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Bible Truths Explained - KJV EditionTHE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
Important Notice
The series Bible Truths Explained may be downloaded, printed and used free of charge
by individuals, groups, and institutions
However, none of these Doctrinal Notes may be offered for sale or for commercial publication
Bible Truths Explained: The Sovereignty of God Revised: 1987, 2000, 2005
First published: 2005 web site publication
Copyright © 2005 Gordon Lyons All Rights Reserved
Limited extracts from this work may be quoted elsewhere, on condition that the name and author of the original work is acknowledged in a format
similar to the following:
Copyright © 2005, Gordon Lyons Used by permission’
Scripture quotations taken from The HOLY BIBLE
KING JAMES VERSION unless otherwise stated
Principal Works Consulted
Berkhof, Louis Systematic Theology, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1939, 1941 reprint.
Dabney, R. L. Systematic Theology, [St. Louis: Presbyterian Publishing Company of St. Louis, 1871, second ed. 1878] Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust edition, 1985.
Danker, Frederick William / Based on Bauer, Walter
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (Third Edition BDAG) Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Hodge, Charles Systematic Theology, Vols. 1-3; Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publish- ing Company, 1977 reprint.
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary on The Whole Bible (Revised edition, 1961): Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1991.
Poole, Matthew A Commentary on The Holy Bible Vols. 1-3 (1685-1700): Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1975 reprint.
Robertson, A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures, Electronic edition (public domain)
Vincent Vincent’s Word Studies, Electronic edition (public domain)
Westminster Confession of Faith, Inverness: Free Presbyterian Pub- lications, 1976 reprint.
Special Acknowledgement
I must acknowledge a genuine debt of gratitude to the work of Dr. Charles Hodge. The writings of this theologian from a previous generation have helped considerably in preparing this work. On a number of occasions—as will be seen when reading these studies—I have cited or alluded to Dr. Hodge’s re- marks in his three-volume Systematic Theology. These references have been acknowledged in the footnotes to the study text.
Contents _________________________________________________________________________v
Part 1____________________________________________________________________________1
Part 4___________________________________________________________________________15
Part 5___________________________________________________________________________17
Part 6___________________________________________________________________________21
Part 8___________________________________________________________________________29
Part 9___________________________________________________________________________33
Part 10__________________________________________________________________________37
Part 1
Synopsis: The Sovereignty of God Sovereignty is the right of absolute dominion, power and authority: a right that belongs to God alone. As Absolute Sovereign, all other things are subject to God’s almighty rule, while God himself is subject to no one. From eternity, God decreed everything that would take place in the process of time. By his divine sovereignty and divine decrees, God oversees, controls, sustains, governs, and directs all events in the universe according to his wise plan and purposes. God is in absolute control of all cir- cumstances surrounding the lives of every individual man, woman and child in the world, and of every other living creature. Nothing can occur in the life of a believer unless, according to his own wise coun- sels, God either ordains or permits that event to occur. However, although God is Sovereign over all, this does not make him the author or approver of sin.
Note 1
No Excuse for Sin God’s absolute sovereignty over all events does not absolve man of his responsibility to God for all his actions. Man remains personally accountable to his Creator for every thought, word, and deed. Men and women may seek to make excuses for their sins, for their sinful inclinations and attitudes, or for the expressions of their sinful nature more generally. Even worse, fallen mankind may seek to blame God for making him the way he is. However, they conveniently forget that God did not make man a sin- ful creature, but that he became such through the abuse or misuse of his free will. God, therefore, does not accept any excuses for our sins or for our sinful dispositions. Rather, he will call every one of us to account for everything we have thought, said and done—or failed to say or do—during our life on this earth.
Scripture References
Ecclesiastes 7:29 (29) Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have
sought out many inventions.
Romans 1:21-24 (21) Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither
were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (22) Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, (23) And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.
