The Absolute Sovereignty of God Over All

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together, (Col. 1:17-18).

Reformed Theology emphasizes the absolute sovereignty of God over everything, but what does that mean? Simply put, to say that God is sovereign over all things means that God gets His way.  God always gets His way; in everything, and all the time!  For God to not get His way—what He wants—can only mean that someone or something prevented Him from getting it.  Many Scriptures deny the possibility of such a thought: “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations” (Ps. 33:10-11). For any part of God’s plan to fail to come to pass would mean that God was thwarted by a creature.

For a silly example, let us imagine that God wanted a blue Mercedes. Accordingly, God arranges things in the universe (secondary causes) to accomplish His will according to His wisdom and power, and with all the means at His disposal, and presto: a beautiful, new, blue Mercedes rolls off the assembly line exactly as God wanted!  Now can you conceive of a situation in which at the precise moment the Mercedes was being completed a man ran up to the car and threw a bucket of red paint on it?  Almighty God, the omnipotent Creator and Sustainer of the universe wanted a blue Mercedes, but this one man, with his bucket of red paint, prevented God from getting what He wanted. 

Surely such a scenario is inconceivable.  It is completely impossible and absurd.  Why God could have prevented it in a million ways.  First, since God knows everything, He surely knew and saw all that this man was thinking and doing and so He could have stopped him at any moment.  He could have had the man get stuck in traffic on the way to the factory.  He could have sent a security guard to stop the man as he entered the building.  He could have had the man trip and fall, oversleep, get sick, forget who he was, temporarily loose strength in his arms when it came time to throw the paint, or innumerable other possibilities.  More profoundly, God could have arranged it so that the man was never born, or that red paint was never invented.  He could have killed the man.  He could have had an angel appear and stop the man.  He could have transported the man immediately into heaven, or into prison.  Or he could have simply called a blue Mercedes to appear out of nothing somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn where there are no men nor is there any red paint! 

The point of this ridiculous example is that if God allowed a man to throw red paint on His blue Mercedes, it can only mean that for some reason God must have wanted it to happen.  It may be for a purpose totally contrary to what the man with the red paint was intending, but if God let him do it, if God permitted it, then God must have must have had some reason for it and in that sense we can say God wanted it to happen, for He could have stopped it.  God is all-powerful.  God has the power to prevent anything from occurring.  God is also all-knowing.  He knows all that was, is, or ever will be.  God owes no man life and can justly end anyone’s life at any time.  Therefore, if anything happens in this universe; more specifically if any human being is allowed by God to live and do some particularly heinous thing; it can only mean that God has some purpose for it.  Otherwise, He would have prevented it.  God is also all-good.  And so in whatever God allows to happen, we can know that His purposes in bringing it about are always perfectly good.  Now this does not mean that everything that happens is good, but it does mean that if God allows something to happen through secondary causes, regardless of what those causes may have intended, God’s intention in allowing it was entirely and only good: for His glory, and for the true good of His people. This is nothing more than to affirm Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Christian, take comfort in knowing that your God is absolutely sovereign.

Ray Heiple (M.Div. RPTS, D.Min. RPTS) is the Senior Pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church (PCA), host for the TV program Origins (CTVN), teacher of Bible and Apologetics at Robinson Township Christian School (RTCS), and author of Preaching with Biblical Motivation (P&R, 2017), and Pocket History of the PCA (CDM, 2017).


Ray Heiple