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God’s Sovereignty

All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing, and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, ‘What doest Thou?’ ” Dn. 4:35

By comparison to the Most High God, the absolute Sovereign of heaven and earth, men, including their rulers and dignitaries, are nothing. What are they in their substance, riches, duration and glory, as compared to God in His eternity, infinity and all His excellencies! What is a speck of dust over against God? (Isa. 40:15-18). What are men as compared to God’s sovereign grace to choose them to eternal life? They are reputed as nothing as compared to their costly redemption in Christ Jesus; nothing as compared to their justification from eternity (Rom. 8:30); absolutely nothing in their regeneration, since God does it all (as in the work of creation, Eph. 2:10). Is not the elect child of God nothing in all his salvation from first to last, which is all of grace, and not of works? (Even our good works He produces in us to will and to do them. Phil. 2:13).

“He doeth according to His will,” according to His decree, counsel and purpose; for His power is irresistible, and His sovereignty invincible. Whatever He pleases He does. Whatever He plans He performs. He is sovereign “in the army of heaven.” His will is perfectly done in heaven. The “army of heaven” fights for the cause of the church of God. Part of that army apostatized to be cast down to hell, none of those fallen being shown any mercy. The rest, elect, were preserved in Christ their Head—all this according to His sovereign will.

“Among the inhabitants of the earth,” He does as He pleases politically, removing rulers to set up other rulers (Dn. 2:21). He does as He pleases economic­ally, creating conditions of inflation, recession, depression or prosperity. He does as He pleases spiritually (soteriologically, i.e., as to salvation), for He loves whom He will, chooses whom He will, redeems out of every kindred, tongue, tribe and nation whom He pleases. “Of His own will He begot us.’’ He does what He will with His own. “He hath mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth.”

“And none can stay His hand.” Who was there? — to attempt staying His hand in creation? Was it, and is it, any different in providence? He does what He pleases about the weather, and no man can do anything about either the weather or what God pleases to do with it! God’s hand (doing) cannot be hindered; His purposes cannot be annulled. His work in the world and in the churches, no matter how much opposition they meet, cannot be stopped. The one so foolish as to say to Him, “What doest Thou?’’ shows he does not know that “He giveth no account of His matters” (Job 33:13).

The word sovereignty (or sovereign) is not found in the Bible (no more than is the word “absolute”). Yet the great truth of the absolute sovereignty of God is what the Bible is all about. Therefore, every Reformed believer ought to have on his reading agenda such books as: A. W. Pink’s “The Sovereignty of God,” H. H. Meeter’s “The Fundamental Principle of Calvinism,” H. Hoeksema’s “God’s Eter­nal Good Pleasure,” and C. H. Spur­geon’s “Sermons on Sovereignty.” It was the latter who said of this truth, “Woe be to the people where the pulpit gives no utterance to the deep things of God; they will grow lean from want of nourishment, and sad from lack of comfort.”

Our Reformed Dogmatics says, “Only He that is Self-existent and absolutely independent is at the same time absolute Lord. For absolute sovereignty is not merely supreme, or highest lordship; it is that virtue according to which God is sovereign in Himself. His is the only sovereignty; and there is no sovereignty anywhere but it is derived from His Lordship. His is the sole prerogative to establish the law for all the universe, to judge the creature, and to execute His will. There is no criterion above or next to God, whereby He can be measured or judged. . .” (p. 69; for details, be sure to read pp. 70, 71). On the subject, the Westminster Confession states, “The light of nature showeth that there is a God who hath lordship and sovereignty over all (Rom. 1:20); is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be loved, feared, praised, called upon, trusted in and served with all the heart, and with all the soul and with all the might.” (Chap. XXI; see also chap. II, sec. II).