(24) Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: (See vv.25-31)
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Romans 1:32 (32) Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things
are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Note 2
Free to Choose Moral Good God’s sovereign control over all events does not mean that man cannot exercise his own free will in choosing either moral good or evil. Man, however, is incapable of exercising his free will in the spiritual realm, as his sin has rendered his mind and will spiritually dead. Of his own unregenerate free will, therefore, fallen mankind is incapable and unwilling to seek the salvation of the Lord.
Man’s free will is governed by God’s sovereignty; but man remains a free agent. As a rule, God does not hinder man’s choices, either for moral good or for moral evil. Men and women are perfectly at lib- erty to make their own decisions and plans. God, however, holds everyone fully responsible for every choice that he or she makes.
Christians are those whose mind and will the Holy Spirit has renewed spiritually and liberated by the grace of God in conversion. However, in the exercise of their free will, the believer should remember that they are free only to do what God desires or requires and not necessarily what they themselves desire. Therefore, the believer ought not to make any decisions that are not in full agreement with the express teaching of God’s Word, or with any of the clearly defined principles of that Word. Similarly, none of the Lord’s people should make any decisions that they know would conflict with God’s will and purposes for their lives. Prayer and seeking God’s will should always precede any believer’s proposed action or plan.
Scripture References We should note that some of the following references are not addressed to unregenerate mankind in general, but to God’s own people.
Deuteronomy 30:19 (19) I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set be-
fore you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
Proverbs 1:29-33 (29) For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:
(30) They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.
(31) Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.
(32) For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.
(33) But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.
James 4:17
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(17) Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
Note 3
Man Chooses to Sin God’s absolute sovereignty over all events in no respect makes him either the author or approver of sin. Sin entered the world of mankind by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. By the abuse of their free will—or the liberty that God had given them—Adam and Eve made a conscious and deliberate choice of evil instead of good. Nor can men and women say that Adam’s sin is not their sin. Adam’s guilt and corruption is all mankind’s guilt and corruption. Besides this, however, every person chooses—of his own volition or free will—to do wrong. Therefore, they are guilty for their own evil choices as well as for their inherently sinful nature.
Scripture References
Genesis 6:5 (5) And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that
every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Psalms 14:1-4 (1) To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
(2) The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
(3) They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
(4) Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.
Jeremiah 17:9 (9) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can
know it?
Related Bible Truths Sometimes, we refer to the doctrine of the sovereignty of God—or include it under—the doctrine of Di- vine Decrees: that is, God decrees or foreordains everything that happens throughout the universe. The doctrine of divine decrees, however, also includes the subjects of predestination and providence. In this series of studies, we will be dealing with the predestination of the elect, and the providence of God, as separate—but related—Bible Truths. 1
1 See Bible Truths Explained: Predestination; Providence by the same author.
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Part 2
Extent of God’s Sovereignty God’s sovereign rule or dominion is universal, absolute and immutable (or unchangeable). We may summarise these aspects more fully as follows:
1. Universal Sovereignty The sovereignty of God is universal. It extends over his entire creation; animate and in- animate—and from the highest form of living creature to the lowest. In the realm of living creatures, God exercises his sovereign power over angels, mankind, and the lower ani- mals. Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without the will of our Father in heaven.
To this end, the Lord Jesus said:
Matthew 10:29-31 (29) Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on
the ground without your Father. (30) But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (31) Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. (See vv.16-33; cf. v.30 with Luke 21:18)
Again, it is written:
Psalms 103:19 (19) The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom
ruleth over all.
Daniel 4:17 (17) This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word
of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.
2. Absolute Sovereignty The sovereignty of God is absolute. His authority is perfect in its administration; it is exer- cised from God’s infinite wisdom, and it is supreme in the extent of its power, glory and dominion. No limit can, or ever will, be placed on God’s sovereign authority, power or con- trol. In the advancement of his own eternal plans and purposes, the LORD does as he pleases throughout the heavens and among the inhabitants of the earth. Nothing in all creation is able to resist God’s will, or thwart his purposes—whether it be human, super- human, angels, fallen or evil spirits, or anything else.
