Three spheres of God’s sovereignty
It is helpful to look at God’s sovereignty in three different spheres of activity, all the while keeping in mind that these spheres of activity are all intimately related.
1) One is the question of God’s sovereignty in salvation, or His “soteriological sovereignty.” All biblical, reformed Christians should be in complete agreement about this. We will discuss this truth below.
2) The second is the question of God’s general sovereignty, or how much He is in control of absolutely everything at all times. Many Christians are not in complete agreement about this, but there is ample evidence in Scripture to bring us to agreement. (See the discussion of this here: https://ourgodwillcome.org/2020/02/04/gods-sovereignty-over-everything-period/)
3) The third is the question of God’s sovereignty over sin. And there we want to assert that God is entirely in control of any moment of sin, even of the greatest evils that have ever been committed by mankind, but He is in control in a way that He is in no way guilty, He in no way tempts anyone to sin, and He is in no way the author of sin. (See the discussion of this here: https://ourgodwillcome.org/2020/02/04/gods-sovereignty-over-sin/)
Here we will elaborate on the first sphere of God’s sovereignty.
God’s soteriological sovereignty: God is in control of all aspects of salvation
God’s soteriological sovereignty, or His sovereignty in salvation, is the essential truth of the reformation. All reformed Christians should be in agreement concerning this truth. More importantly, it is at the heart of the Christian gospel. To fumble on this truth could be perilous for the soul.
The Arminian heresy emphasizes human “free will” in matters of salvation, thereby lessening the scope of God’s sovereignty in this miracle.
The Hyper-Calvinist heresy emphasizes God’s sovereignty in salvation to such an extent that it denies or devalues the human responsibility involved in the Christian life – that Christians remain responsible to work out their salvation, even while their God is the initiator, keeper, and perfecter of that salvation. (Such human responsibility is sometimes referred to as the “synergistic” work of the Christian life.)
The biblical position never lessens the scope of human responsibility, but it does show that God is the one in control of all aspects of one’s salvation – initial, progressive, and final.
We can demonstrate this doctrine with the following points:
Point 1: God is in control of initial, progressive, and final salvation
Psalm 3:8 “Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah.”
Psalm 62:1 “Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation.”
Jonah 2:9 “But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”
Heb 12:2 “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Heb 2:10 “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”
Point 2: Humans have the responsibility to choose God, to repent, and to believe:
All humans have the responsibility to make choices to serve God and to repent and believe in Him:
Joshua 24:15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Mark 1:15 “…and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”
Acts 17:30 “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent…”
Ecc 12:13 (NASB) “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”
Point 3: But all the while God is in control of repentance; He is the one who grants it:
2 Tim 2:24 “…with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
Point 4: And all the while, God is in control of faith; He is the one who grants it:
Eph 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Phil 1:29 “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…”
Point 5: In a word, no one is saved unless God predestines, wills, grants, initiates, keeps, and finishes that salvation:
John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Matt. 11:27 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
Eph 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.’
Eph 1:11 “…also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…”
Amen. May Christ be glorified when we give Him all the glory as the Lord of salvation!