In this short series of posts we have looked at what great theologians in the past have said about the sovereignty of God in everyday affairs and then the theological issues touched by that issue. We have seen that the witness of the church and the theology of the Bible is decidedly in favor of God being sovereign, not just over the things that we would like him to be sovereign over, but indeed the Sovereign One; the One who works everything out according to His good will and pleasure. Finally, we get to the foundation of it all. When considering a particular question of theology we must resign and simply ask, “What has God said to us about this?” We are dependent on the Bible to know what God is like. The Scriptures alone are our infallible guide and final authority on knowing God in Christ.

Luckily, or should I say providentially, God’s testimony to His own governance over all things is vast. It only matters what God says about Himself. Graciously, He has revealed Himself to us finally in the Scriptures so that we might know Him and enjoy Him forever. In this post, I will work to show from the Bible that a plain reading of Scripture begs God’s sovereign control. We will not be able to cover every, single passage that proves that God is absolutely sovereign. It is my hope to consider some samples of what God has said to us in His excellent Word. In doing so I hope to show you, if you do not believe that God is sovereign over all things, that you are not simply opposed to myself and the witness of church history. If you do not agree that God’s providence extends to every single detail of life then you disagree with God Himself. All this to say, I pray that God shows us His glory in this time. Open your Bible with me, test what I say, and let’s take God at His Word.

Job 1:6-12

Job was a righteous man. He lived upright before God as a response to His saving grace. The story of Job is most famous for the account of his great suffering. Job loses his servants (v.15), his stuff (v.17) and his children (v.18). Even his wife rejects him, telling him to “curse God and die” (2:9). Satan continues to pillage Job in chapter 2, afflicting him wife great sickness and disease.

But Satan is not acting as a rogue agent in the affliction of Job. The author of Job affirms again and again that it is indeed Satan that is doing these things to him. However, God is not absent from this picture. God is not even passive in this picture. Look at Job 1:6-12.

[6] Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. [7] The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” [8] And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” [9] Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? [10] Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. [11] But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” [12] And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:6-12 ESV)

Here we see something profound about God’s control over Satan. See here that it is God himself that puts Job forth as a possible target for Satan’s ravishing. Satan cannot touch one hair of a child of God without the Father’s consent. Job himself knows that it is God ultimately behind his fiery trial. He says at the end of chapter one that “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” He tears his cloth is sorrow and yet he still, in his deep darkness, says “blessed be the name of the Lord” (v.21). In the midst of deep sorrow, knowing even that God is sovereign over this terrific suffering, he lifts his voice to praise the Lord for His goodness. Job’s response is part of the reason I think God would ordain such a thing to pass for His children. The charge of Satan was the Job only worshipped God because of His gifts. This whole episode shows in Job a deep treasuring of God Himself. It tells us a great deal of the sufficiency of Christ, that a man might be wounded so deeply by the Lord and yet in the very wounding He is binding Job up so that his satisfaction for God might increase all the more. We must remember that God does not participate in the evil of Satan’s attacks. Satan is the secondary cause whereas God is the ultimate cause, working all things to Job’s good and His own glory. Job said that God took his family away and he “did not sin with his lips.”

Genesis 50:20

[20] As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20 ESV)

Joseph’s life provides one of the clearest example of God’s providence over all things in the lives of people. The last 13 chapters of Genesis detail the life of Joseph. He is favored by his father, maligned by his brothers, sold into slavery, put into jail after being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, brought from jail after interpreting dreams, appointed second in command over Egypt and put in control over all of the resources in Pharaoh’s land. A famine in the land brings Joseph’s father and his brothers to Egypt for sustenance. Right before this passage, Joseph’s brothers and clamoring for the mercy of their brother. They know they have wrong him and that they deserve to be his servants. But Joseph responds in v.20. They meant all of the episode for evil. They hated Joseph and in their envy and greed sold him into slavery, practically leaving him for dead. They were responsible for the sins they committed. But God meant it for good. Think of all the tiny things that worked together to get Joseph to a position where he can save his people and continue the line of Abraham according to God’s covenant of grace. Remember that Jesus comes from the line of Judah. Had Joseph’s brothers not sold him into to slavery, had not Joseph found favor with Pharaoh, Judah would have died and the purpose of God’s elect would have ceased. God’s promises are sure! Moses does not tell us that God used all of this for Joseph’s good. Look again. He said that God meant it for good. God is not simply resourceful. Far better, God’s predetermined purposes over the sins of Joseph’s brothers was ordained and work out by the sovereign Lord for the good of His people.

Proverbs 16:9, 33 

Two verses in this chapter of Proverbs illustrate God’s sovereignty over all things, even the tiny decisions that we make every day. The first is found in Proverbs 16:9.

[9] The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9 ESV)

Here we see that the author of the Proverbs, probably Solomon, telling us the two unshakable truths that we see throughout the Bible. First, the heart of a man plans his way. The truth of God’s providence does not mean to discourage us for trying to make choices and leverage our lives in a way that we can glorify God and enjoy Him above all else. It may be my desire to go to Africa to plant churches and train local leaders. I do not have to wait and see if it is God’s will for me to do that before I begin to plan. Now I want to be walking closely with God, taking counsel from my elders and seeing where my gifting and desires lead. I make those choices, I have those conversations. Then comes the second truth. It is God that directs and establishes our steps. If God does not want me to be in African, He will arrange things in such a way so that I will not be there. God does this through circumstance, elder and church authority and working in me what is good and pleasing in His sight (Heb. 13:21). His revealed will is that we be faithful and fight for joy in Christ, making disciples and being a healthy church member. Pursuing these things, God works to do with us what He will; using every little instant to work out exactly what He would please.

