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What Is Sovereign Grace?

The sovereign grace of God combines His graciousness and His sovereignty. God’s sovereign grace is the melding of these two attributes that gives His people a glimpse into the heart and mind of God.

What Is Sovereign Grace?

The sovereignty of God means the total control of all things past, present, and future, which highlights how nothing is beyond the control and knowledge of God.

Everything in the universe is allowed by the Lord to achieve His purposes according to His timing and will (Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6).

The Lord is the only absolute and omnipotent ruler of the universe and is sovereign in creation, providence, and redemption.

The Meaning of Sovereign Grace

The grace of God is the unmerited favor of God, who has not earned it. The grace of God in Scripture is toward those who belong to Him and those who reject Him. Mary found grace in the eyes of the Lord, who bestowed upon her the privilege of bearing the Savior of humanity (Luke 1:28).

Mary was a godly young woman, but she could do nothing to make herself worthy of such a blessing. Mary was a recipient of the grace of God. The Lord sovereignly chose Mary to be Jesus’ mother.

The Apostle Paul admits he was a servant of the grace of God, and it was by the grace of God he labored effectively for the cause of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:10). 

The Grace of God and Humanity

Christians benefit from the grace of God that saves them (Ephesians 2:8-9). The salvation and position of the people of God are by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Even those who reject the Lord receive the common grace of God because every breath is given to them by the Lord. Matthew 5:45, “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

The unbeliever enjoys God’s sovereign grace through the beauty of the creation and the provision of clothing, food, and shelter. The Lord doesn’t owe us clothing, food, or shelter, but He sovereignly provides them to exhibit His grace towards those who trust in Christ and those who reject Christ.

An Example of the Grace of God

The Book of Romans is an excellent example of sovereign grace. The grace of God, according to Romans 4:16, makes Jew and Gentile co-heirs of the Kingdom of God with faithful Abraham. Further, the grace of God establishes peace between the Lord and sinners, who are His enemies (Romans 5:2).

According to Paul, the grace of God is stronger than the forces of sin and brings genuine and lasting freedom from sin’s dominion (Romans 5:20-21,6:14). God’s grace equips His people with spiritual gifts to serve the local church (Romans 12:6).

The grace of God ultimately will conquer death and is the harbinger of eternal life to all who receive it (Romans 5:20-21). It is the grace of God that reaches back before the creation of time, without respect to any human merit, and chooses to give the gift of salvation in Christ (Romans 11:5-6).

The sovereign grace of God that salvation is owed all to His grace is not the only focus of Romans, but all of Paul’s epistles. Paul begins Philippians saying,

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

Paul’s focus here is on how he gives thanks to God for all the doctrines of grace and is moved to joy whenever he thinks of how God’s grace draws people to Jesus.

The previous point is significant because it highlights how focused Paul is on Christ. If man had to begin the work of salvation, continue it, or complete it, Paul’s praise to God would be muted.

Since salvation flows from the finished and sufficient work of Jesus, this work will be perfected on the Lord Jesus’ final day. All of this is to the praise and glory of the Triune God.

By clinging to the grace of God, like Paul, every Christian can be joyful in victoriously confessing the truth of Romans 8:31,

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

The Sovereign Grace of God in Our Lives

The grace of God does the following in the life of people who are drawn to Christ:

Every Christian needs grace for the forgiveness of sins, to help lead them to return to God when they sin, to heal their broken hearts, and strengthen them in times of trouble or spiritual warfare. By sovereign grace, every person can have a saving relationship with Christ.

By the grace of God are sinners called to conversion (Ephesians 2:8-10), holiness (2 Peter 3:18), service (Philippians 2:12-13), and suffering (2 Corinthians 1:12).

The sovereign grace of God crushes pride and humbles us before the face of God. By nature, all people rebel against His sovereign grace, but the Lord knows how to break man of their rebellion and make them friends.

When the Lord teaches sinners that they are depraved to the core, then sovereign grace becomes the most encouraging doctrine imaginable. See, from election to glorification, sovereign grace reigns. John 1:16 speaks of “grace for grace,” which focuses on how grace follows grace in our lives.

God’s grace is how the Lord saves sinners because it is the divine provision in the person and work of the Lord Jesus. It is also the driving engine that manifests itself in calling, election, and regeneration. The grace of God enables sinners to embrace Him that they might live, suffer, and even die for His sake and be preserved in eternity for the Lord Jesus.

Reformed theology rightly stresses the sovereign grace of God, for, without grace, everyone would be eternally lost. Salvation is all of grace and all of the Lord. Only the sovereign grace of God can capture and transform sinners by the power of His Word and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus and the Sovereign Grace of God

In His ministry, Jesus did not withhold preaching the sovereign grace of God. Whether the Lord Jesus was in the remote places of Galilee or Jerusalem, to His disciples, or with the unconverted multitudes, Jesus preached the sovereignty of God wherever He went.

These grace-magnifying truths were a tool of the Lord Jesus in evangelizing unbelievers and encouraging the disciples. Jesus taught that the Father chose the elect in eternity past and then entrusted those who were His to God the Father.

Christ explained He laid down His life for His sheep, and all of them would be drawn irresistibly to believe upon the Lord Jesus. Not one of the elect will perish, for all the elect of the Lord will be preserved and secured through all the ages of redemptive history.

While we could continue and provide much more detail about both the depth and beauty of the sovereign grace of God, we can conclude by saying, Jesus, Himself, taught and used sovereign grace in His earthly ministry.

All four gospel writers make a unique presentation of the life and ministry of Jesus with many differences in focus. Still, each one reveals the Lord, the sovereignty of God over the salvation of humanity.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/FREDERICA ABAN

Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon.