Cork Free Presbyterian Church, 10 Briarscourt (Annex) Shanakiel, Cork, Ireland Pastor: Colin Maxwell. Email: cfpc@esatclear.ie

The Sovereignty Of God Set Forth In The Scriptures Of Truth With Explanation and Application

"I have known men bite and grind their teeth in rage when I have been preaching the sovereignty of God… The doctrinaires of today will allow a God, but He must not be a King: that is to say, they choose a god who is no god, and rather the servant than the ruler of men." (C.H. Spurgeon MTP 36:416)

Before we come to the relevant verses, it will greatly facilitate our understanding of them if we read the short passage below. It is a very perceptive and succinct observation by R.L. Dabney, one of America's leading Reformed theologians.

I have argued that God's will is absolutely executed over all free agents; and yet Scripture is full of declarations that sinful men and devils disobey His will! There must be, therefore, a distinction between His secret and revealed, His decretive and preceptive will.

All God's will must be, in reality, a single, eternal, immutable act. The distinction, therefore, is one necessitated by our limitation of understanding, and relates only to the manifestation of the parts of this will to the creature. By God's decretive will, we mean that will by which He foreordains whatever comes to pass. By His preceptive, that by which He enjoins on creatures what is right and proper for them to do. The decretive we also call His secret will: because it is for the most part (except as disclosed in some predictions and the effectuation) retained in His own breast. His preceptive we call His revealed will, because it is published to man for his guidance. Although this distinction is beset with plausible quibbles, yet every man is impelled to make it; for otherwise, either alternative is odious and absurd.

Say that God has no secret decretive will, and He wishes just what He commands and nothing more, and we represent Him as a Being whose desires are perpetually crossed and baffled: yea, trampled on ; the most harassed, embarrassed, and impotent Being in the universe.

Deny the other part of our distinction, and you represent God as acquiescing in all the iniquities done on earth and in hell. Again, Scripture clearly establishes the distinction. Witness all the texts already quoted Dan 4v35/Prov 21:1/Psalm 76:10/Philippians 2:13/Romans 9:19/Eph 1:11 etc., to show that God's sovereignty overrules all the acts of men to His purposes. Add Rom. 11:33 to end: Prov. 16:4. See also Deut. 29:29.

Special cases are also presented, (the most emphatic possible,) in which God's decretive will differed from His preceptive will, as to the same individuals. See Exodus 4: 21-23; Ezekiel 3:7, with 18:31. These authentic cases offer an impregnable bulwark against Arminian objections; and prove that it is not Calvinism, but Inspiration, which teaches the distinction. (D.L. Dabney: Systematic Theology p. 161)

Scripture

God's Sovereignty

Short Explanation

Application

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the earth.

Here is a basis of God's right to reign over us…He is our Creator. Not only our Creator, but also our Sustainer (John 5:17/ Colossians 1:17)

The unsaved should consider the implications of Daniel 5:23 "The God in whose hand thy life is… thou hast not glorified."

Genesis 17:1

I am the Almighty God…

If God is not sovereign in all His ways, then this statement frankly is not true. As Robert Dabney points out above, it is but a wish rather than a fact.

We cannot improve upon the application which God Himself makes in this verse …walk before me and be thou perfect.

Genesis 18:14

Is any thing too hard for the LORD?

If any thing can frustrate His purposes, then they are said to be too hard. The question is rhetorical, presupposing a negative answer.

For Sarah (context) it meant trusting the Lord that she would have a child even when reason (with its limits) and nature suggested otherwise. Sarah's faith in this matter is acknowledged in Hebrews 11:11

Genesis 50:20

But as for you, ye thought evil against me: but God meant it unto God, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Here is an example of God's sovereignty at work. He overruled the wickedness of Joseph's brethren…not merely by preventing it…but by actually commandeering it and using it to achieve His gracious purposes. Judah was also included in the much people kept alive and so the Redeemer's line is secured.

Would to God that we were like Joseph who could quite as easily lost sight of this truth and sought revenge now that his father had died. Instead there is no anger but praise for God. The brethren's sin is not glossed over…but neither is God's sovereignty either.

Numbers 22:18

I cannot go beyond the word of my God to do less or more.

Good words of wicked Baalim (2 Peter 2:15-16) He recognised that God had a decree that He could not pass beyond.

When even wicked men recognise the truth of God's sovereignty, it certainly behoves every Christian "who walks in the light" to see them also.

Numbers 22:38

Have I now any power at all to say anything? The word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.

As above with the added information that it all boiled down to a matter of power or sovereignty. Here Balaam admits that He has no power at all to say anything.

Balaam does not merely refrain from trying to oppose this doctrine by maintaining a sullen silence…but actually conforms to it.

