Recently we preached through 2 Timothy and encountered this passage:
who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Timothy 1:9)
There is much to chew on in that one verse. God calls us. He does so because of his own purpose. He does so as an expression of grace and all of this was ordained and orchestrated before the ages began. That’s a mouthful of meaty doctrine.
This all refers to the mammoth concept known as predestination which is but one facet of God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereignty in general refers to His rule and reign over all things, whereas predestination typically refers to His rule in the realm of salvation.
But what of God’s sovereignty beyond the sphere of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation)? Is His sovereignty limited to the domain of who is and is not saved? Does it extend to the question of who I marry, where I go to school, what career field I enter? What about even smaller decisions like what shirt I wear today or what I eat for lunch?
To what extent does God’s sovereignty reach? According to the Scriptures God is sovereign over:
- Weather phenomena such as rain, snow and lightning (Job 37:6-13)
- The direction of the heavenly bodies (Job 38:31-32; Matthew 5:45)
- The distribution of food for animals (Job 38:39-41; Psalm 104:14, 27-29; Matthew 6:26)
- The life and death of animals (Matthew 10:29)
- The rise and fall of nations (Job 12:23; Psalm 22:28)
- The decisions of the leaders of nations (Proverbs 21:1)
- The times and places in which people live (Acts 17:26)
- The length of our lives (Job 14:5; Psalm 139:16)
- The fruitfulness of our wombs (Psalm 127:3)
- Seemingly random/chance occurrences (Proverbs 16:33)
- The direction of our every step (Proverbs 16:9; 20:24; Jeremiah 10:23; Philippians 2:13)
- The provision of everything that we have received (1 Corinthians 4:7)
In recognizing the absolute and infinite reaches of divine sovereignty, we need to be careful lest we incorrectly infer from this truth. Here are a few points to consider:
- God is not responsible for evil. We can say that God allows evil and uses evil, but we cannot charge Him with evil. God is good. All that He does is good, even His use of evil to accomplish good purposes. God relates to good and evil in different ways. Though sovereign over both, yet only the former is fundamentally pleasing to Him.
- Man is responsible for his own sin. Though God is sovereign over man’s sin, His sovereignty is not exercised in such a way as to nullify man’s responsibility. Furthermore, God has given us all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) such that we are not to be paralyzed by fear or laziness. Man’s failure to evangelize, encourage, pray, study, sing, etc. is not to be blamed upon God.
- God has revealed to us in His word all that is necessary for life and salvation (2 Timothy 3:14-17) such that we are not to be enslaved by daily decisions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking God where to eat or what to wear, but there is something wrong with being paralyzed by the fear of choosing wrongly.
There are no boundaries to God’s dominion. His sovereignty is over all such that Paul could declare “For from him and through Him and to Him are all things…” (Romans 11:36). The proper response to this truth is gratitude, trust, awe, and joy. As Paul continues in Romans 11, the reality of God’s reign should resound to His glory as we realize that absolutely nothing is beyond His concern and control. The God of all grace, comfort, steadfast love, and mercy is also the God of all power and providence. This is certainly good news.
Is God sovereign over _______? Yes and amen.
Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.
For resources on how the idea of God’s meticulous sovereignty relates to our everyday decision making, I recommend the following:
- Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung (a short and accessible intro to the subject)
- Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen (a more robust theological resource)