Gods Sovereignty and Goodness
“The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”.
“In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king!”
When you hear the statement, “God is sovereign” what comes to mind?
God has determined all that would happen before the world was created; yet man is responsible for the sinful desires of his own heart.
Arthur Pink writes:
“What do we mean by this expression? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the godhood of God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Dan. 4:35). To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Ps. 115:3). To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is “The Governor among the nations” (Ps. 22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the “Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible.”
Psalm 115:3, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”
Isaiah 46:10, “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure;”
We need to understand that God has always been; He is absolute. He is eternal; Men and life are impermanent, temporary; God has always existed and will always exist. In fact, the word exist does not render the proper understanding of Gods eternality as we use it generally in relationship to things that are not eternal. I say all this to just get us to a place where we can attempt to get a feel for Gods sovereignty. It is all because of Him. He is the action, we are the response. God spoke, and then there was life. All things are directed and decreed by our great King. All things are solely for His glory.
John Murray writes:
The concept of divine sovereignty presupposes also the fact of creation, that is, the origination of all other existence by the fiat of God. The moment we posit the existence of anything independent of God in its derivation of factual being, in that moment we have denied the divine sovereignty. For even should we grant that now or at some point God has assumed or gained absolute control over it, the moment we allow the existence of anything outside of his fiat as its principle or origination and outside of his government as the principle of its continued existence, then we have eviscerated the absoluteness of the divine authority and rule. Scripture is paramountly conscious of this fact, and so its witness to the absolutely originative activity of God is pervasive. It does not depend wholly upon a few well-known texts, however important these may be.”
Since God condescends, we condescend as well in some ways; We condescend in using a definable term in regards to the indefinable, i.e. God exists. To exist, by default creates a point of being and origination; a point of creation. God has always been and was not created, hence, He does not exist. He is!
verb (used without object)
1. to have actual being; be: The world exists, whether you like it or not.
2. to have life or animation; live.
3. to continue to be or live: Belief in magic still exists.
4. to have being in a specified place or under certain conditions; be found; occur: Hunger exists in many parts of the world.
5. to achieve the basic needs of existence, as food and shelter: He’s not living, he’s merely existing.
Origin: 1595–1605; < Latin ex ( s ) istere to exist, appear, emerge, equivalent to ex- ex-1 + sistere to stand.
Whatever exists is far off and most profound– who can discover it?
Strongs 1961 Hebrew
to fall out, come to pass, become, be
Hebrews 11:6 says:
“6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
The term exists is the same term Jesus uses when He states, “I am”.
John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
eimi: I exist, I am
Original Word: εἰμί
Part of Speech: Verb
Phonetic Spelling: (i-mee’)
Short Definition: I am, exist
Definition: I am, exist.
Strongs #1510 eimí (the basic Greek verb which expresses being, i.e. “to be”) – am, is. 1510 (eimí), and its counterparts, (properly) convey “straight-forward” being (existence, i.e. without explicit limits).
1510 /eimí (“is, am”) – in the present tense, indicative mood – can be time-inclusive (“omnitemporal,” like the Hebrew imperfect tense). Only the context indicates whether the present tense also has “timeless” implications. For example, 1510 (eimí) is aptly used in Christ’s great “I am” (ego eimi . . . ) that also include His eternality (self-existent life) as our life, bread, light,” etc. See Jn 7:34, 8:58, etc.
Example: Jn 14:6: “I am (1510 /eimí) the way, the truth and the life.” Here 1510 (eimí) naturally accords with the fact Christ is eternal – maning “I am (was, will be).” The “I am formula (Gk egō eimi)” harks back to God’s only name, “Yahweh” (OT/3068, “the lord”) – meaning “He who always was, is, and will be.” Compare Jn 8:58 with Ex 3:14. See also Rev 4:8 and 2962 /kýrios (“Lord”).
God is not material; He is spirit. He is not part of the material world, hence, does He technically ‘exist’? We believers would agree, He is! Existence has a starting point and an end; God has no beginning and no end. In that we have no way in explaining this idea by any other means, so we use a condescension. God exists.
