Is God's Sovereignty Limited? (Part 1)

He couldn’t erase the image…of a world that drove people to despair. A self-indulgent world of opulence that ignored the have-nots.A dying world of disease that apparently seized its victims at random…A broken, hurting world in desperate need of God’s message of love and forgiveness. A world coming apart at the seams. There are not many happy campers out there. How did we get to be like this? What does it all mean? What role does God play in things? Isn’t He supposed to be in control? Patrick Morley, The Rest of Your Life

Those words were written in 1992 but they are just as true today, some 27 years later...

What role does God play in things? Isn’t He supposed to be in control?

Ultimately God is in complete control of all things, though He may choose to let certain events happen according to natural laws that He has ordained. Charles Ryrie, Ryrie's Basic Theology
If man could limit God in any way, He would cease to be God. But God in His sovereignty may impose upon Himself certain limitations. Bible Doctrines for Today, Abeka

It is clear from Scriptures that man may limit God if God allows him that privilege.

Psalm 78:41
Yea, they turned back and tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel.

Also, God may, in His sovereignty, impose upon Himself certain limitations.

God’s sovereign will permits things to happen that God does not desire to happen, or that He even commands not to happen. - George Bryson, The Dark Side of Calvinism

The limitations that God has placed upon Himself are primarily in three areas: the existence of sin, the free will of man, and the privilege of prayer.

The existence of sin.

God did not determine sin’s existence, but He allowed it in the universe.

James 1:13
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
‌Even though God hates sin, for reasons not revealed to us, sin is present by His permission. Charles Ryrie, Ryrie's Basic Theology

God could have made man without the ability to sin (as He will in heaven some day), but that was not His plan for earth. (He has given man a free will.) God wanted many to love Him by choice, not force.The Bible teaches five lessons about God’s relationship to sin:

God permits some sin to fully manifest itself.

Romans 1:21
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Romans 1:24
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

God prevents some sin.

Genesis 20:6
And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.

God determines the limits to which Satan may go in tempting or trying an individual.

Job 1:12
And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.
Job 2:6
And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.

This truth should bring comfort to each of us, especially when we are going through a severe trial or test. Even though we may question, “Why,” we should remember that God is still in control!

1 Corinthians 10:13
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

In temptation, God makes a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it. Even in temptation, God has a purpose.

James 1:2–4
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

But, I will not try to minimize or trivialize the tribulations and temptations that you may be going through.

Hebrews 4:15–16
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

In temptation, we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ “…was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” For that reason, we can go to Him to “…find grace to help in time of need.”

God can overrule every expression of sin for His glory.

Psalm 76:10
Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.
Romans 9:17
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

God can restore the wasted years of a sinful life.

Joel 2:25
And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, The cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, My great army which I sent among you.

This should bring comfort to those who may have been saved later in life.

Continued in the next post...

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