(Article for publication week of 9-29-2010 AD)
“…the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together, For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27-28).
Since God is absolutely Sovereign, and has decreed from all eternity whatsoever comes to pass, this would of course include the sinful actions of men. However, since man is responsible for his sins, God is not the author, nor the approver of sin. The sovereignty of God and sin is shown beautifully in our text this week where we read plainly that the Crucifixion was ordained of God, and performed by wicked men. The same truth is declared in Acts 2:23: “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Christ was put to death because He was appointed from all eternity to be a sin bearer for His people. Without the death of Christ, none could ever be saved, because it was by His death that His peoples’ sins were atoned. The perpetrators and participants in the crucifixion of our Lord were doing what God ordained, but it was by their own hands that they committed the worst crime in human history. As we have shown in previous articles, man is absolutely responsible for his actions, although God is absolutely sovereign in the affairs of men. These two passages in the Book of Acts indisputably show that God has ordained all the actions of men, but is not the author of sin.
If this is true as regards the Greatest Event in human history, it should be evident in all lesser matters. For an example of a lesser matter ordained of God and carried out by sinful men is the example of Joseph recorded for us in Genesis 37-50. You remember how Joseph’s brothers were moved by envy to sell him into slavery to the Ishmaelite traders. You remember how Joseph was carried into Egypt and became the slave of a man named Potiphar. He was falsely accused and sent to prison for two years. In the all-wise providence of God, Joseph became the prime minister of Pharaoh and was put in charge of the agricultural system and the food supply of Egypt. As a result of Joseph’s wisdom and planning, as he was directed of God, there was plenty of food in Egypt when God sent a great famine into the mid east region of the world. Joseph’s brothers had to come to him and bow before him in order to get food. Finally all of Joseph’s family moved to the land of Egypt. When Jacob died, the brothers feared that Joseph would take vengeance for their sins against him. Joseph told them in Genesis 50:20, “ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.”
We see in these two notable examples that God leaves sinners to themselves to carry out His foreordained will. As it says in Psalm 76:10, “ the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath Thou shalt restrain.” Men would sin even more than they do if God did not restrain them. Yet God is pleased to make man’s sins praise Him as in the crucifixion of Christ and the evil treatment of Joseph. What men mean for evil, God means for good. God means in all things to get glory to Himself, to bring eternal good to His people, and to advance His kingdom of grace. In His sovereignty and wisdom, He uses the sinful actions of men to accomplish these great ends. Glory to be to our great God Who hath done all things well.