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Doctrine of God - Sovereignty and Omnipotence Print E-mail
The Doctrine of God
Sunday, 17 February 2008

I.  Introduction:

 Since we began with a question last week, let me start with one tonight: how great is our God?  How powerful is He?  These are obviously important questions to answer and the answers should lead us to great hope and trust in our Lord.  You might be wondering: why talk about sovereignty and omnipotence on the same night?  There is a clear relationship between the two attributes.  Listen to what Tozer says: ďSovereignty and omnipotence must go together.  One cannot exist without the other.  To reign, God must have power, and to reign sovereignly, He must have all power.Ē 1  If we are going to talk about Godís sovereign reign over all things, then we must talk about His omnipotence over all things.  Thus, we will be discussing these two attributes of God tonight.

II.  Baptist Faith and Message:

 In the general section on God (section II), the B, F, and M states that God is ĎRuler of the universeí and Ďall powerful.í  Likewise in the section on God the Father, it reads that He Ďreigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow and stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace.  He is all powerfulÖí  Thus, the sovereignty and omnipotence of God are affirmed in these statements. 

III.  Scripture:

 There are numerous passages that speak of Godís sovereignty and omnipotence.  As we look at some of them, I want to break them into some further categories.  Of course, some of the passages will overlap, but I think this will help us better understand these doctrines.  Also, I will not comment on each individual text as I have been doing, but I will try to comment on each group of passages.

 A.  Sovereignty:
  1.  General: Job 42:2, Psalm 115:3, 135:6ff, Daniel 4:34-35, Ephesians 1:11, 1 Timothy 6:15-16.  All of these passages teach us that the Lord is the sovereign King of the universe.  He rules over all and all things happen according to the counsel of His will.  As Paul says, He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords to whom alone belongs eternal dominion.  Yet, we must ask: how far does Godís sovereignty extend according to the Scriptures?  It is this question that leads me to the next set of passages.

  2.  Specific:
   a. Nature: Psalm 135:6-7, Matthew 5:45, 6:26-30,
   b. Angels and Satan: Psalm 103:20-21, Job 1:12
   c. Nations: Psalm 47:8-9, Daniel 2:20-21, 4:34-35
   d. Animals: Psalm 104:21-30, 1 Kings 17:4-6
   e. ĎAccidentsí and ĎSmall Thingsí: Proverbs 16:33, Matthew 10:29
   f. Acts of men: Exodus 3:21, 12:33-36, Philippians 2:12-13
   g. Sinful and evil acts of men: Genesis 50:20, Acts 2:22-23, 4:27-28
   h. Calamity and disaster (good and bad): Job 1:21, 2:10, Isaiah 45:7, Lamentations 3:38, Amos 3:6  2

 B.  Omnipotence:
  1.  Power (in general): Job 42:2, Psalm 115:3, Ephesians 1:19, Luke 1:37.  These passages speak of Godís power over all and His ability to do whatever He pleases.  He is not limited by any weakness.
  2.  Creation (more specific): Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, Psalm 33:9, Jeremiah 32:17, John 1:3.  These passages and others speak of Godís power as evidenced in the act of creation.  He simply spoke and it came to be.  To create in such a way demonstrates His great power.

IV.  Implications 

 A.  God is all powerful over all creation.  This implication is obvious from the texts above.  Yet, when it comes to the discussion of omnipotence, there are some interesting questions that can be raised.  I would like to address one of the more prominent ones, namely: is there anything that God cannot do?  The Biblical answer to this question may surprise you, for the Bible tells us that there are things that God cannot do.  What are they?  He cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18).  He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).  He cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13).  I think we can summarize all of these statements by saying that God cannot do anything that is inconsistent with His own character.  He cannot sin or cease to be God.  Thus, we should say of God, following Grudem, ďGodís omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will.Ē 3

 B.  Likewise, the above passages make it clear that God is sovereign over all things.  As with Godís omnipotence, the doctrine of Godís sovereignty raises many questions as well.  Let me try and address two of the more critical ones.  First, just how far does Godís sovereignty extend?  As the passages indicate that we read above, Godís sovereignty extends over all things.  There is nothing outside of His control.  All things happen under His sovereignty. 

The tornado that hit Union University last week did not catch God by surprise.  He was in control of all the wind.  He was in control of every broken piece of glass, every shattered wall, every small space that was provided for students who were caught under the rubble.  And in His mercy He saw fit to preserve them all.  Yet, even when things do not turn out so well, He is still in control over all and He is still good (an attribute that we will consider more later).  One of the more controversial aspects of Godís sovereignty is whether or not extends over manís salvation.  I believe that it does and I believe the Scriptures to teach that very plainly (see Ephesians 1:3-14, Romans 9).  Of course, this brings up the second question I would like to address: If God is sovereign over all things including our actions, then do we have real choices?  My answer to that question is yes.  How?  Listen to Grudemís explanation:

 It seems better to affirm that God causes all things that happen, but that he does so   in such a way that he somehow upholds our ability to make willing, responsible choices, choices that have real and eternal results, and for which we are held accountable.  Exactly how God combines his providential control with our willing and significant choices, Scripture does not explain to us.  But rather than deny one aspect or the other (simply because we cannot explain how both can be true), we should accept both in an attempt to be faithful to the teaching of all of Scripture. 4

In other words, instead of denying Godís sovereignty over all things or manís responsibility to make faithful decisions, we should simply affirm that the Bible teaches that both are true even if we cannot explain it all.  This view has been called Ďcompatibilismí because it sees these two truths (Godís sovereignty and manís responsibility) as compatible and not contradictory. 5  I know that this only brings up numerous questions, but I wanted to mention this discussion here because of its relation to the doctrine of Godís sovereignty.  If you would like to talk more about this, please come and talk with me.

V.  Christ and the cross:

 How does Godís sovereignty and omnipotence show up at the cross?  Look at Acts 2:22-23 and 4:27-28.  Whose plan was it behind the work of Christ?  Peter tells us that the cross happened according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.  He does not say that the Jews were thus relieved of their responsibility in the act, but He makes it clear that Christís death was part of the plan of God to redeem a people.  Likewise, when the church is praying in Acts 4, they state that the actions of Herod, the Gentiles, and the Israelites, were all part of what God had predestined to take place.  In other words, the cross, the suffering of Christ in our place, was not a back-up plan.  It was Godís plan before the foundations of the world to send Christ and to crush Him under His wrath in our stead.  What an amazing thought!!  At any point, Jesus could have backed out.  He had the power to call forth twelve legions of angels to His aid (see Matthew 26:53), but He did not.  No one took His life.  He willingly gave it, submitting to the sovereign plan of the Father. 

If I am honest, brothers and sisters, these truths drive me to my knees before Christ my Savior.  Godís sovereignty over His plan of redemption is a fuel for my worship.  Did you notice that many of the sovereignty texts came from the psalms?  Israelís book of worship is filled with Godís sovereignty over all things.  Paulís writing of Godís sovereignty over our salvation is a call to worship, for he begins the section with, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly placesÖ  I hope that the doctrine of Godís sovereignty and omnipotence will be a source of great joy for you and will bring you to His throne in humble reverence for the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who humbled Himself to be our Savior.  Amen.

1 A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1961), p. 65).
2 Based on list at
3 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p. 216.
4 Ibid., p. 321.
5 For a good explanation and defense of compatibilism see D. A. Carson, ďThe Mystery of Providence,Ē in How Long, O Lord? (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990), p.199-228.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 March 2008 )

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