God is Sovereign (Part 1)

As we think about who God is and what He is like, we keep coming back to those two big lies we can end up believing: that either God is not good or God is not sovereign (and sometimes both). In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were presented with this twin temptation and they fell for it. When they chose to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge, they were falling into line with the two lies.

The Serpent told them that God did not really care about them; that when He forbade them from eating the fruit, He did so because He wanted to keep them in their place. By eating the fruit, Adam and Eve declared that they did not believe in God’s goodness. They believed the lie that God had made a rule for selfish, cruel reasons. Despite the fact that God had provided them with everything they could ask for, despite God’s obvious love for them, they chose to believe that He was not loving and not good.

They also believed the lie that God was not sovereign. We see this in the way that they accepted the serpent’s version of events. Was God really so weak that he was vulnerable to the challenge of his creation? Could they really rival Him? We see it in their decision to make their own rules. They did not want to submit to God as though His law was not wise. They wanted to be in charge. Finally, we see it in the way that they hid and the excuses they made as though they could escape from God’s presence: as though He would not find them and see through their excuses.

And so in place of those lies, it is vital that we discover the truth about God’s goodness and His sovereignty.

The Independent God

If God is sovereign and without rivals, then nothing can influence, control, overrule or overpower Him. God is invincible and without rival. There is nothing and no-one greater than Him.  That is why we are not to worship other gods. It is not that they are real rivals to his power and could usurp Him: it is that they are not Gods at all.

This is sometimes described as God’s “aseity.” It comes from a Latin term “A-Se” “meaning from or by himself.”[1] In other words, God is unique; there is no other being comparable to Him. He is in a class of His own. Specifically, only God is self-existent.  This is the point Jesus makes in John 5. He says that both the Father and the Son have “life in themselves.” All other creatures live and breathe because God breathed life into them.

No-one made God. There wasn’t a time when he began and there won’t be a time when he ceases to exist. This is important because once again it reminds us that in no way does God depend on us.  The God who is eternal is also eternally “love” because He is the eternal Trinity.

“Scripture defines God’s love, therefore by the relationships among the Father, the Son and the Spirit, not by his relationships with the world. Trinitarianism, therefore guards God’s aseity, his independence from the world. ..God does not need the world in order to love. He is not relative to the world. Thus his love is fully sovereign. He loves as the Lord.”[2]

God is independent in every sense of the word.

“God is not only self-existent, but self-attesting and self-justifying. He not only exists without receiving existence from something else, but also gains his knowledge only from himself (his nature and his plan) and serves as his own criterion of truth. And his righteousness is self-justifying, based on the righteousness of his own nature and on his status as the ultimate criterion of righteousness.”[3]

In other words, it is not just that He is uncreated but because He is the Creator, because He is the source of goodness, then he is the one who defines what righteousness and goodness is. This is important because sometimes we can view worship as something that God needs as though he needs our affirmation.  God is not dependent on us for anything. He does not need our love or approval.  Rather, we are completely dependent on God. As Bavinck puts it:

“Thus being all sufficient in himself and not receiving anything from outside of himself he is by contrast, the only source of all existence and life, of all light and love, the overflowing fountain of all good.”[4]

This takes us to the heart of the Gospel. Our entire relationship with God is dependent on grace. It was out of grace, not need, that God made us. This contrasts with ancient (and some modern) religions that see humans as servants of the gods, there to provide for them. It contrasts with atheistic evolution where humans are merely vehicles for genetic replication.[5]

Not only are we dependent on Him, but we can completely depend on Him. If He is without beginning, then he is also without end. He isn’t going away anywhere any time soon.  God is eternal.

[1] Frame, The Doctrine of God, 600.

[2] Frame, The Doctrine of God, 417.

[3] Frame, The Doctrine of God, 602.

[4] H Bavinck, The Doctrine of God and Creation, 150.

[5] Remember Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford, OUP, 1976, revised 1989), 12-20.