What Does It Mean That God is Sovereign?

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.

We must be honest that if we get our attention on “current events” in our culture and the visible church right now things can be quite discouraging and even frightening to those of us who hold to a Christian Worldview, are Orthodox in our Christianity, and recognize the moral decline in our culture as God giving people over to their sins and causing them to be spiritually blind. Is this a function of the Sovereignty of God? I heard a definition of the Sovereignty of God from a theologian once who hated Reformed Theology. His definition stated that God was sovereign, but all that meant was that God could do as He wished. Isn’t there more to it than that?

In the Old Testament book of Jonah we have a very evangelical message from God given through a man of His choice who gave that message even though he hated the people God sent him to and he did everything he could to get out of doing so. However, God worked out everything to make sure it happened anyway. God saved a 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 do 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 told 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!

In this time of great darkness and evil in the world and apostasy in the visible church we who are in Christ must not allow these things to distract us from the fact that God is Sovereign and there is not one thing that can seperate us from His love. We have eternal life in Christ and our treasure is not here in this lost and dying world where everything is going to be burned up, but in Heaven with our Saviour. Let us keep our eyes on the prize.

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “What Does It Mean That God is Sovereign?

  1. Well done Mike.
    And excellent timing. I just finished Obadiah then went into the new testament and tomorrow planned to delve into the book of Jonah. Thanks for the preview. 🙂
    My bible says “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”” He preached JUDGEMENT! It sure wasn’t “health, wealth & prosperity” but doom and destruction… and the people repented. And God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

    From my small insignificant perspective, I would say we need more preachers like Jonah, but God is sovereign. He has everything under control. For that absolute sovereignty He is truly to be worshipped.

    Blessing to you and your house


  2. The sovereignty of God is absolute and therefore brings great comfort to those who love Him. If God were not absolutely sovereign, to whom would we go for help? We go to God because indeed He rules absolutely over His entire creation and all of history. All that comes our way is sifted through His sovereign and loving hands and thus we can rejoice with Paul and Joseph and say, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good—He indeed is working ALL THINGS out for my good (Christlikeness) and His glory, for it is all by His power.” Such should be our comfort and remind us to look to the things above where Christ is seated….instead of wringing our hands and compromising b/c we look at our society, our nation and see the direction it’s going. If we TRULY believe God is absolutely sovereign, we won’t compromise by being pragmatic. Rather, we trust in His sovereign power and wisdom and therefore stay true to the biblical way of living and thinking and deciding on a matter. Thanks Mike for a good and timely article.


  3. Yes, Lord continue to remind us your sovereign grace! If all things are not under your control then something greater than you exists !!


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