In Romans 11:36 the Apostle Paul wrote:
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”
When Paul speaks of “all things,” he refers to creation itself. Paul says that creation came “from Him,” or out of Him. In other words, everything was created out of God particles. It was not created out of nothing, as some have mistakenly taught in the past.
God is intimately connected with creation. It is literally part of Him. When sin and death entered the world through Adam, this was like a disease in God’s body that had to be cured and healed at some point.
History is the process of all things going “through Him” until all things return “to Him,” as Paul says. In the end, if anything remains unhealed, God will experience the pain of disease forever. In the end, if anything remains outside of Him, He will forever be incomplete.
That, of course, cannot happen, because God is God. He has the cure for all things, and He was wise enough to devise a plan for creation that will actually succeed. He has the power to ensure the success of that plan. He will never be a loser. After all, He is God.
Gen. 1:1 says,
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
This not only tells us how the universe was created, but it also tells us who owns it. The story in Genesis tells us that God labored six days to create all things. How long those days were is not important. The important thing is that creation represents God’s labor.
The law of God protects rights. It defines both rights and privileges. The right of property is based upon one’s labor. Because God created the heavens and the earth, He owns it and has the right to govern it by His own standards, consistent with His will and His nature.
When we labor—say, to make furniture—we use God’s wood as a privilege, not as a right. We own our labor, and no one else has the right to steal it from us. When we say that we “own” the furniture, we do not actually own the wood, because God created the wood by His labor. We own the furniture but not the wood, because the law respects the labor rights of both God and man.
What is Authority?
God has sovereignty; man has authority. God’s overall sovereignty is based on the fact that He is the Creator. Man’s authority was granted by God in Gen. 1:28 when He told Adam to subdue the earth and rule over all forms of life. Authority always functions under a higher power that creates the authority in the first place.
Sovereignty owns; authority stewards. God is sovereign; man is a steward who must use his authority in the way in which God prescribes by His laws. Man does not have the right to rule (or use) God’s creation in ways that violate His nature and His laws.
We see this principle clearly in the story of Israel when God gave each tribe and family an inheritance in the land of Canaan. The Israelites were supposed to be stewards under God—not owners having the right to use God’s property in ways that violate God’s nature.
One of God’s laws said that the Israelites were to let their land rest every seventh year, and in the fiftieth year (Lev. 25:11) they were to declare a Jubilee (cancel all debts). So if anyone became poor and needed to sell his land, he had the authority to sell it, but the land always returned to him in the fiftieth year. He was not allowed to sell it forever, because the land was not his to sell. God said in Lev. 25:23,
“The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.”
Israelites had the authority to sell their land until the year of Jubilee. The sale was really just a lease that gave someone else the right to use the land temporarily.
This law shows the unlimited sovereignty of God and the limited authority of man.
Over the centuries, the Israelites misused their authority by treating the land as if they owned it and could do as they pleased with it. God warned them many times through the word of the prophets, but the prophets were ignored by most of the people. Finally, God disinherited them and sent them away into captivity. God justified His actions, saying in Jer. 27:5 and 6,
“I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight. And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him.”
When the Judahites refused to recognize God’s right as the Owner of all that He had created, God finally judged the nation and gave the land to a Babylonian king. God was exercising His sovereignty over the earth, showing that man’s authority was limited.
Authority and Free Will
Free will is a philosophical concept; authority is based on the law and has to do with rights and privileges. The Bible does not give men free will; it only gives men authority. Only God truly has free will.
When men make choices, they exercise authority, not free will. Authority is a privilege under God. Free will assumes the right to do as one pleases, or to act freely according to one’s own will. When men claim free will, they assume sovereignty, which violates the rights of the sovereign God.
Men were given authority, but they did not seem to understand the limitations of their authority. By confusing it with free will, they soon demanded the right to sin and to disobey God. God did not give us that right.
The ability to misuse man’s authority does not prove that he has free will. It only proves that God allows men to rebel for a season. But in the end, man’s authority ends, because it is limited by law. At some point God asserts His rights as the Creator, and man has no choice but to conform to His will.
The Responsibility of Ownership
God’s ownership means He is ultimately responsible for creation. The law of God makes it clear that ownership comes with responsibility. For example, if an ox gores someone, the ox can be punished, but punishing the ox does not relieve the owner of liability. The owner is still liable to pay restitution to the injured party. Exodus 21:32 says,
“If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall give his or her master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.”
Likewise, if a man digs a pit (or a well), he owns it because he put labor into it. If, then, he leaves the pit uncovered, and an ox or donkey falls into it, the owner is liable for the damages. Exodus 21:33, 34 says,
“And if a man opens a pit or digs a pit and does not cover it over, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall become his.”
God retains the right to judge those who have misused their authority, as we have shown. The law says that an ox who has gored someone should be stoned, but the owner of the ox must still pay restitution. That is because the owner is liable for the actions of his ox.
The same is true if a man lights a fire and it burns out of control. The one who lit the fire is liable for any damage to another man’s property, Whoever lit the fire is its owner. God says in Exodus 22:6,
“If a fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain or the standing grain or the field itself is consumed, he who started the fire shall surely make restitution.”
There are many biblical examples of this, and they are all based upon this fundamental principle, or law. A creator owns what he has labored to create, and he is therefore responsible for that which he owns. That means an owner is liable if what he owns damages the property of others.
So what is the point of this?
God created man. God owns all men. Therefore, God is ultimately responsible for all men. God could have created a perfect world where no one was capable of sinning, but He chose not to do so. He knew that this would make Him liable for all the sin in the world.
We know that all have sinned and that all men have done damage to others—some more than others. Man has misused his authority, and God will certainly hold him liable according to his level of authority. But in the end, God is the Creator. His law (nature) makes Him liable for the actions of men. For this reason God sent Jesus Christ to the earth to pay for the sin of the world. God held Himself liable for the actions of His creatures. This was prophesied in every law, including the laws of liability.
Man’s Limited Authority
Remember what Jer. 26:5 said, which we quoted earlier. God said, “I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth.” That means God owns all men by right of creation.
Man did not create himself, so he does not own himself. He has authority over himself, but not sovereignty. Man’s authority is limited—even over his own destiny!
This includes YOU. Regardless of what you may have done, in the end, God has taken responsibility for you.
We know from Gen. 2:7 that “the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground.” God owns all the dust by right of creation. For this reason, when Lev. 25:23 says, “The land is Mine” and “shall not be sold permanently,” it applies to you as much as it applies to real estate.
A man might even sell himself to the devil, thinking he has that right according to his “free will.” However, in the end, he cannot sell himself permanently, because he does not have that right. God has the right of ownership over him. God did indeed give him the authority to sell himself to the devil if he wished, but in the end it all goes back to Him. The law of Jubilee demands this.
Man’s authority over himself—his land—ends when God’s sovereignty is invoked. There is a great Jubilee coming, and God will reclaim all that is His by right of creation. Yes, He really does have that right!