The Question of God’s Sovereignty

I cannot say how many times I have been asked about God’s control over all things (sovereignty). I truly believe that the Bible puts forth a majestic sovereign Lord. The following is a response to a friend’s honest question about this doctrine. Perhaps you have wondering the same…

Question:

If God predestines everything, and he knows that some people he creates will NEVER do any good, never become Christians, and never get into heaven, then why does he even bother to make them and set out this entire life for them?”

Let’s first establish that God does predestine all things from Scripture:

Ephesians 1:1-10
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
  • Now we can work from the fact that God does predestine all things. So, our question has become “Since God predestines all things, how does he find fault in human beings?”
  • This question is not a silly question, but it must be approached will all humility and submission. The problem comes when we begin to question God’s purposes with an attitude of rebellion…like “if God does things this way, then I won’t have anything to do with him…or God is unfair in predestining some to eternal life and others to eternal death.”
Scripture: Romans 9:14–I say it’s a good question because the Apostle Paul asks the same question in Romans 9:14…What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?
Answer: By no means!

Paul has just explained that God chose Jacob instead of Esau before they were born or did anything good or evil. Now, listen to Paul’s argument for the righteousness of God, found in the next verse:

15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

  • So, the reason that this is not an unrighteous act (God predestining all things) is because of who He is and who we are. He shows mercy on whom He will…He is not obligated to show mercy to anyone. In fact there are only two categories in salvation that we can speak of…those who receive mercy and those who receive justice. NO ONE RECIEVES INJUSTICE. It is completely just and right for people to spend eternity in hell…because they have offended and spit on the glory of an eternal God!
  • Next Argument from Paul: This result in God being sovereign in salvation is total dependence on His grace, not our works or efforts…

    16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
    17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Now, this is HUGE…God not only mercies some people, by opening their hearts to the Gospel…but He also hardens others so they will be judged. This is the Word of God….I did not write this. (I would have never written this by the way!) We must submit to God’s Word!

Paul’s next question…probably yours too: So, why are we responsible for what we do?

  • 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
  • This seems to be a logical question, but we must clothe it entirely with humility…some do not and for those Paul answers in the next verse…
  • Paul’s answer: Who are you to question God?
  • 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?
  • In other words, God knows how to make clay (people) for his glory better than we do…Are we questioning the almighty on His wise and powerful plans for His own glorification? WHO ARE WE TO QUESTION GOD?

The latter part of the question is answered in the next verse: “…why does he bother to make them?”

  • 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory- 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
  • So breaking it down…
  • Is God just in making vessels of wrath (humans destined for hell)? Answer yes… (v.22)
  • Why does He do it? Answer: in order to make known the riches of His mercy to people who are being saved. (v.23)

    This doctrine of the sovereignty of God does not take away our responsibility for our actions. We are still called to trust in Christ by faith! Human Responsibility and Divine Sovereignty create a tension that we must not try to undue. We must simply believe it and worship God! We should also be motivated to share the Gospel with people and pray that God would open their hearts, and not harden them!

    May we have a robust view of God and His glorious Gospel!

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5 thoughts on “The Question of God’s Sovereignty

  1. Anonymous says:

    Does God preordain a million abortions in the US every year? Surely you cannot believe that He does.

  2. B.Wright says:

    I read your blog. Respectfully, I think we are at total opposites of this issue. I have no confidence in Calvin’s point of view on this issue.

    Calvin, although a great thinker and a devout man of God, is subject to the same ends that you and I are, namely that he can be wrong! I think that those who believe that if God were to allow man to choose that it somehow diminishes God’s sovereignty is an unsupportable view. God is sovereign and his allowing man to choose Him is one of the bolder moves that God makes. It makes the reconciliation between Man and God that much sweeter. Does that somehow mean that Man has done something to save himself, absolutely not. God is the author of salvation by making the way and offering it to man. Man could not have created the way to salvation…that is only God’s power to accomplish. So is man actually doing something (works) to earn his salvation? Absolutely not.

    I’m sure that you have read even more that I have about the terms preordained, chosen, predestined and elected. But I find balance and comfort in knowing that God knows the future and the past in a way that man cannot. When Paul begins verse 22 of Romans 9 with the words “what if…” it sounds as if he may be setting up some hypothetical, maybe he is trying to explain an inherently God concept with inadequate human terms.

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    I understand your concern here, but what does Ephesians 1:1-10 say? It does not say “that God predestines all good things and all the evil in the world, well we don’t know about that.” I believe God is sovereign, good and wise. I have absolutely no answer to the question of the (more than a million by the way) abortions in this country or the plague of AIDS and starvation in Africa and thousands of other tragedies in this world. I know that God is just in all that He does and I know that now we see in a mirror dimly, but on the last day, all things will be made clear. More could be said here…I refere you to the Desiring God website (www.desiringgod.org) and the section on suffering. Lot’s of good biblical, livegiving helps here to keep our ships right in times of suffering.

    TBC

  4. This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Bruce,

    Thanks for the comment. I can see your point. Calvin is but a man and subject to the same errors that we are. Let’s take our focus away from him and think about Scripture together. First, as to the comment on Paul’s use of the rhetorical, he often uses this device to make a statement in his writings.

    Much of my view on predestination is rooted in Ephesians 1:1-10. How do you see this text?

    Man’s inability to choose God is rooted in Romans 3:10-18. How does your view explain this text in relationship to men being able to choose God for salvation? Another text I would like you to consider is Ephesians 2:1-10 with respect to man’s ability (apart from God’s calling) to choose God for salvation.

    I too find comfort in serving a God that knows the future and the past. How much more comforting, however it is to know that God is also all powerful. He displayed this most fully in creation when He set this world into motion.

    The text mentioned Sunday morning would be one that I would encourage you to reveiw as well: 1 Cor. 1:18-31. The reason for God’s choosing the foolish things of the world is given in verse 29—“so that no man may boast before God.” See also: John 14:16, 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.”

    Forgive me for the harshness of my previous e-mail. Upon reviewing it again today I was convicted. I sincerely apologize.

    TBC

    TBC–>

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