Numbers 23:19

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

As above. Two main thoughts here: 1 Repent here means to change the mind (for whatever reason… moral or otherwise) Although the Bible uses the language: God repented (Jonah 3:10 etc.,) yet this is as it appears unto us. Just as it says that He has bodily parts when He is, in fact, a Spirit. 2 When God speaks…He will do that which He has said. He cannot know frustration.

If there is no turning back in the things that God has declared in His word, then it is foolish for us to do that which is contrary to them. God cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13) However, if we are to pray for something that is not contrary to what God has written, it might be that God will effect a change on our behalf (as in Jonah 3:10) There is a sense in which it may be said that Prayer changes things.

Numbers 24:13

I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD to do either good or bad of mine own mind, but what the LORD saith, that will I speak.

As above. The control is total. It extends to either good or bad. It overrides Balaam's mind. His will in this case must bow to the sovereign will of God.

Even though he knows that it will annoy Balak, Balaam is still for speaking God's word. It is a truth to be maintained despite the cost. Unfortunately Balaam's belief in the sovereignty of God did not reach his heart. A danger for those who hold to Calvinist truth but are not regenerated by the Spirit of God.

1 Samuel 3:18

… It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good.

Eli's faithful example. He could have justly laid the blame of the death of his sons on their sins. However, he went deeper for his own comfort than that and acquiesces in the sovereign hand of God.

Although there was grief and rightly so, yet there was no rebellion. He reminds us here of Job who said in his grief: The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away…Blessed be the name of the LORD (1:21) We are distinctly told that Job did not "charge God foolishly" (v22)

2 Samuel 15:31

And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.

  Athithophel's counsel was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God: and yet David cries unto God to turn it to foolishness. This (as seen in the sequel) involved intervention in the heart of Absalom.

 God's sovereignty never negates our responsibility. Those who argue that prayer is unnecessary if we believe in the sovereignty of God err knowing not the scriptures or the power of God. God's sovereignty fuelled this prayer.

2 Chronicle 20:6

And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?

 An abundance of acknowledgements of God's sovereignty. God rules - He does not merely spectate but gets involved in even the heathen Kingdoms who are unsympathetic to Him. In His hand there is power and might - infinite like Himself - and none can oppose Him. A most convincible three fold cord.

 Again…this truth is found in the prayers of a child of God. Whatever a man might be in the pulpit or in the affairs of life…he is (as it were) a Calvinist when he prays. When he asks God to intervene - especially in the salvation of a loved one - he is acknowledging sovereign grace. What else can God do for the sinner except sweetly influence his will by sovereign grace? And that's Calvinism pure and simple.

Job 5:12

He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness...

 The crafty are those skilled in the ancient art of manipulation. God can disappoint those schemes, and like Ahithophel above, turn them from breath taking ingenuity to utter foolishness and failure.

 Paul quotes this verse in 1 Corinthians 3:19 which, if nothing else, shows that the God of the OT is the same God as the NT. We should ever familiarize ourselves with God's doing of old. There is a lot of comfort to be gained from these things.

Job 9:4

He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?

 How then can He fail? His wisdom cannot allow Him to err or to rely on guesses. He is mighty in strength - Almighty as shown elsewhere (over 30 times Almighty appears in Job) and none who oppose Him prosper. He is the Ultimate victor.

 Two things [1] Although we are highlighting God's absolute sovereignty…yet we should never isolate one attribute from the rest. Here it is specifically linked to His wisdom. He is Love, Compassion etc., as well as Sovereign. He can be opposed in his declarative will (see Dabney above) but this ends in disaster.

Job 9:12

Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?

 But Mark 6:6 says: He could do there no mighty work… because of their unbelief? Was He not hindered then? We can conclude that He had not determined by decree to do any mighty work there, otherwise they would have been given faith or at least restrained from such rampant unbelief.

 The Lord is not answerable to any. It is not for us to reason why. The secret things belong unto the Lord, but the things that are revealed are for us and our children (Deuteronomy 29:29) Let us therefore keep to the things revealed rather than dabbling in those which are hidden.

Job 10:7

Thou knowest that I am not wicked; and there is none that can deliver out of thine hand.

The power of God's hand. Once He grips, none can smash or loose it. He has a firm control on everything - the steady hand on the tiller.

 A great text regarding the eternal security of the people of God. I give unto them] eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:28) A cause of rejoicing.

Job 12:14

Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.

 Absolute dominion. The final word. How puny man is in contrast to God. Yet proud man thinks that he has banished God from His own universe.

 We need to avoid being "shut up" into a place where there "can be no opening" Better to seek God as your "rock and fortress" and see that He brings you "into a large place" (Psalm 18:2/19)

Job 23:13

But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.

