Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective
Last time, we introduced the subject of God’s sovereignty and in this installment, we’re going to focus on the meaning of God’s sovereignty as well as provide at least one biblical example of it; seeing it in action. It’s important to understand what the Bible teaches about God and His sovereignty and the fact that they are inseparably linked. It is part of who God is as a Person.
What does it mean when we speak of God’s sovereignty? Is He in any way, shape, or form dependent on humanity and the decisions humanity makes as far as His purposes and plans are concerned?
To understand the ramifications of God’s sovereignty, we need to first understand what it is and what it entails. I’m going to include a definition as our starting point.
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 (see Eph. 1:11). His purposes are all-inclusive and never thwarted (see Isa. 46:11); nothing takes Him by surprise. 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). – Theopedia
Theopedia’s definition is specific. Breaking it down then, the definition agrees that sovereignty starts and ends with God. As Ephesians 1:11 states, “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…” (KJV), God is sovereign in all things, not simply some things.
Ask yourself a question. How could God be God (omniscient, omnipresent, etc.), if He was not fully sovereign all the time in every way and completely unaffected by the decisions of fallen angels or humans?
It is this that gives people trouble in attempting to discern what sovereignty actually means, which is why in future articles we will pull more examples from Scripture to learn how God remains fully sovereign in spite of humanity’s will to choose. Let it be stated at the outset that this is not an easy thing for fallen human begins to comprehend. No doubt, it was much easier for Adam and Eve prior to their fall to understand or simply accept that God was sovereign in all things. Once they fell, it is also very likely that things started to become muddy for them in their thinking.
We also need to state that in our current, fallen state, we will never be able to fully comprehend God’s sovereignty anymore than we can fully comprehend the Trinity and how that works. Because some cannot comprehend the Trinity, they reject it as being man-made, yet there is plenty of biblical evidence for it.
Fully understanding the Trinity, salvation, God’s sovereignty and other things are well beyond us and only in the shedding of our sinful natures and gaining the perfection of glorified minds and bodies will we have any chance of gaining more understanding where these things are concerned.
However, knowing we are limited in our ability to comprehend these things does not excuse us from doing our best to try to understand what we can about them. God has revealed many of these things in His Word and because of that, it is our pleasure to learn what we can, trusting the Spirit to enlighten us as we study His Word.
Regarding God’s sovereignty, we need to understand first and foremost that God will accomplish His purposes and plans in all circumstances. There is nothing that can keep His plans/purposes from coming to fruition. Neither lies, sin, rebellion, evil, or free will can thwart God.
As mentioned in a previous article, God knew that Lucifer would rebel and would take with him one-third of the entire heavenly host and God knew this long before He created Lucifer. It did not surprise Him that it occurred. Moreover, after God created the heavens and the earth and filled it with the plant and animal life, He chose to create Adam and eventually Eve and God knew that Eve then Adam would also rebel against His sovereignty and sin, allowing sin into the world. This granted Satan (previously Lucifer), access and limited control of the earth and the air above it.
One might ask if God knew these things would occur, why He continued with it? Why did He allow it? Why not make it impossible for this to happen? In fact, why go through with it at all if rebellion was to become part of His perfect Creation and essentially ruin things?
Obviously, there must have been some higher purpose in God’s mind that caused Him to see things through. If not, then it becomes little more than a game of chance, with evil pitted against good and who will be victor? In nearly every ancient religion, this is how things are seen. Good “gods” versus bad “gods” and people who align themselves with one or the other and always endeavoring to side with the most powerful of deities. This is still the case today.
Is this how things actually work, with God Almighty squared off against the powers of evil in the form of Satan? Are they “equal” opponents? Clearly, if we are to believe God’s Word, the answer is a resounding “NO!” God is supreme by an infinite amount! God is and remains always sovereign even when humans fail. God has absolute and final control over all situations that in any way impact His plans and purposes. God is fully sovereign, meaning that His plans and purposes always prevail. This is in spite of Satan and his angels and fallen humanity.
Let me end this article with one of my favorite sections of Scripture – Ezekiel 38-39 – which highlights not only God’s complete and utter sovereignty, but how free will of one human being works who, all the while God is accomplishing His purposes, actually thinks he (the man), is doing things on his own and of his own free will.
Space won’t permit us to reprint the the entire two chapters here, but clicking on this link will take the reader directly to Ezekiel 38 (NASB). Start reading there, then go to the next chapter to finish the section. The entire two chapters are very enlightening.
But please notice in the first six verses of Ezekiel 38, God prophecies through the prophet Ezekiel about a human being with the title “Gog” who controls or rules over the area of “Magog.” God declares that He is against Gog. In other words, God has a problem with the human referred to as Gog (this is a title, not a name). Because God has a problem with Gog, God Almighty is going to do something about it. Notice what God say He will do in verses 4 – 6.
I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords; Persia, Ethiopia and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops—many peoples with you…
I’ve emphasized the first part of the first verse for its importance. God says He will turn Gog about and will also “put hooks into” Gog’s jaws. But I thought human beings had free will to choose? I thought we had free choice? That’s certainly true. Let’s jump down to verses 10 through part of 12.
It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan, and you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates, to capture spoil and to seize plunder…
This is the flip side of verses 4 – 6, where in those verses, God declares that He is going to take control of Gog and cause him to do certain things. Interesting.
Verses 10 through 12 show us the exact same situation from Gog’s point of view. As far as Gog is concerned, he is the one who thinks up the plan to go against “the land of unwalled villages,” (which refers to Israel here), and gives into that plan. By the way, as far as we know, this particular conflict described in Ezekiel 38-39 has not yet occurred in history. It is still yet future.
How can God do this and still allow people to have and use free will? God has clearly doing something that He wants done. Why does God want Gog to attack Israel? The answer is provided in Ezekiel 38:16.
It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I am sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog.
Again, I’ve emphasized several portions of the verse to point out that God takes credit for the Gog’s plan to invade Israel and the ensuing conflict. God does this for a reason. It is to sanctify Himself (God) through Gog in the eyes of the Israelites. Please also note the underlined portion – “last days” – referring to the time prior to the physical return of Jesus as King. Personally, I believe this conflict will occur before the coming Tribulation, while others believe it will occur at the end of the Tribulation. In either case, the reality is that God is going to use a specific human being to bring glory to Himself. He’s done it before in Pharaoh and we’ll talk about him next time (Exodus 9:16; Romans 9:17).
But how can God do this and not step on someone’s individual free will? Easily. All God has to do is search the earth for someone who would be very open to attacking Israel at the right time and then God drops ideas into that person’s head. In fact, God can specifically raise a person up and deliberately place them in situations where their own fallen nature, arrogance, anti-Semitism, delusions of grandeur, or other things will cause them to do what God wants done and all without going against their free will. They’re already predisposed to go that way.
Ezekiel 38 – 39 speak to several things, but most importantly they speak to the fact that God is sovereign. There is no question about it, or shouldn’t be. God accomplishes His purposes even through those who are completely opposed to those purposes, but may not realize it.
God reigns. Colossions 1:15-20, we learn about the preeminence of Jesus in all things. Note one particular verse there, verse 17 states the following:
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (emphasis added).
God in Christ literally holds all things together, not some things. Without Him doing that, everything would fall apart. That my friends, is God’s sovereignty in a nutshell.
We’ll be back next time with more examples of God’s sovereignty and how He exercises it over all His Creation.