What does the idea that “God is sovereign” really mean?

In my message this week, I’m discussing what at first may seem like a basic theological idea, but in actuality is one of the most profound and significant questions we can ask of Scripture – and that is around the nature of God’s sovereignty. The whole of Scripture testifies to the fact that our God is sovereign and reigns supreme over all creation – but what does that actually mean?

“God is in control”

In general, people have understood God’s sovereignty in one of two ways. The first can be characterized by the thought, “God is in control.” The idea behind this thought is that God has a plan – kind of a grand cosmic blueprint slowly unfolding over time – and that everything that happens is in accordance with that plan. In this line of thinking, people receive good or positive experiences as God’s blessing, and painful or negative experiences as God’s discipline or judgement. Either way, the hope is that once we get to the other side of eternity, we will see the fullness of God’s plan revealed and understand all those things that seem a mystery to us right now. The challenge with this line of thinking is that God becomes the author of both good and evil, and that brings his very identity into question – specifically God’s essential loving nature.

“God is in charge”

The second can be characterized by the thought, “God is in charge.” The idea here is that while God reigns over all – nothing can ever challenge his power or authority – he has created the world in such a way that humans have real choices and genuine freedom in how they navigate their everyday lives. Some of our choices are in alignment with God’s hopes and dreams for us all, but many are not. In addition, there is a spiritual Enemy who is working in ways that stand in direct opposition to the will of God. While our choices shape the extent to which we individually partner with God in his mission in the world, the type of role we carry and ultimately, the kind of difference we can make – nothing will ever prevent or thwart his plan to bring his kingdom over all the earth.

Why we believe “God is in charge”

There are two aspects of this line of thinking that are particularly important to us. First, it accurately describes God’s character as good, loving and beautiful. While there are certainly moments in Scripture when God acts harshly, it is always for one of three reasons – he is either protecting the innocent, delivering the oppressed or judging evil. All three are entirely consistent with the beautiful and loving nature of God. And secondly, this perspective of God is in line with the whole of Scripture. Though there are too many verses to reference in a brief blog, I believe Psalm 34:8 sums it up well: “O taste and see, the Lord is good.” God is endlessly good – reaching out in love to all those who are far from him, drawing us towards repentance with his patient kindness, forgiving us all our sins, reconciling with all who are willing, covering us in undeserved grace and pouring out his favor on all who move in alignment with him. That is the God of the Bible – beautiful, good and loving in every way.

What this means for all of us

Simply put, we can rest in the goodness of God. He is aware of every challenge and trial that we face. God cares more for each of us than we sometimes even care for ourselves. He is already working on our behalf, and he is so big, so strong, so overwhelmingly powerful, that absolutely nothing can stand in his way. You are under the care of a good and benevolent King. More than that, you are the beloved child of a good and tender Father. You can rest in his arms, as his deep desire is to hold you close and accompany you through every aspect of your life. Today, give yourself completely into the arms of your good and loving dad. He is there for you.