 While we may find it necessary to see God's will being preceptive or decretive, yet the decree is one to God. If a double minded man is unstable in all His ways, how much more a double minded God?

 

 

CLICK HERE FOR CHS SERMON ON THIS TEXT

Job 33:13

Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.

 He is answerable to none. When He explains why…He is graciously condescends to do so.

 Elihu supplies the application himself - why do men strive against God? It is a futile operation. Note, however, his pastoral application in Job's case was a disaster…even if his doctrine is sound.

Job 34:29

When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only:

 Again the absolutes are awe inspiring. God deals with nations and also with individuals. It is as easy with God to deal with one as with the other.

 What a word for the troubled and anxious child of God. When God gives you peace, He arrays all His sovereign might to secure that no one throws even a pebble and ripples your placid pond. David ate his full at a table spread in the midst of his enemies (Psalm 23:5)

Job 40:2

Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.

 As above (Job 9:4) God's sovereignty is allied to His other attributes. Here again it is wisdom. Why do men fear this doctrine?

 Usually after some heart rending disaster or atrocity, the old cry goes up "How could God allow this?" It would be a different thing if they sat back and said: "How would I run the world?" The fact is that the world cannot be run any wiser than God runs it.

Psalm 2:1-4

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

 It is altogether a vain thing for even kings to take counsel together against the LORD and His Christ. Powerful people though they may be in their own right…yet their combined strength is totally insufficient to overthrow God's purposes. So much so that God laughs in derision at their puny attempt.

When wicked men oppose you in your work for God, learn to laugh with God. The Apostles quoted this Psalm in prayer to God with great fervour in their time of persecution (Acts 4:25-27)

CLICK HERE FOR CHS SERMON ON THIS TEXT

Psalm 33:9

For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

 As easy as that! No queues! No hassles! No cap in hand requests! No hard tasks! No effort! He spake…it was done.

 The centurion with the dying servant knew how to apply this truth: The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. (Matthew 8:8)

Psalm 33:10

 The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.

 He can only do this by positively intervening in the affairs of men.

  We had the example above of David praying that God would make the counsel of Ahithophel of none effect. (2 Samuel 15:31)

Psalm 33:11

 The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.

 The counsel of the LORD only stands at all because it cannot fail. A disappointed God, frustrated by the designs of His own creatures, cannot be said to stand at all. It does not stand only for a while…but to all generations.

God says: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire..etc,. (Revelation 3:18) This is good counsel. Whatever other counsel you receive…it will not match this.

Psalm 47:8

God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.

God's sovereignty does not merely apply to those who gladly accept it i.e. His own people, but even those who would reject it.

Abraham pleaded with God for Lot in Sodom on the basis of His sovereign holiness: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25)

Psalm 76:10

  Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.

 What a wonder is this. Although the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (James 1:20) i.e. we cannot do the work of God in a spirit of anger etc., yet God can still take the wrath of the ungodly and use it for His immediate glory. His hand holds the reins tightly so that wicked man cannot do all that they would desire.

 I think it was Calvin who wrote: "The devil may go about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour…but there is a bit in his mouth and God holds the reins." This ought to steel us for any battle. It is not a free for all. There is a boundary line over which the wicked cannot pass and even when they are doing their worst…God is using it for His glory…else He would have not have permitted it to happen.

Psalm 93:1

 The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

 Clearly taught. The Lord reigneth. It would be a poor reign (indeed a non reign) if He could not do what He so desired. But He is clothed with majesty - and He is clothed with strength which certainly does not give the impression that He just about gets His way!

 The world hangs on naked space yet it is established and cannot be moved. Do you not think that if God can do that to our vast spinning globe and has done ever since its inception…then your problems pale into insignificance?

Psalm 97:1

The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.

 Again…clearly stated. The Lord reigns. David certainly believed it. He keeps saying it.

The verse carries its own exhortation. We are to rejoice. Some say that the doctrine of God's sovereignty is what they call "a family secret" God doesn't think so. He says it a world wide matter.

Psalm 99:1

 The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved.

 Again…clearly stated. The Lord reigns.

 Again, the verse carries its own exhortation. This time we are to tremble. We are to alternate between feelings of joy and feelings of awe. We are certainly not to get giddy about this doctrine.

Psalm 115:3

  But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

 Every single event in the history of the world must be viewed through these glasses.

 Did Pharaoh perish at the Red Sea? Why? Although we may say that he had no faith (True) yet Romans 9:16-17 traces it beyond this to the sovereignty of God. Pharaoh is certainly responsible for his unbelief, but we can also say that God allowed Him to remain in that wicked condition when He could have done otherwise.

Psalm 135:6

  Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.

 As above…note the universal sphere of His reign. There is not a place in the universe where God's sceptre does not bear rule.

