The Sovereignty of God

by Gene Frost

Sovereignty is the state of being sovereign, which is to be "above or superior to all others; chief; greatest; supreme." We illustrate:

In all the realm, the king was sovereign. There was no one holding  greater rank, with greater authority, or greater power. He willed that on a certain day, from the rising of the sun until the setting of the same, all who came before him and pledged their allegiance personally would receive a special blessing from the king himself. The time was sufficient to allow every subject to appear, and none would be turned away. The day came and many made their appearance and pledged their allegiance. However, the disgruntled and rebellious refused to humble themselves before the king. True to his promise, the king graciously bestowed great favor upon the humble, a reward far exceeding what any had imagined.

Question: did the king surrender his sovereignty by stipulating conditions in order to receive his blessings? Did He cease being supreme in the kingdom when his subjects sought his favor and obeyed his orders? Did he lose control of his power by fulfilling his promise? Was the bestowal of blessings still within his power or had he thereby lost control? Did he still have power over who were blessed when the number was determined by the choice his subjects made? Did the action of his subjects, in making a choice to submit or refuse, in any wise diminish his authority and power? Who could rightly deny that the sovereign king was still sovereign king after he blessed his subjects?

I wouldn't suppose anyone would have a problem with this scenario. Why is it then, when it comes to the sovereignty of God, Calvinists tell us that He cannot offer blessings to the obedient without losing that sovereignty? When God sets forth conditions for man's salvation, allowing man the freedom to either humbly obey or obstinately refuse, He is in complete control of whom He will bless and whom He will refuse. His role and authority remain supreme. Whatever man does is without effect upon God's will; God is the ultimate determiner, who acts according as He has promised. There is a body of the saved, those who meet His requirements, and a body of the lost, who live and die in sin alienated from Him. The body of the saved consists of those who receive salvation which He offers "in Christ." Those in Christ, who remain faithful in Christ, constitute His elect (Ezekiel 18:26; Hebrews 6:4-6; I Corinthians 15:1-2). They are predestined to everlasting life. Predestined, not as individuals without regard to character, but as those "in Christ," who love His appearing (II Timothy 4:8). Whether one is among the saved or not depends upon His response to the grace of God, which is extended to all men (Titus 2:11-12; I John 2:2). Therefore man has the free will to choose (Joshua 24:15). In either case, God is sovereign, fully in control.

Calvinists' Spin

Calvinists put a spin on the word "sovereign" that assumes that He had to pre-program and predetermine everything — every thought, every action, every event, to the minutest detail. Of course, their theological assumption is not inherent in the word. They use their contrived definition to formulate doctrines, doctrines not set forth in Scripture and will not stand the test of investigation standing alone. By using "sovereignty" (their definition), they beg the question. This is a fact they recognize. For example, they cannot reconcile their "sovereignty" with "human responsibility." How reasonable and just is it for God to hold man responsible for what he thinks and does when God Himself supposedly pre-programmed him to be as he is? Here is what Calvinists admit:

"The one thing that man cannot do is reconcile the responsibility of man and the sovereignty of God."

"Both of these are equally true – they are both in the Bible – and we have no trouble in our minds when we consider them separately, but, we cannot (in our minds) put them together."

Of errors to be avoided, we are told: "probably the most common error is to try to reconcile God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility."

"They are both in the Bible – both true – but humanly we cannot reconcile them with each other."

Can you imagine that God gave us a revelation of His will which defies our reason, that logically is contradictory! Au contraire! There is no conflict between God's sovereignty, when properly defined and as His supremacy is used in Scripture, and man's responsibility before God. It is Calvinist theology that is contradictory, that defies reason.

Fixed, Unchangeable Intents

One mistake Calvinists make about the sovereignty of God is to assume that every decree of God is absolute and unchangeable, that there are no contingencies with God. Man has no choice that affects God's actions. In contrast, observe the following:

"At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it;  if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it" (Jeremiah 18:7-10).

God may plan to destroy a wicked nation, but if it turns God He will relent. Either course is within His power and authority. His spoken will and intention is not absolute and unchangeable. It is contingent upon man's behavior. Thus God "relents or changes his dealings with men according to his sovereign purposes" [Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. II, p. 571]. See also Ezekiel 3:17-21 and I Samuel 23:11-13.

Consider the following passages where God decreed, but changed it.

God told Hezekiah to set his house in order because he would not live; he would die. Hezekiah prayed to God. In response God said, "I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years" (II Kings 20:1-6).

God's decree was not fixed, and as the situation changed, God's will changed. You see, it is as God says, "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:16). See also Jonah 3:4,10.

Contingency is seen in many passages:

"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17).

Whoever wills (determines, chooses) to respond to God's invitation may, or he may choose not. God will respond accordingly. The Calvinist says, "No, man's will is not involved. When the Spirit and bride say, 'come,' only those whom God has elected will come, not of their own will but as predetermined; they are pre-programmed to come."

"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man" (Matthew 7:24).

The Calvinist responds, "No, he that does as the Lord orders is not 'wise'… he is pre-programmed. He does what he must. In fact, one may be dull, but if God has elected him he will do as programmed to do. On the other hand, a non-elected wise man may turn away in spite of his wisdom simply because it is God's pleasure that he be eternally lost."

In writing this article, the only difficulty in refuting the Calvinist's theological bluster was in selecting passages from a wealth of Scripture which expose its fallacy.

Our God is Sovereign

"The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all" (Psalms 103:19).

"He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen" (I Timothy 6:15-16).