The Sovereignty of God and Salvation

“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:13).

Introduction

Monarchs, dictators, and politicians think they are in control of the world, but they forget or ignore the fact that God reigns from Heaven. “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). We say God is almighty for a reason. He is supreme in His power and dominion over all of creation and can do as He pleases without the need to consult any other being. The sovereignty of God must be understood alongside His holiness, righteousness, mercy, love and justice. Therefore, though He could destroy all humanity, because of His other attributes, He chooses not to. Being the Almighty God, He only uses His power for the highest and holiest of reasons.

The will of God

If God is sovereign, does it mean that no-one can act against His will? “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Yet the majority of humanity is destined to a Christless eternity in Hell despite the fact that God wills their salvation. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

God in His sovereign will sent His only begotten Son into the world, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). According to His sovereign decree Christ’s blood paid the price for man’s redemption, “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it , and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:2) … “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe” (1 Timothy 4:10). But God in His sovereign wisdom gave man the freedom to choose between eternal life or eternal damnation, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18) … “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).

The chosen path

It is true to say that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, but He does not bypass man’s free will. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). Right from the beginning of man’s first step on earth, God gave him the ability and freedom to choose which way he would go. In fact, there was and remains only two paths, which are God’s or Satan’s. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). That freedom to choose will continue until the end of the ages, “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). It is God’s sovereign will that man chooses for himself, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Submission to God

It is God’s desire that man will submit to Him, that is, make God’s will his own. “Submit yourselves therefore to God” (James 4:7). Man of course can choose to have his own will done, but the end result is always disaster and death. “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23) … “Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death” (Jeremiah 21:8) … “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25). No wonder Jesus asks us to live according to God’s will rather than our own, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Those who are truly committed to Christ will only desire to do His will. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do , forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Conclusion

Whichever Bible reference we turn to regarding the sovereignty of God, and there are hundreds, never once do we find God abusing His power, will or authority. His sovereignty must be kept in context with all His attributes. Our God is absolutely holy and just, and He has obligated Himself to bless all who come to faith and salvation in Christ.

If man chooses to reject Christ and go to Hell, then God has no choice but to grant him his desire. “We will not have this Man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14)? If he chooses to accept Christ, then God will welcome him into His Kingdom. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant … enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21). Though man has no part to play in God’s sovereign grace evidenced in the plan of salvation, he is nevertheless responsible for receiving or rejecting it, and as a result must accept the consequences of his decision. “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

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