Quickly, look at the conclusion of chapter 16. Verse 33 reads:

[33] The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33 ESV)

The act of casting lots was sometimes used to leave a discussion to be resolved by unbiased “fate.” In the Bible, however, it is often said to take place “before the Lord” (Josh. 18:8). It is in this sense that every decision is from God. Every chance of “fate” is actually a decision from the sovereign Lord.

Matthew 6:30, 10:29

[30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30 ESV)

Jesus is arguing from the lesser to the greater here in Matthew 6:30. Those who have come to Christ in faith to obtain a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees and now have their lives characterized by the things in the Sermon on the Mount have not reason to worry. Jesus roots this in the Father’s sovereign care over even the smallest things in the creation. God clothes the grass of the field. This may refer to dew or whatever. The point remains that God is paying attention and sustaining the smallest, most inconsequential things. How much more will God give these believers whatever they need for their everlasting joy and faith in Him?

[29] Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. [30] But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:29-30 ESV)

Jesus is promising His disciples trouble in this world. The sovereignty of God over our persecution and suffering is a sweet balm for the aching soul. Jesus is telling them not to fear those who can only kill their body. Their Lord is the one who can kill the body and the soul in hell. The God of the universe, by way of their being justified by faith, is for them. They have no reason to fear because the sovereign Lord is about to propitiate His wrath and save them. He again argues from the lesser to the greater. He gives the example of a sparrow. These birds, sold for next to nothing, cannot even fall out of the sky without the Father’s consent. This passage is not simply referring to God’s omniscience. Jesus says that the sparrow does not hit the ground “apart from their Father.” God sustains all things, even the least of all things. Again, how much more will those for whom Christ was going to die be safe under His sovereign care? Jesus goes deeper still. The very hairs on their heads are numbered by God! God is meticulous over the details in every day life. We can rest and be empowered by the sovereign providence of God, knowing that we are safe in the hands of God.

Acts 2:23

[23] this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23 ESV)

The cross of Christ is the ultimate example of God using the sinful actions of sinful men to accomplish His purposes. Peter is telling those listening to his Pentecost sermon that Jesus was crucified “according to the definite plan of God.” Just was not so much a victim of injustice under Roman rule as He was sent by the Father to redeem a bride for Himself. Was God surprised by the cross? Did He only use it for good? Isaiah said that God was pleased to crush Jesus under the wrath that was due our sin, in our place (Isa. 53:10). So then it was the will of God that sent Jesus to the cross, an intra-Trinitarian plan for an accomplished redemption for the glory of God in Christ. This in no way excuses the men who killed Jesus. Satan led men, God-hating men, to kill Jesus. Jesus exposed their lack of inherent righteousness and claimed to be God. To those who would be their own God, this was infuriating. It was the greatest evil in the world to kill the only innocent man that every walked the earth. However, it was God’s will and “definite plan” according with His complete and exhaustive foreknowledge that Christ who be a ransom for many. Had those men not done what they had done then our faith would be for nought. But God determined that sinful men would kill Jesus and that in His dead the Father would crush the Son in the place of ruined sinners.

Romans 8:28

[28] And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

This may seem obvious but the “all things” in this verse really does refer “all things.” Romans 8 is all about assurance within the context of the book. Paul is assuring the believers in Romans that the Spirit intercedes on their behalf. In this, God is working all things for the good of the called that now love Jesus. This is rooted in God’s sovereign plan of God (8:29). We know (“for”) that God is working every little thing for our good because He has chosen to save us from eternity past based solely on His good pleasure, has justified us, and will certainly glorify us. If God were not sovereign over all things we would have no hope for our future salvation. 

Ephesians 1:11

[11] In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (Ephesians 1:11 ESV)

Finally, we come again to see that the doctrine of God’s providence and governance over all things is set in the context of assurance. It is in Christ that we have obtained an inheritance, that is the Holy Spirit, that guarantees that God will complete what He has started. Paul presupposes that they have been elected by the Father before the foundation of the world. In fact, He says it (Eph. 1:3-5). Our election is not ground in any condition found in us but “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” He works these things according to the counsel of his will. “All things” originate, not outside of God, but with the “eternal counsel of his will.” It is in this sovereign God that we find the origin of all things, including and preeminently our salvation.

Conclusion

It is the consistent witness of Scripture that God is sovereign over all things. This sovereignty extends to every area of life: salvation, natural disaster and everything in between. God is not acted of by external forces but instead works all things according to His own will and for His own glory. It our only hope in life and death that God is sovereign. There is nothing outside of Him that can effect change in our great salvation. Nothing can snatch us out of His hand, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. God is working in a way that we fear not even death, knowing that whatever comes is God’s chosen means of conforming us more and more into the image of His son.

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