A Harmony made in Heaven: The Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of Man1
What comes to mind when you hear someone refer to the “sovereignty” of God? Here is J. I. Packer’s answer to that question. As you read and reflect upon it, observe the beautiful harmony that exists between God’s causal priority in all things (as stated in the first paragraph) and human responsibility and moral accountability (as found in the second). They are gloriously compatible!
The sovereignty of God, writes Packer, means that,
“the living God, who created the entire universe and actively upholds it in being (otherwise it would vanish away, and so would we as part of it), knows everything that has been and now is and foreknows everything that will be just because, in a way that totally passes our understanding, he plans and decides and controls everything that takes place. From inside (and we are all insiders at this point) the cosmos appears as a huge interlocking system of cause and effect, the working of which scientists can examine, map out, and within limits predict because the processes all operate with what appears as built-in regularity. But Christians know what science can never find out, namely, that all the processes of nature are willed and sustained directly by the Creator, every moment, down to the smallest detail, as also are the free-flowing thoughts that run through our minds, and the dreams that befuddle us while we sleep, and the self-determined, accountable decisions about what we will and will not do that we make in a steady stream throughout our waking hours. Let us say it clearly: all the regularities of nature, including the functioning of our own minds and bodies, are as they are because God wills and keeps them so. Nothing would be as it is – nothing, indeed, would exist at all – were it not for the active will of God. . . .
To affirm God’s sovereignty over everything around us, within us, happening to us, and issuing from us takes nothing from our certainty (which Scripture confirms) that all our thoughts, words, and deeds, including all our motives, purposes, attitudes, and reactions, are truly our own, not forced upon us from outside but coming out from within us, so that we are in truth responsible subjects, open to assessment both by other people and by our own consciences, and finally by God himself. Rather it adds to our certainty that, as our continued existence and all our living really involve God, so God really involves himself in an overruling way, somehow (just how, no creature can conceive), in all our circumstances, motives, actions, relationships, experiences, joys, pains, pleasures, griefs, and ventures, which form the situational reality of our daily lives."
J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom, Guard Us, Guide Us: Divine Leading in Life’s Decisions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 199-200.