God’s Sovereign Will
The second aspect of God’s will that we find in our study is God’s sovereign will. It might be better to call it God’s sovereign decrees, but for the sake of our study, we will call it His sovereign will. God’s sovereign will can be further divided into two categories, what God has revealed, and what He has not revealed. There are many things in the sovereign decrees or will that God never has or will reveal to His people. These things are not for us to know, and truthfully because of the greatness and complexity of God, we could not understand them if He chose to reveal them to us. They are far too great for us to comprehend. The things that God has determined to do will be accomplished no matter how mankind may try to thwart God’s decrees. These things are completely dependent upon God to perform, though He uses men and their decisions to accomplish many of the things He has chosen to do.
What God has chosen to reveal has been revealed exclusively through His Word, written today, and written and spoken in times past. Hebrews 1:1 says that God, “spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” II Peter 1:21 says that “the prophecy came not in old-time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Both Old Testament and New Testament prophets and apostles were tools that God used to reveal His moral and sovereign will. Since the gift of the prophet has ceased, I Corinthians 13, and the office of the apostle has ceased with the death of the apostle John, the written Word of God is the final authority on all matters of God’s revealed sovereign decrees.
God’s revealed sovereign decrees are found in numerous passages throughout the Old and New Testament relating to national Israel, the Day of the Lord, His Millennial Kingdom, His Second Coming, the various covenants with Israel, the rapture of the Church, the Judgment Seat of Christ, and the Great White Throne Judgment. The most important decree in the Bible is mentioned by Peter as he preached at Pentecost. Acts 2:23 says that Christ was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God…and crucified and slain.” There was nothing that could have been done to prevent this action from taking place. God determined that it would happen, and it did. Also notice that these people who nailed Christ to the cross did so without divine intervention. They willingly and hatefully had Christ nailed to the cross. Galatians 1:4 refers to the same event by saying that Christ “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.”
I Corinthians 1:1, II Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, and II Timothy 1:1 say that Paul was “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” In each of these passages, Paul claimed that God sovereignly and uniquely called Him to be His apostle to the gentiles. Paul’s conversion and calling into ministry was unique and miraculous. We should be careful when reading the conversion and calling of Paul. While the conversion of every soul is miraculous, the manner in which Paul was addressed by God, converted, and called were not normal. Each of the other apostles received a calling in a very normal way. Christ said follow me and they followed Him. Paul’s calling and conversion was quite unique.
In Romans 8, we see another aspect of the sovereign will in its relationship to believers. Notice the distinct difference between the will of God in Romans 6 and the will of God in Romans 8. Romans 6 refers to God’s moral will as Paul commands believers not to yield their bodies to serve sin, but to yield their bodies to Christ’s service. This is the believer’s responsibility and is accomplished by the Spirit’s enabling, yet the victory available is not predestined to be experienced to its fullest. Some believers walk in obedience to God’s moral law more faithfully than others. Some experience the eternal life they posses more fully than others. God’s moral will is not the same as His sovereign will. God has chosen to administrate one element of His will differently than another and the distinction is clearly seen in the relationships within Romans 6-11. On the other hand Romans 8 refers to God’s sovereign will or decree relating to believers. Paul writes: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul emphasizes one of the Bible’s most precious truths. A believer is absolutely secure in Christ. There is nothing that could ever happen to a believer that will permanently hinder complete conformity to the image of Christ. There is also nothing in this life whether past, present, or future that does not play a part in God’s purpose of conforming him to the image of Christ. Nothing can separate him from the love of God. God’s unique work in every believer cannot and will not be thwarted.
In Romans 9-11, Paul once again emphasizes the sovereign will of God, and its distinction from the moral will of God. God’s choice to use Israel as His peculiar treasure and a kingdom of priests was not based upon their faithful obedience to His moral will, nor was it based upon their spiritual aptitude. Israel walked in rebellion to God’s moral will. God’s choice in Israel was based upon His grace and greater glory. God would use Israel to be the vehicle through which He would bring salvation to mankind and reveal Himself through His Word. God’s interaction with Israel is a wonderful example of His sovereign will being accomplished despite the rebellion of men and apparent insurmountable obstacles. God would through Israel’s rebellion bring the Gentiles to Himself, and through their belief will one day bring Israel back to Himself. God’s sovereign will can be resisted, but it cannot be stopped. He will fully accomplish what He has sovereignly purposed whether He has chosen to reveal or conceal it.