Sovereignty of God This is a functional idea about God’s Ruling Reigning Ownership It brings together the attributes as these are the things that make Him sovereign. God is good, wise, holy and these things come to bear as He rules, leads and governs. Definition: God plans and carries out His perfect will as He alone knows is best, over all that is in heaven and earth, and He does so without failure or defeat. Sovereignty is a statement about God’s CONTROL over all things in His PLAN and His EXECTUING that plan. How wide? - over all heaven and earth How successful is God in this plan? - without failure or defeat
Scriptural support for the sovereignty of God This is the summary song that Moses gives to the people from God, when they go after other gods and they will then I want them to know who I AM. Deuteronomy 32:39 : See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life , I have wounded and I will heal , and no one can deliver out of my hand. The rest of the verses state that whatever comes against God He will defeat it. Notice in verse 39 a “Feature” of God’s rulership Spectrum verses: The two sides of the spectrum are announced and God is in control of both edges of the extremes and obviously everything in between. God is alpha and omega, in all moments
Deuteronomy 32:39 Look at the parallelism in the verses: Puts to death Gives life Who wounds And heals We often like to think of God’s sovereignty in terms of One who gives life and One who heals. However in these verses we also learn that God is the One who puts to death and He is the One who wounds. God is saying I rule over both edges. This is often not taught in our evangelical churches today and therefore there is a need to go slow and let this sink in. It is imperative that we take people back to God’s word!
1 Samuel 2 This is the prayer of Hannah as she dedicates Samuel to the Lord. Remember Hannah was barren and promised that if God gave her a son she would give him back to the Lord. READ 1 Samuel 2:1-7 for the context and verses 6-7 1 Samuel 2:6-7: (Her song of thanksgiving to the Lord) The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up. The Lord makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up. The Lord brings both: Death Life Down to the grave Raises others up (reference to resurrection)
The Lord makes: Poor Rich (Deuteronomy 8:17-18) Brings down Lifts up Just think of this in terms of those who are poor. What poor person out there could God not snap His fingers and provide for them? Which must mean that God purposely chooses not to give what He could give in order that they be poor. Isn’t God in control of both poor and rich? Well move that over to life and death. Every single death that occurs is ordained by God. If anyone dies couldn’t God sustain them an hour, day, week or even a year longer.
Reader’s Digest story of guy killed one night driving car from a stray bullet shot on a lake Anyone who is killed, could God not stop the bullet, the car or the bomb. Illustration: The Communist that tries to kill the Vietnamese man who will not deny Christ Doesn’t God govern over all things? Every person that is conceived God does it and every person who dies God ordains it. Isn’t that what the sovereignty of God means based on these verses in the Bible? Do an internal check of your own heart right now and see if you are pushing back against this truth! Why is this so hard for us to accept about God? Discuss as a group
Isaiah 45:5-7 (What is the theme “I AM GOD”) "I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God I will gird you, (Cyrus) though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness , Causing well-being and creating calamity ; I am the LORD who does all these. Introduction: We can see that from these verses it is clear that God is distinguishing Himself as the one and only God and there in no other besides Himself. As a matter of fact this is what constitutes God being God.
By the way as part of the historical background Isaiah is talking about King Cyrus in these verses who is going to be used of God. I am God and there is no other: the One who forms light and creates darkness The verb for create is “bara” in the Hebrew and can only be attributed throughout the Scriptures as something that God Himself does and does alone. The word for darkness is “raah” in the Hebrew and is the most severe word in the OT for evil and destruction. Amos 3:6 “…If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?” (Isaiah 31:2 - disaster is the word for “raah”) Here again we have a spectrum of light and darkness
God is the subject of the verb “bara” God causes: Well being - this is the word “shallom” in the Hebrew and means to make whole and everything is right. Ironically the strongest verb bara (create) is matched up with the strongest noun (calamity) And the weaker verb “causes” is matched up with the noun, which is well-being Put this together in our study of the sovereignty of God. God creates evil but He is in no way evil Himself. Let me even go further in this thought process in the Bible, God ordains sin and yet is in no does He sin in doing so. God is the primary cause of good and evil. (Job 1-2)
Isaiah 45:5-7 (Hebrew parallelism) Forming light Creating darkness Causing well being Creating calamity I AM THE LORD WHO DOES ALL THESE
1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
Psalm 5:4 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You.
