God's Sovereignty Defined
I believe that there is only one God (Deut 6:4). God is revealed as the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things (Gen 1:1; Acts 17:24-28; Rom 1:18-25).
In addition to the passages cited above, God's sovereignty is seen in verses such as Psalm 33:11
, Ephesians 1:11
, and Romans 9:14-18
When thinking about what it means
that God is sovereign, I think that I tend to over-simplify and say, "God's sovereignty means that God is in control." Researching what the Bible says about God's sovereignty, Dr. Anees Zaka
expands this definition significantly, writing in his book, Ten Steps In Witnessing to Muslims
: "'Sovereignty' indicates ownership, authority, and control."
These concepts are, I think, tied to the roles of God in relationship to the universe, mentioned above: God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things; because He created everything, He owns everything and has absolute authority to order everything in accordance with His will, and because He sustains everything (nothing having independent existence apart from Him), He exercises control over everything.
God's Sovereignty and Man's Sovereignty in Contrast
When seeking to understand God's sovereignty, it is helpful to contrast the sovereignty of God and the sovereignty of Man. Because, like God, Man exercises sovereignty, though in a limited sphere. And so we can speak of a king being the sovereign over a nation. Or we have the old saying that each man's home is his castle (the idea being that a man is sovereign over his own household). But God is sovereign over the whole creation.
We can see God's sovereignty contrasted with Man's sovereignty in terms of the defining elements of God's sovereignty.
In terms of ownership, people may own many things (I am typing this on my computer), but according to numerous Bible passages, God is the owner of all. (To give one example: "The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it: the world, and all who live in it." [Psa 24:1]) Therefore we are really only stewards, taking care of things that God has alloted to us, for His glory.
In terms of authority, people in general have been created to rule over the lower orders of creation (Gen 1:26-29), and God has established rulers among people (Rom 13:1). But ultimate authority belongs to God, with all human authority being derivative (Rom 13:1-7).
In terms of control, people make all manner of decisions, exercising control over various aspects of our lives (I chose to write this blogpost tonight), but God is ultimately in control of everything and can over-rule our will at any time. (In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. [Prov 16:9])
God's Sovereignty and Man's Rebellion
In relation to God, Man cannot exercise sovereignty, but he is to act in submission to the divine will. Sadly, we fail to recognize our proper limits and we seek to place our desires over God's commands. Apart from God's grace, we all act as if we are owners rather than stewards, ultimate rather than subordinate authorities, and masters of our fates. This has been the natural situation of mankind from the first sin recorded in Genesis 3
Dear reader: in your own heart, who do you submit to as your sovereign? Do you seek to serve God, or do you serve yourself? Notice that even when you set standards for yourself that you constantly fall short: in big or small ways, in one area of life or another. How much more have we all fallen short of God's standards of righteousness and His glory (Rom 3:23)! But, in Christ, God has provided a way to be counted righteous and to be re-instated to live the lives we were created for, under His sovereignty. Jesus lived the life that we have not lived: a life of perfect submission to the divine will. He died in our place, to pay the penalty we deserved due to our rebellious attitudes and actions. He rose from the dead, conquering sin, death, and Hell. He now lives, offering eternal life in a right relationship with God to all who trust in Him. Trust in Christ today!