By Mike Willis
The secularism and materialism of our present age is likely to cause us to forget such basic doctrines as the sovereignty of God. Every source of teaching, other than those which base their teaching on God’s word, seems to depreciate the idea of a God who rules the universe. Our weather forecasters, geologists, scientists, and philosophers state emphatically that our world is run by certain basic operations of nature without any intervention of any supernatural forces. Many plainly deny that supernatural forces even exist.
Despite the beliefs of modern infidels, the Bible still reveals the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. A “sovereign” is “one who exercises supreme power; a supreme ruler; the person having the highest authority.” The doctrine of the sovereignty of God simply states that God is the supreme ruler of all creation. He is above all principalities and powers, being the Supreme Lord of the world.
Calvinists have exaggerated this doctrine to teach their decree of predestination whereby God is supposed to have foreordained every event which has, is, or will come to pass. Nothing is left to chance or accident; nothing is left to the free-will of man. Everything is said to have been foreordained and predetermined by God, including that man would sin, that some were created for the express purpose of burning in Hell (to the praise of God’s glory, of course), and that man’s salvation or damnation was based on God’s decree rather than upon faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ. I consider this concept of God’s sovereignty to be absolutely contrary to God’s revelation, His moral attributes, the Bible doctrine of man, and any number of other doctrines.
Nevertheless, the Bible does reveal that the God of the Bible is a sovereign God; He is subject to no one. He rules as He sees fit without giving answer to anyone. Regarding this sovereignty, let us notice:
1. That is based on creation. God’s right to be Ruler of the world is based on His creation of the world. The Psalmist said, “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (95:6). “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he bath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psa. 24:1-2).
Worthy to be praised is Jehovah, the King of all of the earth. “For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth . . . . For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding” (Psa. 47:2, 7). As the Creator of the universe, Jehovah God is the Sovereign over it.
2. That Jehovah controls the kingdoms of men. The sovereignty of God includes His control over the kingdoms of men. Our world is not left to the mere caprice of men for what occurs in it. Kingdoms do not rise and fall because of men alone. God is the Sovereign in control of the nations. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1).
The book of Daniel demonstrates that God is the one controlling the kingdoms of men. In chapter four of that book, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which Daniel interpreted for him. The dream foretold the period in Nebuchadnezzar’s life when he would act like the beasts of the field until he knew “that the most High ruleth in the kingdoms of man, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (4:17). The dream was fulfilled; Nebuchadnezzar went insane and ate grass with the cattle of the field. Later he regained his senses and continued his rule over Babylon. This chapter was written to demonstrate “that the heavens do rule” (4:25-26). Regarding Jehovah, Nebuchadnezzar said, “I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:2-3).
The New Testament reveals the same truth regarding the control which God has of the nations. When Jesus stood before Pilate, the Roman procurator said, “Speakest though not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?” (Jn. 19:10). Jesus answered, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above . . .” (Jn. 19:11). The Most high still rules over the kingdoms of men.
“The Lord is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land” (Psa. 10:16). “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations” (Psa. 145:13).
This is a very comforting doctrine for me, to know that Jehovah is the one controlling the nations. Though I do not know what the future holds, I know that He is the one controlling it. The government of this world will not be determined by some hair-brained nut! God is the one who determines what the course of the future will be.
The Meaning of Sovereignty
What does the doctrine of the sovereignty of God mean? To demonstrate that God is sovereign demonstrates that He will accomplish His will and purposes. The God who governs the world has the ability to accomplish what He sets out to do. We see this demonstrated any number of times on the pages of God’s revelation.
1. In Israel. When God chose Abraham, He promised to give him seed as numberless as the stars of heaven and the sands of the seashore (Gen. 15:5); indeed, He promised to make a great nation from Abraham’s descendants (Gen. 12:2). He also promised to give the land to Canaan to Abraham’s descendants (Gen. 12:7; 15:13-17). God was able to fulfill both of His promises.
The childless Sarah bore a son in her old age, even though she had ceased being “after the manner of women” (Gen. 18:11). Through Abraham’s son Isaac, the descendants of Abraham multiplied. Isaac’s son Jacob had twelve boys who became the heads of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Even when powerful Egypt attempted to stop the numerical increase of Israel, she was unable (Ex. I) because she was fighting, not only against the Israelite slaves, but also against the Almighty God of heaven who rules the world and who promised to make a great nation out of Abraham’s descendants. The will of God was accomplished.
