God’s sovereignty in salvation
22 Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. 23 For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it--He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. 25 Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. 26 From one man He has made every nation of men to live all over the earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live, 27 so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. 28 For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' 29 Being God's offspring, then, we shouldn't think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination. 30 "Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:22-31 HCSB)
[The following is adapted from part of an outline of a lesson I delivered in the Sunday afternoon service at Kosmosdale Baptist Church.]
God’s sovereignty is established in creation as we read in Acts 17:24, The God who made the world and everything in it--He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands.
God is presented as the Sovereign Creator at the beginning of Scripture in Genesis 1:1, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
God is presented as the Sovereign Creator again when creation is spoken of in light of Christ in John 1:3, All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.
God’s sovereignty is demonstrated in His sustaining power over His creation as we read in Acts 17:28, For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'
God’s sovereign control of His creation is not a static phenomenon; God is not a clockmaker who builds and then leaves His invention to run according to the mechanics He has set in place. Nor is He an absentee parent who only visits on occasional holidays. Nor does He even act within our lives often. Rather He is constant- like the very breath we breathe and the beating of our hearts- the activity of nerves carrying information from our minds and the contracting and relaxing of our muscles- providing all power necessary for our every action- “For in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). So when the Bible declares, “He is before all things and by Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17) we can be sure that without Him all things would fall apart into oblivion. And God is not like some computer program that simply allows a video game to run- neutral to the outcome of the game- He is not passive in His sustaining power. Rather the Bible declares that He is the “One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will”(Ephesians 1:11). And this is to our great benefit as He works all things “together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Bible teacher R.C. Sproul, in his classic work Chosen by God, magnifies God’s sovereignty in governing His creation:
God is sovereign over His entire creation. If something could come to pass apart from His sovereign permission, then that which would come to pass would frustrate His sovereignty. If God refused to permit something to happen and it happened anyway, then whatever happened would have more power and authority than God Himself. If there is any part of creation outside of God’s sovereignty, then God is simply not sovereign. If God is not sovereign, then God is not God.
If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled. Perhaps that one maverick molecule will lay waste all the grand and glorious plan that God has made and promised us. If a grain of sand in the kidney of Oliver Cromwell changed the course of English history, so our maverick molecule could change the course of all redemptive history. Maybe that one molecule will be the thing that prevents Christ from returning. (26-27)
So, we have seen that God is sovereign over His creation in general. But there is a commonly held view that God has limited His sovereignty when it comes to human choices. This popular view is due more to human philosophy than to God’s revelation, for the Bible clearly declares God’s sovereignty over the human will.
God’s sovereignty in the will of believers is demonstrated in that God is presented as sovereign over our hearts’ desires in Ps. 37:4, and God is specifically presented as sovereign over our desire to do His will in Phil. 2:12-13.
God’s sovereignty in the will of the lost is demonstrated in Scripture as well in that God is presented as sovereign in judging the wicked by hardening their will against His Word in Rom. 9:17-18 and that God is presented as sovereign in the saving His elect from their lost condition by the intervention of His Word in Acts 9:1-6
Here it should be noted that God is consistently presented in Scripture as exercising His sovereignty by His Word. And we see, in particular, that “God’s people have always been created by God’s Word.” As Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and author of Nine Marks of a Healthy Church has written, “From creation in Genesis 1 to the call of Abram in Genesis 12, from the vision of the valley of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37, to the coming of [Jesus,] the living Word, God has always created His people by His Word.”
In my next post on this subject, I hope to further explore how God exercises His sovereignty by means of His Word.