Is God Really Sovereign Over all Things?

“God is in control. He is still on His throne.” I’ve heard those expressions many times recently, especially in the ongoing turmoil of recent years, as people seek the comfort of God’s sovereignty. I agree that God is sovereign over all things and has not vacated His throne but I think many of us misunderstand how God’s infinite sovereignty is expressed in a finite world.

My concern is that some people believe that God being in control means that He is responsible for the many evil things that take place such as suffering and death. Unbelievers often use this false notion of sovereignty to blame God for the negative things in the world. You will often hear someone say, “If God is sovereign over all things than He is responsible for war and suffering, the Covid pandemic, and anything else that is bad.” Nothing could be further from the truth and God’s word, the Bible, repudiates this notion.

Then there is the doctrinal system that is called Calvinism after its primary author John Calvin who systemized the idea in the sixteenth century. No doubt the whole controversy precedes Calvin perhaps going back to Augustine, Pelagius and perhaps others. After Calvin the doctrine that bears his name took on various forms and is still with us today. The basic premise of his idea was the hardline view of God’s sovereignty that denied a free will on the part of humans.

So, the idea that God is in control, to Calvin meant that every event of history is caused by God’s sovereign action. Even sin and its evil consequences are predestined by God. This leads to the conclusion that God is responsible for the evils of this world. R. C. Sproul, a proponent of this doctrinal system, states, “God wills all things that come to pass” and finishes with “God created sin” (Almighty Over All, p. 54.). This confounding doctrine holds that God decided to save only some people and relegated the rest to eternal torment and then asserts that He did so simply because it pleased Him (Calvin, Institutes III:xxiii, 1, p.6)). The whole of scripture, not counting a few handpicked proof text passages, totally rejects this view.

This message is not meant to be a thorough analysis of Calvinism but I mention it to give context to my theme. That theme is that God is sovereign but in His sovereignty has purposed to include humans and their free will in the unfolding of His purpose on planet earth. In the beginning God made it clear that the race of humanity was to exercise His authority on planet earth. Because God created us with a will that can choose the first humans chose to go it in their own power of the soul while rejecting God’s way of life in the spirit. Consider these passages:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth… Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:26, 28).

God’s original purpose was that these newly created beings would “have dominion” over everything upon the earth. So God blessed them and commanded them to be faithful to fill the earth with offspring who would continue this dominion on earth. Why did God give them the freedom to choose from the beginning? Because He was moved by love and love cannot be forced on others but must be given freely and received freely.

Humans, have ruled planet earth from that day. The problem is on that day they unwittingly chose another god, Satan, who is called the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). Instead of going God’s way of life they chose their own way of selfishness, wanting to be like God (Gen. 3:5, 6). So, the history of earth is the story of a great war not against “…flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). The god of this world has used the fallen nature of humanity to work his pleasure which is “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” while Christ came to bring abundant life (John 10:10).

Some Calvinists will point to verses like Ephesians 1:11 as proof of their strange doctrine. It says we are “…predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” They insist that His will is the only will and God does not consider the will of man. They emphasize “works all thing” in making their argument. The verse proves the opposite. God predestined us not only according to His will but according to the “counsel of His will.” In other words, God included the counsel of His will which included the will of man. This verse does not say that God causes everything that happens on earth but that He works all things “according to the counsel of His will.” It is not hard to see how an infinite God could include finite things such as man’s decisions in His predestining of His purpose.

In short, we must realize and act like God has given us authority on this planet and in our lives as His body. That authority is restored to His church in Jesus Christ. With that He has given us a free will to seek out and find His will and join Him in bringing it to pass. Yes, God is in control. Yes, God is on His throne but He calls us, His followers, to realize the hope of our calling and live accordingly. It is in that context that we can say “…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

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Lloyd Gardner

Lloyd Gardner

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I write to answer the worldwide move to diminish the influence of God. I write from outside the camp of organized religion to call people to come follow Christ.