How Sovereign is God?

by Mike Ratliff

19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. 23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ — 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:19-28 ESV)

When we make statements like, “God is Sovereign.” we sometimes include a qualifier in that statement like this, “God is Sovereign over ‘something.” That is a fallacious statement though meant well. God is Sovereign. There is no need to add any qualifier to that statement. I have heard many well meaning people say, “God is Sovereign over salvation.” Well, He is, but He is also Sovereign over all of creation. There is nothing over which He is not sovereign.

I have been following the recent debate between Dr. James White and Bob Enyar who is an open theist. No matter how clearly Dr. White explains what the Bible says about the true nature of God, Bob Enyar and his followers always look for holes in it in attempts to support their false theology, which has at its core the protection of the man’s free will over all, even over that of God. To make this happen, in their theology, they must misinterpret Sacred Scripture to rob God of His true nature.

Let us look at an Old Testament book that displays God’s Sovereignty, His true nature, and then think about what the open theists like Bob Enyar say about Him. From this we should all come to understand that open theists are not our brothers and sisters in Christ, but are, instead, a cult because they have made up their own “god”. The book we will look at is Jonah. In Jonah we will see God’s hand in control of all the events in that book. We will also see that God saved that generation in Nineveh despite the fact that Jonah hated them and preached only four words to them from a rebellious and prideful heart.

There were ten “miracles” in the book of Jonah. The 1st one is found in 1:4.

4 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. (Jonah 1:4 ESV)

The storm that caused the sailors to despair of life and eventually cast Jonah into the sea was “hurled” by God onto that ship. It was not a freak natural event. The sailors recognized that the storm was of a “divine” nature. Also, Jonah told them that they were suffering because of his sin of running from God’s command to go preach to the people of Nineveh.

The 2nd miracle is found in 1:7.

7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. (Jonah 1:7 ESV)

The lot falling on Jonah was God’s intervention into these events to accomplish His will.

The 3rd miracle is found in 1:15.

15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. (Jonah 1:15 ESV)

The sea ceased from raging as Jonah was thrown overboard. This had to cause the sailors to know that Jonah’s God was the real god not Baal, whom they worshipped. We see this in 1:16.

the 4th and 5th miracles are found in 1:17.

17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17 ESV)

God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah alive. This actually saved Jonah from drowning. Also, Jonah remained alive in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. This would be impossible normally, but God did these things and He is Sovereign. His will is done, His way in His timing.

The 6th miracle is found in 2:10.

10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. (Jonah 2:10 ESV)

Again, God does things His way. His ways are not our ways. He thoughts are not our thoughts. The fish was completely obedient to God. Jonah repented in the belly of the fish. This is found in his prayer in chapter 2. The last verse of this prayer is amazing.

9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9 ESV)

Salvation belongs to the LORD! This is true. No one comes to God unless God acts first to draw them to Himself. The whole process of our salvation is in His hands. He must declare us Righteous according to Christ’s Righteousness. We cannot do that. We cannot do one thing to save ourselves. God must do it. Jonah recognized that then God spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

The 7th miracle is found in 3:10.

10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:10 ESV)

Actually, the entire 3rd chapter is a miracle. Jonah’s one sentence sermon contained only four Hebrew words. Jonah may have repented and obeyed God, but he still hated the Ninevites and did not think they deserved salvation. He did not understand grace. To him, salvation was for the Jews alone. Despite a very mediocre sermon from a non-God-focused heart, God used those four Hebrew words to pierce the hearts of the Ninevites from top to bottom. God saw their repentance and relented from judgement. If that isn’t a picture of our own desperate need for salvation I don’t  know what is. Each of us are born with God’s wrath hanging over our heads. Only by God saving us can we avoid that wrath. Praise be to God that He is merciful and has provided a way for us to be saved!

The 8th miracle is found in 4:6.

6 Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. (Jonah 4:6 ESV)

God appointed a plant to provide shade for Jonah who had departed the city to await its destruction. Again, all of God’s creation is subject to His sovereignty.

The 9th miracle is found in 4:7.

