The Sovereignty of God, Part 2
In the last post, we looked at the sovereignty of God over all His creation, the rulers and nations, and the lives of each individual person. In this second article, let us dive deeper into this high doctrine to see how God is sovereign over Satan, sin, and salvation.
The Bible shows that the Lord Almighty is sovereign over adversity, sin, and Satan. God’s anger incited David take a census of Israel, something prohibited by law (2 Sam 24:1), yet Satan is also said to cause David to do it (1 Chron 21:1). Adversity and calamity in one’s life (Eccl 7:14; Isa 456-7) and in a city (Amos 3:6) is caused ultimately by God. He is sovereign over both good and ill (Lam 3:37-38). God not only controls the misfortunes of man but also the abilities and disabilities he is born with (Exodus 4:11).
Just as the apostles suffered by the will of God (1 Thess 3:1-3), all the Christian’s afflictions are foreordained. The most sinful event ever to occur in history, the execution of an innocent man who was God’s own Son, was foreordained by God (Acts 2:23; 4:27). God’s sovereignty is shown over sin not only be decreeing that sin would exist, but also by hardening certain men’s hearts (Deut 2:30; Josh 11:20; 2 Chron 10:14-15; 18:22; 25:20). Additionally, the chronicler recorded that God sent a deceiving spirit among the false prophets so they would prophesy wrongly (2 Chron 18:22).
God is sovereign over Satan and keeps him on a leash. To humble Paul, God gives Paul a “thorn in the flesh,” which Paul calls a “messenger of Satan” (2 Cor 12:7-10). Satan asks God for permission to harm Job and tempt Him (Job 1-2) and Satan demands permission to sift Peter (Luke 22:31-32). Therefore, the only conclusion to be made is that while Satan thinks he is doing his own will, ultimately God sovereign over him. While we might not understand the intricacies of how God controls evil, we must agree with Solomon when he said, “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov 16:4).
As Scripture clearly indicates, God is somehow sovereign over the sinful actions of fallen humanity. But we must not assume this means God is directly causes sin or is responsible for it. There is no darkness in Him at all (1 John 1:5). God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself does not tempt anyone (James 1:13). But as we know from the story of Joseph and His brothers, what man intends for evil, God intends to work towards ultimate good (Gen 50:20).
How do we reconcile the fact that God is sovereign over everything that happens and man is responsible for his own sin? We cannot fully reconcile it in our finite minds. We must simply accept what Scripture teaches and leave the hidden wisdom to God (Deut 29:29; Job 28). As Charles Spurgeon said:
I never have to reconcile friends. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility have never had a falling out with each other. I do not need to reconcile what God has joined together…Where these two truths meet I do not know, nor do I want to know. They do not puzzle me, since I have given up my mind to believing them both.
In addition, God is sovereign over salvation and sanctification of believers as well. God elected some to salvation before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4).Because of the kind intention of His will, God predestined believers to be adopted as sons through Christ (v. 5) and made known to believers the mystery of His will in Christ (v. 9). God saved believers and called them “not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace” (2 Tim 1:8).
This is also shown in the case of Jacob and Esau, when neither one of them were born or did any good works, Jacob was chosen by God to show His mercy and compassion (Rom 9:11-13). Election to salvation does not depend on looking down the corridors of time since it does “not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom 9:16; cf. John 1:13).
All of salvation, even faith in Christ, is a gift of God so that no man may boast (Eph 2:8-9). God divinely and effectually calls men to Himself for salvation through Word and Spirit (Rom 8:30; 9:11; Heb 3:1; 9:15; 1 Pet 2:9; 2 Pet 1:3; Jude 1; Rev 17:14; 19:9). It is God through His Spirit who secures and preserves the believer to the end of his life so that he cannot lose his salvation (John 86:39-40; 10:29; 17:6-19; Rom 8:35-39; Phil 1:6). God also works in believers to progressively make them more Christ-like, more holy (Phil 2:13).
What a person believes regarding the sovereignty of God has an impact on how they view God, human responsibility, salvation, prayer, evangelism, providence, and suffering. Since God is sovereign and works all things for the good of those who love him (Rom 8:28-29), a Christian can have peace during times of strife and tribulation. Because God is sovereign over salvation, man-centered gimmicks, works salvation, and altar-call evangelism need not be part of biblical Christianity. On account of God’s sovereignty over adversity, sin, and Satan, a believer can know that present suffering in their life has a purpose in God’s plan.