nothing is more comforting to God’s saints in this world than the knowledge of the fact that “Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Ps. 115:3). Believers rejoice in God’s sovereignty. Yet there is nothing revealed in the Bible that is more despised by worldlings and self-righteous religionists. Natural, unregenerate, unbelieving men and women are happy enough to have God everywhere, except upon the throne of total, universal sovereignty. They are happy to have God in his workshop, creating the world and naming the stars. They are glad to have God in the hospital to heal the sick. They are pleased to have God in trouble, to calm the raging seas of life. And they are delighted to have God in the funeral parlor to ease them of pain and sorrow. But God upon his throne is, to the unregenerate man, the most contemptible thing in the world. And anyone who asserts that it is God’s right to do what he will with his own, to dispose of his creatures as he sees fit, and save whom he will, will be hissed at, despised, and cursed by this religious generation. Be that as it may, it is God upon the throne whom we love, trust, and worship. And it is God upon the throne to whom we are obliged to bear witness among the idolatrous people of the world (Isa. 44:8).
Total, absolute, universal sovereignty is an attribute of God as essential to his Being as perfect holiness. A God who is not sovereign is as much a contradiction as a God who is not holy, eternal, and immutable. A God who is not sovereign is no God at all. And if the god you worship is not totally sovereign, you are a pagan, and your religion is idolatry. You would be just as well off to worship a statue of Mary, a totem pole, a spider, or the devil himself as to worship a god who lacks the attribute of total sovereignty over all things.
In one of his letters to the learned and scholarly Erasmus, Martin Luther said, “Your thoughts of God are too human.” No doubt Erasmus resented the remark. But it exposed the heart of his heretical theology. And it exposes the heart of all false religion. I lay this charge against the preachers of our day and against the people who hear them, follow them, and support them - Their thoughts of God are too human. I know the seriousness of the charge; but it must be made. The God of the Bible is virtually unknown in this religious generation.
God’s charge against apostate Israel was, “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself” (Psa. 50:21), and that is his indictment against the religious world of our day. Men today imagine that God is moved by sentiment, rather than by the determination of his sovereign will. They talk about omnipotence, but imagine that it is such an idle fiction that satan can thwart the power of God. They think that if God has a plan, it must, like the plans of men, be subject to constant change. They tell us that whatever power God does possess must be limited, lest he violate man’s free-will and make him a robot. The grace of God is thought by most people to be nothing more than a helpless, frustrated desire in God to save men. The precious sin-atoning blood of Christ is thought by most to be a waste, shed in vain for many. And the invincible, saving power of the Holy Spirit is reduced by most to a gentle offer of grace which men may easily resist.
The god of this generation no more resembles the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth than a flickering candle resembles the mid-day sun. The god of modern religion is nothing but an idol, the invention of men, the figment of human imagination. Pagans in the dark ages used to carve their gods out of wood and stone and overlay them with silver and gold. Today, in these much darker days, pagans inside the church carve their god out of their own carnal imaginations. Either God is totally sovereign or he is not God at all.
In reality, the religionists of our day are atheists, for there is no possible alternative between a God who is absolutely sovereign and no God at all. A god whose will can be resisted, whose purpose can be frustrated, whose power can be thwarted, whose grace can be nullified, whose work can be overturned, has no title to Deity. Such a god is not a fit object of worship. Such a puny, pigmy god merits nothing but contempt!
When I assert that God is sovereign, I am simply declaring that God is God. He is the most High, Lord of heaven and earth, overall, blessed forever. He is subject to none. And he is influenced by none. God is absolutely independent of and sovereign over all his creatures. He does as he pleases, only as he pleases, and always as he pleases. None can thwart him. None can resist him. None can change him. None can stop him. None can hinder him. He declares, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). “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?” (Dan. 4:35). Divine sovereignty means that God sits upon the throne of universal dominion, directing all things, ruling all things, and working all things “after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11).
When writing a brief article about the sovereignty of God, the greatest difficulty is deciding what omit. This is a subject about which hundreds of books have been written, and yet “the half hath not been told.” Divine sovereignty is not some isolated doctrine, taught in a few verses of Scripture. This fundamental, essential attribute of God is revealed upon every page of Inspiration. But in this study we will limit our thoughts to five revelations of the sovereignty of God. Here are five things which manifestly and irrefutably reveal the sovereignty of God.
GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IS IRREFUTABLY REVEALED IN HIS ETERNAL PREDESTINATION OF ALL THINGS. Does the Bible teach predestination? Of course it does! God chose some of Adam’s race from eternity as the objects of his saving grace and predestinated those elect ones to be conformed to the image of his dear Son (Rom. 8:28-29). Before the world began God sovereignly determined that he would save some, who they would be, and how he would save them. He determined to save his elect by the substitutionary work of Christ by redemption, regeneration, and resurrection. The Lord God even ordained the time, place, circumstances, and means by which he would call out his chosen (Ezek. 16:6-8). And, having determined these things, he infallibly secured his eternal purpose of grace by sovereign predestination. God predestinated everything from eternity that comes to pass in time to secure the salvation of his elect (Eph. 1:3-6, 11). “All things are of God” (II Cor. 5:18). Eternal election marked the house into which God’s saving grace must come. Divine predestination marked the path upon which grace must come. And sovereign providence led grace down the path to the house at the time of love. When the appointed time of love had come, the Son of God “must needs go through Samaria” (John 4:4), because a chosen sinner was there who must be saved at the hour appointed.
