3 Ways God’s Sovereignty Overrules Man’s Will

“If it were possible for me to alter any part of His plan, I could only spoil it.”

– John Newton

It has been said that where mankind rules, God overrules and this is certainly true. What are 3 ways that God’s sovereignty overrules the plans of mankind?

Kicking Against the Goads

Saul was a Pharisee who was determined to destroy the church or as is was once called, “The Way” but Saul was fighting against Jesus Christ Who is very God. Because it was Jesus’ church that Saul and the religious establishment was fighting against, it was in vain, for who can fight against God and hope to win? He was seeking out Christians so that “if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:2) when “suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me” (Acts 9:3b-4)? I thought Saul was persecuting the church but as the Body of Christ, Saul was actually persecuting Jesus and why Christ said “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). Anyone that is persecuting the church is really persecuting Jesus because He is the Head of the church and it is useless to try and destroy it because as Jesus said “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).

Who Can Resist God?

When some of the apostles were thrown into prison they were brought before the council and they said “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:28-29). They wanted to kill them “But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people” (Acts 5:34) said “I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God” (Acts 5:38-39)! He was basically saying “If this is a work of man, nothing shall come of it, but if from God, no one will be able to overthrow it!

We Cannot Resist the Spirit of God

Paul wanted to go to Asia but God had another idea and as “they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia and when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:6-7). God is sovereign over all the universe, even in our lives and we see this when Paul desired to go to Asia to bring the gospel but for whatever reason, God’s Spirit forbid them to do so. Perhaps they were not ready to hear the gospel yet…maybe God knew they would not receive it…only God knows, but we do know that it is fruitless to resist what the Spirit of God says for God opens doors that no man can open and shuts doors so that no man can go through them as it says in Revelation 3:7b “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” He is God and we are not.


If it was possible to alter any part of God’s plans, and I don’t believe it is, we’d only spoil it. What I plan to do in my own strength and by my own will usually blows up in my face but “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Original image source: cc-by Leo Hidalgo modifications: overlay texture, added text, cropped image