1999 James A. Fowler
You are free to download
this outline provided it remains intact without alteration. You
are also free to transmit this outline electronically provided
that you do so in its entirety with proper citation of authorship
SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
I. Biblical usage of the word "sovereignty" in
reference to God. NASB
A. Old Testament - Heb. word malku
- "king, kingdom, reign, royalty"
- "the Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and
His sovereignty rules
- "the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness
of all the kingdoms under the
heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest
One; His kingdom
be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and
word malku is best translated "kingdom" in all
cases. Other three usages of malku
Dan. 7:27 are thus translated.
word adonai - "Lord" may express concept of
B. New Testament - Greek word dunastes
- "ruler, official" from dunamis - "power"
6:15 - "He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the
King of Kings and Lord of Lords."
word dunastes is best translated "ruler" (cf.
word kurios - "Lord" may express concept of
C. "Sovereignty" is not necessarily
a Biblical word, but a theological concept.
D. Other Scriptures cited to express
concept of sovereignty.
29:11,12 - "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the
and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and
the earth: Thine is the
O Lord, and Thou doest exalt Thyself as head over all. Both riches
from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power
and might; and it
in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone."
- "the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns."
- "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords."
II. Defining the concept of "sovereignty."
A. English word usage
- Oxford Etymological Dictionary of the English Language.
Late Latin - super-anum - "chief above"
Middle French - soverain - "princely"
Old English - souerein - "supreme, chief, principal"
The "g" was first added in the 16th century, perhaps
to convey idea of "reign"
definition - Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.
supreme power, dominion
undisputed ascendancy, dominance
unlimited extent, absolute
autonomy, independence, absolutely free
superlative quality, excellent
unqualified, unmitigated, unconditional
- Roget's Thesaurus.
supremacy, superiority, ascendancy, all-powerful, all- sufficient,
authority, jurisdiction, absoluteness, mastery, control, reign,
word "sovereignty" lacks precise definition in English
language. Great diversity of
B. Theological usage
word "sovereignty" became popular in theological usage
after John Calvin, French
1509-1564. Institutes of Christian Religion. Sermons. Commentaries.
Protestant Reformation a reaction against Roman Catholic emphasis
must do this....that...
Protestants: "It is what God does; not what man does!"
Protestant theology in general became a theology with its starting
point in God's activity;
As such it became a distorted theology with an inherent fallacy
at its foundation.
God does what He does, because He is who He is.
theology refers to "sovereign authority, sovereign power,
causation, sovereign rule, sovereign reign, sovereign plan, sovereign
will, sovereign decrees, sovereign determinations, sovereign
sovereign grace, sovereign love, etc.
Precise definition is never given.
The concept is nebulous, ambiguous, inadequately defined.
This ill-defined concept became cornerstone of Calvinistic theology.
A.W. - "The doctrine of God's sovereignty lies at the foundation
of Christian theology."
J.M. - "The doctrine of the sovereignty of God is the doctrine
that gives means
substance to all other doctrines."
Paul - "Foundational to the entire system of Calvinism is
the doctrine of the
F.H. - "The confession of the sovereignty of God has become
L. - "Reformed theology stresses the sovereignty of God
in virtue of which
has sovereignly determined from all eternity whatsoever will
come to pass..."
Variant perceptions of the concept of "sovereignty"
led to diverse theological systems.
Covenant theology - "God has determined to act in
an unchanging, unalterable,
Dispensational theology - "God has determined to
keep His promise to a particular
and national people - the Jews."
the Calvinistic theological premise.
The ambiguous, ill-defined concept has allowed a wide variety
imposed upon Scripture.
The concept of "sovereignty" has become an idolatrous
Ex. Pink, A.W. - "The doctrine of God's sovereignty ...is
the centre of gravity in
system of Christian truth - the sun around which all lesser orbs
is the golden milestone to which every highway of knowledge leads
they all radiate. It is the cord upon which all other doctrines
are strung like
many pearls, holding them in place and giving them unity. It
is the plumbline by
every creed needs to be measured, the balance in which every
be weighed. It is designed as the sheet-anchor for our souls
amid the storms
life. The doctrine of God's sovereignty is a Divine cordial to
refresh our spirits.
is designed and adapted to mould the affections of the heart
and to give a right
to conduct. It produces gratitude in prosperity and patience
affords comfort for the present and a sense of security respecting
It is, and it does all, and much more than we have just said...."
This is a deification of the ideological concept of "sovereignty"
consequences of the distorted Calvinistic theological premise
determinism - variations of what God has "determined"
religionism - systems of belief and morality
authoritarianism - authority of propositional statements and
persons who advocate such.
absolutism - ideology and morality becomes absolute rather than
epistemological emphasis - belief system, ideology
nomism, theonomy, dominionism, reconstructionism, covenant theology
passivism, acquiescence in sanctification
lordship controversies - focusing on function and activity of
lordship, rather than on
God is as Lord.
power theology - God's sovereign power
C. Legitimate usage of the term "sovereignty"
1. In light
of its ambiguity and lack of definition, and its being freighted
with so many variant
of theological baggage, it would probably be wise to avoid usage
of the term.
2. If it
is used, it is probably best used as a synonym of the Hebrew
word adonai and the
word kurios, to refer to God and Jesus Christ as "Lord."
3. It should
not be used in reference to man's state in general
A king or queen might be referred to as the "sovereign"
of a particular nation of peoples.
Mankind, in general, cannot be said to be "sovereign"
or to act in self-determination out
usage should be avoided.
D. Venturing a definition of "sovereignty"
is "over all" and "above all" - "God
is on the top rung of the ladder." (L.M.)
is absolute, autonomous and independent
is omnipotent and Almighty
is the authority who acts out of His inherent perfect character
and absolute power.
= Gk. exousia - "out of being"
is Lord of Lords and King of Kings - I Tim. 6:15