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The Sovereignty of God
L. R. Shelton, Sr.

When we speak of the Sovereignty of God, we mean God exercising His supremacy. We mean that God is elevated infinitely above the highest creature, and that He is the Most High, Lord of Heaven and Earth. When we speak of the Sovereignty of God, we mean that God is subject to none, influenced by none and is absolutely independent, that He does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases, and none can thwart Him, and none can hinder Him. He is absolute Sovereign. According to Isa. 46:10, He says, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." Then He says again in Dan. 4:35, "He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?"

When we speak of the Sovereignty of God, we mean that God is God in fact, in name, and that He is on His throne, the throne of the universe, and, according to Eph.1:11, He "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" as it pleases Him. The Sovereignty of God means that He does not take man into His counsel, or consult man about what He does, but that He is supreme Monarch and absolute Despot.

The Sovereignty of God was once understood and believed by the churches and the ministry, but today you very seldom, if ever, hear the phrase used in the pulpit, or see it in print in religious literature. Not long ago I received a periodical from one of our religious leaders of the South. In his writing he said, "God is not the only one who is sovereign, but man is also sovereign." Now, my friend, that is a misstatement; it is not a statement of fact. There cannot be two voices of authority in the universe; there cannot! Either man is sovereign which makes God subject to man, or God is sovereign and man is a servant of God. My friend, man is not sovereign; God is sovereign.

The Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God is the basic doctrine, or the foundation doctrine, of all the teachings of God's Word. All other teachings of the Word of God have for their foundation the Sovereignty of God. That's right. Name them. The Doctrine of Election is based upon God's Sovereignty. The Doctrine of Election is the foundation of the Doctrine of Blood Redemption. You cannot change that thing. All other doctrines in the Scriptures have the Sovereignty of God for their foundation.

When we speak of the Sovereignty of God, we mean the Supremacy of God, we mean the Kingship of God, we mean the Godhead of God, and according to Psa. 115:3 we mean that God is on the throne in Heaven and does whatsoever He pleases.

When we speak of the Sovereignty of God, we mean, according to Psa. 22:28, that God is "the governor among the nations," and that God sets up kingdoms, overthrows kingdoms, and determines the course of every nation. According to I Tim. 6:15, He is "the only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords."

When we speak of the Sovereignty of God, we find according to God's Word that He is absolute, irresistible and infinite; we affirm by the Word of God that He has the right to govern the universe which He has made for His glory, and do it as He pleases. We find that He has set the bounds beyond which no man can pass.

When we speak of the Sovereignty of God, we affirm according to God's Word in Rom. 9:20-22 that He has the right (as a potter over the clay) to fashion every individual as He chooses, whether to honor or to dishonor; He has a right to dispose of His creatures as He pleases in Heaven or Hell. Who is man that he should speak against his Maker! God is sovereign and on the throne as the Despot of the universe. And let me say here, every individual who is ever saved comes to recognize the Sovereignty of God. You are brought to the place where you sign your own death warrant, and you stand before God for Him to cast you into Hell or to save you as He pleases. You are at His disposal: He can save you or damn you. Now that is not the "god" of the average pulpit today. The "god?" of the twentieth century is a helpless, effeminate being whom man can push around and bully as he pleases. The "god" of the twentieth century pulpit is an object of pity rather than the God on the throne, who inspires reverence and obedience in His creatures. The "god" of the twentieth century pulpit is a disappointed, dissatisfied and defeated being.

The God of the Bible is sovereign, on the throne, doing as He pleases and directing the universe according to a set plan and purpose to a given end for His own glory, regardless of what man may think of Him. Man is as a grasshopper in the sight of God (Isa. 40:22); he is a worm in the dust (Isa. 41:14). When man pits his will against the will of the Almighty, it is laughable if it were not so tragical.

Let me say this, there is no attribute of God more comforting to God's child than that of the Sovereignty of God. To me the Sovereignty of God means that under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, the Sovereignty of God has ordained my afflictions, and the Sovereignty of God overrules them, and the Sovereignty of God will sanctify everything that touches my heart and life. I believe and accept God on the throne as the Master and Lord over all His creation and the Governor of all His creatures, and I accept His right to sit upon the throne.

