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Theology > Salvation > Sovereignty in Salvation > Meaning of the Words


In Salvation God is Sovereign. Salvation is God’s saving work for man in his sin; and the work is the work of God, His work alone. For the work of salvation man has no capability; he is dependent upon the Sovereign God and his salvation.

In Theology “salvation” is the most common word used to speak of God’s provision for the sinner, and “sovereignty” is the best word to speak of God’s greatness and mystery in His work of saving the sinner. Consider these two words: sovereignty and salvation.

Sovereignty – Sovereignty and Providence are related; essentially the two words are synonyms. If a distinction is to be made, then Sovereign speaks of who or what God is, and Providence speaks of the activity of God’s Sovereignty. But if the premise is accepted that God is what He does, and what He does reflects who He is, then, perhaps, a distinction between Providence and Sovereignty is a distinction without a difference. For this website the following integration is accepted: 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 (see: God is Sovereign).

Providence, or Sovereignty, defines the relationship of God and His Creation; in this relationship God maintains and directs the created order according to His everlasting plan, guiding it to His End. Therefore, the ultimate meaning for Creation is not found in the natural but in the Supernatural, not in the material but in the Metaphysical, not in the horizontal but in the vertical. Consequently, the purpose, meaning, and destiny of the cosmos are outside of the cosmos; they reside in Him.

The point is that man cannot establish significance for himself, for significance cannot be known by the activities of reason; significance comes through Revelation, whereby God gives insight into His activity. And it is in His activity and in man’s relationship to God that man’s significance is comprehended.

Sovereignty is God’s rule, as well as the realm of His rule. He is King over all things and He rules over all things. The psalmist writes: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19). His rule is absolute, without alteration; His rule is for His pleasure alone, ultimately to bring glory to Himself.

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

In terms of salvation, God is Sovereign, meaning all aspects of salvation are according to His purpose and unfold according to His schedule. Man, therefore, is completely removed from the salvation arena; he is merely the recipient of the gift of salvation.

Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, of Your holy temple (Ps. 65:4);

who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (Jo. 1:13);

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me (Jo. 6:37);

I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world (Jo. 17:6);

to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31);

 And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48);

Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated (Rom. 9:13; see: Mal. 1:2-3);

It is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy (Rom. 9:16);

Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens (Rom. 9:18);

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4);

For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Phil. 1:29).

From the above verses it is obvious that salvation is of God, but that which is obvious is not readily accepted. Providence is not well understood, even by professing believers, and is even less acknowledged.

Since Providence is the exercise of God's Sovereignty, an understanding of Sovereignty is essential. Exactly what is meant by this word, and how pervasive is Sovereignty in the order of things? The question is not trivial. It is vital to know the meaning and implications of this word, for in this word is the most important concept for understanding Scripture (see: Providence).

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

Salvation – Salvation is a comprehensive word, one of the most comprehensive words of the Christian Faith. Variations of the word are the words “save,” “saved,” and “Savior.” What would Christianity be without these words?

Many theological concepts, perhaps most, can be subsumed under this single word.  Associated with “salvation” are the following: God’s purpose, man’s rebellion and the resulting depravity, the Incarnation and the Passion of Christ, and the future of the Cosmos; additionally, salvation encompasses alienation, atonement, regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, and glorification, as well as the complete range of sub-points related to these major topics.

The word itself, sōtēria, speaks of deliverance, soundness, wholeness, or preservation; theologically it describes God’s work for man, both in the purchase and application of salvation. In a broad manner the word speaks of all the blessing that accrue to the believer, all made possible by God’s grace in connection with the person and work of Christ. Several points should be made:

One, Salvation is the act of God.

Two, Salvation is the act of God for man.

Three, Salvation is the act of God for man in his sin.

Four, Salvation is associated with a Savior (sōtēr), and Christ is the Savior (Lu. 2:11; Act 13:23; Phil. 3:20); He saves by being Himself the salvation.

Five, Salvation is both individual and corporate: God saves individuals, and will bring about a cosmic salvation. Salvation is vast in its scope: there is to be a new heaven and a new earth.

Salvation is God’s Work and also God’s Word; it is the message of the Church. Salvation is the content of the Gospel—it is the instrument God uses to bring spiritual life to the dead sinner. Paul states that he is “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16; see: Rom. 10:17; Eph. 1:13; I Pet. 1:18-20, 23, 25; Jas. 1:21). This means that within the Gospel is the power of God to awaken the spiritually dead and to initiate spiritual life. The Word about the Work of Christ—His provision of salvation—is  capable of effecting a new creation within the sinner: by grace one is transformed from death into life through the work of the living Word of God, which has within it the power of God.

Without salvation the individual is lost, lost for all eternity.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already (Jo. 3:18);

He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (Jo. 3:36);

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.
Isa. 61:10

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