 In these Psalms, designed to be sung, the ancient people of God made these truths a matter of praise. Some believers will hardly allow them to be mentioned at all or speak about them in hushed tones. Not the Psalmist who wrote them to be sung.

Proverbs 16:1

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.

 Even though James 3:8 says that man cannot tame his own tongue (never mind that of another) yet God has no problems here.

 And so we need to look continually to the Lord in matters that relate to these things. Get to the root.

Proverbs 16:4

The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

 Another way of wording to the truth of Romans 11:36. Even the wicked fall within the gambit of God's sovereign rule.

 How bothersome the wicked can be to the people of God. Take comfort in this verse if such are bothersome to you. Although they are responsible for their wicked designs, God has another design which brings Him the glory. Mighty!

Proverbs 16:9

 A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.

 As the saying goes… Man supposes but God disposes.

 Happy is that man who can say like Eliezer of old: I being in the way, the Lord led me (Genesis 24:27)

Proverbs 19:21

  There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.

As above, only the intensity of the truth is here established. There are many devices in man's heart but although this is so (a strong case) it is the counsel of the Lord that shall stand.

Better then to follow the counsel of the Lord. Never feel overpowered by the ingenuity or apparent strength of the wicked. God's counsel will stand when man's puny rebellion is blasted away.

Proverbs 16:33

The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.

Even the smallest of issues is covered by the sovereignty of God. The whole disposing is entirely in God's hands.

It is good to apply these great truths to the smallest of issues. Often it is the little things that can cause us the greatest bother. But fret not thyself in these matters.

Proverbs 20:24

  Man's goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?

 Man is neither a robot or a moron and the verse is not intended to suggest such. Simply… man cannot explain himself… his origins... purpose…destiny etc., apart from God.

 It is good for us to be grounded in the truths of Scripture. When men scratch their heads baffled, we have answers when we believe in the Sovereignty of God.

Proverbs 21:1

  The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

 God is not able to overthrow the wicked devices merely of the weakest of people. But with what ease can he turn the heart of even the King, and not merely to a limited choice of places but whithersoever.

 Perhaps this verse is nowhere better demonstrated than in the case of the mighty and self styled "King of kings" Nebuchadnezzar. Yet God calls him "my servant" (Jeremiah 27:6) because that's simply what he was.

Proverbs 21:30

  There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.

 Here the secret will of God is evidently in view. It is absolute. It admits of no failure. It decrees and nothing can oppose it.

 This ought to strengthen us no end. It is awesome. God is in complete control. There is nothing that can ever upset the plan of God. Think of all the intelligentsia so called out there that proudly proclaim that God is dead. All that they will do. Their counsel will not stand…only God's.

Ecclesiastes 3:14

I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

God's will or work cannot be overthrown. It cannot be turned back. It is forever. It cannot be improved or denigrated in any way.

 The exhortation is in the verse itself…that we may fear God. Not with a servile fear…but respect Him… reverence Him, especially as He has revealed Himself to us in His word.

Isaiah 7:5-7

Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, … Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.

 Powerful foes indeed with evil counsel and cruel plans. But God can calmly say that their counsel shall not stand. This is not a weak God whistling in the dark, trying to bluff His way out of a tight corner, or employing words based on hope rather than fact all designed to lift the spirits of the discouraged.

 Cling unto verses like these. Here is a great "Thus saith the Lord" which we can use sword like (Ephesians 6:17) against any foe…not least Satan himself.

Isaiah 8:10

 Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.

 If God is with us then unlimited sovereignty is on our side.

 Speaking in faith (as opposed to presumption) we may challenge the forces of darkness with words like these.

Isaiah 14:24

  The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:

 Note all the positive words here. He is the Lord of hosts. Here His sovereignty is joined to His might. He has sworn. He employs the word Surely and therefore He states the case clearly. His purposes will stand.

In a friendly debate with a non Calvinist, I put to him whilst it could be said (on the basis of 1 Timothy 2:4) that God wills that all men be saved, yet it could never be said He had purposed to save all men i.e. every last fallen member of Adam's race. Had He so purposed, then every last fallen member would be in Heaven.

Isaiah 14:27

  For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?

 Who indeed?

 With verse like this at your back…how can we hold back in our evangelism? There is a people out there whom God has purposed through the indiscriminate preaching of the gospel to save. You cannot fail…go to it.

Isaiah 23:9

The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.

 And so it shall be done.

 Are we among the honourable of the earth but not yet among the honourable of Heaven (as in 1 Samuel 2:30) then be sure that God's purpose to bring us to contempt can never ever be halted. Seek the Lord. Be found "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 2:6)

Isaiah 28:29

  This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.