William Sykes (1861-1930), a promin­ent Orangeman and first president of the Sovereign Grace Union, believed that the first and most elementary truth which a regenerated child of God begins to learn is the absolute sovereignty of God. Elisha Coles, “hot on the trail of the Arminian controversy at the Synod of Dort, 1618-19, and of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, 1643-49,” wrote his “God’s Sovereignty,” in which he states that “this high and tremendous attribute” is a bottomless, shoreless ocean. He sees this truth as the ground of election, so that sovereign election is founded, not on man, his work, or his “free will,” but on the rock of divine sovereignty, on which it rests with all its weight.

God is indisputably sovereign. What may be said of a human despot may even more be said of our sovereign God, “He doeth whatsoever pleaseth Him . . . and who may (has the right to) say unto Him, ‘What doest Thou?’ ” (Eccles. 8:4). When “He taketh away, who can hinder Him?” Who will be so bold as to “say unto Him, ‘What doest Thou?’ ” (Job 9:12). “Who art thou, 0 man, that repliest against God?” (Rom. 9:20). Man, a potsherd, may strive with the potsherd of the earth, but not with his Maker. (Isa. 45:9). God will be neither mocked nor censured. Man is responsible to God, God to no one.

God is sovereign in choosing some people and in rejecting others. Three hundred years ago theologians pointed to the savage peoples of Africa and native to our own American continents as examples of vast differences God has sovereignly made between us and them. Today, the great difference between American Christ­ians and American Indians, who have never left their Animism and sun-worship, still exists. But today in Africa there are probably more Christians and churches with regenerated membership than in these United States. Ours is called a Christian nation. Nominally, perhaps, it was. But paganism, humanism and the sins of Romans One more characterize our nation. Africa today seems more a Christian country than ours.

God did not choose the Greeks nor the Romans, but only a very small remnant out of both (cp. Rom. & I, II Cor.). God has rejected the Iranians, the Afghans and the Islamic nations. He chose His people out of the very small nation of the Jews. Read Psalm 147:19, 20. Why did the Lord choose them and since then His church? Because He loved them. Why did He love them? Because it was the sovereign good pleasure of His will to love them. (Dt. 7:7, 8; Eph. 1:4, 5, 9). The churches of Asia Minor, as Christ Himself warned, have been removed (Rev. 2:5). That country now, with a different name, is a bitter enemy of both our nation and everything Christian. The Latinistic and European captive nations fatally imagine they have the means of grace, but in their national churches have neither the pure preaching of the Word nor the proper administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ. God is sovereign in continuing these nations while depriving them of the biblical, effectual means of grace, in giving them up to superstitions (idolatry, invocation of deceased saints, angels or other creatures, image-worship, sorcery, gambling) and in abandoning them to both political and ecclesiastical tyranny and hierarchy.

God in His sovereignty has ordained to save His people by grace (undeserved favor) alone, through faith (which attri­butes all of salvation to God and none of it to man), and therefore not by works of imagined “righteousness” which we have done (Tit. 3:5). This, however, is rejected in detestation by the self-righteous sinner, who, like Owen Wister’s Virginian, says, “As for salvation, I have got this far. Somebody (sweeping his arm at the sunset and the mountains) must have made all that, I know. But I know one more thing I would tell Him to His face: if I can’t do nothing long enough and good enough to earn eternal happiness, I can’t do nothing long enough and bad enough to be damned. I reckon He plays a square game with us, if He plays at all, and I ain’t botherin’ my haid about other worlds.” (Chap XVIII). There are people today who speak like that right to God’s face! They say, “We are lords I (Heb., We have dominion!).” This means, we have broken loose from subjection or submis­sion to any power or authority. “We will come no more unto Thee” (Jer. 2:31). This is the Pelagian rejection of the sovereignty of God and the doctrine that God made all men little sovereigns.

Why do we believe the doctrine of God’s absolute universal sovereignty? Because it is revealed in the Bible (no other book in the world does this), and also because our faith to believe it is the gift of God to us. God’s gracious sovereignty makes us able and willing to believe it (Jn. 3:27; Ps. 110:3). It is all because the Lord our God has brought us up out of the Egypt and the bondage of our own thoughts (Isa. 55:7-9) to the liberty of His thoughts to think them after Him!