Why Sovereignty Matters

“‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them” (Gen. 50:20–21).  

- Genesis 50:20–21

Affirming the biblical understanding of election is not usually a way to win many friends. Most Christians are shocked that anyone could believe God’s choice determines who will be saved. Others scratch their heads when Reformed believers get excited and promote the Lord’s sovereignty over all things. After all, what is the practical relevance of the doctrines of election and providence?

We ought not fault Christians who reject Reformed theology because they have heard it only from overbearing Calvinists. Nevertheless, we confess wholeheartedly that our Creator’s sovereignty is the most “practical” of all doctrines, as today’s passage reveals.

Joseph assures his brothers of his pardon, stating the lesson his life teaches us: God overrides the intents and deeds of wicked men to bring about good (Gen. 50:20). Or, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). What the Lord does and allows is always good — because a good and praiseworthy end is always His goal, and He always accomplishes it. God blamelessly works concurrently with men, even in their evil events, to achieve an ultimate good.

We can only trust with confidence a Lord who controls everything. If He is unable to use wickedness to further His plan, then evil remains free from His rule, and we could never be sure of His final victory. Some say God only foresees human decisions without ordaining them, but Scripture never teaches this. Moreover, if the Lord only looks into a future in which He has not ordained all things, then there are “chance” events to come that He will have had no control over. How then is He God in any meaningful way? How, then, can He prevent those events He finds undesirable?

If the Lord is sovereign over all things, then every wicked event is in His plan, not because He loves evil, but because He wants to work through and against the sin to achieve a worthy end. Knowing that God does this enables us to fight the good fight of faith and stand against the forces of darkness. Nothing they do to us is outside of the Lord’s will, and so they can never derail His good plan for us.

Coram Deo

Hear these encouraging comments from John Calvin: “Let the impious busy themselves as they please, let them rage, let them mingle heaven and earth; yet they shall gain nothing by their ardor; and not only shall their impetuosity prove ineffectual, but shall be turned to an issue the reverse of that which they intended, so that they shall promote our salvation, though they do it reluctantly.” Rejoice and be glad, for our God reigns over both good and evil!

Passages for Further Study

Ex. 9:13–16
Ezra 8:22
Eccl. 8:10–13
James 1:13
James 5:7–11

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.