Thursday, September 6, 2007


It plagued my heart and humbled my mind for at least three years. It is now being discussed again here, here, here, and elsewhere.

Is God sovereign over sin?

Before a definitive "yes" or "no" one must consider the theological ramifications of their answer. If you submit that He is then you might jump to the unbiblical conclusion that He is the immediate or primary cause of sin in the universe. Or, if you answer negatively then you could suggest that He can do nothing about sin because He is not sovereign over it. So, the following is a very brief biblical survey concerning this issue.

Every time the phrase "evil spirit" appears in the OT, it says that it is from God [Jdg 9.23; 1 Sam 16.14, 16.15, 16.16, 16.23, 18.10, 19.9]. Job declares that YHWH gives and He takes away in 1.21. He also asks if we should accept good from God and not "calamity" [
rah in Hebrew] in 2.10. Isaiah says that God creates this same "calamity" in 45.7. In a very summative fashion, Elihu says that "whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen" [Job 37.13]. Peter doesn't hesitate to say that Herod, Pilate, and all those responsible for Jesus' bloody death were to accomplish "whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur" [Ac 4.28]. These texts barely scratch the surface of the biblical data that should be considered when these questions are in view. Others include: Ps 33.14-15, 105.25, 115.3, 135.6; Pro 16.1-4, 16.33, 21.1; Is 29.16, 63.17; Rom 9.11-24; Ex 4.21, 7.3, 9.12, 10.20, 10.27, 14.4, 14.8, 11.10; Mt 10.29; Heb 1.3; 1 Kgs 11.23; Lam 3.37-38; Amos 3.6; Ac 2.22-24; 2 Ths 2.11-12; 1 Pe 2.8; and more.

Brothers from a Catholic, Wesleyan, or Arminian background generally attempt to explain this by turning to man's free will. However, this line of argument simply restates the issue at hand and is also another discussion that is not as closely related as they think.

To ask the question in another way: What verb should be used to feebly attempt to express God's relationship to sin?
Did He cause it? Allow it? Decree it? Permit it? Ordain it? Take your pick and ground it on the objectivity of God's Word. The reality is that our Lord and King does not sit upon His throne in the heavens and scratch His head over the extent of His sovereignty. It is our finiteness, our sin, and our creatureliness that gives way to our ignorance.

So, what does all this entail for the believer? It means that we must bow before "the only wise God" [Rom 16.27] and the mystery of His providence. It means that we get to trust and know that His ways aren't like ours and still be a part off His plan. It means that the contrition and humility with which we walk should be evident to those around us. Lastly,
we must know that we are always accountable before Him and that He is always reigning and governing all things as "the King eternal, immortal, invisible" [1 Tim 1.17; also see Eph 1.11, Col 1.16-17; Rom 11.33-36].