Death Life The Spectrum of God’s Sovereignty Wound Heal Down to grave Raise up Make Poor Make Rich And everything in between Forms Light Creates Calamity
Daniel 4 (One of strongest statements on sovereignty) The words of King Nebuchadnezzar who was a pagan king. Daniel 4:29-30 ‘ Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. The king reflected and said, 'Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty ?’ Daniel 4:32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ Conclusion: God say to Nebuchadnezzar you are king at this moment but God gives the kingdoms of the world to those He chooses
But then after seven years of eating grass, his beard growing and fingernails not being cut, his reason returns. Daniel 4:34-35 But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand (Rom.9, Jer.18) Or say to Him, 'What have You done?’ Discuss with the group - What does this mean?
King N. talks about the dominion of God being everlasting as compared with his which is temporal The phrase “are nothing compared to Him”(cross ref:Isaiah 40) Doesn’t this mean: That they add nothing to God even with all their power and prowess and might. The nations do not add or take away from the all sufficiency of God. In context it means that they are able to do nothing in terms of being able to accomplish their own will in lieu of God’s will. (Eph.1:11) Daniel 4:35 - No one can keep God from accomplishing His good a pleasing will. No one can question His wisdom, justice and authority!
Psalm 135:5-6 For I know that the LORD is great And that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. What in this verse distinguishes God? Answer - God does whatever He pleases How wide is the sovereignty of God? And How deep? There are no qualifications to these statements. Such as, God can only do this as long as human beings are stubborn in their hearts. Psalm 115:3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
Proverbs 21:1 The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. (Think about this when you are in a situation where someone else has control) Illustration: Bruce Ware’s house for sale Remember the 10 plagues that God sent against the Egyptian people via His servant Moses. Wouldn’t you think that after all these hardships the people of Egypt would hate and want to kill the Israelites? But look what happened. Exodus 12:35-36 Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians , so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
Romans 9:11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, The foundation for this is God does what He pleases Romans 9:14 If God loved Jacob based on what Jacob did and He didn’t love Esau because there was something about Esau, then you remove the grounds for the complaint in verse 14. The only reason verse 14 makes sense is because someone would read it and think this looks unjust.
Illustration: R.C. Sproul - “the locust of astonishment” We worry about the problem of evil but this is not a problem for God, we all deserve condemnation. No matter how bad someone may suffer in this life, it is pale in comparison to what we actually do deserve. From God’s perspective the problem isn’t evil the problem is goodness. How can God show kindness to those who do not deserve it. Marvel, marvel in the fact that God chooses to show His mercy. God is in control of everything in life. And may we never question the justice of God in anything He may please to do.
Proverbs 16:33 - The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD. Matthew 6:26 - Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. (NKJV) Proverbs 19:21 - Many plans are in a man's heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand. Isaiah 46:10 - Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; Jeremiah 32:27 - Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” Genesis 18:14 - “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?…”
Two kinds of issues Mechanical - How does divine sovereignty, God’s control over everything that happens mesh with human freedom? How does this work that we are free and yet God is in control of everything? Unless you hold the belief that there is no human freedom in Scripture Very few over the course of church history have argued for the view above Moral issue - How can it be that if God is sovereign and in control of everything that He could hold us accountable for evil? And God Himself is always praise worthy, we get all the blame and God gets the praise, so how can this be?
“ Compatibilist” Texts This means two things that need to be brought together in convergence. One is the sovereign control of God, He is ordaining, He is determining, He is causing to bring about certain things but that sovereign ordination of God doesn’t cancel out human free action and responsibility. Instead that sovereign action of God is compatible with and doesn’t happen separate from responsible human action. So these two things are compatible – Divine Sovereignty and Free Human Responsibility
Genesis 45:4-8 You remember the story, there was seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. So when the brothers went down to Egypt to buy food the one that they appeared before was in fact there brother Joseph. The brothers sold Joseph as a slave hoping that he would have a painful death. They had no idea that he was promoted, God had given him those dreams, and now he was second in command in all of Egypt. Then in Genesis 45 Joseph decides to reveal his true identity to his brothers.