God could not be said to be excellent in working if He fails to achieve that which He set out to do. He would be like the man who was mocked because He started to build but could not complete it (Luke 14:28-30)

 God's sovereignty is tied in to His counsel which is wonderful. It is sad to hear fellow believers slight what God has purposed (to save many but not all) as if it were something awful.

Isaiah 43:13

 Yea, before the day was, I am he; and there is none can deliver out of my hand; I will work, and who will let it.

 Again…who indeed? These would be very dangerous questions… indeed foolish…if the answer was otherwise than "none"

 John 10:28-29 assures the believer (who is the Lord's workmanship: Ephesians 2:10) that He is in the hands of God. None can deliver us from God's hand …not even Satan himself (Romans 8:35-39)

Isaiah 45:9

 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

 The woe here is pronounced because such striving against the purposes of God is to no avail. The woe could not be pronounced if the resistance proved itself to be successful.

 Such proclamations do not prevent men from trying. Happy is that man who early learns the folly of such action. No matter what gains he thinks that he has made…he only earns for himself the woe of heaven.

Isaiah 46:10

  Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

 Again…what words can be clearer than these? They are absolute.

 What advantage is it to the child of God to try and whittle down these words? Do we want a God who is less than completely sovereign? A God whose counsel is somewhat dodgy and whose pleasure is subject to outside influences which may or may not avail?

Isaiah 46:11

 Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.

 God has spoken and that word cannot return unto Him void. The purpose and the doing of it are all contained in the one breath.

 Gill applies this description of the ravenous bird to King Cyrus who was a wicked man. But then even the wicked in their rebellion are subject to the decree of God.

Jeremiah 4:28

  For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.

 Again, the speaking and the purposing of it which will surely go through. We may speak but often there is an eating of words. We are unable to follow through. See above on Numbers 23:19 for an explanation on those verses which speaking of God repenting.

 See above on Numbers 23:19

Jeremiah 23:20

  The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.

 If referring to God's secretive will…then the thoughts of His heart will, without any doubt, be executed and absolutely performed.

 Meanwhile we should try and consider it perfectly now. While there is much that we cannot know at all (Deuteronomy 29:29) or must until hereafter to know (John 13:8) yet we should, as much as some things are revealed, seek to learn about them here and now. Hence these studies.

Jeremiah 32:27

Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?

 No…because, LORD, thou art absolutely sovereign.

 We may tap into this absolute power of God by faith (Matthew 17:20)

Jeremiah 51:29

  And the land shall tremble and sorrow: for every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant.

 What! Every purpose of the Lord shall be performed? Yes…exactly just what it says.

 Although not fitting that we should always rejoice here and now in the wrath of God against sinners…yet we are not unmindful that the saints in Heaven rejoice over the fall of Babylon the Great.

Laments 3:37

  Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?

 Any takers?

 Jeremiah, an oft afflicted man, learns even his sore laments to fall back upon this most comforting of doctrines.

Daniel 4:17

… that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

 The choice here is God's. He gives that most powerful of possessions - the kingdom - to the one whom He desires.

 We live in a day when men fear countries who are known as "nuclear powers" yet we may be assured that they are only such because God has allowed them such a degree of power. The most powerful "force" still in the universe is God Himself.

Daniel 4:25

… till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.

Context of these words is that the mighty Nebuchadnezzar was going to become as a beast of the field…all because He failed to acknowledge that God was sovereign and not he.

 See above in Daniel 4:17

Daniel 4:35

  And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

 Sovereignty linked again to power. He does according to His will both in Heaven and in earth. None can stay His hand, nor even challenge Him forcing Him to withdraw or redraw His plans.

 The Lord Jesus taught us to pray: Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. (Matthew 6:10) With verses like this one in Daniel in God's word, we have all the fuel we need to pray.

Daniel 5:23

…the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified.

 All our ways are in God. He intervenes in each step of men's lives, because He has ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

 These things being so, we can either own Him as our Lord and so glorify Him… or seek foolishly to oppose Him and pay the awful price. We must live with the consequences of both.

Matthew 11:25-26

At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.

Having reproved those cities wherein He did His great works for not repenting (and so confirming both their responsibility and wickedness) Christ acknowledges God's act of preterition…i.e. when He decided to leave them in their deserved darkness. This act of preterition was entirely sovereign, although their damnation is earned by their non repentance.

 Christ not only acknowledged these truths, but found room to rejoice in them as well. He did not gloat, but He rejoiced in the sovereign will of God. So should we.

Matthew 20:15

 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

 The answer is: "Yes" Much of men's hatred of this doctrine stems either from their misunderstanding of it - they imagine God to be a monster - or their own wickedness.

 We should ever seek to learn some of the reasons why we believe these doctrines and so be able to answer those who speak against them.

Matthew 28:18

 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

 Which could not be if He were not sovereign.