Bible students will remember how the God of heaven fulfilled His promise to give the land of Canaan, that land which was occupied by giants (Num. 13:31-33), to Israel. Beginning with the miraculous conquest of Jericho, Israel invaded Canaan. Her wars were fought with the God of heaven assisting Israel. To fulfill His promise to Abraham, Jehovah sent hail stones (Josh. 10:11) and caused the sun to stand still (Josh. 10:12-14). The God of heaven is the Sovereign of the entire universe; He has the ability to accomplish His purpose.
2. In Redemption. The sovereignty of God is also seen in God’s accomplishment of His will to redeem mankind from sin. Jehovah promised to bless the world through the seed of woman (Gen. 3:15), the descendant of Abraham (Gen. 12:3), the descendant of David (2 Sam. 7:11-14). On several occasions, Satan used everything within his power to destroy the seed of David. Satan tried to destroy the descendants of David when Athaliah usurped the throne of Judah (2 Kgs. 11:1-3) but God preserved Jehoash through the priest Jehoiada. Herod the Great tried to destroy the son of David when he slew the Bethlehem infants, but God preserved His Son alive (Matt. 2:11-23).
The Psalmist foresaw the conflict between Satan and God’s purpose to make His Son king over His kingdom. He wrote,
Why do the heathen rase,
And the heathen imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,
Let us break their bands asunder, And cast away their cords from us.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh:
The Lord shall have them in derision.
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath,
And vex them in his sore displeasure.
Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion (Psa. 2:1-6).
The Sovereign Lord’s plan to redeem mankind through the death of His Son; despite every attempt which the Devil used to prevent its accomplishment, God accomplished His will.
How foolish it is for man to try to prevent the Almight God of heaven from accomplishing His will. Every effort used by man to prevent God from accomplishing His purpose is destined to failure from the beginning. The great God laughs at man’s futile and foolish attempts to thwart His purposes.
3. In Judgment. I might add that the Sovereign of this world will also accomplish His purposes in bringing this world to its grand climax. His plans call for the resurrection of the dead, the destruction of this world, the judgment, and the final separation of the righteous and the wicked. As the sovereign ruler of this universe, He will accomplish His purposes. Nothing which Satan does or man might plan to do can prevent God from accomplishing what He intends to do.
That is the essence of Sovereignty. When a person has the supreme authority over everything and the supreme ability to accomplish his will, he is sovereign. Jehovah has exactly that relationship to this universe. He has supreme authority over it; He rules the world as He sees fit.
Worthy Of Praise
Surely such a Sovereign is worthy of man’s highest praise. “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psa. 95:3). “Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people. For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods” (Psa. 96:3-4). “Give unto the Lord the glory due his name . . . . O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psa. 96:8-9).
As the Judge of the earth, He is worthy of our praise. “And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness” (Psa. 9:8). As the King of Glory, He is worthy of our praise. “Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle . . . . Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory” (Psa. 24:8, 10). “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter” (Psa. 45:6).
The book of Revelation describes the scene around the throne of God as the twenty-four elders and the several beasts offered praise to God saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure thy are and were created” (Rev. 4:11). Ultimately all men shall bow in subjection before the King of glory, the Sovereign Lord of the universe. Let us praise Him while breath is yet in our body.
Frankly, I am comforted by the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. There are times when I watch the Evening News “with Walter Cronkite,” that I despair at all of the problems facing men on this earth. Discussions regarding the nuclear threat, the ability of man to totally destroy life from this earth, make me a little apprehensive. I fear that some insane person might trigger a button which will ignite a nuclear war.
Then I remember that God is still Sovereign over this world and my spirit is quieted. The same God who sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for my sins is still at the helm of the ship. He has not surrendered the government of this world to anyone. What happens in the future will be controlled by His will. He has revealed to us that, even if His saints must endure persecution and suffer hardship, the ultimate victory belongs to them. So I pillow my head in His bosom and sleep soundly.
Guardian of Truth XXV: 2, pp. 19-21
January 8, 1981