Three Undeniable Truths

There are three truths that Scripture makes very clear:

  1. We have free will: the freedom to choose to do whatever we want.
  2. God holds us responsible for our choices.
  3. God is sovereign.

How these three truths work together is a mystery that I do not claim to understand, but these three truths are all necessary for making sense of things aren’t they? If we deny free will, then there is no basis to hold anyone to account for what they have done or for what they have neglected. If God does not hold us responsible for our decisions, then there is no ultimate source of justice to which we can look to—no point of arguing right and wrong. If God is not sovereign, then we have no reason to trust His promises to save and rescue and redeem us or anyone else. All three are essential to the Christian world view.

I don’t know any Christians that have a problem with truths 1 and 2. The trouble comes with truth 3: that God is sovereign. Throughout the Bible we find claims that God is in complete control, such as Psalm 115:3, “For our God is in the heavens, and he does as he wishes.” God’s being all-powerful and in complete control of everything that happens, is at once the greatest comfort and the greatest mystery to us. It is God’s sovereignty that assures us that we can always trust Him.

It seems that an informed and sincere understanding of sovereignty is missing from our understanding of God today. It’s missing for any number of reasons, but you have probably found that problems with sovereignty basically fit into one of these two concerns:

  1. We don’t like how some realities such as war, murder, rape, cancer, and natural disasters make God look. They make us question God’s goodness, love, and wisdom.
  2. We don’t like the thought that our choices and decisions are somehow under God’s control. It seems to take away the essence of our free will.

In light of concerns like these, the great majority of Christians today would rather say God is not in control of everything. But what has happened as a result? Ironically, one of the most important truths we need in order to work through times of pain and suffering and the consequences of our choices is the conviction that God is in complete and total control of His creation. To believe otherwise is to say that there are some things that are beyond God’s power to redeem or repair.

Without a doubt the most evil thing that has ever happened in the history of the human race was the torture and murder of Jesus Christ. The reason that is the most evil act a person or group of people has ever perpetrated is because Jesus was the Christ. He was the Messiah, God Himself in the form of a man. No one else have we ever been obligated to love, honor and respect more than Jesus Christ. But in spite of that, we hated Him for revealing who we really are. We convicted Him in a court of law when we knew there was no evidence that He had done anything wrong either in the sight of men or of God. We beat, whipped and tore His body rationalizing that we were doing God a favor. Then, after hating Him for telling us the truth, after convicting Him for things we knew He did not do, and after beating Him almost to death, after all that, we took what was left of Him and nailed Him to a post and laughed at Him while we watched the last of His life drain from His body.

Nothing could be worse than that. But do you know what? God knew, planned and designed that very thing to happen! Isaiah (who lived 700 years before Jesus was born) says in chapter 53:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

If God can take the murder of His only begotten Son and out of that most evil crime bring forth the single greatest good that mankind has ever had graced upon it, then He must be sovereign over evil. There is no greater evil than what we did at the cross. But there is no greater good than what God brought out of the cross. The cross is the single greatest thing God has done to bring glory to Himself through His love, forgiveness and faithfulness to His Church. God is in absolute and total control of everything, even evil. God wants us to know that while we may not be able to fully understand how God can be completely good, absolutely sovereign and have evil exist all at the same time, He understands.

What are the implications if God were not in control?

  1. God could not foreknow anything with certainty. The best God would be able to do would be to guess the future. Can you imagine God saying, “If all goes well, My Son Jesus will be born of a young girl named Mary (hopefully), who should (if she sticks with the plan) be a virgin, in the town of Bethlehem (as long as Herod goes ahead with that census idea) and will live a sinless life (cross your fingers) and (if He doesn’t change His mind) die on a cross for the sins of the world.” Prophecies are simply rolls of the dice if you do not know the future.
  2. There would be no sure hope in any of God’s promises. Dr. R.C. Sproul says, “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.” If God is not in complete control then maybe there is something out there that can keep us from experiencing God’s forgiveness. Maybe God will not always be able to help us or comfort us or save us. Those promises that God will be our Savior, Comforter and Help in trouble, depend on God being sovereign over everything for them to have any real weight at all. We could not trust God or take Him at His word if He were not totally in control of His creation.

It is helpful to remember too that the sovereignty of God is not arbitrary in its exercise. By arbitrary, I mean His sovereign power is not an unguided or undirected power. God’s sovereignty is guided perfectly and harmoniously by all His other attributes. That means God sovereignly does only that which is also just, good, loving, holy and wise. This is very important as it teaches that God not only exercises His good pleasure, but has done the very best that can be done in relation to His holiness.

We need to have a clear, biblically informed idea of God’s sovereignty and what it means. We need a sovereign God. Sovereignty is necessary for us to have the freedom we are promised in Christ.

Whatever we do to live out these three truths, we can’t downplay the clear reality of God’s sovereignty. We shouldn’t be afraid to trust in the sovereignty of God because we do not fully understand it. God declares in Isaiah 55:8-9,

“My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Most people do not know how their car works. We know there is an engine, but how many of us can take it apart and put it together again? I am in that group of people that has absolutely no idea how to do that. I know where the oil goes. I know where the windshield washer fluid goes. That’s about it. The rest of the engine is beyond me. I know that I need to change the oil, fill the gas tank, and replace the brakes and tires every once in a while. That’s all I know.

Yet, despite this obvious lack of understanding of the mechanics of my automobile, I am fully licensed to drive it and use it effectively every day. The truth is I do not need to fully understand everything about how the engine works in order to drive. I know someone understands it. I know it makes sense to my mechanic. But just because I don’t have the same knowledge of my car that my mechanic does, it doesn’t make my car engine any less logical or understandable.

The same is true about God’s sovereignty. We don’t have all the answers we would like about how sovereignty harmonizes with His other attributes and our free will and our personal responsibility, but that does not mean that it isn’t in harmony with them.


  1. Dan, Awesome post. This scripture always helps me when I think of Jon.

    “My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”



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