The Absolute Sovereignty and Purpose
of God in the Life of Men
by Curt Wildy
From the person of the lowest estate to the person of the highest, the thoughts, wills, emotions, and actions of men are all under the complete control of God. Were it not so, God would not be, and could not be, the sovereign and omnipotent God that He is. If literally all things are not under His complete and sovereign control then literally nothing is truly under His control. This truth applies to the smallest particles in the universe, to the most obscure objects in the cosmos, to all of the creatures in the world, to all of the angels and demons, and to anything and everything else that exists and that occurs in this existence.
My focus in this post however, is the sovereignty of God over the lives of all people. Mankind, both collectively and individually, is completely and irresistibly subject to the will of God. His eternal purpose is never frustrated by the acts and words of men because He purposed and ordained (from eternity) all of the acts and words of men. God is never thwarted; though there are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand (Proverbs 19:21). Things that come to pass, come to pass, because the Lord has brought them to pass; whatever happens, happens, because He has purposed them to happen. Our God is a God who declares the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (Isaiah 46:10). He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1:11), thus, there is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD (Proverbs 21:30). God can declare the end from the beginning because He has purposed, and brings to pass, everything from the end to the beginning, all according to His sovereign will.
The workings of God in the lives of men, women, and children often go unnoticed by them as they carry out their day-to-day activities; our natural inclination is to think that our thoughts, beliefs, and actions are our own. Human pride cries “we do what we want to do, when we want to do it.” Yet God declares, the king’s heart [is] in the hand of the LORD, [as] the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever he will (Proverbs 21:1). What he does for the king he does for all men (for He declares that the preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, [is] from the LORD – Proverbs 16:1). Though a man’s heart deviseth his way: it is the Lord who sovereignly directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9). Most men would deny these truths, choosing instead to think that they have some control over their thoughts and actions and that they are indeed sovereign over such things. However the Christian knows that man’s goings are of the LORD and that man cannot understand his own way (Proverbs 20:24). The Christian knows that it is God who supplies them the grace to commit their works unto Him, the declared means by which He establishes their thoughts (Proverbs 16:3) and enables them to do that which He would have them to do.
Though the precept that man cannot understand His own way and that he is not an independent agent capable of thinking on his own and acting on his own is a great offense to the unregenerate, to the saints of God, to the ones that know that the way of man [is] not in himself and that [it is] not in man that walketh to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:23), they find real peace and comfort in the sovereign purpose and providence of God. Whereas the wicked boast in their will and their works, the Christian knows that whatever good they do is all of the Lord. They know, they feel, the weakness of their own faith, love, and ability to resist sin. They know how utterly helpless they are by nature against the onslaught of carnal self, satan, and the sin of this world; were it not for the fact that it is God which works in them, causing them both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13) they would drown in the overflowing flood of their iniquities. They know that the steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD (Psalm 37:23); yet they also know that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only intrinsically, the only inherently, good man because He is also fully God and there is none good but God (Matthew 19:17). Because Christ is good, the saints of God are good in Him having been made good, made righteous, through eternal union and communion with Him in light of His atoning blood and imputed righteousness. In light of Christ’s finished work, God orders the steps of His people in His word and keeps iniquity from having dominion over them (Psalm 119: 133); He holds up their goings in His paths, [that] their footsteps slip not (Psalm 17:5). Though they know no perfection experientially in this life, God leads and directs them, orders their paths, and frees them from the bondage and dominion of sin. Though the just still fall seven times, they rise up again (Proverbs 24:16) because God never lets those that are His fall utterly; their slips and stumbles are ordained of Him to show them their need for Him (that is, their utter insufficiency and His all-sufficiency). Our falls and slips are our own fault — never His, because they stem from our indwelling sin; yet, God purposed such falls to manifest His eternal glory and to bring about our eternal good.
The unrighteous will no doubt scoff at this; believing themselves to be good, they reject the truth that they are naturally and completely both unwilling and unable to do anything pleasing in the sight of God. They fail to realise that without Faith, that is, without Christ and without a God-given love for and belief in Him, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). They fail to realise that without the True God and Saviour, without the True Lord Jesus Christ, the Victorious One who fulfilled all aspects of the Old Testament testimony, without Him, they can do nothing (John 15:5). God declares through James that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning and that of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (James 1:16-18). Through Paul, God declares that the saints are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). Yet the deceived deceivers, in rejecting the fact that righteousness and good works are solely of God, refuse to submit unto Him, and thus perish in their sins.