NO ONE CAN REASONABLY DENY THE REVELATION OF GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IN HIS MARVELOUS WORK OF CREATION (Gen. 1:1; Rev. 4:11). Nothing moved God to create, except his own sovereign will. What could move him when there was nothing but God himself? Truly, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psa. 19:1-4). God created the heavens and the earth as a stage upon which to work out his purpose of grace (Psa. 8:1-9). He created the angelic host to be ministering spirits to those who shall be the heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). The Lord God created the sun, the moon, and the stars for the benefit of man. He created all plants and animals to provide food, comfort, and pleasure for man. At last, God created man in his own image and after his own likeness that he might show forth the glory of his grace in man.
Adam was created in the image of Christ, our eternal Surety and Substitute, who was appointed to come as the image of the invisible God (Gen. 1:26; Heb. 1:3). He was created in conditional holiness. Adam was permitted to fall and we all fell in him according to the divine decree (Gen. 2:17), that we might be raised to life again in Christ the second Adam (Rom. 5:12-19; I Cor. 15:21-22).
GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IS DISPLAYED IN ALL THE WORKS OF HIS DAILY PROVIDENCE (Rom. 8:28; 11:36). In divine providence, God almighty sovereignly accomplishes his eternal purpose of grace in predestination. Carefully read Revelation 5:1-10 and 10:1-11. The Lamb presented in those passages is Christ. The book is God’s purpose of predestination. Christ, the Lamb of God, is portrayed as one who rules all things in providence by the book of God’s predestination.
God’s sovereign rule of providence extends to all his creatures. Inanimate matter, irrational creatures, all things in this world perform their Maker’s bidding. At his pleasure the waters of the Red Sea divided (Ex. 14), the earth opened up her mouth to swallow his enemies (Num. 14), the sun stood still (Josh. 10), the sun went backward ten degrees on the sundial of Ahaz (II Kings 20:11). Once, he even made an ax head float (II Kings 6:6), ravens carried food to his prophet (I Kings 17), lions were tamed for his servant Daniel (Dan. 6), and the fire refused to burn his faithful servants, when they were cast into the fiery furnace (Dan. 3).
God’s rule of providence extends to the wills and actions and words, even of wicked men. He kept Abimelech from adultery with Sarah (Gen. 20:2-6). He kept the Canaanites from desiring the possessions of Israel, when they went to worship him (Ex. 34:23-24). The king’s heart, every king’s heart, is in the hands of the Lord. He turns it as he will (Prov. 21:1). Shemei was sent of God to curse David (II Sam. 16:10). The wrath of man praises our God; and the remainder of wrath that is man, which God has not ordained for his praise, he restrains (Psa. 76:10).
The object of God’s providence, the object of god in all that he does, or allows to be done, is threefold.
1. The salvation of his elect (Rom. 8:28-30).
2. The eternal, spiritual good of all his people.
3. The glory of his own great name (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
Here is a resting place for every believer’s troubled heart. Neither satan, nor the demons of hell, nor men, nor sickness, nor war, nor pestilence, nor the whirlwind is beyond the reach of God’s sovereign throne (Isa. 40:9-31).
GOD’S INDISPUTABLE SOVEREIGNTY IS CONSPICUOUSLY REVEALED IN THE SALVATION OF SINNERS BY HIS ALMIGHTY GRACE (Rom. 9:8-24). I defy any man who denies God’s total and absolute sovereignty to give an honest exposition of Romans chapter nine. Here it is plainly stated that God chose to save some, but not all. He gave Christ to die for some, but not all (John 10:11, 14, 26). Christ prays and makes intercession for some, but not all (John 17:9, 20). He sends his gospel to some, but not all (Acts 16:7). He gives his Spirit to some, but not all (Rom. 8:9). He causes some to hear his voice, but not all (Matt. 11:20-27). He saves some who seek him, but not all. He saved the woman with the issue of blood, but not the rich young ruler. He saved the leper who came to him, but not Nicodemus. He saved the Publican who prayed, but not the Pharisee. “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jon. 2::9). He planned it. He purchased it. He performs it. He preserves it. He perfects it. He alone shall have all praise for it.
GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IS CONSPICUOUSLY REVEALED IN THE VARIOUS SPIRITUAL GIFTS HE BESTOWS UPON HIS PEOPLE (I Cor. 12:14, 18, 28-29). God sees to it that his church has all that she needs to carry out the work he has for her to do. Each member of Christ’s body has been placed by him in the body in the place and with the gifts by which he can best serve the interests of Christ’s kingdom(John 15:16; Eph. 4:1-16). Therefore, none of God’s saints should ever be jealous or envious of the gifts given to another. We need missionaries; but we need pastors too. We need preachers; but we need deacons. We need witnesses; and we need prayers. We need workers; and we need givers. We need some to do great things and some to do small things. Let us each covet earnestly the best gift, the gift of love, and if we have that we will serve God and his people well in our place.
“Our God is in the heavens! He hath done (and is doing) whatsoever he hath pleased!” Believe him confidently. Walk with him in peace. Submit to him cheerfully. Serve him faithfully. Honor him supremely!