The Sovereignty of God
By Thomas Taylor
We have a major problem in the Body of Christ today concerning the sovereignty of God. All Christians say that God is sovereign; however, some Christian’s meaning of sovereign is that God makes everything that happens happen, whether good or evil. That is not the Bible definition of sovereign. I want to take a look at the Scriptures concerning this issue because some Christians are making it sound like God is the source all natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. They also seem to think that God sends cancers, aids, and other terminal diseases. Calvinism says man does not have a free will. Therefore, some calvinistic doctrines basically teach God makes us do evil then sends us to Hell for doing it. However, God can be sovereign and man can still have a free will at the same time. I have already proven man’s free will in the articles entitled “Calvinsim Refuted” so I will not belabor that point but I do want to look at the Bible definition of sovereign. I also want to look at some tough issues that we need to examine with help of the Holy Spirit. I suggest you pray now that the Holy Spirit will give you wisdom and revelation concerning the Word in this area because what you are about to read may trip up your faith if you are not mature enough to handle it.
God Is In Control?
If God is in control of this world, meaning He makes everything happen that happens, then He is evil, apathetic, or psychotic. Considering all the evil that takes place in this world, there are no other choices. God cannot be good and do the things that happen here. If God causes people to murder, rape, steal, destroy, hate, and sexually violate children, then I do not want to worship such a God. In fact, that sounds like the devil himself. Some doctrines of Calvinism make it seem like Satan sits around watching while God destroys the human race for him. If God is not evil, then maybe He is apathetic; He just does not care what happens to us. Or maybe He is like a child with a magnifying glass burning ants on the ant hill just destroying for the fun of it. Any of these pictures of God are not the God of the Bible. We just need to use some common sense to see that the God we call Love is not in complete control as Calvinism claims.
No, God is not in control in the sense that He makes everything happen but He is sovereign. People wrongly equate sovereignty with controlling every event and action in the universe. If that were true, then God is the author of sin as well, not Satan. If that were true, then God makes us sin then sends us to Hell for doing it. If that were true, then God is unjust for judging us. But God is not evil, apathetic, psychotic or unjust! He is good, loving, wise, and just.
God gave man control over his own life. THAT is why there is so much evil in this world. THAT is why bad things happen to good people. Man chooses to do evil. God even gave control of this world over to man. Man in-turn sinned, committing high treason, giving the power of this world over to Satan. This is the only complete explanation of evil in this world and it is the explanation given in the Bible. When something bad happens to us, many want to point the finger at God. But the Bible teaches that it is man’s fault through sin, not God’s.
Gen 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Man had dominion over all of God’s creation on the earth as well as the over the earth itself. All things come from the earth therefore man had dominion over all things here. Essentially man became the “god” of this world. God gave man dominion, therefore God does not always do as He pleases here; He often uses man and goes through man to do His will on the earth. God is Lord over all but God has chosen to use man to exercise that Lordship. That is God’s way. However, man gave part of his dominion to Satan:
2Co 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Satan became the god of this world when man sinned. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness offering all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus did not dispute his ownership (Matt 4:8 – 10). It would not have been a temptation if Satan did not have all the kingdoms of the world in his grasp. Satan is also called the Prince of the Power of the Air (Eph 2:2) and the Prince of This World (Joh 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Man still has authority over his own life which is his free-will but sin gave this world’s dominion away to the devil. However, Jesus got it back for us believers when He was given all power in Heaven and earth by the Father God:
Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
That is part of the redemption story. Jesus not only redeemed man but He also redeemed the earth from Satan’s power and gave it back to God’s people – the Church. It is now our duty and right to exercise the authority we have been given in the name of Jesus! We can take back what the devil stole from us, hallelujah!
Mat 28:19, 20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Mar 16:15 – 18 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
We are commanded by our Lord to take our God-given authority in the name of Jesus and destroy the works of the devil. That includes sickness, disease, poverty, depression, possession, and any other thing of darkness you can think of that goes on in this world. But our fight is not in the natural physical realm; it is in the spirit.
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
We fight our enemy Satan to occupy this land until our Lord comes. The Church is an occupying army. We are to enforce what our Commander-in-Chief ordered. Our enemies are spiritual terrorists trying to use fear tactics to take back this land. But we, the Church, were commanded to deal with the devil and not let him have free reign in this world:
Jam 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil , and he will flee from you.
1Pe 5:8, 9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith , knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
Eph 4:27 Neither give place to the devil.