7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. (Jonah 4:7 ESV)

God gave Jonah the plant, God took away the plant. Why? Don’t we all ask those questions when disaster comes upon us (at least we think it is) for “no reason.” Friends, we deserve nothing but wrath. The fact that all in Christ will never experience God’s wrath is wonderful! However, even we will suffer. God uses suffering to perfect us unto Christ-likeness. In Jonah’s case, God used the the plant, the worm and the last miracle in this book, the hot East wind, to show Jonah that He is God and Jonah is not. He does this with us all the time doesn’t He? He shows us that we actually deserve nothing and all good things in our lives are by His grace.

The 10th miracle is found in 4:8.

8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:8 ESV)

I have pleaded with God to kill me several times. Go ahead and end this God! But, He has not done so and He is still working on me. Jonah needed to see the Ninevites the way God did, but he refused. God saved them anyway. Praise be to God!

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “How Sovereign is God?

  1. I also listened to the White/Enyar post debate followup by White. Enyar comes accross as very aggressive – scary!

  2. Tom, yes, aggressive and absolutely not going to listen to the truth while twisting what Dr. White says to “spin” the outcome supposedly in his favor. We must be very wise and discerning in these wicked days.

  3. It’s not at all uncommon for the loser in an altercation to accuse the winner of using unjustified tactics. Look at Israel and Hamas, Hamas thought they were finally capable of inflicting damage to Israel. When Israel defended itself and trounced Hamas, they accuse Israel of being unfairly aggressive.

    I’ve observed the same formula at work in the aftermath of the Enyart/White debate. White needed a business opportunity to fund his Colorado cycling vacation. He agreed to debate Enyart and expected to win. When White didn’t, he and his supporters resorted to accusing Enyart of debating unfairly. It’s the “fruit of the poisoned tree” defense. If Calvinists can convince people that the debate was unfair, they can try to insist that none of the arguments have merit.

    Mike, you write that when “White explains what the Bible says about the true nature of God, Bob Enyar (sic) and his followers always look for holes in it in attempts to support their false theology.” Open theists do find huge holes in the arguments of Calvinists. For instance, Calvinists say God cannot change. In an attempt to claim victory in the aftermath of the debate James White shockingly agreed with R.C. Sproul Jr.’s horrific comment that because God cannot change “God the Son does not now nor has He ever had two natures.” This utterly undermines the Incarnation. What a tragedy.

    Mike, you claim open theism has “at its core the protection of the man’s free will over all.” Did you listen to the debate? Enyart did not defend the free will of man. He only defended the free will of God. The argument was that if the future is eternally settled not even God can do something new. James White refused to give a straight answer when asked whether God could change the present. The open theists charge that it is the Calvinists who put God in a box, and I would add, “Only after putting Him in a straightjacket.”

    Open theists are refining the Biblical defense of God, and Calvinism will eventually have to address their arguments head-on. You will not get away with just saying “Nobody has every believed that,” or “that’s just heresy,” and “they’re not playing fair.” The charge is that the settled future of Calvinism incapacitates all living beings, including God.

  4. Gary,

    I listened to the entire “debate.” Did you? Somehow I don’t think so. Dr. James White did not get trounced. He simply took apart all of Enyar’s man-centered, philosophically based arguments. Open-theism is not Biblically based in the least. It is an attempt to preserve the free will of man by doing a hocus locus and pretending to preserve the free will of God. Reformation Theology does not put God in a box or a straight jacket or anything like that, but presents God as He presents Himself in His Word. The “god” of open-theism is not a god at all, but a very small man-created “deity” who I would not worship nor does he deserve to be mostly because he does not exist. No, I will worship the God of Bible who is Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Immutable who decrees what He wills and carries out what He wills through the means He desires to use. Your comment is slanted in such a way that it obvious that you are one of Enyar’s followers or perhaps want to be. At least you do not understand Reformation Theology, the Holy Trinity, the nature of God, etc, therefore, I must assume you are not a believer either. I pray you will repent of this and come to the light as God draws you into the truth by His grace for that is the only way any of us can believe.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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