A lot of people speak of the crucifixion of Christ as if it were a surprised to God the Father. They speak of Jesus as simply victim of a crime, someone who got caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. Many paint a picture of a radical world-changer who was killed because of his non-violent message. It seems like they want to get out of saying that God planned and even wanted the crucifixion to happen. It is the witness of the Bible, however, that God planned this redemption before the foundation of the world and it was his pleasure to do so; not because God is a sadistic deity but because He is a holy God who has given His son as a ransom for many by shed blood.
A Word on Personal Responsibility
The purported paradox of divine sovereignty and human free will is age old. It is not biblical however. Man does not have libertarian free will. You will find no biblical evidence for this view. The Bible does deal with the tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. God is completely sovereign but man is a responsible moral agent. The problem is not that man is 100% free and God is 100% free. A good answer to this tension is just to trumpet both. Any good Calvinist will happily affirm that God is sovereign and we are responsible. This is the mystery. We must come to faith and repentance in Christ and yet only God gives us that gift. In the context of this article’s intended discussion, humans were responsible for the greatest sin imaginable (in the killing of Christ) and yet it was God’s plan. Oh, that we would worship the all-wise God, not seeking to shake out fists at His good purpose to bring glory to His namesake! Truly, His ways and understanding are too lofty for us to critique (Isaiah 55:8). So men killed Jesus but God ordained this to happen so that by His wounds we might be healed, displayed the greatest of the grace of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
It Was the Will of the Lord to Crush Him
Even as early as the prophet Isaiah we see the vertical reality of the atonement and God’s plan for it. Isaiah 53 is a well-known passage foretelling the penal-substitutionary atonement of Jesus. There are, in this passage, many references to specific physical punishments of Jesus at the hands of the Romans. But this is not the primary thrust of the passage. The vertical always proceeds and informs the horizontal in the gospel. The most glorious verses are those which detail the spiritual punishment of this Suffering Servant, Jesus. This man never sinned, in fact he is the co-eternal second person of the Trinity. But this man took our sin, the wrath we deserved from God on our behalf. Behold your God! This is the gospel. The main point of the atonement was not a physical death on a Roman cross. No, the atonement was an objective accomplishment in which God satisfies His own justice by the substitutionary death of His son. Verse 9 says that there was no misconduct on the part of Jesus. Then verse 10 says that it was the will of the Lord to crush him. It was God the Father punishing his Son on our behalf. Some translations even say that it pleased God to do so. God hates sin and forsook His son as if He were forsaking us, so that He might be just and the justifier of the ungodly. This is the redemptive design God, to give Jesus as a ransom for hell-bound, ruined sinners. Everything God requires, He provides.
God’s Definite Plan and Foreknowledge
Turn your Bibles to Acts 2:22-23. Seriously, grab a Bible or your phone and turn there. What I think is of no consequence. I think a lot of really, really whack stuff sometimes. But I aim to present an accurate picture of God to your conscience, free from tricks and gimmicks (2 Corinthians 4:1-2). Acts 2 details the first sermon of the early church. The Spirit has just fallen on the Apostles and now Peter is preaching the gospel to all present. In the middle of this sermon (which, side note, would have probably been much longer than an 18-minute TED talk 🙂 ) Peter gives another insight into the plan of God in the death of His son. Peter will not excuse the sin of these men. They are called “lawless men” at the end of verse 23. But the beginning of the verse is what I’d like to consider. Jesus was delivered up “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” This is not opaque. Peter is not being vague here. The Holy Spirit who inspired the text is not being vague here. It is God who decided this would happen. This atonement was His definite plan, ever since He decided to redeem a fallen, God-hating humanity. The gospel was not plan B. Indeed, the OT sacrificial system and the like were shadows of the reality of the gospel (Colossians 2:17, Hebrews 10:1). Jesus came with a clear mission. It was not to transform society or help our psyche. Christ came to serve but giving his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). This mission was a God-given one, determined before the foundation of the world, to the glory of Christ lifted high that people would look and live, being satisfied with all God is for them in Christ. God exhaustively knows all things, as that is what it means to be God. JI Packer helpfully teaches that God’s omnipotence paired with His omniscience leads to His accomplishing all that He wills. Again, behold your God!
The Chief End
The goal of such doctrines is just the same as the goal of all doctrines: the glory of God. God exalts Himself and His son. But we must see this as our greatest good. This God who is completely sovereign and accomplished His will works all things for the good of those whom He has called effectually (Romans 8:28). These doctrines aren’t speculative. They serve to enlarge our hearts to worship God. We are saved to make much of God and to enjoy God making much of Himself. God was not surprised that Jesus was killed on the cross. He planned it, He planned our redemption. God is in control, constant in the midst of all other inconstancy. It is this hope we rest in, that it was the will of God to crush Jesus according to plan so that there is therefore now no condemnation to fear for those in Christ (Romans 8:1).
soli deo gloria