God, as that giver of every good and perfect gift, gives His people not only faith, repentance, and love for the Truth (for He puts His law in their inward parts, and writes it in their hearts – Jeremiah 31:33) but the grace and strength as well to work out those things that adorn the Gospel of God (it is by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit that the fruit of the Spirit is made manifest in us; and yet at the same time, as branches of the Holy Vine, it can be equally said that our life and produce flow from the Lord Jesus as well).
Psalm 10:17 declares that the LORD prepares the hearts of those whom He has made humble, giving them one heart and one way (even the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ who is their Way), that they may fear Him forever — for He has made an everlasting covenant with them, that He will not turn away from them, to do them good; but will put His fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Him (Jeremiah 32:39-40). Through that new heart that He has given, that new spirit that He has put within His quickened people, and through His Holy Spirit, even God the Holy Spirit, which indwells them, He causes His sheep to walk in His statutes, and to keep His judgments, and to do them (Ezekiel 36:26-27). He inclines their heart unto His testimonies (Psalm 119:36) and creates in them a clean heart and renews a right spirit within them that causes them to both turn from the things of time and sense and to turn to Him who supplies all of their needs and furnishes, from eternity, all of their works (though we never turn to the degree that we would desire in this life). It is God, and God only, who makes His people to differ from the non-elect. It is God who not only gives to us, but causes us to receive His riches and infinite mercies; therefore, the saints of God know that all boasting and puffing up is folly, sin, and madness (though such ills still plague us whilst in this body of death); the saints desire that heart that aims to give all of the glory to God, all of the credit to Him, and that seeks to extol the greatness of His loving-kindness.
But what of the wicked, the reprobate, all of those whom God never purposed to save (but were created to show forth His fury against sin)? God declares that He hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil (Proverbs 16:4). These are the vessels of dishonour, the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, that God has created for the express purpose of shewing forth His wrath and making His power known against them (Romans 9:11-22). Some will argue that God simply leaves them alone, leaves them to their own devices — but this is not so. Though their sin is their own, truly theirs only, God is active in the reprobation of the wicked; He hath mercy on whom He will, and whom He will — He hardeneth. He actively, purposely, and justly hardens the wicked in their wickedness as a means of bringing about that which glorifies Him and that which works eternal good for His people. Therefore, to the wicked He sends that working of error, that strong delusion that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2nd Thessalonians 2:11-12). We read in Psalm 105: 25 that it is God who turns the heart of the wicked to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants. As with Pharaoh, so it is with all of the eternal enemies of God; God creates them and raises them up (at His appointed time in history) with the express purpose of showing His power in them and against them, that His Holy Name might be declared throughout all the earth. He hardens their hearts and gets honour upon Satan and carnal flesh alike, and all their host (both man and demon); He gets honour upon them, and upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen (that is, upon them and upon everything that they trust in for strength, hope, and victory) — and all of those who hate God will know that He is the LORD, when He has gotten His honour upon them, when their destruction cometh as a whirlwind and their damnation slumbereth not.
Thus we see that though offenses must come, they were purposed and ordained to come, to fulfill the eternal plan of God; He is utterly and completely in control. All aspects of our lives are ordered of God; we simply often fail to see it because God often so orders our lives as to align our thoughts and external events with our individual personalities and inclinations. I often give the example of our spheroid Earth. As we walk or drive from one point to another, it often appears that we are traversing a flat Earth — when in fact, it is spherical. Though it appears that all is flat (with the exception of course, of hills and valleys and other such things) and that there is no roundness to the Earth as we walk or drive to our various destinations, we know that the spherical nature of our world is real. Our perception of walking on a flat Earth can be likened to our perception of working out our lives in accordance with our own wills; yet, just as we fail to experientially realise that we walk upon a spheroid world in our travels, mankind naturally fails to experientially realise that God directs and orders the wills of all men – even down to the most minute detail.
