The Sovereignty of God
Before we can actually begin to examine the “Five Points of Calvinism” we must take the time to define what is meant by the “sovereignty of God.” It will do little good to set forth the doctrines of salvation unless we have this foundational knowledge of who God is. The sovereignty of God is not just one of many attributes of God, but it is the underlying nature of God which is the foundation for every teaching about who God is or what He has done. It is not an exaggeration to say that the feebleness of so much theology today is due to a lack of knowledge and faith in the sovereignty of our God.
“Sovereignty” can be defined as the nature of God by which He exercises absolute might and right in ruling over all things according to His own good pleasure. He is in total control of all creation from eternity. God has not only the right to decree something, but the power to carry out His will precisely as He has determined. The most concise way of defining sovereignty, if properly understood, is to say that “God is God.” Sovereignty is more than simply one aspect of the nature of God. If God is God, He is Sovereign! He can be nothing less. To reduce God’s right or power even in the smallest degree is to create another god.
The very nature of God revealed in Scripture leaves no doubt as to His sovereign majesty. When, in the Second Commandment, God tells us that He is a “jealous God,” He is revealing His sovereignty (see Ex. 34:14). He alone has the right to demand that all praise, worship, and glory be afforded to Him and to no other.
Many Christians appear to reduce the meaning and extent of God’s sovereignty to His reign over the natural world alone. If God is sovereign, then by definition, it is an unlimited or absolute sovereignty over all things – including the matter of salvation. It is important for our study to see clearly that God’s love, grace, and mercy are also sovereignly administered to whom, when, and how He wills.
In Hebrew there is not a word that can exactly equal the word “sovereign” in our English language. However, where the words “Jehovah Adoni” (Lord) occur, the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible translates this as “Sovereign Lord” which is probably the closest to the intent of the writer. The word “Jehovah” (or “Yahweh”) is usually translated “LORD” (all capital letters). The word “Adoni” is the word for “Lord” (small letters). However when both are used together (ie. “Jehovah Adoni”) it would be awkward to translate it “LORD Lord,” so the word “Adoni” was rendered as “sovereign.” See Gen. 15:2; II Sam. 7:18; Ps. 71:16; Is. 25:8; 40:10; 50:4; 61:1,11; Jer. 32:17; Ezek. 12:28; Dan. 4:25 in the NIV translation.
In the New Testament Greek, the word that comes closest to the word “sovereign” is the word “despotes” (from which we have our English word “despot”). When that word occurs with the word “kurios” (“Lord”) the translators of the NIV have rendered these two words as “sovereign Lord” which is the intent in the two passages where these words occur (II Pet. 2:1; Jude 4).
The Eternal Nature of God
The study of the sovereignty of God must begin with His eternity. He has neither beginning nor end. When the Bible speaks about God as being “everlasting” or “from everlasting” (esp. in the KJV), it refers to His being without beginning or end and can best be translated as “eternal” (since, technically, “everlasting” has a beginning but has no end). Notice how this is taught in the passages below:
Rev. 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the Lord, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Deut. 33:27 “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, Destroy!”
Ps. 41:13 “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.”
Ps. 102:12 “But You, O LORD, shall endure forever, And the remembrance of Your name to all generations.”
Ps. 102:24-27 “I said, O my God, Do not take me away in the midst of my days; Your years are throughout all generations. Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, all of them will grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will have no end.”
Is. 43:13 “Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?”
Is. 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God.” (see also Is. 48:12; Rev. 1:11)
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author. If you’ve enjoyed reading it, you can purchase a copy for yourself. If you want to read the blog series from the beginning, start here.