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“Sovereign in my greatest joy, Sovereign in my deepest cry”: What is the sovereignty of God?
“Sovereign in my greatest joy, Sovereign in my deepest cry”: What is the sovereignty of God?

Sovereign in the mountain air
Sovereign on the ocean floor
With me in the calm
With me in the storm

Sovereign in my greatest joy
Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arm
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

Sovereign by Christ Tomlin (2013)

Have you ever heard this song? I remember my family and I were in Maui when the song was originally released. My mom would listen to it as we drove the Road to Hana, almost crying at how deeply moving the song was. I remember internally rolling my eyes (I am quite cynical sometimes). A few months later, I would go into the deepest depression of my life and cling to this song. Oh, how our mindsets can change so quickly…

The sovereignty of God is the biblical teaching that all things are under God’s rule and control and that nothing happens without His direction or permission. According to Merrill C. Tenney, who was an American professor of Old Testament and Greek from 1904 to 1985:

“As applied to God, the term ‘sovereignty’ indicates His complete power over all of creation, so that He exercises His will absolutely, without any necessary conditioning by a finite will or wills…God’s sovereignty is His omnipotence expressing itself in relation to the created world, with its inanimate structures and its empirical selves.”

Since God is all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing, and all-wise, He both knows the best thing to do and has the power to do it. Further, since God is before all things, created all things, upholds all things, is above all things, and owns all things, He is the rightful ruler of all things. Colossians 1:16-17 says, “For in him all things were created; and in him all things hold together.”

For example, Mark 4:35-41 tells of how Jesus calmed a storm:

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” They took him along, just as he was, in the boat. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

This incident illustrates God’s complete sovereignty over His creation.


God’s Sovereignty Concerning Salvation

However, there is a misconception concerning God’s sovereignty. According to the Calvinist belief, God’s sovereignty in salvation means that He saves whom He wills because God chose them to be saved exclusively. They cannot even take credit for their faith because only He gave it to them. This is the belief of predestination. It is God’s sovereignty in its most absolute state.

John Calvin, a theologian during the Reformation period, was the founder of this system (hence the name Calvinism), and he said, “Since the arrangement of all things is in the hand of God, he arranges all things, in such a way that individuals are born who are doomed from the womb to certain death and to glorify him by their destruction.”

You may have been asked at some point in your life if you are a Calvinist or an Arminian. (Arminius, a contemporary of John Calvin, believed that salvation was 100% based on man’s free will. Thus, Arminianism is the belief system that there is no such thing as predestination, but salvation is by free will alone.) Unfortunately, there is biblical evidence for both beliefs, meaning both beliefs are wrong. Just as I explained concerning the Trinity, some parts of theology are beyond human comprehension, because we serve an infinite and complex God. Take a look:


  • “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved…In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. ” Ephesians 1:4-6, 11-12
  • “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30
  • “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” John 15:16

Free will:

  • “…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:9-10
  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
  • “‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Acts 2:21, Joel 2:32, Romans 10:13
  • “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” 1 Timothy 4:10
  • “…and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2

When people ask me if I am a Calvinist or an Arminian, I say “Both.” I believe that both schools of thought are correct, albeit I suppose that actually makes them incorrect since they believe one and not the other. I mean that predestination and free will can co-exist. Do I fully understand it? Of course not. The only way I can possibly make sense of this phenomenon is remembering that God is outside of time, meaning He knows who will be saved and who will choose not to accept Christ. In this way, He has chosen us, by simply knowing we would freely accept Christ into our hearts on our own. That still doesn’t sound completely theologically correct. But again – there are some things I do not worry about, because I realize the finiteness of my mind. I am limited in my capacity of understanding God, so I accept there are some things that will not make sense to me until Heaven. And that’s ok!

The bottom line is that God chose us to be saved, but we will still need to make the choice on our own to be saved. We must individually place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It is by repenting of our sins and believing on Christ that we can know God personally and experience His love.


God is in control

You know when you’re experiencing any kind of grief or hardship, and people say, “God is in control”? This is referring to God’s sovereignty. Because He is Lord over the universe and everything in it, He is able to control time, events, people, and things to go according to His plans. Check out these verses:

  • Proverbs 19:21  “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
  • Revelation 1:17 “Then He placed His right hand on me and said: Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.”
  • Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”
  • Proverbs 16:4 “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”
  • Isaiah 55:8-11 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
  • Hebrews 1:3 “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
  • Hebrews 2:5, 8 “For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. …For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.”
  • Acts 17:28 “…for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’”

If you are experiencing any kind of difficulty, take rest in God’s sovereignty today.

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