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To this end, the Scripture says:
Isaiah 14:24 (24) The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it
come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: (See v.25)
Daniel 4:34-35 (34) And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto
heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:
(35) And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? (See vv.19-37)
3. Immutable Sovereignty The sovereignty of God is immutable. It remains unalterably the same at all times, and un- der all circumstances. God’s sovereign rule and dominion cannot be ignored; it cannot be rejected, and it cannot be thwarted or hindered by mankind or by anything else in creation. God’s sovereign power and dominion binds all creatures as completely as physical laws bind the material universe. What God has decreed or foreordained must inevitably take place.2
Thus, the Scripture declares:
Psalms 33:10-11 (10) The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to naught: he maketh the
devices of the people of none effect.
(11) The counsel of the LORD standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
Isaiah 14:26-27 (26) This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the
hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.
(27) For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
Acts 4:28 (28) For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be
2 Cf. C. Hodge, Systematic Theology Vol. 1, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1871, 1977 reprint], p. 440.
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Part 3
Exercise of God’s Sovereignty God exercises his sovereign rule over all creation in the following ways: 3
1. Moral and Physical Laws God’s sovereignty is exercised in establishing the laws or principles—physical and moral— by which he rules or directs all creation. Under normal circumstances, all of us are limited by the physical laws governing time and space. For example, we are all subject to such physical laws as the law of gravity. In the moral and spiritual realm, all of us are subject to those laws or principles which God has written on our hearts, and which operate on our consciences. For instance, we know intuitively the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. When we choose the wrong, our conscience convicts us of sin.
2. Endowments and Capacities God’s sovereignty is exercised in determining the nature and endowments of the different orders of created beings, and in allocating each to its appropriate sphere. For example, God created powerful holy angels to inhabit the heavenly spheres, and he created both mankind and animals to inhabit the earthly spheres. Each of these forms of created beings exhibits differing natures and capacities, faculties or abilities. God, who is uncreated and eternal, is the Supreme Being. Beneath him in honour, dignity and power—and subservient to him—are the highest order of created beings; i.e. the several classes of holy angels. God created mankind a little lower than the angels. The animal creation is lower than mankind, and subject to mankind’s dominion. God, angels, and mankind are fully rational, moral, spiritual, and eternal beings. The animal creation is not.
Thus, God’s Word says:
Psalms 8:1-9 (1) To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
(2) Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength be- cause of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the aven- ger. [Cf. Matt. 11:25; 21:16]
(3) When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; (4) What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? (5) For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
3 Cf. C. Hodge, op. cit. Vol. 1, pp. 440-441.
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(6) Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: (7) All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; (8) The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. [Cf. vv.4-6 with Heb. 2:5-9]
(9) O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
3. Destiny and Circumstances God exercises his sovereignty in appointing to each individual his position and circum- stance in life. It is the Lord who assigns the bounds of our abode. Our times are in his hands. He determines when, where, and under what circumstances, each human being is to be born, live, and die. Every ethnic group, tribe and nation is thus in God’s hands. He apportions to them their heritage in the earth, and controls their destiny. As free and re- sponsible agents, men make their own plans, and follow their own purposes. However, if man’s plans and purposes are not in accord with the plans and purposes of God, they cannot succeed. The will of sinful men cannot, in any way, thwart or hinder the exercise of God’s eternal decrees.
Concerning the fact that the circumstances of each of our lives are in God’s hands, the Scripture says:
Acts 17:24-27 (24) God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of
heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; (25) Neither is worshiped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; (26) And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habita- tion; [Cf. Deut. 32:8] (27) That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: (See vv.16-31)
Again, concerning the fact that the destiny of nations and their rulers is in God’s hands, the Scripture says:
Job 12:23-24 (23) He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations,
and straiteneth them again. (24) He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth, and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way. (See vv.7-25)
Concerning the fact that man’s intentions or decisions cannot alter the plans and purposes of God, the Scripture says:
Proverbs 16:9 (9) A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. (See also
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(21) There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand. (See also Prov. 20:24)
Proverbs 21:30-31 (30) There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.
(31) The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD. (Cf.…