Some say, “Whatever happens must have been God’s will. God won’t let the devil hurt me.” But that is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches we have to do something about the devil, not God. The devil seeks whom he can devour; that means he must be able to do so. How? By preying on those people that are ignorant of their rights in Christ Jesus. Jesus gave us the authority to do something and He will not do anything because we have the power to do it. If we do nothing, we will be destroyed. That is what is happening to so many in the Body of Christ today and the reason why I am writing this article. Diseases and sicknesses are not God’s will. We must not sit back and say that God sent it or that “God allowed it so He must know what He is doing in some grand scheme that I do not understand so I’ll just endure it.” We can understand God’s plan because it is in His Word. Do not let the devil take your life, your family, or your health. You have the power to do something about it. He told US to resist. He did not say to pray to Him about the devil. Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to pray to Him about the devil. In every instance, Jesus told us what to do about the devil which is to use the authority He gave us (Luke 9:1,2; 10:17 – 20; plus the Scriptures I gave above).
Biblical Definitions of Sovereignty
Websters 1828 Dictionary (1) defines sovereignty as follows:
1. Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion; as a sovereign ruler of the universe.
2. Supreme; superior to all others; chief. God is the sovereign good of all who love and obey him.
3. Supremely efficacious; superior to all others; predominant; effectual; as a sovereign remedy.
4. Supreme; pertaining to the first magistrate of a nation; as sovereign authority.
SOVEREIGN , n. suv’eran.
1. A supreme lord or ruler; one who possesses the highest authority without control. Some earthly princes, kings and emperors are sovereigns in their dominions.
2. A supreme magistrate; a king.
3. A gold coin of England , value 20s or $4.44
Notice that none of these definitions of “sovereign” suggest that God makes everything happen. God is sovereign but He does not control the actions of His creation (at least not against their will). Sovereign, simply put, is the highest position of authority.
The Bible does not use the word “sovereign” in the King James Version. But other versions do use that word in various places. Let us examine some of these instances.
1Ti 6:15 WNT For, as its appointed time, this will be brought about by the blessed and only Sovereign , the King of kings and Lord of lords,
In the King James the word “Sovereign” is translated “Potentate.” This speaks of God’s place of authority. It has nothing to do with controlling all the actions in the universe. The President is the highest authority in the United States but that does not mean he controls anyone’s actions. In fact, there are no positions of authority that actually control people. The people under authority always have the ability to disobey the authority. We as free beings also have the ability to disobey God and we all do at some point.
Rev 6:10 Darby and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O sovereign Ruler, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell upon the earth?
God is the sovereign Ruler over all of His creation. He alone sets the limitations of how far His creation can go in every area including sin. There is a point when the fullness of sin will be accomplished and He will wipe this earth clean and judge His creation. These things are in His power and that is what makes Him sovereign and Lord of all.
Being sovereign speaks of God’s Lordship. He is the Master of all creation. The entire universe, Heaven, earth, and hell, work on a system of authority. Even the devil has evil spirits that are under his authority. The Bible says that no authority has been given except by God. He even permits evil human leaders to be in places of power because those people under him have chosen him to that place. If you have a bad leader, do not blame God; blame those men that put him in power. But the day will come when all the decisions we have made will be judge by God’s standard. We have the ability to choose wrong but not the right to choose wrong. On the Day of Judgment, every action we have taken will be known and we will reap what we have sown, whether good choices to glory or bad choices to shame.
God is sovereign. He is Lord of all. He ultimately had control over all things and through His wisdom and omnipotent power He gave authority over this earth to us. However, even with our authority, He is still the owner of this earth. Man is only leasing it for a short time.
God’s Perfect Will Versus His Permissive Will
God’s perfect will is that all men walk in righteousness, obey Him, and be blessed. He would have all men to believe in Jesus Christ. But we know that all men will not believe. That leads to His permissive will. He permits men to sin, to disobey Him, and to be destroyed by the power of death through Satan. All evil is His permissive will but our desire should be to walk in His perfect will.
Some say that everything that happens in the world is God’s perfect will. They do not believe God has a permissive will. In other words, they are saying God’s will was for man to fall so that He could save them. That is like a man pushing his ten children in front of a speeding truck so they can learn not to play in traffic. Then He saves only a couple of them while he allows the rest to get hit head-on to show the ones he saved how good He was to save only them. Thinking such as that is ludicrous and contrary to every teaching about the nature of God in the Bible. As stated before, everything that goes on in this world is not God’s will or else God is the author of sin.
God permits us to go through bad experiences. But the root of all the bad experiences we face is sin. Thus, it is really our fault, not God’s, for the bad things we go through in this life. God, in His great wisdom, turns around those bad experiences for His glory. What the devil tried to use to kill you, God will turn around and deliver you from if you trust in Him. That is one purpose of prayer; it is a time that we turn to Him in faith asking for help. The prayer of faith gives God something to work with. He can turn every situation around so that we will not be defeated by the devil if we just believe He will do it.