 No wonder the gospel of Christ is literally the dynamite of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) May we ever preach it in its universal offer

Luke 4:25-27

 Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias…But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta… unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all … when they heard these things, were filled with wrath…

There were many widows…many lepers yet He chose only to visit and relive the needs of one. Was God unjust to do this. Was He obliged to meet the needs of all because He chose to meet the needs of one? While there was an element of bigotry in the response - for those whose need was met - were Gentiles, yet we may say that the doctrines of sovereign grace are never acceptable to the natural man. See Spurgeon's quote above.

 Instead of reviling these doctrines, we ought to rejoice in them. No man should ever see himself as non elect. He cannot come to such a conclusion. Let him apply for mercy and cry out as blind Bartimaus did…and he will find it.

John 17:9

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

 Christ is sovereign in His prayers. He does not pray for the world…but only for His elect who are in the world.

 This does not mean that we are not to pray for the world. We do not have the insight which Christ has. As we cannot distinguish between the elect and the reprobate, it is our duty to pray form all who trouble us, to desire the salvation of all men. (Calvin: Commentary on Psalms)

John 19:11

Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.

 The New Testament example of Daniel 4:25

 We often refer to this scene as Christ before Pilate…sometime is think it is Pilate before Christ.

Acts 2:23

  Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

 A very rich verse indeed. Both God's sovereignty and man's responsibility are set forth here. The determinate counsel and foreknowledge could not fail…yet man is entirely responsibility for his hand in the affair is counted as wicked.

 A very balanced verse indeed…putting the emphasise where it ought always to be put. If we upset this balance, then we fall into all kinds of error. Note that this constitutes part of Peter's evangelistic preaching which lead to many being saved. Who says it kills evangelism or has no message for the unsaved? This is contrary to the facts.

Acts 3:13

Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.

 Yet…but God was determined (Acts 2:23/ 4:27-28) to keep Him in and God's sovereignty is greater than man's.

 At the last Pilate crumbled, counting the friendship of Caesar of more value than the friendship of God (John 19:12-13) This should never be.

Acts 4:27-28

  For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

 As in Acts 2:23 God's power extends even over those who are His enemies and even the most powerful among them. God has a determinate counsel and that which He has determined will be done. End of story.

 In Acts 2:23 Peter made use of these truths in evangelism…here they make use of them in prayer. We forsake our own mercy when we forsake these things. We rob ourselves of what can be a very potent weapon.

Acts 5:39

But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

 Fighting against God is the road to nowhere. Even old wicked Gamaliel recognised it.

 It is a pity that Gamaliel came only so far with this truth. He left out its most fundamental part i.e. Jesus Christ. This shows that recognition of this doctrine is not salvation…Christ alone is.

Acts 27:25

 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.

 Which could not be if God's will was not sovereign. If God has spoken…then it shall be.

 Here was comfort for Paul in the midst of a seeming impossible and seemingly lost situation. He laid hold on the sovereignty of God and was able to give leadership.

Romans 8:28

 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

 God has a purpose and that is to call men to Himself. As we have seen above, when God purposes then none can hinder it (as I have purposed, so shall it stand - Isaiah 14:24)and so it must refer to God's decree. It is evident that He has not decreed to save every last person.

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Romans 8:29

  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

 The idea that God looked down the long corridor of time, and seeing who would believe on His Son, predestinated them on that basis is unbiblical. This text certainly is no help to those who hold that view. It is not what God foreknew…but who foreknew. We are talking here about individuals - not information.

 We should not miss the purpose of our election. It is that we might be a holy people. Where holiness is missing…we have no right to consider ourselves to be brethren of Christ. All these gospel privileges are to an end: That we might glorify God by holy living.

Romans 8:30

  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

 Only the predestined are (effectually) called and only the effectually called are justified and only the justified are glorified. Although all men are to receive the general and universal call of the gospel, yet that call in itself evidently cannot save. Unless we believing in the effectual call, then these verses teach universalism. And they don't.

 These are powerful verses for us to meditate upon. There is a certainty about them which only a belief in a Sovereign God can supply. It is significant that those who deny the Sovereignty of God in predestination if they are being consistent will also deny the certainty of glory i.e. they also believe in the possible apostasy of the saints. And yet, don't lose sight of their context (v29) No holiness - no Heaven!

Romans 9:6

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

God's word always has an effect. It always accomplishes that whereto He sends it (Isaiah 55:11) Even when sinners reject it, yet it cannot return unto Him void.

 The sinner (or indeed anyone) needs to say: "I am determined that the word of God to me will be of the best effect…I will do what God is telling me to do." God's sovereignty never overrides our responsibility.

