In his book, Newness of Life, Richard Howard makes the statement “Yet – mystery of mysteries – divine sovereignty respects human sovereignty!” What is the message one should receive from this reading? This statement will be used to further investigate and understand the unique relationship between man and God and why God allows man self-sovereignty.
Howard defines self-sovereignty as the essential nature of sin (59). In understanding his use of this phrase one must look at what he says about man and sin. “Sin is described as much more than an act. Instead, it is portrayed as an irresistible power that captures and controls man, making him its helpless slave” (40). Howard also writes, “when an attempt is made to define this mysterious intruder, a striking similarity appears. Sin has been defined as self-delusion, self-reliance, listening to oneself instead of listening to God, man’s self-assertion in rebellion against God, turning toward oneself and making oneself the center of his self…Sin, then, is self-separation from God in the sense of decentralization, the place which should be occupied by God being assumed by the self” (42).
The understanding then of self-sovereignty is when man puts self in the place that should be God’s. This is in fact creating one’s own god. When self-sovereignty is in one’s heart, there is worship of a false trinity, the worship of “me, myself and I”. Man’s wishes are to satisfy the desires of the flesh (all for me, myself, and no one else). Man desires to pursue the things that make self feel important, powerful and invincible (I am important, so I deserve this). These are some of the things that one seeks when self-sovereignty is the deciding factor in how to live life.
Man is given the power to choose and God never takes that away. “Sovereignty is the power of control, while free will is the power of choice” (Howard 43). God gives to men the freedom to make all choices. Whether one believes and trusts in God is one of those choices. With this power of choice (which God will never take away) man chooses to have the power of control of one’s life.
God is a sovereign God. The American Heritage College Dictionary defines sovereign this way, “One that exercises supreme, permanent authority, esp. in a nation or other governmental unit, as: a. A king, queen, or other noble person who serves a chief of state; a ruler or monarch” (Gildea 1325). God is the only true God, there is no other. His law is the final authority. Everyone will be held accountable to his rules or governmental laws. God gave man the freedom of choice, to accept or reject his ways. God, however, gave the law to point men to recognize their sins and their need of a savior (Howard 57).
God knew man would need a way to escape the penalty of their transgressions of the Law, so he sent Jesus. God placed the government in the hands of Jesus because of his sacrifice (Isaiah 9:6). If anyone accepts Jesus as savior, then the penalty of the transgression of that government or law is removed. God did it all so men and women could be set free from the penalty of transgression, yet he did not take away the choice to refuse it.
God wants all to come, but it must be with a willingness to release self-sovereignty and allow the sovereign God to reign in the heart were self once resided. This is the mystery of God’s love. He did not create robots to follow his every wish, but men with free will to accept or reject his offer of love. This is another example of the love of God, the father for his wayward people. He set in motion all that man needs to move into a right relationship with him; yet the decision of rejecting all that God has to offer is within man. “He cannot save himself, however earnestly and anxiously he might try. The sinful nature of man – his own self-sovereignty – uses the law under which he chooses to live as an accomplice. Instead of peace he finds only frustration despair, condemnation, and guilt” (Howard 60).
God who has the final say in all matters, loved man enough to allow him a free choice in the matter of his ways. God made man in his image; he gives men emotions, desires and a mind for thinking and making choices. This ability to choose is one of God’s attributes (he made the choice to have the Israelites as his own people). He does not use his sovereign power to force man to bow to his will. Instead, God seeks the lost with the sole purpose of allowing men to see they are in need of the gift he has to offer. When man turns to the outstretched hand of God and releases his rule of his life into God’s capable hand, then the process of renewal can begin.
“Yet – mystery of mysteries – divine sovereignty respects human sovereignty!” Yes, this is a mystery why God does not make man do as he should, but allows one the power to control their own life. The best way to explain this mystery is in understanding that God is a loving father. God gave man the choice so he does not take it back or force his ways upon man. Even though God’s divine sovereignty respects human sovereignty, he never stops trying to draw men; to provide for them what they cannot provide for themselves, removal of sin. It is important for one to check oneself to ensure that they are not trying to live a self-sovereign existence. Even those that walk with God at anytime can revert back to a self-sovereign way. Yet, the beauty is that God in his love, is still seeking.
Gildea, Spike, Ph.D., et al. The American Heritage College Dictionary. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.
Howard, Richard E. Newness of Life. United States of America: n.p., 1975.
Thompson, Frank Charles, D.D., PH.D. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th ed. Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Co., Inc., 1988.