What does the word “Sovereign” mean anyway?

While I don’t agree with every word of this blog, I agree with enough to encourage you to read it. Shoot, I agree with most of it in principle. Get the “Sovereign” part for sure… that part is really worth reading.

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Is God “Sovereign”?
Posted by Ryan on Jan 16, 2010 in General
This is an excerpt from Andrew Wommack’s new book, “Living in the Balance between Grace and Faith”. POWERFUL and extremely well thought out chapter.
Chapter 2 – Is God Sovereign?
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 overemphasizes 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 folks 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 emphasizes 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.”
Supreme, Independent, Excellent
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” (American Heritage Dictionary). 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 100 percent.
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.” The United States 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.
A Convenient Theology
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 was leading the praise and worship at a Full Gospel Businessmen’s meeting. The speaker had just come from the funeral of two teens who had been killed in an automobile accident. After drinking and doing drugs, 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, doing drugs, 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.
My father died when I was twelve years old. I remember our pastor coming over, sitting down, and looking at me, saying, “Andy, God needed your dad in heaven more than you needed him.” Even as a twelve year old, I knew better than that! I thought, What does God need my dad up in heaven for? The Lord didn’t kill my dad. This was just a cop-out, an easy way to deal with a difficult situation.
The Truth
In the very first church I pastored, there was a couple who gave birth to a child in a taxi on the way to the hospital. The baby was born not breathing, apparently dead. After going without air for a period of time, they finally revived the baby. This boy had Down syndrome and no immune system.
The boy only lived to be four years old. He died in my arms while I was praying for him. I then prayed for over two hours for him to be raised from the dead, but he didn’t come back to life. I was struggling for some words that would minister to the family and to myself. As their pastor, I wanted so much to have something comforting to tell this couple.
I was tempted to say, “Well, it must not be God’s will,” and just put the blame on God for the death of this child. God’s big. He can handle it.
I was tempted, but I told that couple the truth, saying, “Look, God did not kill your child. This is not His will. I don’t actually understand why we didn’t see him healed and raised up from the dead. It’s either due to my lack of faith, your lack of faith, or a combination of the two. Or, it might be because of things that I don’t even understand. But I can guarantee you that God is not a baby killer.”
Although it wasn’t very comforting at the time, I just had to tell those people the truth. It would have been much more comforting to come across with something religious, saying, “God is sovereign. Nothing can happen but what God allows.” But it’s not the truth.
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
-John 8:32
Knowing the truth will make us free. The mother came back to me later and said, “I had a fear since the day he was born. They told me that he didn’t have an immune system and if he ever got a cold, he would die.” She told me, “I’ve dreaded this for four years. When I saw him get this cold, I just knew he was going to die.” Because of her willingness to embrace the truth, the Lord showed her some things about herself and the situation. Because I didn’t take the easy way out, but told her the truth, that woman discovered where the problem was, dealt with it, and had four more children.
The doctors told this woman never to conceive another child because she was too small to have children. If she did have more children, doctors said they would have to be delivered by C-section, and probably both she and the child would die. But because this woman was willing to embrace the truth, she believed God’s Word and had four more children—all natural childbirths at home. No doctor would have let her deliver those children naturally after seeing her medical records, so she just believed God and had natural births at home. A few years ago, she sent me a picture of all four of her children in their caps and gowns as they graduated from college. She thanked me for telling her the truth.
Acts of God?
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? Why not just stay at home sitting on your couch, eating candy and watching television, because God’s will is going to come to pass anyway? Why do you need to do anything? God’s will is going to come to pass whether you believe for it or not.
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’ve 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.
Defies Logic
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? Why would you ever take medicine to lessen the pain? If God caused your sickness and He’s trying to teach you something and work some redemptive purpose in your life, then why are you trying to lessen His work? Why not just learn your lesson and suffer to the max?
This defies logic. Nobody would believe this doctrine unless they’re religious. You have to be taught this, and accept it on blind faith. It makes no sense. Even the people who say that God is putting sickness on them will go to the doctor and try to get out of “His will.”
Even those who are saying that God caused their marriage to fail will pray to God—who they say causes everything—and ask Him to intervene. Even those who say that God is the One who caused their financial problems and He’s using the situation to humble them will pray and ask this same God for mercy and help. If you really believe that God sovereignly controls everything, then there is no point in doing anything because God’s will is sovereignly coming to pass independent of us.
These beliefs bear no resemblance to the true definition of the word sovereign. They only represent a religious definition and application of this word.
Your Cooperation
God, by grace, has provided everything. But you have complete freedom of choice whether God’s perfect will for you comes to pass or not. It doesn’t happen without your cooperation.
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think…”
-Ephesians 3:20
Most people stop right there and believe this verse as is. However, they’re skipping over the part that the entire verse hinges on.
“…according to the power that worketh in us.”
-Ephesians 3:20
God cannot—or you could say does not—do anything beyond this power that works in you, which is faith.
Not Automatic
It is God’s will for every single person to be saved.
“The Lord is…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
-2 Peter 3:9
God, by grace, has already provided salvation for the whole world. But you have to put faith in God’s grace to see this salvation come to pass. This verse makes it very clear that it is God’s will for every person to be saved, but not every person is saved because not every person has responded in faith to what God has said. God’s will does not come to pass automatically.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
-Matthew 7:13-14
Jesus said that there will be more people who enter in by the broad gate to destruction than by the narrow gate to everlasting life. The Lord Jesus Christ clearly said that not everybody will be saved, and yet 2 Peter 3:9 reveals that it is God’s will for everybody to be saved. How can you put these scriptures together and come up with any other conclusion except that God’s will does not automatically come to pass?
You have a choice. God, by grace, has provided everything. But if you don’t believe, you won’t receive.