Romans 9:11

For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;

 God's purpose is eternal (Ephesians 3:11) and so, neither Jacob or Esau were around when these things were decreed. Although election and its counterpart reprobation (you can't have one without the other) are sovereign, never lose sight of the fact that men go to hell because God chose to leave them in their sin.

 It was Spurgeon's maxim that "Salvation is all of grace while damnation is all of sin." The Bible always gives God the glory in the former and man all the blame in the latter. If we keep this in mind, we have a most balanced view of what can be a very difficult doctrine. Every sinner should, like the adulterer, should ask himself: Why am I destroying my own soul?

Romans 9:13

As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

 The wonder of the verse, is not that God hated Esau but that He ever loved Jacob. If we start with God instead of starting with men, then these things will become plain.

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Romans 9:14

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

 God cannot be under obligation to any…else He would cease to be God. If He was not obliged to love/save any, He is not obliged to love or save all.

 Those who believe these doctrines of grace are often accused of making God a monster. These are serious allegations, for there is no unrighteousness with God. Why must God save all if He would save some?

Romans 9:15

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

 Here is God's free will at work. Clearly God does not have (saving) mercy upon all… although we are told to offer the gospel to all.

 There is nothing in this verse to prevent men from crying to God for mercy. Indeed, faith sees that there is everything in it to do that very thing. The unsaved should cry out like Bartimaus of old: Have mercy upon me (mark 10:47-48) Our message to any sinner is: Let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him (Isaiah 55:6-7)

Romans 9:16

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

 It is not that men come to Christ unwillingly i.e. against their will. It is just that this is not the primary reason why either they come or are saved. That is founded on the sovereign mercy of God.

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Romans 9:17

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

 Some teach that this chapter is all to do with the two nations represented by Jacob and Esau. Why then is Pharaoh introduced? Just as the LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. (Proverbs 16:4) so too did He raise up wicked, sinful Pharaoh who has no one to blame but himself and God glorified Himself in him.

 The sinner should challenge himself: "Am I a Pharaoh - a defier of the God of Heaven?" Let him go further. "Do I want to be a Pharaoh?" If he would rather not - to put it rather quaintly - let Him apply to God immediately for saving mercy. If such is done in repentance and in faith, then he will not know any disappointment, for the gospel promises are clear and plain and for the whosoever.

Romans 9:18

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

 When God hardens, He leaves men in their chosen sin and withdraws from them any mercies which He had shown.

He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. (Proverbs 29:1) What good reason, sinner, have you for hardening your neck against God?

Romans 9:19

 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

 This argument, which Paul articulates on behalf of those who would make it, does not take on board the difference between the decretive will of God and His preceptive will which Dabney carefully observes above.

 The objector who raises this kind of argument has evidently lost sight of His own responsibility. Stephen accused his persecutors for having resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51) which shows that the precetive will of God can be and often is resisted.

Romans 9:20

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

God's sovereignty is not up for discussion, although we are allowed to explain it. Those who oppose it and insist that all men must be dealt with equally violate this verse. They say "yes" to what the Apostle says "Nay"

  This verse reminds me of Job. As he suffered, the cry came again and again: Why? Yet when God spoke to him Himself in the latter chapters, He simply shows Job His glory and that sufficed Him. We may pry too much into the purposes of God. Let us be content with the things that are revealed - the rest belongs unto God (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Romans 9:21

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Well? Has He the right? Of course He has. From this same lump - for the elect were children of wrath even as others (Ephesians 2:3) - some were elected to eternal life and others left to the dishonour of their sins.

 Again, let the sinner cry for mercy. We remind the reader of McCheyne's words as he preached on Proverbs 8:4: "The question for you is not, Am I one of the elect? But, Am I one of the human race?" The matter is simple. Do I want to honour God with a godly, regenerated life? If so then tell Him so.

Romans 9:22

 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

A vessel of wrath is fitted to destruction. It's fitness for destruction lies in it's own sin. Men who are in hell blame only themselves. Judas did not complain against the decree, but confessed: "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." (Matthew 27:4)

 Paul found it wise to warn the ungodly that they had "judged themselves unworthy of eternal life" (Acts 13:46) We may likewise, when appropriate, employ the words of this verse when addressing stubborn sinners and tell them that they are fitting themselves to destruction. Hopefully such strong language will awaken them to their awful plight.

Romans 9:23

And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

 Although the sinner fits himself to destruction, it is God alone who afore (i.e. in the past eternity) prepares His elect unto glory. This is unconditional.

 The sinner may be assured of his election by coming to Christ. Then preacher must view all men as potentially elect, even though he knows that this is not actually so.

Romans 10:20-21

I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.

If God was waiting on the sinner to make the first move, then He would wait a long time. It is God who takes the initiative.