“ Then Joseph said to his brothers, . . . ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Question – is this true? Did his brothers sell him into Egypt? Yes indeed they did, they plotted it and carried it out and did exactly what they wanted to do. First of all they wanted to kill him but Reuben was there and kept them from doing that, but when the caravan came along they decided that was better because they could make some money and also be sure he would have a painful death as a slave.
Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you
sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life . . .
Now stop and think, notice is does not say this “don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me into Egypt for God took what you did and turned it into good.”
Instead it says that God sent me, this is the language of past tense or past action to indicate what God did and what they did. The brothers selling Joseph into Egypt was God’s sending Joseph into Egypt. It was not using what they did for some good purpose.
Now here is the question – when you have two activities that converge in bringing about what happens:
The brothers selling Joseph into Egypt
God sending him to Egypt
Now the question is would one of the two actions be more ultimate or primary? Or does one of the two weigh in heavier than the other in explaining what happens. 7 God sent me (notice who gets dropped out of the equation all together in this verse – the brothers are no longer mentioned because God’s purpose is fulfilled in what they did) before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. ( It looks like a stronger weight given to God’s action than the brothers ) 8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; ( This verifies what we thought in verse 7 that God has the ultimate action here ) and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.’”
In an ultimate sense what happened to Joseph can’t be explained by what happened according to your jealousy and anger and vengeful action toward Joseph in selling him into Egypt. Basically what this means is that the brothers carried out God’s ordained will. God sent Joseph through the brothers selling him. Question: If that is the case then on judgment day can the brothers of Joseph hold up this passage from Genesis 45 and say “we can’t be held accountable for this because we didn’t send Joseph but it was God and therefore we are off the hook.” Is that going to work? Answer - No way
And the reason we know this is because in Genesis 50 when Jacob dies and the brothers are left with Joseph they are worried because the father is gone so what is Joseph now going to do with them? So they plead with him to forgive them and Joseph responds “you meant it for evil but God meant it for good.” It is very clear that God’s sending Joseph to Egypt through the brothers selling Joseph to Egypt does not in any way absolve them of responsibility. God is praised for the action that He does for the people and they are blameworthy for the action they did in selling Joseph down to Egypt.
“ Woe to Assyria, (this starts out with a warning like, you are in big
trouble Assyria, you who are what?) the rod of My anger, and the
staff in whose hands is My indignation
Do we get the point?
Assyria you who are carrying out My will, My rod in My
hand doing exactly what I ordain you to do, now you might ask how
can Assyria be in trouble with God for doing what He has ordained
them to do?
I send it against a godless nation (who is this? It is Israel), and
commission it against the people of My fury, to capture booty and
to seize plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets.
(The next verse is critical in understanding what is going on here)
7 Yet it does not so intend, nor does it plan so in its heart, (what does that mean?, do you see the point of it? They are being commissioned by God to do the very things of God but they do not see themselves as the instrument of God) but rather it is its purpose to destroy, and to cut off many nations . . . (Assyria is selfish and arrogant and they are doing this entirely for their own benefit, they have no idea that as they do this they are carrying out the very will of God) 12 So it will be when the Lord has completed all his work on Mount Zion (this means the work that God ordained Assyria to do) and on Jerusalem, He will say, ‘I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness . . .
15 Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? (who is the ax? Answer – Assyria, who is the One who chops with it? Answer – God) Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it?’” (who is the saw? Answer – Assyria, who is the One who wields it? Answer – God) Assyria is raised up by God and given the military prowess that they have, used and ordained by God to carry out this work to bring judgment against His own people then when they have finished it, God then holds them accountable for what they did. Not so much for the work they did but for the intent of the heart in which there was pride and arrogance and selfishness. They are judged for what they did even though they did exactly what God ordained them to do.
Acts 2:23; 4:27-28 2:23 “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death . . . 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” It is incredible to think that all we read about in the gospels, the betrayal of Judas, the trial before Caiaphas, the people that a week before on Palm Sunday were throwing palms down in front of Him and declaring Him to be the Messiah, and now a week later are crying out for Him to be crucified, the Romans, Jews, and Herod all fulfilling exactly what God had ordained to occur. The point is that given the weight of the evidence which is in Scripture then we must hold in one hand that God is entirely sovereign over all things that happen. On the other hand that sovereignty of God does not cancel out our free and moral responsibility in doing the things that we do. Therefore these two things must go together in some respect.
