Is God Really in Control?

A Position Paper on the Sovereignty of God

Terrorism, famine, flooding, earthquakes, genocide, cancer, abuse, drug wars, dictatorships, recessions—words like these sometimes cause us to think deeply about whether a good God is really in control.  Why does He allow certain things to happen?  Or does He actually cause them to happen?  Does God know the future or does He react to it?  Are human beings just puppets held up by the strings of the Almighty, or does man have freedom to act independently of God’s design?

When we speak of God being in control of all things, we are referring to His sovereignty, His kingly rule.  The word sovereignty (like the word trinity) does not occur in the Bible. The truth behind the term is this: God is in ultimate control of the world from the largest international intrigue to the smallest bird-fall in the forest.  Here are some verses that teach God’s sovereignty most clearly:

  • “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:11b)
  • “[God] 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?’” (Daniel 4:35)
  • “But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind.” (Job 23:13, 14)
  • “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

In other words, God has a plan and will work His plan.  One author defines God’s sovereignty as “not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things but that He does so always and without exception.”  What does it mean that God governs all things?  Here is some further explanation from the scriptures:

  • God is sovereign over the entire universe. (Psalm 103:19; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11)
  • God is sovereign over all of nature. (Psalm 135:6-7; Matthew 5:45; 6:25-30)
  • God is sovereign over angels and Satan. (Job 1:12; Psalm 103:20-21)
  • God is sovereign over nations. (Psalm 47:7-9; Daniel 2:20-21, 4:34-35)
  • God is sovereign over human beings. (1 Samuel 2:6-7; Galatians 1:15-16)
  • God is sovereign over animals. (1 Kings 17:4-6; Psalm 104:21-30)
  • God is sovereign over "accidents." (Proverbs 16:33; Matthew 10:29)
  • God is sovereign over free acts of men. (Exodus 3:21, 12:25-36; Ezra 7:27)
  • God is sovereign over sinful acts of men. (Genesis 45:5; 50:20; 2 Samuel 24:1)
  • God is sovereign over prayer. (1 John 5:14)

Here is how a theologian describes God’s sovereignty:

“The sovereignty of the God of Scripture is absolute, irresistible, infinite. When we say that God is sovereign we affirm His right to govern the universe, which He has made for His own glory, just as He pleases. We affirm that His right is the right of the Potter over the clay, i.e., that He may mould that clay into whatsoever form He chooses, fashioning out of the same lump one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor. We affirm that He is under no rule or law outside of His own will and nature, that God is a law unto Himself, and that He is under no obligation to give an account of His matters to any.” (A.W. Pink, Sovereignty of God)

Having a basic understanding of the sovereignty of God, now let’s illustrate it in the very important topic of salvation. How is God sovereign in salvation?

God has predestined His people before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5) and is working to bring them to Himself (John 6:37).  The sinner could never and would never choose God apart from His sovereign action. What was God’s sovereign act?

He opened our spiritually blind eyes (2 Corinthians 4:3-6) and shone the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ into our hearts.  He did that.  We didn’t.  We couldn’t.  No one seeks after God on their own (Romans 3:10-12).  But those God has chosen in His kindness are led to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Those God has chosen in His grace are given faith (Ephesians 2:8-10).  Salvation is all of God.

What right does God have to choose some for salvation and not others?  Why would God not choose everyone?  Is this really fair?  Paul addresses this question in Romans 9:14 “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means!” To be fair would mean that all of us spend eternity in hell because we are all guilty of breaking God’s law.  Instead of focusing on our concept of fairness which would require God’s justice, we should rather delight in God’s mercy which saves some of us from what we do fairly deserve, namely eternal punishment.  We do not know how or why God chooses whom He does but we can be confident that God always does what is right.  We can trust Him to be sovereign in salvation.

Regarding Human Responsibility

We affirm that while God is sovereign man is fully and morally responsible for his actions.  We deny any blame to God for man’s actions nor any lesser punishment to man because of the sovereignty of God.

Regarding Unconditional Election

We affirm that God predestines the elect for salvation and passes over those not elect for salvation.  We deny that this makes man a robot or makes God unjust/unfair.

Regarding the Free Will of Man

We affirm God is completely sovereign in the salvation of men.  While man’s will is basically ‘free’, we deny that man has the ability to choose salvation unless sovereignly regenerated by God.

Regarding Christian Living

We affirm that God uses means towards His sovereign ends.  We deny any teaching that would hinder evangelism to all men and the practice of persevering prayer. 

We affirm responsible Christian living based on the sovereignty of God.  We deny fatalism or any system of thought that would hinder evangelism, prayer, and holy living.

Regarding Open Theism

We affirm that God is completely sovereign over history.  He knows the end as well as the beginning.  Although He may use language accommodating man’s finiteness for the purpose of communicating in time and space, we deny that He learns as history progresses.

Regarding Chaos and Tragedy

We affirm that man’s actions have real results and do change the course of events.  We deny this happens outside the sovereign control of God.

We affirm that God is completely good in His sovereignty.  We deny that God is the author of evil, does evil, or is, in any way, blamed for or tainted by evil. 

We affirm that God uses evil toward His glorious ends.  We deny this diminishes His glory in any way, yet even enhances His glory.

©2011 by Heather Hills Baptist Church. All rights reserved.


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