Jesus existed. He lived and died. His flesh was in the material world; His spirit, outside of it. He is resurrected. He is a glorified body that is NOW outside of the material, much like we will be in glory.
This may be a problem and a break in the 2nd commandment. The Jews do not say His name; applying a name to the undefinable borders on blasphemy. But, who really knows?
Tracy Rich of Judaism 101, a Jewish scholar writes:
“The Names of God
I have often heard people refer to the Judeo-Christian God as “the nameless God” to contrast our God with the ancient pagan gods. I always found this odd, because Judaism clearly recognizes the existence of a Name for God; in fact, we have many Names for God.
The most important of God’s Names is the four-letter Name represented by the Hebrew letters Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei (YHVH). It is often referred to as the Ineffable Name, the Unutterable Name or the Distinctive Name. Linguistically, it is related to the Hebrew root Hei-Yod-Hei (to be), and reflects the fact that God’s existence is eternal. In scripture, this Name is used when discussing God’s relation with human beings, and when emphasizing his qualities of lovingkindness and mercy. It is frequently shortened to Yah (Yod-Hei), Yahu or Yeho (Yod-Hei-Vav), especially when used in combination with names or phrases, as in Yehoshua (Joshua, meaning “the Lord is my Salvation”), Eliyahu (Elijah, meaning “my God is the Lord”), and Halleluyah (“praise the Lord”).
The first Name used for God in scripture is Elohim. In form, the word is a masculine plural of a word that looks feminine in the singular (Eloha). The same word (or, according to Rambam, a homonym of it) is used to refer to princes, judges, other gods, and other powerful beings. This Name is used in scripture when emphasizing God’s might, His creative power, and His attributes of justice and rulership. Variations on this Name include El, Eloha, Elohai (my God) and Elohaynu (our God).
God is also known as El Shaddai. This Name is usually translated as “God Almighty,” however, the derivation of the word “Shaddai” is not known. According to some views, it is derived from the root meaning “to heap benefits.” According a Midrash, it means, “The One who said ‘dai'” (“dai” meaning enough or sufficient) and comes from the fact that when God created the universe, it expanded until He said “DAI!” (perhaps the first recorded theory of an expanding universe?). The name Shaddai is the one written on the mezuzah scroll. Some note that Shaddai is an acronym of Shomer Daltot Yisrael, Guardian of the Doors of Israel.
Another significant Name of God is YHVH Tzva’ot. This Name is normally translated as “Lord of Hosts.” The word “tzva’ot” means “hosts” in the sense of a military grouping or an organized array. The Name refers to God’s leadership and sovereignty. Interestingly, this Name is rarely used in scripture. It never appears in the Torah (i.e., the first five books). It appears primarily in the prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, as well as many times in the Psalms.”
What are we glean from our understanding and what the Jew holds fast. Much like our worship, i.e. the Regulative principle, we should utilize the highest level of prudence when we say Gods name. The last thing we want it to break the 3rd commandment. To use Gods name in vain is much more than using his name in a swear word!
The WLC question 7 says:
“What is God?
Answer: God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”
Gods sovereignty is evidenced in His Holy decree and council.
Again, from the WLC question 12:
“What are the decrees of God?
Answer: God’s decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will, whereby, from all eternity, he has, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained: Whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men”.
Interesting to note here is that it makes mention of ‘in time’ and ‘especially concerning angels and men’.
This essentially says that God is concerned primarily for the angels and men, but as well, He is concerned for His other creations, i.e. animals, plants, the Earth and heavens. God is outside of time, yet His decrees are for ‘in time’.
Martin Luther once wrote:
“God himself will milk the cows through him whose vocation that is. He who engages in the lowliness of his work performs God’s work, be he lad or king.”
