Grace Tidings: Is God really sovereign?

The New International Version (NIV) popularized this term, sovereignty.

One of the most misunderstood doctrines in Christianity is the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God.

People have taken the truth that God moves independent of us, not based on our performance, and developed a teaching that is commonly called “the sovereignty of God.” This teaching says that God just moves sovereignly, we have nothing to do with His actions whatsoever. This teaching overemphasises grace.

They teach that God is sovereign and if it’s His will, you’ll be healed. If it’s not, you’ll die. It’s just totally up to God. Some people have taken this to the extreme. There are entire denominations that teach that certain people are predestined to salvation and others are predestined to damnation and that God predetermined it.

They believe that there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just totally up to God. The theological terms for this tension between grace and faith is Calvinism versus Arminianism. Calvinism emphasises that everything is totally up to God. Arminianism emphasizes that you have a part to play, and that you can believe and receive, or doubt and do without. You can control the measure of the grace of God you experience by your faith. It’s the Calvinists who emphasize this term, “the sovereignty of God.”

The New International Version (NIV) popularized this term, sovereignty. In 288 verses of their translation, they substituted the phrase “Sovereign Lord” where it had previously been translated “Lord GOD” or “Lord God Almighty” in the King James Version (KJV) and others.

I’m not against applying this word, “sovereign” to God if you’ll use it the way the dictionary defines it. As a noun, it means  “A king, queen, or other noble person who serves as a chief of state; a ruler or monarch” or “A gold coin formerly used in Great Britain”. Of course, we’re not talking about a coin.

As an adjective, the word sovereign speaks of something or someone being “Paramount or supreme.” If you want to call God sovereign in the sense that He’s paramount or supreme, I agree totally. Another definition is “having supreme rank or power.” God is definitely at the top of the food chain.

Nobody tells Him what to do. He is absolutely supreme. Still another definition is “self-governing; independent.” Zimbabwe is a sovereign nation. We broke away from the rule of Great Britain. You can apply this definition to God in the sense that God is sovereign. He’s independent. Nobody gives Him orders.

Sovereign came from a Latin word that meant “super” or “above.” I agree with that as it applies to God. In view of these dictionary definitions, I will agree that God is sovereign.

But religion has come along and concocted its own definition of this word saying that sovereign means that God controls everything and that nothing can happen without His permission. I disagree with that interpretation. That’s not what the Word of God teaches. God is not sovereign the way that certain religions have taught. A person will die, and somebody will say, “Well, it must have been their time.” They just think that nobody dies without it being “God’s timing.”

I often hear at funerals people attributing someone’s death to God. You will hear them say “it was God will for them to die” regardless of the cause of death. Some may have committed suicide others may have been driving under the heavy influence of alcohol and then got involved in an accident.

 I heard of a story of two teens who were killed in an automobile accident in one of the northern suburbs in Harare. After drinking they drove too fast on a slick, wet street, couldn’t make a turn, and ran into a telephone pole. The accident killed both of them. A man in the gathering stood up and said, “Well, we know that God is sovereign. He works all things together for good, and He has a purpose in this. People can’t die if it isn’t God’s will.”

 Most people have heard, said, or perhaps even embraced something similar to this at some point in their life. This is a convenient theology. When we don’t understand certain things, it’s easier to place full responsibility on God. Rather than put any responsibility on these teens, saying, “They shouldn’t have been drinking, and speeding on a wet road. They killed themselves,” we just say, “Well, it was God’s will.” No, it wasn’t.

People die all the time without it being God’s will. It’s not like God picks your number in heaven and you’re just destined to die. The scriptures make very clear that Jesus came to destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14). Satan is the one who goes about seeking whom he may devour. (1 Pet. 5:8.) He’s the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10.)

God told us not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because in the day that we ate thereof we would surely die. (Gen. 2:17.) We brought death into this life. We started old age, deterioration, sickness, and disease. God isn’t the One who controls whether or not we become ill. We started the corruption on this planet. God doesn’t control all of those things.

It’s understandable to want to make everything fit in a nice little neat box, and to have an answer for everything saying, “Well, it must be God’s will. He’s sovereign.” But this is not the truth, and believing lies will put you into bondage.

If God were guilty of everything He’s blamed for today, there isn’t a civilized nation on the face of the earth that wouldn’t persecute, prosecute, and execute Him if He were a physical person. If God was the one making babies deformed, causing marriages to fail, and sending killer storms, the nations would kick Him out.

 If He really did cause all of the earthquakes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters we refer to in our contracts as “acts of God,” every country would expel Him if they could. The truth is, God is being misrepresented, lied about, and blamed for things that aren’t His doing.

This teaching that God sovereignly controls everything is the worst heresy in the body of Christ because it encourages passivism. If you really believe that God controls every single thing that happens, then what’s the point of you doing anything? Why seek God? Why bother attending church meetings or conferences?

That’s a terrible doctrine! Some people reject the extreme of this teaching, but they still mix it in to their belief system when it’s convenient. When somebody dies, they say, “Well, it must be God’s will.”

No, God isn’t the One who causes death. Satan is the author of death, and we are the ones who loosed him in this earth. But to acknowledge our responsibility in this area is not always convenient.

The truth is, you can’t just take part of this doctrine of sovereignty that is being taught and mix it together with faith. You can’t say, “Well, I do have some responsibility, but there are some things that God just controls. He’s sovereign in this area.” No, either God controls everything, or He doesn’t, that’s the definition of sovereignty.

He’s either in control or He’s not, there can be no combination of the two beliefs. I have never understood people who get mad at me for preaching this truth. They say this teaching is of the devil. They ask me how I dare preach this. I ask them, if God controls everything and nothing can happen without Him either causing or allowing it, then I couldn’t be preaching this if God didn’t allow it, right? By their own doctrine, how can they be upset with me? It must be God’s will for me to preach this. If God really controls everything, then He’s leading me to say everything I’m saying, or I couldn’t say it.

If you truly believe that God controls everything, then when you get sick, why would you ever go to a doctor and try to get out of God’s will?

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