On the other hand, the Sovereignty of God is the doctrine most hated by the world and unsaved religionists, and especially those of the pulpit. No doctrine of God's Word has been kicked around like a football more than has the Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God.

Now, let me say this and say it frankly – men will allow God to be everywhere except upon the throne as Sovereign. They will allow Him to be in His workshop fashioning worlds, speaking planets into existence. They will allow Him to be in His treasury dispensing gifts to the needy; they will allow Him to hold the earth and the other planets of the universe in their places by the Word of His power. They will allow Him to rule the waves of the ocean; but the very moment God ascends to His throne, unsaved religionists everywhere will gnash their teeth and fly into God's face because they are not willing to bow in dust and ashes of repentance and own Him as Lord of lords and King of kings. But, my friend, it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon the throne whom we trust. We fall at His feet crying, "My Lord, and my God!" Thank God for His Sovereignty.

When we speak of the Sovereignty of God, we mean that He is sovereign in the manifestation, or the exercise, of His power. We read in God's Word, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18). We read again, "Power belongeth unto God" (Psa. 62:11). This means that God manifests His power as He wills, when He wills and where He wills. We see this fact written throughout the entire Word of God, and when He puts forth His power it is irresistible. No man can stand before Him.

Take, for example, Pharaoh who tried to hinder Israel from going forth from Egypt to worship Jehovah – God manifested His power, His people were delivered, and their enemies slain. Then, on the other hand, when the Amalekites dared to make war with Israel for the purpose of destroying them, we see that God did not manifest His power in their destruction, but said He would "have war with Amalek from generation to generation" (Ex. 17:16).

Then, when the Israelites faced the Red Sea, God stretched forth His hand, the waters divided and congealed, and the Israelites marched over on dry ground. Then, in the wilderness His power was manifested, when He fed them for forty years with manna from Heaven, brought forth water from the rock, caused the Jordan river to be divided and the walls of Jericho to fall down at His command. But, on the other hand, God never manifested His power in the overthrow of any other city after this manner. The Israelites had to take every other city by force in battle array.

Furthermore, God stretched forth His hand to deliver David from Goliath, Daniel from the lions' den, the three Hebrew children from the fiery furnace; but in the Book of Hebrews we read, "And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented." Then, you ask the question, "Why?" The answer: "God is sovereign, and He exercises His power as He pleases, when He pleases, and on whom He pleases."

Take this example: He let Stephen be stoned to death, as recorded in the seventh chapter of Acts, and then He delivered Peter from prison by His angels (Acts 12). Now, why? The answer is: God is sovereign, and He does everything according to His own will for His own glory. He got more glory out of Stephen being stoned to death, by delivering him out of the hands of his enemies through death. Stephen was delivered, but not like Peter was. He let James be killed with the sword; John, his brother, died a natural death. Here was a man, David Brainerd, whom He let live and preach only seven years. He died with tuberculosis before he was thirty. On the other hand, there was Charles G. Finney whom He let live and preach until he was ninety years of age. Why? The Sovereignty of God.

Why did He let Methuselah outlive all his contemporaries? Why did God enable Samson to have superhuman strength that no other man possessed? Here is one man who makes his millions; here is another who lives in rags. Remember, Deut. 8:18 says, "But thou shall remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth." Why does God let one man preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to multitudes and then keep another one in seclusion and let him deal with a small number? Why does He put one on a pinnacle and let the world hate him and drive him from pillar to post, and then put another where the world never hears from him? God is sovereign, and sits on the throne, and does as He pleases with His own. Now, my friend, those are truths you can't get around. No, you can't.

In the second place, let me say that God is sovereign in the manifestation of His mercy to the souls of men. Let's face this fact – no man deserves mercy; no individual has a right to God's mercy. As someone has said, "Mercy is that adorable attribute of God by which He pities and relieves the wretched." But face this fact: every individual is wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked (Rev. 3:17), and deserves to be so because he is totally depraved, wrecked and ruined by the fall. Now, let's face this further fact – everyone who is miserable is miserable as the result of sin and therefore deserves punishment and not mercy. Let me repeat this fact – no individual deserves mercy or it would not be mercy. You deserve to be damned; you deserve the wrath of Almighty God, because "the soul that sinneth it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4). Rom. 3:23 tells us, "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Therefore all deserve to die, and none deserve mercy.

