– by John Piper –
Well, I like to make every effort to keep things clear and simple, and I think one of the reasons we don’t speak with much clarity sometimes is that we don’t start with definitions. That’s where I like to start on almost every conversation I have.
Let’s make sure we know what we’re talking about. Let me propose some definitions, and then we’ll test them with the Bible. Then we’ll end with maybe what he’s asking: “What are some of the big issues surrounding it?”
When we say God is sovereign, we mean he is powerful and authoritative to the extent of being able to override all other powers and authorities. That’s my effort at a definition. Nothing can successfully stop any act or any event or design or purpose that God intends to certainly bring about. That’s my definition.
Is it biblical? That’s the question. Because what I think really doesn’t matter. If it’s a reflection of what the Bible says, it matters a lot.
I’m arguing that nothing can thwart or stop God’s purposes. When all is said and done, Job says, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). I think that’s just about the best definition of sovereignty in the Bible. Daniel 4:35 states, “He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” That is, nobody can stop it.
Here’s the positive way of saying that he will accomplish all his will: “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” Then he says this in the next verse; it is God talking about his goodness: “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” (Isaiah 46:9–10). There’s nothing that he purposes that he does not accomplish. Nothing can stop him, and he does it all.
Then you have Ephesians 1:11, one of the most sweeping statements of sovereignty in the Bible: “. . . according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Whatever happens, it accords with the counsel of God’s will.
Then, you can test those general statements about God’s sovereignty with lots and lots of examples. I’m working on a book about this, so