I once made mention to a friend of mine that I hold to a puppet based theology; there is a lot of truth to that. God pulls the strings. Men have choices to make, yet God has created the end from the beginning. If He has created the end from the beginning, how is it that we are not in some ways like puppets? In the sphere of Gods sovereignty, men will never clearly understand this doctrine this side of glory-but we search.
My friend Richard said:
“Man’s responsibility and freedom of will, are only protected by the sovereignty of God.
The most consistent atheists – including the Marxists – have always been determinists.
We don’t know how a sovereign God maintains Man’s metaphysical freedom and responsibility but because He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent He is able to do it.
Unsaved men are of course ethically bound by sin. See the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter IX.
If we live in a godless universe Man is not free and responsible, but all his actions are determined as if he were an accidental puppet of fate or chance.
The further people depart from the teaching of a totally sovereign God, the more open to question Man’s freedom and responsibilty come. The less sovereign God is, the more open to determination by chance and fate, Man’s will is.
God’s sovereignty establishes Man’s free will, because only the God of the Bible could foreordain that Man’s choices be free.”
D. A. Carson writes:
“1. God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions in Scripture to reduce human responsibility. 2. Human beings are responsible creatures – that is, they choose, they believe, they disobey, they respond, and there is moral significance in their choices; but human responsibility never functions in Scripture to diminish God’s sovereignty or to make God absolutely contingent.”
Surely He has not based His decrees on the actions of His creation, i.e. God does not base His elective decree on His seeing down the corridor of time, seeing the creature choosing Him, and hence, He chooses. That is an Arminian error and the farthest thing from the truth. God chooses based on His being sovereign, infinite, all knowing and positively omnipotent.
My friend Edgar said:
“”…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” Phil 2:12-13.
These verses sum up perfectly how God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are complimentary and not at odds. To dismiss one of them is to dismiss God.”
“Work out your salvation……”
“It is God who worketh in you….”
Who is the sovereign in these statements?
How is it that God is sovereign yet, men have a responsibility?
Richard goes on to say:
“It seems that we know that without God’s omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent sovereignty Man couldn’t be free and responsible, but would be the puppet of irrational, impersonal and deterministic forces (often called “chance” and “fate” operating through “laws of nature”)
So Man’s freedom and responsibility is another argument for the existence of the biblical God.
But how God precisely ordains Man’s free acts – or rather how God can ordain free acts, and yet they are still truly free – is a mystery. It’s probably something to do with the fact that He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.”
Psalm 73 says:
73:1 “Certainly God is good to Israel,
and to those whose motives are pure!
73:2 But as for me, my feet almost slipped;
my feet almost slid out from under me.
73:3 For I envied those who are proud,
as I observed the prosperity of the wicked.
73:4 For they suffer no pain;
their bodies8 are strong and well-fed.
73:5 They are immune to the trouble common to men;
they do not suffer as other men do.
73:6 Arrogance is their necklace,
and violence their clothing.
73:7 Their prosperity causes them to do wrong;
their thoughts are sinful.
73:8 They mock15 and say evil things;
they proudly threaten violence.
73:9 They speak as if they rule in heaven,
and lay claim to the earth.
73:10 Therefore they have more than enough food to eat,
and even suck up the water of the sea.
73:11 They say, “How does God know what we do?
Is the sovereign one aware of what goes on?”
Of course He does….
At this point, I am comfortable that we have established how and what sovereignty means. Believers look up; God is our only hope and we look to Him as the action, never the response. The rocks would even cry out….Christ makes mention to an interesting fact in relation to the material world. There are never limits on the limitless.
The next subject we will endeavor to get a better understanding of is out of this sovereignty flows Gods goodness. Keep in mind that God has many more attributes that flow from His sovereignty, but for this class we will focus on Goodness.
1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting (Psalms 107:1).
19 How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast stored up for those who fear Thee, which Thou hast wrought for those who take refuge in Thee, before the sons of men! (Psalms 31:19).
5 Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days (Hosea 3:5).