Now God is sovereign in the exercise of His mercy, or in the bestowal of His mercy upon man; in other words, God bestows His mercy upon whom He pleases and withholds it from others as He pleases. Take the two thieves on the cross. God in His infinite mercy and grace saved one, and let the other one go out under the clouds of the wrath of Almighty God. Take this other illustration: the sentence of death was passed upon Moses for one act of disobedience. He asked God to remove it, but God in His sovereign power said, "No" (Deut. 3:26). But take the case of Hezekiah who was sick unto death. God told him he was going to die; the sentence of death was upon him. He turned his face to the wall, confessed his sins, asked God to spare his life, and God added fifteen years to his life (II Kings 20:1-6). Now, why did He hear the prayer of one, and not the prayer of the other? Because He is sovereign. This bears out Rom. 9: 15 – "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Aren't those gracious truths? But, my friend, the natural man won't have them. You won't have them; no, you won't! You gnash your teeth; you say, "I don't want a God like that." Well, that is the only God I know, and that is the only God I want to worship.

Let's take another illustration. One day the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry was walking by the Pool of Bethesda, where lay "a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water." There in that large group lay a man who had been a cripple for thirty-eight years. The Scripture says, "When Jesus saw him lie he knew that he had been now a long time in that case," and "He saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?" Then He said, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk." Christ healed that poor man. Now, why didn't He heal the others? This man seemingly exercised no faith; he had not even asked to be healed. He was not expecting to be healed, but Christ healed him. He did not deserve to be healed any more than anyone else, but God exercised His sovereign mercy on this one poor, miserable cripple while He left all the others in their sick condition. Why did He do it? The only answer is, the sovereignty of God in bestowing mercy.

Remember one thing, friend, God does not have to save you. God does not have to show mercy to you. God has only to let you alone for you to go to Hell. Now, the question is, "Why should God save you?" You don't deserve it; you don't deserve to be saved. You want to be let alone, but for any individual to be saved God has to interpose His sovereign grace and bring you to the place where you want to be saved. I could go on through God's Word and give you illustration after illustration of God's sovereign mercy. For instance, why did He pick out Naaman and heal him of his leprosy and leave all other lepers of his day to die in their disease? It is God's sovereignty.

Now, let's notice again that God is sovereign in the exercise of His love, or the manifestation of His love to the sons of Adam's race. When we say that God is sovereign in His love, we mean that God loves whom He chooses. God does not love everybody; if He did, He would love the Devil. Did you ever stop to think, there is not one thing in any of the fallen sons of Adam's race, there is not anything in any individual, that would attract the love of God? Therefore, God loves whom He will and the cause of this love is found only in God.

The Bible says in Eph. 2:3, "We all...were by nature the children of wrath." According to John 8:44, we are all the children of the Devil, and according to Matt. 3:7 we are all the offspring of vipers, and according to the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel we are all illegitimate children born out of wedlock, dead in trespasses and sins, totally corrupt and discarded on the garbage heap of the world as fit subjects for Hell. There is nothing attractive in any individual that would merit the love of God. Therefore, God has a right to love whom He wants to, whom He pleases and how He pleases, and no man can tell Him, "Nay."

Then someone will jump up and say, "Oh, preacher, what about John 3:16 – 'For God so loved the world'?" Now, let me give you the shock of your life – that word "world" in John 3:16 means God's elect only, and not all mankind. I know that shocks you; but that shows how little we study our Bibles, and how little we know of God's dealings with human hearts. You listen! The manifestation of God's love must be traced back to His sovereignty. Why? Because God does not love by rule. If God loved by rule, God would be under law; and if God were under law, He would not be supreme.

God is a law unto Himself. You may say, "Well, I don't see that." All right, listen to God's Word, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:13). Now, God said that before they were ever born. He did that to let us know that the reason for His love was not in Jacob or in Esau but in Himself. Of the two, Esau was a better man, outwardly, than Jacob. The marvel of God's grace and the exercise of His love is manifested in the ones He selects and chooses to be the objects of His love. Why did He choose me? I don't understand it. There was nothing in me to attract His love, but He chose me, accepted me in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6), drew me with the lovingkindness of an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), and shed abroad His love in my heart by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).

