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THEOLOGY > God > Providence > Definition of Sovereignty   

DEFINITION OF SOVEREIGNTY

God’s Providence is defined at this site as follows: “Providence is the exercise by God of His Sovereignty, an exercise guided by the eternal plan of God to the end that all of Creation fulfills its intended purpose and reaches its determined end.” In this definition the exercise of Sovereignty by God is virtually synonymous with His Providence. But what is Sovereignty?

Sovereignty speaks of God. To say “Sovereignty” is to say “God”; to say “God” is to say “Sovereignty.” Within the concept of sovereignty is the Sovereign. It is invalid to affirm belief in the God of Scripture and then seek to ameliorate the concept of Sovereignty as taught in Scripture. To separate God from His Sovereignty is to separate God from God and manufacture a non-Biblical God. But a God constructed by man in the image of man is not God, even though a vague idea, even a sentimental thought, is confessed as God. Pink wrote:

The conception of Deity which prevails most widely today, even among those who profess to give heed to the Scriptures, is a miserable caricature, a blasphemous travesty of the Truth. The God of the twentieth century is a helpless, effeminate being who commands the respect of no really thoughtful man. The God of the popular mind is the creation of a maudlin sentimentality. The God of many a present-day pulpit is an object of pity rather than of awe-inspiring reverence (Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, 24).

Contrary to the warm-hearted concept of God that possesses the modern mind, God is the Sovereign, the only King—the One characterized by dominion and power. Either God is Sovereign or something else or someone else is sovereign. If the latter is the case, then God is not God (see: God is Sovereign).

Sovereignty speaks of God’s “rule” or “reign.” The psalmist writes: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19). Thus, God’s Sovereignty is His rule over Creation, a rule that is total and without pause; the word indicates God’s control over all that He has made, a control that includes preservation and administration, maintenance as well as government. Paul speaks of Him as “the blessed and only Potentate” (I Tim. 6:15), meaning that He alone is Sovereign. He “sits in the heavens” (Ps. 2:4) and “rules over the nations” (Ps. 22:28)—He rules because He is King of Creation.

Some object to the concept of “King” and “rule” and would prefer the concept of “Father” and “love” when speaking of God. But God’s Providence and the exercise of His Sovereignty is not solely about His relationship to His own, His elect, but His relationship to the world. It must be remembered that in the New Testament alongside the idea of “Father” is the concept of the “Kingdom” and Jesus is the “King of Kings” (see Matt. 11:25; Acts 17:24; I Tim. 1:17; 6:15; Rev. 1:6; 19:6).

Sovereignty speaks of God’s authority, His right to rule over creation. He is the great God and does what He pleases: “For I know that the Lord is great, and our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and all the deep places” (Ps. 135:5-6). Within His Sovereignty is the right of God to do His will, to do what He pleases when He pleases where He pleases. His right to rule is not questionable and is not on the table for discussion.

His rule has authority, the authority of Deity. It is His right because He is Sovereign, and His position of authority is absolute. It is not to be disputed nor rejected, but heeded and obeyed. The only proper response to Sovereignty and its authority is worshipful submission. To reject God’s right to rule is to reject God.

Sovereignty speaks of possession. God rules that which is His; He is the “Possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:19). He is the rightful and only owner of Creation; He brought it into being, and He sustains and maintains its existence. It belongs to Him, and it is not autonomous.

As the Possessor of heaven and earth, and all that is in both spheres, He has the right to determine how He uses that which He has created. He can make the mountain and the valley; He can make the eagle and the sparrow; He can make the whale and the tropical fish; He can make man and He can make woman. And He can use all of these in any way He chooses, because each is His. The clay does not dictate to the Potter, but the Potter does what He pleases with the clay because it is His clay (Isa. 64:8; Jer. 18:1-6; Rom. 9:20-21).

Sovereignty defines the relationship of God to history. The question is this: are events the result of chance or God? What part does God’s will play in the historical process? There are only three possibilities:

1. Nothing that happens is God’s will – this means that events are the result of chance or some unknown impersonal fate.

2. Some things that happen are God’s will – this usually means that God is the cause of good but not evil; He sends the rain to water the crops but not the storm that destroys the city.

3. All things that happen are God’s will – that is, nothing happens outside of God’s will; His will is universal, even the wicked exist for judgment—“the Lord has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom” (Prov. 16:4; Rom. 9:22-23). Not even a sparrow “falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (Matt. 10:29). The plan of the Lord is not general but specific, even to the smallest detail, involving both evil and the trivial.

The third possibility is the choice of this site. All events are finally explained only by a Supernatural Cause, which is not just a cold logical necessity but, rather, is a personal and holy Creator, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is God who “does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done’” (Dan. 4:35). He is not accountable to man, nor must He explain to man His actions, which are always just and right. “Thus, you have seen that God’s providence reaches to all places, to all persons, to all occurrences and affairs” (Thomas Boston, A Body of Divinity, 121).

Sovereignty is God’s exercise
of His right to rule
absolutely and totally
over all that He has made.


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