Sovereignty over Sovereignty
God is sovereign. No doubt. God will always accomplish His will. He is God after all. I know that the term “Trinity” isn’t in the Bible, but that there is a Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These Three are One. You don’t find the word “sovereign” in the King James Version. You have the terminology “only Potentate” in 1 Timothy 6:15 and perhaps that would be the closest to sovereign in the King James. Bauer-Danker Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG) says the Greek word there (dunastes) means: “one who is in a position to command others. . . . ruler, sovereign.” So monos dunastes says that God alone commands others. He is in the highest position.
Since God is sovereign, He is also sovereign over what it is to be sovereign. No one else defines sovereignty but God. God has sovereignty over sovereignty. As men, we don’t figure out what sovereignty is and then apply that to God. We don’t go to passages about God in the Bible and fit them into our own ideas about sovereignty. We go to the Bible to find out what sovereignty is so that to us God is still sovereign over what His own sovereignty is. If we change God’s sovereignty into what we want it to be, God isn’t more sovereign. He is less so. We then become sovereign over His sovereignty. Now that can’t take place in reality, but in discussions about sovereignty men often become sovereign over sovereignty. We should allow God to have the say about what it is for Him to be sovereign.
If I say that a man’s salvation depends on his will, some would say that I’ve made man sovereign in salvation. For God to stay sovereign, they say that a man’s salvation must have absolutely nothing to do with his own will. According to this view of sovereignty, God alone wills to and for salvation irregardless of man’s. And if someone were to believe that man willed to be saved, he couldn’t believe in the sovereignty of God. But is this what Scripture says? God wrote it, so Scripture is sovereign over sovereignty. Someone isn’t more dedicated to God’s sovereignty who departs from Scripture to define it.
Someone once told me that he could do Donald Duck better than Donald Duck. I laughed. That’s not possible. No one can do Donald Duck better than Donald Duck. Donald Duck is Donald Duck. And God alone is God. We can’t do God better than God. God is sovereign, but we can’t do His sovereignty better than what He has done it in His Word. We should conform our view of God’s sovereignty to what God said. In whatever way our view of God’s sovereignty doesn’t match up with what God said, we should alter it to fit what God said. We can’t have any higher view of God’s sovereignty than what God says His sovereignty is. One possesses only in his own mind a higher view of God’s sovereignty than the view that God Himself communicates in His Word.
I might say that I have a higher view of the San Francisco Giants baseball team than you do. And I have that higher view because I believe they are not only the San Francisco Giants, but they are also the Sante Fe Giants. Even though they aren’t the Sante Fe Giants, I say my belief that they are elevates my view of the San Francisco Giants to a higher level than others at least according to me. However, a view of the San Francisco Giants can’t be heightened by something not true about them. The same can be said in judgment of a view of sovereignty. Someone’s view of God’s sovereignty isn’t increased by something not true about it. God’s sovereignty isn’t threatened in a way that it needs some exaggeration or misrepresentation to remain sovereign. That’s how sovereigns are about their own sovereignty—they’re sovereign about it.
We don’t grasp the concept of sovereignty without a sovereign. The Sovereign who created the concept of sovereignty wouldn’t let someone else rule over the concept. He would henceforth not be sovereign and, therefore, look to those who defined it to be the true sovereigns. The Sovereign will have His understanding of sovereignty be sovereign over all other views of sovereignty.
Does God become any less sovereign by any statement of His Word? Of course not. God’s Word manifests God to be as sovereign as He actually is. Since He is sovereign, He can’t be diminished in His sovereignty. And His own Word especially wouldn’t try to weaken it. All of God’s statements in His Word that relate to sovereignty could only serve to enhance the right view of His sovereignty.
Let’s say that I wanted to enhance people’s understanding of God’s mercy, so I said that God wouldn’t punish anyone for any wrong he had done. When you said that God did punish men for wrong they had done, I answer that you don’t really believe in God’s mercy. However, the truth of God’s mercy isn’t diminished by the truth of God’s punishment of sin. God’s mercy is mercy. All other mercy is judged by what the Bible says is His. God still punishes sin and His mercy remains all of what mercy is. An unscriptural innovation of mercy departs from mercy. We’re not talking about mercy anymore when we’re talking about something different than biblical mercy.
I haven’t dimished an iota of God’s sovereignty when I report that “whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).
Jesus wasn’t shrinking His own sovereignty when He said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:34, 35).
We don’t improve upon a biblical view of God’s sovereignty. We don’t help God’s sovereignty along by professing that a man’s will has nothing to do with his salvation, when a sovereign God said that it does. When God says, “whosoever will,” we don’t exalt God’s sovereignty by saying that “whosoever really doesn’t mean whosoever like we think it means.” We don’t enlighten God’s sovereignty by saying “whosoever will but only those whom He predetermined will can will.” No, whosoever does mean whosoever.
I recently read, “God determines who shall believe and who shall not believe.” Some might think that statement exalts the sovereignty of God. It could do that only if God said it. He didn’t. Someone thinking he could embellish God’s sovereignty with his own thoughts took the rule over that sovereignty.
God’s sovereignty and “whosoever will” coexist. “Whosoever will” doesn’t make God’s sovereignty less sovereign or less amazing. “Whosoever will” pins the needle on God’s sovereignty. God is equal to the most sovereign He can be while “whosoever will” exists. We don’t need to clear away “whosoever will” to make room for God’s sovereignty. The people who can’t cope with “whosoever will” according to their view of sovereignty need to trust God. God is big enough to work out the details they can’t possibly comprehend.
God is sovereign. God gets what He wants. He wants “whosoever will,” therefore, He gets it. No one can topple God from His throne. He created all the possible enemies of “whosoever will.” He didn’t create any of them with potential to overturn something He wants. So the best they can undo “whosoever will” is in their mind and with their statements, which actually don’t do or undo anything that He already said was true. Their thoughts and words about “whosoever will” dissipate into the ether of human invention. They don’t change anything that God wants. They don’t stop “whosoever will.”
A growing number of people come to the Bible with their definition of sovereignty in hand, ready to conform Scripture to their definition. By limiting the recipients of salvation, they think they do service to God’s sovereignty. They don’t. They only take sovereignty over sovereignty. And God doesn’t need their help.
“You don’t believe in sovereignty” or “you’ve made man sovereign in salvation” are often scare tactics. They are effective, because they target a yearning of the conscientious Christian, like Sanballat and Tobiah zeroed in on Nehemiah’s legitimate concerns. We don’t want to be guilty of ratcheting down God and magnifying man. With such an attribute as sovereignty that defies comprehension, we could settle for a harsh extreme that hovers outside of biblical perimeters, just to protect us from proud criticism. “Whosoever will” is there. Be safe in the bounds of Scripture.