What Does Sovereign Mean ?
I was asked by someone what sovereign means, and I had to pause a minute and think about how I would define the word. And my first thought was “self-governing” or “self-ruling”. I remembered the term “sovereign state” and I thought of a state that is self-governing, and under no one else’s control. And I thought of a king’s sovereignty, as referring the area over which he has dominion and control. And so to check those thoughts against the words of a dictionary, I went ahead and looked up the word “sovereign”, and here’s what I found..
I learned that the word sovereign, basically means.. “having supreme rule and authority”. And of course that immediately made me think of God. God is definitely the one who has supreme rule and authority over absolutely everything. God is “the sovereign”, the One who created and controls, all things.
And I learned that the word “Sovereign” can be used as a noun, or an adjective. For example, I just used the word as a noun, when I said; God is “the Sovereign”.
But you could also say, that God is “a sovereign God”. In that statement, the word is used as an adjective, describing God as being sovereign. And of course God’s sovereignty extents over all creation. Either way you use the word, and either way you say it, it means the same thing. God has complete rule, and complete control, and complete oversight, over everything, period! If you think this world is a little out of control right now with the virus, it isn’t. GOD is in complete control. Man might not have very much control, but God has full control!
And that idea of absolute and complete control, reminds me of Hebrews 11, verse 3, which says; “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen, was not made out of things which are visible.”
To me, that describes the ultimate degree of authority and control; To have created all that is seen, simply by your word and your will, and to have created all these things, from what is NOT seen! From what doesn’t even exist yet! It sounds like too much to comprehend. But that’s the degree of “sovereignty” that our God possess. God can simply command something into existence, and it exists! Just like that! He creates something, out of nothing!
Consider these three verses, from Isaiah 46:9, 10, and 11, as God describes Himself to us..
“..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 which have not been done, Saying, My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”
“I call a ravenous bird from the east; And the man that executes my counsel, from a far country; Yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”
Total sovereignty, total control, total rule and authority; That’s our God. There is no other God. He declares the end of all things, from the beginning; And He tells of things that have never taken place, even before they do take place! His purpose and His pleasure will be accomplished! If there’s no one here to do God’s will, He’ll call someone from afar to do it; And even a ravenous bird from far off to the east, to do His will, where He declares it to be done.
Isaiah 14, verse 27 says; “For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” No one can turn back what the Lord sets out to do; He’s sovereign, over everything! Total control, and total rule and authority. You can’t thwart the Lord’s plans!
Job 42, verse 2 says; “I know that You can do everything. And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.”
We read in Proverbs 21, verse 30; “There is no wisdom and no understanding, and no counsel against the Lord.”
And Psalm 33:10 & 11 says; “The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever; And the purpose of His heart, from generation to generation.”
All these verses are examples and descriptions of our Sovereign God. In the word “sovereign”, do you see the word “reign”? The Lord reigns over everything, and He reigns forever! It can’t be changed, it can’t be altered; That’s what sovereign means! All power, and all authority.
The Word Sovereign in the Bible
If you pick up a King James bible, and look for the word “sovereign” you won’t find it, because it’s not there. Not even once, does the King James bible use the word “sovereign”. But if you look in the New American Standard Bible, you’ll find the word used in the old testament several times. And that’s not because one version is any more “correct” than the other. It’s simply a matter of word choice by the translators.
Let me give you a few examples from the NASB..
Psalm 103:19 says; “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.” God’s kingdom, and His authority, and His power, and His control, rules over all of creation, and I would say it rules over eternity as well.
Daniel 4:31 says; “While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying; ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared; Sovereignty has been removed from you.” There was a time when king Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed complete rule and authority over quite a large kingdom. But his sovereignty was taken away from him, by God, who has all sovereignty!
In a related verse, it says in Daniel 5:18; “O king, (this was speaking to king Belshazzar) the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father.” So then we see that God, the one who has complete sovereignty, can grant sovereignty over a particular area, to whomever He chooses, authorizing that person or persons to possess sovereignty; Just like He did with king Nebuchadnezzar.
The New Testament Speaks of Sovereignty
There’s a new testament passage that says pretty much the same thing, as I just said, about the Lord authorizing others to have sovereignty. So let’s hear how the bible phrases it. The passage is Romans 13, verses 1 & 2, and here’s what it says; “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. (He talking about earthly kingdoms and nations, and states and cities) For there is no power, but of God; The powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resists their power, resists the ordinance of God; And they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
And so every governmental authority that exists, be it city, state, or country; It exists because God allows it to exist. And if God should decide that it shouldn’t exist any longer, well then it won’t. It’s that simple. Just like the sovereignty of old Nebuchadnezzar. When God decided that the king had ruled long enough, and had ruled unfairly enough, well, you heard what the verse said; “..a voice came from heaven, saying; ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared; Sovereignty has been removed from you.” It’s over! Just like that, it’s over!
It sure makes you wonder about this nation that we live in today; How long is God going to allow it to exist? Do you think that old Nebuchadnezzar was that much more ungodly, than so many of the leaders of this nation, and even than so many of the people of this nation? It makes you wonder doesn’t it?
Let’s look at one more old testament verse; Daniel 7, verse 27; “Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness, of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven, will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.”
The Sovereign of Christ
What kingdom, and what sovereignty is God talking about there in that verse? He’s talking about the kingdom of Christ, and the sovereignty of Christ. Do you remember what it says in verses 13 & 14 of this chapter? God is showing visions to Daniel one night. Here’s what it says..
“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man (that’s Jesus Christ) (He) came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, (that’s God the Father) and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, (that’s the church) that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom (His Body, His assembly of the saved) is that which shall not be destroyed.”
So we see right there, how the One Sovereign, (the God of heaven and earth) Sovereign over all things, granted sovereignty to the Son, Jesus Christ. The New American Standard Bible, is the only version that I could find, that uses the words “sovereign” and “sovereignty”. All the other versions simply use the words “kingdom”, “dominion”, or “rule”.
And so then, in the bible, a Sovereign is a ruler, and a king. Like Nebuchadnezzar the king. And like Jesus Christ the King, and like god, the Almighty. And in the bible, a “sovereignty” is a kingdom, like the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of God. And it’s also a dominion, like Christ’s dominion. “His dominion, is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom, is that which shall not be destroyed.”
Remember what Jesus said to the apostles, before He had ascended back to heaven? Jesus said, in Mathew 28:18; “All authority has been given to Me, in heaven and on earth.” All sovereignty has been given to the Christ. And here’s the Sovereign’s instructions; “Go you therefore, and make disciples of all nations (of people from every nation) baptizing them, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Amen.
Of course those specific instructions were given to the twelve apostles, but they carry just about the same weight with us today. Maybe we can’t go into ALL the world, like the apostles did, but we can be preaching the word, and teaching, everywhere we do go.
God Surely is Sovereign!
So even though the New American Standard Bible is the only bible where you’ll actually find the words “sovereign” and “sovereignty”, every bible teaches us about our Sovereign God, and His Sovereign Son, Jesus Christ, and His kingdom, that we all are called to be a part of.
And all we’ve got to do, is hear His word, and believe it, an obey it. Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. And confess your faith in Him. And repent of your sins, and be baptized for the forgiveness of those sins, and then comes maybe the hardest part of it all; Remain faithful, even unto death, so you can receive the crown of life.
The invitation is yours. Amid a world in upheaval, our Sovereign God is calling us, to live under His complete and trustworthy control, until we can join Him in heaven for eternity.