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What does it mean that God is sovereign?

The word "sovereign" means "having supreme or ultimate power." The Bible tells us that God is all-powerful and all-knowing (Psalm 147:5), exists outside the timestream (Exodus 3:14; Psalm 90:2), and is responsible for the creation of all things (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1). These divine characteristics show that God is sovereign over all His Creation—the universe and its stars and planets, the earth and its plants, animals, people, etc. God's sovereignty is a natural result of His omniscience, omnipotence , and omnipresence.

Accepting God's sovereignty is one of the most important principles of the Christian faith. Without acceptance that God has complete control over all things, we could never be sure of His ability to enact His will for His good purposes (Romans 8:28). Knowing that God has ultimate power over all things helps us trust Him more—even when things don't make sense (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Does God make everything happen—good and bad?

"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." —Job 42:2

Here's the thing. God's sovereignty is a bit more complicated than simply imagining Him as a puppetmaster who holds all the strings. The fact that God is sovereign does not mean that He chooses to control all things all the time. Having complete control over a thing does not equate always controlling the thing.

Yes, God has the power and control to make anything He chooses to happen OR prevent it from happening. But having the ability to cause an event doesn't mean always causing it. So nothing happens without God's allowance of it, but that doesn't mean He makes everything happen.

If it's getting a little confusing, don't worry—this is the part where many others have become slightly puzzled. One of the hottest debates in Christian circles is whether or not human beings truly have free will or if we are simply God's puppets who are 100% under His control.

If God has control over all things, do we truly have free will?

When it comes to accepting God's sovereignty over all Creation, most Christians will agree that God IS all powerful. The debate and confusion come from misunderstanding how God exerts His sovereignty over PEOPLE.

See, while the Bible says that God is sovereign, Scripture also says that humans have freedom of choice in their lives (Deuteronomy 30:15-19), that they're personally responsible for their sins (Exodus 20:5), and that God is sometimes unhappy with people's actions (Numbers 25:3).

If God controlled everyone, He wouldn't cause them to sin because He is holy. The fact that sin exists at all shows that God does not directly cause all things—even if He does allow them. And therein lies the difference.

What it comes down to is that God loves us immensely, so He gave us the ability to CHOOSE to love Him or reject Him if we wanted. Yes, He could MAKE us love and obey Him, but that's not what God does! Just because He CAN doesn't mean He WILL. God doesn't want people to be His puppets; He wants people to become His sons and daughters.

The Coexistence of God's Sovereignty & Our Free Will

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." — Proverbs 16:9

Maybe an analogy will help. Let's say you come across a small lizard that has fallen into an empty flower pot. Your "sovereignty" over the lizard is not in doubt. You could help it get out or leave it and walk away. You could pick it up, keep it as a pet, or even choose to kill it. The lizard couldn't stop you.

While you do have "power" over the lizard, you could choose not to act. For reasons of your own, you could simply allow it to climb out of the pot by itself and not interfere. There's a difference between allowing the lizard to climb out and being helpless to stop it. You could stop it if you wanted, but you could also choose not to. Your choice to let the lizard leave isn't the same as you not having the power to stop it from escaping.

"Today I’m giving you a choice. You can have life and success. Or you can have death and harm. I’m commanding you today to love the LORD your God. I’m commanding you to live exactly as he wants you to live. You must obey his commands, rules and laws. Then you will live..." —Deuteronomy 30:15-16

The lizard in the empty flower pot is a simplified analogy of God's sovereignty over human beings. Yes, God may choose to act directly OR indirectly to allow OR disallow anything for any reasons of His own. This is God's sovereignty, exercised within His ability, authority, and supremacy. Thankfully, God is loving, merciful, compassionate, and has our best interests in mind, so we can trust Him fully (Romans 8).

God chooses to give all of us freedom of choice in our lives. He chooses honor that gift by allowing us to freely choose Him in response to His love for us (1 John 4:19).

ALSO SEE: How does God's sovereignty work together with our free will?

TL;DR

The word "sovereign" means "having supreme or ultimate power." God's sovereignty is a natural result of His omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. While God has power over all things, that doesn't mean He chooses to control all things all the time. If God controlled everyone, He wouldn't cause them to sin because He is holy. But people do sin, so we know we have a choice. God gave us this freedom of choice in our lives, and He honors that gift by allowing us to freely choose Him in response to His love for us.

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.


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