What Is the Sovereignty of God?

Learn what God's sovereignty truly means in the Bible

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The sovereignty of God means that as ruler of the Universe, God is free and has the right to do whatever he wants. He is not bound or limited by the dictates of his created beings. Further, he is in complete control over everything that happens here on Earth. God's will is the final cause of all things.

Sovereignty (Pronounced SOV ur un tee) in the Bible is often expressed in the language of kingship: God rules and reigns over the entire Universe. He cannot be opposed. He is Lord of heaven and earth. He is enthroned, and his throne is a symbol of his sovereignty. God's will is supreme.

A Stumbling Block

God's sovereignty is a stumbling block for atheists and unbelievers who demand that if God is in total control, that he eliminate all evil and suffering from the world. The Christian's answer is that the sovereignty of God is beyond human understanding. The human mind cannot grasp why God allows evil and suffering; instead, we are called to have faith and trust in God's goodness and love.

God's Good Purpose

The result of trusting in God’s sovereignty is knowing that his good purposes will be achieved. Nothing can hinder God's plan; history will be worked out according to the will of God:

Romans 8:28
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  (NLT)
Ephesians 1:11
Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. (NLT)

The purposes of God are the most important reality in the Christian's life. Our new life in God's Spirit is based on his purposes for us, and sometimes that includes suffering. Difficulties in this life serve a purpose in God's sovereign plan:

James 1:2–4, 12
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing ...God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (NLT)

The Sovereignty of God Raises a Puzzle

A theological puzzle is also raised by the sovereignty of God. If God truly controls everything, how can humans have free will? It is obvious from Scripture and from everyday life that people do have free will. We make both good and bad choices. However, the Holy Spirit prompts the human heart to choose God, a good choice. In the examples of King David and the Apostle Paul, God also works with man's bad choices to turn lives around.

The ugly truth is that sinful human beings deserve nothing from a holy God. We cannot manipulate God in prayer. We cannot expect a rich, pain-free life, as touted by the prosperity gospel. Neither can we expect to reach heaven because we are a "good person." Jesus Christ has been provided to us as the way to heaven. (John 14:6)

Part of God's sovereignty is that despite our unworthiness, he chooses to love and save us anyway. He gives everyone the freedom to accept or reject his love.

Bible Verses About God's Sovereignty

The sovereignty of God is supported by many verses in the Bible, among them:

Isaiah 46:9–11
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ ... What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do. ( NIV)
Psalm 115:3
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (NIV)
Daniel 4:35
All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" (NIV)
Romans 9:20
But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" (NIV)