“Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). That’s a simple but effective look into the nature of God’s sovereignty. Over and over, Scripture extols God’s sovereign control over every aspect of His creation. “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psalm 135:6). The apostle Paul explains that God “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). And in 1 Corinthians, Paul likewise exalts God as uniquely sovereign: “There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
The point is unmistakably clear: God reigns as the sovereign Creator and sustainer of the universe, and “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36).
But any time you deal with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, it sparks an inevitable question. It’s a very important question, dealing with a specific aspect of God’s sovereignty and how it relates to His grace in election. In fact, it’s probably the most pervasive question in the minds of those who are in the process of embracing the doctrines of grace.
The question is: Does the doctrine of God’s sovereignty eliminate any role for the human will? Does this doctrine suggest that we are mere robots?
Some see an insurmountable contradiction between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. They claim the human will is not truly free in any meaningful sense if it can be overruled by an irresistible divine decree. Arminians and hyper-Calvinists alike have claimed that is the logical conclusion we should draw from the doctrine of divine sovereignty. But that line of reasoning results in a skewed caricature of God’s grace through election—one that paints the Lord as a distant, discriminatory tyrant and humans as little more than automatons who function without any will of their own.
The truth, however, is that God exercises His full sovereignty without using force or coercion in any way that would nullify the human will. The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith says it this way:
God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.  1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 3, Paragraph 1.
We have complete freedom to make choices according to our own nature and preferences. But there’s the rub. We don’t have sufficient willpower to change our nature (Jeremiah 13:23). Our own nature and preferences guarantee that we will make sinful choices. We’re never forced by our sovereign God to make the wrong choices we make. So God’s sovereignty does not nullify our own personal responsibility for the sinful things we do.
Still, the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is not instantly obvious, and at first glance it seems paradoxical. But, in the days ahead, we’ll examine Scripture’s considerable insight into how these twin truths harmonize within the plan of redemption.
(Adapted from None Other)