Now, listen to Eph. 1:3-5,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 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: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself according to the good pleasure of his will."
We see here in this Scripture that it was "in love" that the Father elected, chose and predestinated His children; in other words, before the foundation of the world God elected His family according to the good pleasure of His will. He did not select a single one of us because He saw some good in us, or saw that we would believe, for we were no different from anyone else, and the only thing that made the difference was His distinguishing, sovereign grace. And He chose each one according to the good pleasure of His will.

To me this is one of the greatest, most comforting truths in God's Word - to think that I have been an object of His love before the foundation of the world, and that He knew me before I was ever born. Now, this great truth of God's Word deflates us and destruts [sic] us and takes all our pride and all our importance away from us. That is the reason you hate the God of the Bible – because this leaves you at the disposal of a sovereign God.

Let's go a step further, and we see that God is sovereign in the exercise or manifestation of His grace or the bestowal of His grace upon undeserving, Hell-deserving individuals. Justice stands at one end of the line and grace at the other in God's dealing with humanity. The justice of God demands the enforcement of God's law. As all have sinned, so death reigns upon all; therefore, all deserve to go to Hell. Justice bestows no favor, no mercy and is no respecter of persons. Justice said, "Man must die"; the love of God said, "Man must live." Justice said, "I demand an impartial enforcement of the law." Love said, "My elect must live." Love would not let go; therefore, the Second Person of the Triune God said, "Father, I will interpose for Your elect; I will pay their sin-debt; I will stand good for their bond." Therefore, He became a baby in Bethlehem, took upon Himself the form of a servant, took that body to the cross and paid the sin-debt in full to the last farthing. He went back to Heaven leaving the empty tomb, canceling the sin-debt against God's elect; therefore, God can bestow grace upon His elect.

He sent the Holy Spirit to call out His elect and to reveal to their hearts that they were no different from anyone else, that God did not choose them for any attraction in them. He also reveals the utterly corrupt, vile, sinful nature of that sinner and shows him that he deserves to go to Hell, he is condemned to die, and that he does not deserve mercy. Yes, it is only as the Holy Spirit opens that sinner's heart that he sees that he is Hell-deserving, and recognizes himself as an utterly lost, ruined, wretched, miserable, bankrupt individual, an object of mercy. The same blessed Holy Spirit leads him to look to Christ who died for him as his only hope, the only way out, and as a condemned sinner, an utterly lost sinner, one who does not deserve to be saved, he trusts the atoning blood.

Then God bestows His grace upon such a low, loathsome, contemptible wretch by delivering him from the power of Satan, forgiving his sins, translating him into the kingdom of God and adopting him into the family of God as His child – all because Christ died for him. Now that is grace, and God bestows His grace upon whomsoever He wills, whom He chooses, and whom He desires, and you cannot make God save you, but you can bow before Him.

I know when I was under conviction they said, "We just doubt that Brother Shelton will ever get saved." You see, I had been preaching 25 years before the Lord awakened me. But that threw me on my face crying, "Lord, make me as a little child. Lord, there are only a few that be saved, but I want to be one of those few. Lord, here I am; take me. If You can get more glory out of sending me to Hell, I'll go to Hell; but if You will, save me by Your grace." And He did! He saved me by His grace, and I am what I am, because of the grace of God. (If you want that story, "How and When God Saved a Baptist Preacher", you write me, and I'll send it to you [Available Here] ) Sinner-friend, the Sovereignty of God is the greatest, most comforting doctrine for you awakened sinners that you will find anywhere.

Now, brother, the Sovereignty of God does away with all your little "decision for Christ," your signing of pledge cards and your religious programs, and your fleshly movements, and your silk-handkerchief preaching, and it throws you upon your face before a sovereign God as clay in the hands of the Potter. Now, that is so, whether you like it or not. He is God on the throne, and that is the reason folks hate Him and rebel against Him and gnash on Him with their teeth. The greatest thing in the world is to be an object of God's love and an object of God's mercy and His grace. Just to think that you and I have robbed God, have trampled Him under our feet, have rebelled against Him, have done despite to the Spirit of grace, have taken the breath which He has given us and used it to curse Him with, the food He has given to strengthen us to rebel against Him, and then for Jesus' sake He would call us and bring us because of His grace to Christ to save us and forgive us is amazing grace! Now, that is the God I know; that is the God I preach; that is the God I worship; that is the God of the Bible!




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