What is sin? Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude or nature. We all know that sin is harmful to our lives and that it brings pain and destructive consequences to others and us. However, it much more serious than what it does to others because it is a direct contradiction, violation and rebellion to the very holiness of God.
Scriptural support for the definition of sin 1 John 3:4 - Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. James 4:17 - Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin Romans 14:23 - “…and whatever is not from faith is sin. Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Genesis 6:5 : "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Jeremiah 13:23 (NIV): "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”
Romans 3:10-11 : "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.”
Romans 8:7-9 : "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him."
Ephesians 2:3b : "[We] were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."
1 Corinthians 2:14 : "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."
Genesis 8:21 - The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done
1 Kings 8:46 - “When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near
Psalms 51:5 - Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
Romans 7:18 - For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not
1 John 1:8- If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Man is not basically good - Man is bad, evil, wicked and corrupt
Even though we learn in Genesis 1:27 we were created in His image something went terribly and tragically wrong in Genesis 3 when Adam sinned.
From that time until now - man is not a sinner because he sins, rather man sins because he is a sinner!
Romans 5:12-21 The Scriptures teach that sin causes a two-fold problem in our lives. By the way these two sin problems are what all people inherit from Adam. 1. We have inherited condemnation – our original guilt and condemnation is not rooted in our first individual sinning but in our connection with Adam and his sin. Since we are regarded as having sinned in Adam then we are subject to the same punishment as Adam. This imputed sin is the ruin of our standing before God in which we are reckoned as guilty in the courtroom of God. Romans 5:12 - Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned
The Scriptures teach that sin causes a two-fold problem in our lives. By the way these two sin problems are what all people inherit from Adam. 2. We have inherited corruption – Because of Adam’s sin then we all enter the world with a sinful or fallen nature. This sin nature, which we have inherited from Adam, manifests itself in our thought, ways of speaking and behaving such that we violate the moral commands of God. We are not sinners because we sin rather we sin because we are sinners!
The point of this Scripture is HUGE because in my corrupted condition and my sinful behavior I have a much deeper problem. That problem is rooted in my union with Adam, my father in whom I sinned, was condemned and died. We need to see where in this paragraph Paul is writing to show us that it is our connection to and with Adam that is our main problem. Romans 5:15 – “…by the transgression of the one many died…” The one here is Adam Romans 5:16 – “…for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation…” Romans 5:17 – “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one…” Romans 5:18 – “…through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men” Romans 5:19 – “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…”
Now that we understand the two-fold problem what is the solution?
The problem of our corruption God remedies through regeneration by the Spirit.
And the problem of our moral defilement and habitual sinning is solved by His purifying us by the work of Spirit. This process is what we call sanctification.
This event is inside of me and moral
This event happens progressively over time
Five Observations from Scripture regarding sin 1. Sin affects every human. Romans 3:23 All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 1 Kings 8:46 There is no man who does not sin. Psalm 143:2 And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no man living is righteous. 1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
2. Our rebellion or hardness against God is total, that is, apart from the grace of God there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God. Romans 3:9-11, 18 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD . . . THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”
John 3:19-21 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
3. In his total rebellion everything man does is sin. Romans 14:23 Whatever is not from faith is sin. Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
4. Man’s inability to submit to God and do good is total. Romans 8:5-9 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh [literally: “the mind of the flesh”] is death, but the mind set on the Spirit [literally: “the mind of the Spirit”] is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh [literally: “the mind of the flesh”] is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
John 3:5-7 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Romans 6:17-18 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Ephesians 2:1-5 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Ephesians 4:17-18 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.
John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 1 Corinthians 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately [incurably] sick; who can understand it?
5. Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment. Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 [God will] deal out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. Matthew 25:46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
In summary: Total inability means that apart from the grace God, our hardness and rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment. It is hard to exaggerate the importance of admitting our condition to be this bad. If we think of ourselves as basically good or even less than totally at odds with God, our grasp of the work of God in redemption will be defective.