New City Catechism 2.3
Question 2: What is God?
Answer: God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.
The first sentence of the answer to Question 2 focuses on God’s works of creation and providence. The second sentence focuses on his attributes, both incommunicable and communicable. The third sentence focuses on his sovereignty.
How far does God’s sovereignty extend? Is it limited by human freedom? Does it stop where evil and suffering begin? The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God’s sovereignty has absolutely no limitations. Complete sovereignty over all is bound up with the very definition of who God is. Note the sweeping claims of the following verses:
“For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom. 11:36).
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).
“The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world” (1 Sam. 2:6-8).
“Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isa. 46:9-10).
More examples could be multiplied, but the point is clear: God rules over absolutely all things at all times. There is not a stray molecule in all of creation that does not fulfill his will. As moral agents, we remain responsible for our actions, but nothing that we do in any way makes God’s plan dependent on us or happens apart from his decree. He is sovereign over all.
This is good news for us, because only this doctrine of God’s sovereignty can guarantee the promise of Romans 8:28, namely, that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. If he could fulfill his greatest act of redemption through the most wicked act in human history—the murder of his own Son (Acts 4:23-31)—we can rest assured that through all the suffering, evil, and perplexity of this world, he is working for our good in the glad enjoyment of his glory forever. And his purpose will not fail, for indeed it cannot.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Acts 4:23-31. What does this passage teach us about God’s sovereignty over evil events? Does it cancel out human responsibility? Does human sin thwart God’s purpose and make him rearrange his plans? How does this passage inspire us to trust God more?
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