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Attributes of God: Sovereignty | Theology Matters

  • February 2004 Issue
Practical Theology

Shortly after terrorists crashed two planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Chicago Sun-Times asked leaders from a variety of religious traditions to answer this question: “Why didn’t God intervene?” Some said that the reason was because God couldn’t intervene. Others made a distinction between God’s direct will and His permissive will. Still others argued that since God’s control is absolute, whatever takes place happens within the knowledge of God and is part of His plan.

The question posed by the Chicago Sun-Times focused on the divine attribute known as the sovereignty of God. The doctrine of the sovereignty of God is the biblical teaching that God is both ruler and controller of all. He is the ultimate authority to whom every soul will be held accountable and the one who causes all things to work according to His purpose.

The apostle Peter emphasized both divine sovereignty and human responsibility in his sermon on the day of Pentecost. Speaking of Jesus, he declared: “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23).

Why Theology Matters

The attribute of divine sovereignty is the basis for the believer’s confidence that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28). Because He is ruler over all, He alone has the power to establish the boundaries within which human actions occur. The fact that God is sovereign does not mean that He is pleased with everything we do. Nor does it mean that everything we do is good. It does mean, however, that nothing that occurs can thwart God’s plan or His good purpose for those who know Christ.


To learn more about the sovereignty of God, read Still Sovereign, edited by Thomas R. Screiner and Bruce A. Ware (Baker).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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