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Romans 11:29

 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Turning back is the sign of something that is either ill prepared or unable to be completed. God is guilty of neither of these maladies.

 We may take comfort from this text as regards our eternal security. Our faith and repentance were both gifts from God…and He will never have opportunity to remove them from us.

Romans 11:36

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

 God is the source, sum and substance of all things and especially salvation. This verse strips man of any boasting.

 We do well if we make verses like this our starting point in the study of the doctrines of grace. See our first study.

1 Corinthians 4:7

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

 The Calvinist answers these three questions as follows: A/ God. B/ Absolutely nothing. C/ I don't! Romans 11:36 shows me where the true glory belong. The Arminian answers: A/ My faith which I with my own freewill exercise. B/ I have not received anything which no one else has not got. Otherwise I think it would be unfair of God. C/ My doctrine would allow me to boast, although I am an implicit believer in sovereign grace and refrain from doing so.

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Ephesians 1:9

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

 God purposes according to His good pleasure. He purposes in Himself and so is not dependent upon the creature's actions or attitudes in His determinations.

 Although we cannot discern the hidden purposes of God, we can discern those which are revealed and these are to be obeyed.

Ephesians 1:11

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

 If God works all things after the counsel of His will…then there is nothing which comes to pass outside that will. The reference is, of course, to His preceptive will. If God works them…then it is not blind chance at work. Calvinists do not believe in fatalism as we are often, unfairly, charged.

 What comfort is afforded in this verse. It is a parallel verse to Romans 8:28 which goes a little further and assures us that all these things which God ordains is for our good.

Ephesians 3:11

According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

 The purposes of God are eternal - that is they are signed, sealed and settled in eternity past. They are gracious in that they come to us purposed in Christ.

 How we need then to keep close to Christ, the One in whom these things are purposed.

2 Timothy 1:9

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

 Again the eternal aspect is brought forth here and the idea that it is all in Christ. The calling is not according to our works and indeed it is not even according to our faith or repentance, but solely according to His own purpose and grace. We believe and repent because we are thus called.

 It is a holy calling. Holiness is the purpose of election (Romans 8:28) and therefore its fruit and evidence.

Hebrews 6:17

Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

 God's counsel is immutable. It cannot be moved or shifted. It is further confirmed with an oath…just to make the unmoveable even more unmoveable. On this cast iron guarantee, rests our eternal salvation.

 Hymn writer: Standing on the promises that cannot fail, When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, By the living word of God I shall prevail, I'm standing on the promises of God. Easily sung…but no good reason why we should not do so.

James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

 Variableness or shadow of turning comes from inability either to make up our mind or when we are thwarted in our plans by someone obviously (at least in this case) stronger than ourselves. Calvinists don't really have a problem with this idea.

 Let us receive therefore these good and perfect gifts with the assurance that they are ordained for us and nothing can take them from us.

1 Peter 2:8

And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

 This text deals with the thought of God passing the reprobate sinner by. If He appoints some to salvation, then He naturally appoints others to destruction. The appointment to life is purely on the basis of His sovereign choice. Reprobation takes disobedience into account.

 The obvious application is "Do not stumble at the word and do not be offended at the rock nor be disobedient" but build upon the word, receive the rock and obey the injunction of the gospel: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."

Jude 4

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

 As above (1 Peter 2:8) Again, note the link between the ordination to wrath and the sin.

 As above. Do not turn the grace of God into lasciviousness but as the only means whereby you can be saved.

Revelation 3:7

 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

 What God does (as a result of His decree) is absolute. No man can turn it back. Shut doors cannot be forced open and open doors cannot be forced shut.

 Today the door of mercy is open. All sinners are invited to enter while they may. No hyper Calvinist can shut this door to sinners and no sinner, once he goes beyond the pale of mercy, can ever open this door: Matthew 25:10-13)

Revelation 4:11

 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

 One of the loveliest verses in the Bible. All things were created by and for the pleasure of God. He is worthy to receive glory and honour and power.

 Let not man seek to steal the honour and the power and the glory from God. Man centred theology is a blot on verses like this. Recently I read on an anti Calvinist web site that "God has limited His sovereignty" Deviant theology leads men to make such statements as this.

Revelation 19:6

  And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

 On these wonderful words, we finish our study: The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth" Truly, He is sovereign in all His ways. The voice of the great multitude etc., is a fitting way to proclaim this truth. It is at one majestic and worthy to be sounded abroad.

 The note of praise, summed up in the word Alleluia should find an echo in every redeemed heart. It should go against the grain of every believer in Jesus to revile these doctrines or seek to minimise them. It is not so in Heaven and we cannot do better than imitate here on earth what goes on there around THE THRONE OF GOD.

 

SEE THE ACCOMPANYING STUDY ON MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY  

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