We’ve spent that last three programs looking are various aspects of the will of God, a very complex and multi-layered concept that is a little more understandable when you break it down.
The four categories are:
- God’s ‘decretive’ will
- God’s ‘preceptive’ will
- God’s ‘permissive’ will
- God’s ‘sovereign’ will which is by far the most complex and difficult to understand.
This is by no means a declaration that I absolutely understand and can explain the sovereign will of God. I cannot make such a statement because God’s sovereign will remains a mystery to me even as I totally accept it as true because the Word of God declares it to be true.
First of all we need to understand what the word ‘sovereign’ actually means.
1 Timothy 6:15-16, talks about the return of Christ and for us to keep His commandments up to that time and then says, ‘He will bring about at the proper time – 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 honour and eternal dominion! Amen.’
This is describing God who is above all others in power, might, dominion and authority. The word sovereign in this instance is the Greek word ‘dynastes’ (doo-nas’tace) which means , ‘mighty’, ‘of great authority’ a ‘Potentate’.
The dictionary explains ‘Sovereign’ this way. ‘A person who has supreme power or authority. A characteristic of a sovereign authority, royal. Having supreme rank, power and authority. Supreme, preeminent, indisputable. Greatest in degree, utmost or extreme. Being above all others in character, importance and excellence. Efficacious (capable of having the desired result or effect, effective as a means, measure and remedy), potent.’
In the context of God and His sovereign will, this means that “nothing happens without God willing it to happen, willing it to happen before it happens and willing it to happen the way it happens.” *
This is very, very close – some would say identical – to the decretive will of God in that God is the One who decrees how human history will unfold, what events will happen and how they will happen and it all happens according to His decrees. That’s very true.
The reason I wanted to focus on God’s sovereign will some more is because it’s the focus of a great deal of angst and friction among many Christians, especially those who don’t believe God could ever sovereignly ordain something bad to happen, they believe it’s contrary to God’s nature. However, look at these verses.
Psalm 135:6, ‘Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.’
Psalm 115:3, ‘Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.’
Daniel 4:35, ‘All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”’
Job 37:2-13 is a description of God’s power in nature; it talks about unrestrained thunder and lightening, snow and torrential downpours; the animals and their behaviours, the wind, storms and the freezing of waters and heavy dense cloud formations with lightenings coming from them; storms being directed all over the place and in verse 13 it says, ‘Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.’
So Job is telling us that everything that happens in the natural world happens according to God’s design and purpose and sometimes He does these things to correct His human creations, sometimes for the benefit of the natural world, sometimes it’s because of His lovingkindness but whatever the reason, it’s God who does it all. What about this next verse.
Amos 3:6, ‘If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? (Trumpets used to be blown to warn the people that danger was imminent and to get prepared) If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?’
This is hard for us to hear or consider because we like to think that God will only do good things, but sometimes, because the hearts of human beings is so hard and so wicked, hard things are required to get their attention and have them turn to Him. If you read through Amos 4, God lists all the calamities and hardships that He personally sent upon the people and each and every time, they refused to return to the Lord. God does use calamity to get the attention of His human creation because more often than not, comfort and ease and plenty make people think they don’t need Him at all.
Following is a partial list of many more verses about the sovereignty of God that you can research later at your own leisure.
Isa 40:22, 43:13, 45:9-10, 46:10; Rom 9:19-21; Job 42:2; 1 Sam 2:10; 2 Chron 20:6, 25:8, 29:11; Acts 5:39, 7:49; Psa 47:2, 93:1; Zech 14:9; Rev 15:3, 19:6; Deut 10:4; Josh 2:11; Neh 9:6; Lam 5:19; Dan 7:9; Ezek 1:26; Matt 10:29-30, 19:28; Heb 1:8; 1 Chron 23:12; Luke 29:6-7; Eph 1:11.
Now we have to take all these verse and place them squarely within the whole counsel of God, not in isolation, but rather, placing them within the plan of redemption for all mankind. Recognising that God is holy, that man is sinful and deserving of judgment and sometimes, that’s what God sends. In fact, sending calamity is an act of mercy because sometimes, when men’s hearts soften in the face of said calamity, they call upon him and are saved. For example, the men on the boat that was carrying Jonah, experienced a divinely sent storm that would have killed them all, but after throwing Jonah overboard, at Jonah’s instructions because he recognised the storm was from God, they all acknowledged the might and power of God for themselves.
Jonah 1:16, ‘Then the men feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.’
That calamity brought about repentance and the revelation of God as the true King of the universe, to men who were pagans. God knew this would happen because He’s sovereign and yet, Jonah made rebellious choices that he was accountable for and yet, God used them to reveal Himself to those men and still fulfill His will in Jonah’s life and later, the entire population of the city of Nineveh.
God’s sovereign will is hard to reconcile with His permissive will and our capacity to choose and make decisions for ourselves but at the end of the day, God has revealed Himself as Sovereign in all His dealings, and He’s revealed that we’re accountable for our choices and actions so we simply have to accept both as being true, because He’s God and His Word is absolute.