God Is Sovereign
History is replete with the stories of despots and tyrants who wielded unbridled power with cataclysmic results. Everyone knows the horrors of the Hitlers of the world. Shakespeare famously wrote about a man who committed atrocious acts of paranoid murder to keep power in Macbeth. In both history and fiction, the adage “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” has proved true, time and again. Indeed, unchecked power often leads one down the downward spiral of destruction. Scripture itself speaks of such accounts, with the story of King Saul of Israel standing tall as a surprising example of how power may corrupt a man.
Thus, when we speak of the sovereign power of God, there are generally a few questions that people raise about God and His power. Those varied questions generally fall under one of two categories: 1. Just how far does God’s power extend? 2. Can we trust God’s power?
To answer the first question, we must remember that God is not like man. His power is not limited by any external factors. Nothing can interfere in history that could somehow stop God from completing something He intended to do.
Consider the time when Balak, king of Moab, tried to hire the prophet Balaam to curse Israel. God would not permit him to do so, instead leading Balaam to declare, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num. 23:19). The extent of God’s power is such that once He has determined to do something, He does it. Period.
Though God does act in time and space, His sovereign decrees transcend time and space. From the Covenant of Redemption, wherein the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit covenanted to save sinners, to the rise and fall of kingdoms (Acts 17:26), to the number of our own days (Job 14:5, Ps. 139:16), God has ordained all according to His infinite wisdom, goodness, and power.
So, God can do, and does do, anything and everything He pleases. Nothing is too hard for Him (cf. Jer. 32:26). But can we trust this sovereign God?
One of the most encouraging texts on this matter is James 1:17, which states that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” This text reminds us that God gives only those gifts that are good and perfect to His children. God is the Father of light, which is symbolic of His goodness, righteousness, and holiness. In fact, out God is so perfect and good that He will never change. Darkness will never be found in Him. Because He is sinless and good, all that He does is sinless and good. While we may not always understand what God is doing (Jer. 32), we can always trust what God is doing.
This leads to one more question: What does it please God to do? Namely these two things: Glorify Himself and accomplish the good of His people.
For examples of the former, one must only consider the plethora of times that God announces He is doing something for the spread of His glory and fame across the earth, or for “His own name’s sake.” In that great section on God’s predestining election of sinners unto salvation in Ephesians 1, we find that election itself is for “the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6). When God sent the ten plagues upon Egypt, withholding grace from and hardening Pharaoh’s heart in the process, He explains that it was for the spread of His glory (Ex. 14:4, 18; Ps. 106:7-8; Rom. 9:17). Jesus suffered and endured the agony of Calvary for His glory (Jn. 12:27-28). God even calls upon us to do good deeds so that others will glorify our Father in Heaven (Matt. 5:16). This is not egotistical; as the Triune God of the universe, it is right that the Father, Son, and Spirit delight in seeking the glory of one another.
In conjunction with glorifying Himself, God also aims to accomplish our greatest good through our being conformed into Christ’s image (Rom. 8:28; Phil. 1:6). This process may be strange and painful at times, but it is the good pleasure of our sovereign God to conform us to the image of His Son for His glory.
Our God is not like those despots or tyrannical madmen we know from history. Our God is more powerful than them and, thankfully, far better, for He is good and without sin. We can find confidence, hope, and trust in His sovereignty, for He does what He pleases, and it pleases Him to accomplish His greatest glory and our greatest good.
Jacob Tanner is pastor of Mt. Bethel Church of McClure in Central Pennsylvania. He has spent time as a reporter, journalist, and editor, and has written for various Christian websites. He and his wife, Kayla, have one son, Josiah. He is currently completing his M.Div. through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.