The sovereignty of God, at least how it relates to human free will, is a challenging topic with a variety of ways that people understand it. Rather than rehashing what others say about this, I would like to briefly express what I have come to believe about the subject. I believe that God is sovereign, he is a ruler with absolute power and knowledge. As sovereign, he is answerable to no one, especially to his human creations. He made us, and he does not owe us an explanation for how or why he did so; as much as we might like one.
The ninth chapter of Romans is especially clear on God’s sovereignty; in particular as it concerns what he is doing with us. There are some that God has destined for glory, and others that he destined for destruction. And that destiny is not based on what we may, or may not, have done. It is solely based on his sovereignty. He chooses and rejects whom he wants to.
Is that fair? From a human perspective, maybe not. We would like to think that God would reward or punish us based on our actions. And typically our views of heaven and hell reflect that. Be good, and paradise awaits you. Be bad, and face eternal punishment. But God is not like us, and we err when we try and see him as such. God is much more than I can conceive of, and judging him according to human standards is ludicrous.
I do not profess to understand God’s purpose in creation. But I am reasonably certain that it was not so that he could have a heaven full of people to reward and hang out with for eternity. There certainly seems to be an easier way to accomplish that. Scripture tells us that, as believers, we are his children. And that seems to be not just for this life, but also in the future that awaits us. And if that is so, then God most likely chooses those who have the characteristics he wants, based on this life.
God is sovereign and can arbitrarily choose whoever he wants. But the Bible is clear that faith plays a role in the selection. While some see faith as something we do and lump it with ‘works’, the Bible pretty clearly distinguishes between the two (i.e. Romans 3:28). It seems that faith is what God wants; and all who will live a life of faith in him will be chosen.
Some will argue that God gives faith to those he wants, but that would seem to be at odds with the repeated calls for us to have faith; calls that seem to indicate some personal responsibility. It seems more in line with scripture to see faith as something that is natively within me. Besides, if God wants all of us to be saved, and he is responsible for supplying the faith, why doesn’t everyone have faith?
My faith however, does not obligate God in any fashion. He is sovereign, and if in his sovereignty he decides to select the faithful and reject everyone else, that is his right. In no way does my faith impinge on God’s sovereign choice, or force him to act on my behalf.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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2 thoughts on “The Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God”
HI, thanks for posting on the sovereignty of G-d. I came to understand Romans 9 differently, not as individual election, but really as G-d election of nations. He chose Israel rather than Edom. Paul came to ask the very question many Jews and Christians were wondering during the First century; why did the Jews reject G-d, the nation Chosen from G-d as Priests, while the gentiles, accepted the Jewish Messiah? This, could have been a stumbling block for many to come to Christ, so Paul felt that he needed to explained what happened. As we see in the first century, some Jews who are from Israel came to know the Lord Jesus, but was rejected by the majority. We can see in Romans 9, that Paul weeps for Israel, his brothers in the flesh. Jeremiah 18:1-11 clearly also speak of nations, and when Paul talks about the clay and the Potter, he was thinking about this very passage. Romans 9:13 also refers to Malachi 1:2, a quotes from the Old testament that is clearly a reference on the nations of Edom and Israel. We just have to keep on reading also the end of the chapter to know that Paul really talks about nations (Rom 9:30-31).
This is the only way G-d can be fair, not in the sense that we will be judge fairly. If G-d judges us fairly, we would all go where we deserve, HELL. G-d is fair in the sense that G-d, does not show partiality (Rom 2:11). If he randomly chose Jacob over Esau, that would be partial. James 2 also warns against this. So, if he chose us according to the counsel of His will, and it’s not because he chose any of us because of our actions, then the reason must be arbitrary. Calvinist would disagree with this (they would only call it mystery), but there’s no other conclusion possible. To show the full attribute of His Love, He chose those who will believe, and any Sovereignty of G-d on the election of believer must be based on Faith. He Chose us in Him (Jesus), concluding that Romans 9 has anything to do with salvation is just the same as agreeing that G-d decided before the foundation of the world to condemn people without choice. Free will becomes an illusion, we are free to choose, but how can we “resist His will”? This cannot be, because clearly His will is that “Nobody would perish”. We can also clearly know that G-d’s will is for people not to sin (Jeremiah 7:31). If G-d make certain that someone sin, like the hardening of Pharoh’s heart, then that would render G-d the author of Sin, this cannot be, as it would go in total contradiction with the rest of the scripture.
God is not the author of sin, nor wants us to sin. I am adamant that if G-d made sin certain (deterministic understanding of sovereignty), then that makes G-d the other of evil. Sure, Calvinist will built a strawman argument to prove the opposite, but logic is logic, and truth is truth. We can’t deny the obvious, people would go to jail if they convicted someone to do a crime.
So to conclude G-d is sovereign, and He chose the mean of Salvation, not who will be saved. G-d in His perfect plan controls all things (historical events), and orchestrate how events will be, but he also decided to allow people to freely chose. If G-d would sovereignly decide all things, then sin would not be and all would be saved (G-d would have make it certain that we would not eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and Evil). But in His sovereign will, He chose to put this tree there to test us (we failed). Because of our failure G-d used it for Good, by showing us His mercy (how would we have known Mercy otherwise?). It is the same with Salvation, he wants all to repent, but only those who freely believe will taste that Salvation. God does not want to judge us (He has not predestined some to Hell to show his attribute of Wrath), as “Mercy triumphs over judgment”.
In general, I agree with what you are saying. This ninth chapter of Romans, as well as the two that follow, is an explanation of what has happened to the Jews. The ninth chapter, especially, demonstrates that election is not a matter of ethnic heritage. Rather it is a matter of God’s mercy. He saves who he will. That is in no way contrary to salvation by faith. God, in his mercy, chose to save all who would, by faith, accept the gracious offer of salvation he made to us. And it makes no difference if you are Jew or Gentile. We are all saved in the same way.