How could anyone teach to trust and believe in God when they do not know whether He is willing to save them or not? If they think that a disease destroying their bodies is a test from God to see if we will learn something by enduring it, then they will never trust God for deliverance. Can you see how great this deception is? The devil loves theology that makes people just quit and say, “Well, I guess this disease is God’s will so I’ll just keep it.” No one is resisting the devil under such deception. Let us be diligent in our study of the Word and find the simple Truth that God is good and the devil is evil. Something as simple as “bad things come from the devil and good things come from God” has been eliminated from our beliefs and replaced with a defeatist theology. Dear Christian, be obedient to the Word and resist the devil and he will flee from you.
God Sends Evil?
The Bible teaches that God’s will is that no one be sick (Isa 53:4, 5; Matt 8:2, 3, 17; 1 Pet 2:24). But the Bible also says that God sent a plague or sickness in various places (Ex 12:13; 2 Chron 21:14, 15). How can that be? Understand, God never directly sends sickness. Satan is the one that actually sent it but God permitted it due to unrepentant sin. So in that way, the fact the God permitted it or could have stopped it, God is sovereign. However, He will never stop something that violates His own Word. If the plague did not come to judge the sin, then it something else bad would have happened to judge the sin. We need to understand that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). When man sins, he is playing in the devil’s backyard so the devil has the right to shoot him if he chooses – and he always chooses to do so. God would be violating His own Word if He lets us sin with no repercussions.
Job 1:9 – 12 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for naught? Hast not thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth THINE HAND now, and touch all that he hath , and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in THY POWER ; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
Satan asked God to put forth His hand to harm Job. Then God turns around and says all is in Satan’spower. So is it in God’s hand or Satan’s? You may say that God did not say it was in His hand, only Satan did and, of course, Satan is a liar. Well, if we keep reading, God agrees that it was in His hand:
Job 2:3 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst ME against him , to destroy him without cause.
God agrees that it was Him that moved against Job. How strange when we know it was Satan that actually destroyed Job’s family and goods. Now, I want to make very clear that Satan does not work for God. Satan is God’s enemy and God is Satan’s enemy. They are two separate opposing beings. To even suggest that Satan is working for God is so ridiculous that this author hardly feels the need to address it. However, I will say to keep in mind the following verses proving that God and Satan cannot be on the same side:
Mat 12:25, 26 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?
We can see from the story of Job that there are certain rules that God has set up which Satan must abide by and even God Himself chooses to abide by. Neither party can force Job believe in them. This is a test of Job’s free-will to see if he will reject God or continue to believe. God will not force Job’s free-will and Satan is not allowed to (or else he would have done so without having to plead at God’s throne).
The most interesting thing I find here is that God takes the responsibility for Job’s attack by Satan even though God did not directly attack Job. God allowed the attack and from God’s perspective it is as if He did it Himself, or so the language would imply when He says, “thou movedst ME against him.” This is not an exception but is found over and over in Scriptures. Let’s look at some other examples.
1Sa 16:14 – 16 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him . And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on a harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.
Does God really have evil spirits working for Him? Certainly not; they work for Satan. However, again, because God allowed this spirit to torment Saul (because of Saul’s sin), it is as if God takes responsibility for what this evil spirit from Satan does.
1Ki 22:19 – 23 And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said , I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him , and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.
God does not have lying spirits on His payroll, however He does permit their attacks. They are from the Kingdom of Satan. There is nothing that happens in the Heavens that God does not know about and allow. God permitted this evil spirit from Satan to lie to these men and the Scriptures say that it was the Lord that “put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets. ”
Psa 78:49 He [God] cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them .
God has evil angels? No, of course not. The word “evil” can have a meaning other than morally evil. It can also just mean bad in the sense that they will do something that the object of their actions will not like even though it is not morally wrong, such as a the pouring out of God’s wrath. However, in the case of this Psalm, it is referring to a morally evil spirit from Satan being allowed to attack these people.
Jdg 9:23 Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:
Again, another reference to an evil spirit that God permitted to work between these men but this was not necessarily a godly spirit.
Finding the Balance
We have looked at some interesting Scriptures that speak of God’s permissive power to allow evil spirits to attack men. By God allowing the attack He seemed to take responsibility for their actions to some extent. Let’s look at some other Scriptures that will bring things into better focus concerning God’s permissive will. We have just looked at Scriptures that if taken by themselves can become unbalanced. So we will also look at other Scriptures that show the other side of the balance. Between the two sides we should be able to see the middle of the road that God wants us to travel. Admittedly, however, some of the roads are very narrow and most fall into the ditch on one side or the other. In fact, critics of the Bible will show some of these Scriptures as proof of contradictions in the Bible but true believers know that there are no contradictions in the Word of God. These examples are spiritual gold mines if we search them out diligently in faith believing in the inerrant Word of God. But we must view them with the mind of the Spirit and not the mind of the flesh because to the natural mind they will not make sense.
Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil : I the LORD do all these things .
This seems like a real problem if we take this Scripture all by itself. But when we put it in context with the whole Bible, we can readily see that the word “evil” cannot possibly mean moral evil. The word evil here is actually speaking of a different type of evil which is punishment . We can see that rendering within the context of the verse itself for it contrasts making peace versus creating “evil”. We could say that the opposite of peace is war, which is what the verse is talking about. When nations would disobey God, He would remove His blessing from that nation allowing an enemy to attack by war. It certainly is not saying that God creates moral evil because that would totally contradict God’s character and His Word:
1Jo 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil ; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
Satan is the author of sin, not God. God does not sin nor does He make men sin. God has no moral evil within Him.
Jam 1:13, 14 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
The balance for the above Scriptures is that God allows war and He even takes some responsibility for it. God does not create moral evil; that is completely from Satan originally. Let’s look at some more Scriptures along these lines.
Deu 32:39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill , and I make alive; I wound , and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.
1Sa 2:6 The LORD killeth , and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave , and bringeth up.
These verses say that God kills and wounds. We know He does not do such things directly or personally because that is the work of Satan. John 10:10 says, “ The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. ” God is not the thief; He is the One that brings life not death. Satan is the thief. Acts 10:38 says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” God is the Healer while the devil is the one that oppresses people with sickness and disease. God permits death, sickness, and disease but He is not the source. Satan is the source due to sin. When we sin, Satan is given permission to attack. What you sow you shall also reap. If we sow to the flesh sin, we shall reap death. Again, these verses are referring to God’s permissive will in that He allows killing and wounding so, to some extent, He takes responsibility but He is not the cause.
Exo 12:23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians ; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you .
We see here the pattern. God makes the decisions by “pass[ing] through” first. He sets the limits on who the Destroyer can attack. The Destroyer is Satan. Going back to the first part of the verse, it seems as if God is doing the killing. However, by the time we get to the end of the verse we know that the Destroyer (Joh 10:10; Rev 9:11) did the actual killing. In this case, God in the permissive sense, not the causative sense, kills. Who directly does the killing? It was the Devil here:
Heb 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
No matter where in the Word it says that God smote someone, sent a plague, sent a natural disaster, or sent war to destroy a nation, we must understand that God does such things in response to man’s sin. And if the devil is allowed to attack as part of God’s judgement, God then sets the limits for the Destroyer. Satan, the Destroyer, then does all he is permitted to do (by Satan I mean also any evil spirits that are under his authority; Satan is not omnipresent to do it all). However, I must also mention that God at times in the Bible directly pours out His wrath, such as in the bowls/vials of wrath mentioned in Revelation chapter 16. These are instances where God does kill mankind but the origin of all death is man’s sin. That is always the first action. Then God’s wrath, however it is carried out, is the second action. God doesn’t just kill people randomly or without wrath.
Satan once held the power of physical and spiritual death but now he only holds limited power over physical death. Jesus now holds the power of spiritual death by His resurrection from the dead (Rev 1:18). One day Satan’s power over physical death will cease completely.
1Co 5:1 – 5 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
The judgment is against this man that had sexual relations with his step-mother. Notice that the judgment is for the man’s body to be attacked by Satan but the man’s spirit will be saved. This is another example of God’s method in dealing with sin in this age. Man sins, God sets the judgment limitations, Satan destroys according to the limits God has set. This is a pattern we see throughout the Bible.
Satan is the Destroyer and killing the human race is his main purpose because He hates God. Satan cannot destroy God but he can destroy the thing God loves the most which is His creation. God is doing all He can to save the human race by sending His Son Jesus Christ so that not one single man has to experience judgment. We should worship God for His grace and mercy because we that believe in Him will never experience the punishment that we deserve.
God is sovereign meaning He is the highest in authority. Nothing that happens in this universe can happen without His consent and knowledge. He gave man this world and a free-will. Man’s sin handed this world’s authority over to Satan but man still retained his free-will. Satan is the god of this world but Jesus’ victory took back this world’s authority and gave it to the Church. The Church’s job is to enforce the victory we have and resist the devil and his devices against us like sickness and poverty. God does not control our actions but we have the choice to do good or evil. However, when we make Jesus our Lord we are submitting our will to Him so that He can do whatever He wants with us. In this way, Jesus is able to exercise His Lordship on earth – through His Church. Evil things still happen and God takes some responsibility for them because He permitted them. But we are really the cause of the evil due to our sin. God provides a way of escape every time from the evil which is faith in Jesus Christ.
Other verses for further research: Eze 14:9, 10; 2Sa 24:1, 10 ; 1Ch 21:1; Gen 50:20; 2Th 2:10 – 12.
1. Webster, Noah. American Dictionary of the English Language . 1828