To the unsaved, this reduces mankind to a puppet, a robot, a drone. They liken the sovereign direction of God to “possession” and argue that it dehumanizes us and denies us of the free-will and distinct personality that gives each of us our individual identity. However, to the Christian, this effectual working of the Lord in them “elevates” them to a level wherein they are able to enjoy communion with God, to walk in His ways, and to repent of their sins. Call it possession, call it being a robot, an android, a mannequin, a puppet, whatever and what have you; I will call the overriding of my own will and the ordaining off all of my ways a blessing beyond words. What a relief to know that God is completely in charge of all things, even all things pertaining to me, and that nothing — absolutely nothing — is left up to me, my corrupt will, my fickle heart, or my creature efforts.
What of Faith? It is of Him, it is a gift that He not only gives, but works in us. I do not have to “muster it up” myself — to do so would be to put an idol in His stead. Repentance? O how I need grace to sue for grace; grace to turn from the evil of thought, word, and deed. As long as I have sin indwelling this flesh, as long as I am in this body of death, I need grace to repent. I need the effectual working of God to deliver me, turn me, and cause me to both hate my sin and love His way. What I definitely do not need however, is my own natural, self-righteous, pride-filled efforts to creep in and try to do for me what only God Himself can do for me. Love? I can never, will never love God enough or too much; I have no love for God beyond that which He so graciously works in me, inclining my affections unto Him, and filling me with that love for Him that results from Him having first loved me. Though I am thankful for the day of small things, thankful for whatever love God works in me; nonetheless, I wish I could love Him so much more. My lack of love brings me to say, “What is my natural, man-mustered love for Him?” Surely it is nothing but enmity and rebellion to the very core; but O the mercy of having that God-given love stirred up in the heart… what a mercy it is indeed. Finally, what of Good works? I have none and yet I have nothing but. I have no good works in and of myself, for by nature, I am as an unclean [thing] and all of my carnal righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags. I do routinely fade as a leaf without the quickening power of God to restore me. And my iniquities, my iniquities like the wind, take me away (Isaiah 64:6) unless, and until, He turns me back unto Him, redirecting my path, ordering my steps, and rooting me in the fertile ground of His divine love. Yet at the same time, I have nothing but good works, for the works of the Beloved Saviour are my works through imputation and through that eternal and vital union with Him. I can do no good of myself, but by His grace, Christ’s good is my good.
Though He ordains my risings and my fallings (fallings, as when He purposed for me to walk in accordance with my natural lusts and wretchedness to show me just what I really am by nature — which is nothing but sin), though He ordains all aspects of my life, I will rejoice (as He enables) in my all-sufficient, almighty, and all-loving God and Saviour. Though I be but a puppet in man’s eyes, I am as an Apple in His. Though man sees me as a drone, God sees me as a son. To what do I owe this? What is the cause of such infinite and unfathomable mercy and grace being bestowed upon me (and upon all of God’s elect, given our defiled, sinful natures)? Surely it is our decision to turn to Him, our natural desire to seek Him and to accept Him into our hearts. Surely it is our own natural goodness and the righteousnesses that we strive to add on top of Christ’s own (albeit thanking God that we are not like other men). Surely it is the exercisings of our free-wills and our best efforts to keep His law (and to do good deeds) that merit such favor. SURELY IT IS NOT — SURELY IT CAN NEVER BE ANY SUCH THINGS. Surely, and I do mean surely this time, the grace and mercy bestowed upon us comes solely from God and His goodness, faithfulness, electing love, and righteously-discriminating mercy — particularly as it is found in, and through, the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The grace, mercy, and riches that God lavishes upon all of His people can be traced back to the following:
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly [places] in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; [even] in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
I pray that God gives us the strength and restrains us from polluting His blessed work and way with any of the natural filth (will-worship and works-mongering) that comes from us; may we ever acknowledge Him as our only source, our only source, of all that is good, upright, and just — that is, in us, in this world, and in all of creation (be it earthly or heavenly). God alone is the storehouse, the exclusive source and origin, of all that is good and right. I pray that He never utterly leaves us to ourselves; that He never sets us free from Him and His righteousness. May it be that the foolishnesses of the wicked never leads us astray to seek refuge in anything that we think, say, or do (or abstain from thinking, saying, or doing). O Lord, we know that You are ever faithful, and that You will keep every single one of your elect safe until the end. All that the Father has given to You shall come to You by divine power; and him that comes to You, You will in no wise cast out, You will lose nothing, but shalt raise them up again at the last day. You are our eternal rock, fortress, shield, our everlasting all in all.
To God be the glory for ever and ever,