All goodness flows out of Gods character and Gods grace. Since men are all fallen and fully deserving of hell fire immediately, anything good men possess is given via the hand of a merciful creator; even the reprobate, those made and marked for the day of destruction are having a form of gracious benevolence. The fact that God allows the reprobate another breath and beat bears witness to that grace. Remember the flood. Remember that all men, including the elect deserve immediate justice and are rightfully, in relation to Gods holiness and justice, deserving of no les than death and hell.
You have heard it said, “ I can’t believe that the God of the scriptures sends anyone to Hell-He is a loving God-He is not a God that wants anyone to perish-He is good”. This, of course is a break in the 2nd commandment. Men that hold to this universalistic view of God deny Gods justice. They deny God is judge and must punish sin. They deny that the goodness God flourishes on the elect is based on the covenant of redemption-that which was agreed upon via holy covenant, before time, between the Father and Son. That agreement says that God would give a particular people to God the Son; The Son agreed to die in the place of the elect as a sacrificial lamb; He did not agree to die for everyone that will or has ever lived, else all would be saved; He did not agree to die on the cross for those who would, in time, choose Him. This would base Holy decisions on the outcomes of Gods creation, hence placing the creation above the creator; in fact, if you think about it, there was a possibilty, based on this idea, that Heaven could have been empty. It is essentially, semi-pelagianism or Arminianism; Arminianism is heresy and all that hold to it are rightfully perishing.
So, the fact that God saves anyone is a validation of Gods goodness towards the created. His goodness flows into more realms than meets the eye. There is the metaphysical; God holds the world in His hands. Just think, if the Earth was hit by a large meteor and a chuck broke off, the perfect nature, the perfect balance, the axis would shift and the earth would most likely go flying off into space. Additionally, gravity would change. The atmosphere would change; oxygen would no longer be oxygen. If the Earth just moved a few degrees, the sun would possibly either scorch the Earth or the temperature would change so drastically that we might all freeze.
Do you have any idea of how many times your heart beats in a 24 hr period?
103,680 beats. I am 55 years old. I won’t even try and do the math. Breathing: approximately 20k. Eye blinks: 11k. Every blink, the eye is lubricated.
These facts prove Gods goodness. The laws of nature are in Gods hands.
Consider the civil authorities. They are Gods hammer. The 23 ch of the WCF states:
“I. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil magistrates, to be, under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, has armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers.”
Gods goodness is evident here; He restrains sin; He uses the secular even.
Psalm 52:1 says:
“”The goodness of God endureth continually”
The goodness of God is what God uses to convict the believer of sin:
“The goodness of God leads you to repentance.” Romans 2:4.
“GOD is often exceedingly good to those who are utterly unworthy of such treatment. “He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good.” Indeed, sometimes the evil seem to have more of the sunshine than the good have! David said, “I have seen the wicked in great power and spreading himself like a green bay tree.” God’s forbearance has been misin- terpreted and even misrepresented by some who have implied, or actually asserted that God winks at sin and does not care how men behave, but treats all alike whether they are good or evil. Some have wickedly asked, as Job reminded his friends, “What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?” Many have said, “Do not the wicked prosper? Do they not even die in peace? Is it not written concerning them, ‘There are no bands in their death; but their strength is firm’?” This is a misinterpretation of the merciful design of God towards the ungodly and is corrected by the Apostle in the verse from which our text is selected—“Do you despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
The goodness of God to a man of evil life is not intended to encourage him to continue in his sin, but it is meant to woo and win him away from it. God manifests His Infinite gentleness and love that He may thereby kill man’s sin and, by His tender mercy, He may win man’s hard heart unto Himself—and by His abundant loving kindness, He may awaken man’s conscience to a sense of his true position in his Maker’s sight, that he may turn away from the sin which he now loves and may seek his God, whom he has despised and neglected.”
James 1:17 says:
“God is the source of everything that is good:
17 Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow”
All Goodness flows from God. After God created the heavens and the Earth his reply to what He had just finished was, ‘and it was good’.