Providence – Part 2 – Human Responsibility

by Erik Martin

-Continued from yesterday-

9. Human responsibility is compatible with divine sovereignty.

Despite God’s sovereignty, man and the fallen angels are responsible for sin and evil. God superintends evil, yet it is always performed by someone else.[1]

God hardened Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21) as Pharaoh hardened himself (Ex. 8:15, 32; 9:34). God ordained Pharaoh’s hardening but Pharaoh freely did the hardening. The Bible is clear that Pharaoh alone is responsible; the Scriptures leave no room for assessing God with culpability. In fact, God was incensed by Pharaoh’s rebellious hardening and God’s ethical purity reacted in searing judgment.

God decrees evil events without obliterating comprehensive human responsibility for those same events. Calvin argues: “We must not suppose that there is a violent compulsion, as if God dragged [the perpetrators of evil] against their will; but in a wonderful and inconceivable manner he regulates all the movements of men, so that they still have the exercise of their will.”[2] God does not determine the future by forcing people to act against their nature or in opposition to their wills. Calvin summarizes, “While God accomplishes through the wicked what He has decreed by His secret judgment, they are not excusable, as if they obeyed his precept which out of their own lust they deliberately break.” [3]

10. Example: Jesus’ Execution

The most horrific injustice of eternity is a prime example. It was God’s will to crush His Son (Isaiah 53:10), yet the Jews intrigued, Satan plotted, Pilate endorsed, and the Roman soldiers carried out Jesus’ crucifixion. All these irreverent actors are held responsible for their wicked, depraved, cowardly or mindless deeds (Matthew 26:24; Acts 2:23, 3:14; 4:27; 7:52; 1 Corinthians 2:7-8).

Yet nothing happened except what “the hand and plan” of God had decreed (Acts 4:28). Even as Herod and Pilate conspired, God brought the fulfillment of His Word (Acts 3:18). Nevertheless, the human actors were condemned for their decisions and actions and God is only praised for His faithfulness and righteousness.

Part 1:

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994),  323

[2] John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 1.10.15.

[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.18.4.

Providence – Part 1 – God’s Interactions with Good and Evil

By Erik Martin

Thesis: God sovereignly ordains and governs all things even as man is fully responsible for his actions.       

1. God directly sends all that is good.

He is responsible for all blessings for He is the source of every good thing (Psalm 145:17; James 1:13-14). Nothing favorable comes apart from God (Psalm 16:2). All blessings originate in and then emanate from His nature. Goodness overflows from His essence. God cannot help but bless.

2. The Lord governs and controls evil.

God is sovereign over all things, even darkness and disaster (Isaiah 45:7). However, God does not analogously govern good and evil. Though God stands behind and causes good, D.A. Carson points out, “God is never presented as an accomplice of evil or as secretly malicious, or as standing behind evil in exactly the same way he stands behind good.”[1]

3. God’s perpetration of good and His dominion over evil are asymmetrical.

While God ordain evil, He does not desire evil. God does not permit evil in general, but every instance of evil that occurs, He allows and uses. No evil is gratuitous for God can limit evil’s extent and stop it completely.

4. Even Satan requires God’s permission to bring suffering.

The devil was unable to inflict Job without God’s authorization and was limited to the boundaries set by God (Job 1:12). When Satan desired to escalate his abuse, He was forced to first petition God (Job 2:6). In the New Testament, the demons in Mark 5 required Jesus’ permission to enter a herd of swine (Mark 5:12-13).

5. God even uses evil to defeat itself.

He hardened the hearts of the abominable Canaanites to destroy them (Deuteronomy 2:30). God prevented the pagans from suing for peace so He could pour out His retributive justice (Joshua 11:20). He handles the nations like men manipulate tools (Isaiah 10:5).

6. God’s irreproachable sovereignty over evil is displayed throughout scripture.

David credits God for punishing him through Shimei’s sin (2 Samuel 16:10-11). God killed Eli’s sons (1 Samuel 2:34) and brought the defection of the northern ten tribes (1 Kings 11:31). God ordained the destruction of the first temple and Jerusalem because of Israel’s idolatry (Isaiah 28:21). Isaiah writes that God whistles or trumpets the wicked to war (Isaiah 5:26; 7:18).

It is the Lord’s authority that rouses the nations from their slumber (Hosea 8:1; Zephaniah 2:1). The Assyrians are the rod of God’s just wrath (Isaiah 10:5) and He wields the peoples as His judgment ax (Matthew 3:10). God turns the hearts of kings (Prov. 21:1) and the hearts of all men (Psalm 105:23). He makes the truthful dumb, the old imprudent and princes cowardly. God overtakes with dread, overcomes with sleep, blinds men’s minds, smites with dizziness, makes drunk with drowsiness, inflicts with madness, hardens hearts, brings blindness and insanity.[2]

7. God manages Satan

The Scriptures show God managing Satan, who cannot act outside of God’s jurisdiction. God does more than just permit Satan’s machinations; He wields Satan as a tool for His purposes. When Satan “presents himself before God” (Job 1:6; 2:1) he comes “to receive His commands” although He implements God’s will in wickedness and for destruction. Job himself recognizes that God ordained his sufferings. He testifies, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21). In 1 Kings, God decrees that Ahab be deceived for purposes of judgment, and the devil volunteers for the assignment (1 Kings 22:22). It would be ludicrous for God to permit what He wills and not also decree it and command its execution by his creatures.

8. Nevertheless, God is blameless. 

God cannot be cursed or censured. He is not the source of evil, God never commits evil and He is never responsible for evil.

Part 2:

[1] D.A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2006), 203.

[2] (Ezek 7:26; Job. 12:24, Ps. 107:40; 106:40; Lev. 26:36; 1 Sam. 26:12; Isa. 29:14; Deut. 28:28, Zech. 12:4; Isaiah 29:10; Rom 1:28; Ex. 14:17; Rom. 1:20-14; Ex. 9:12; 10:1, 10:20, 27: 11:10; 14:8).

Sound the Alarm! Let the Watchman Cry!

Sound the alarm! Let the watchman cry!
Up! for the day of the Lord is nigh;
Who will escape from the wrath to come?
Who have a place in the soul’s bright home?

Sound the alarm, watchman! Sound the alarm!
For the Lord will come with a conqu’ring arm;
And the hosts of sin, as their ranks advance,
Shall wither and fall at His glance.

Sound the alarm! Let the cry go forth,
Swift as the wind, o’er the realms of earth;
Flee to the rock where the soul may hide!
Flee to the rock! in its cleft abide!

Sound the alarm on the mountain’s brow!
Plead with the lost by the wayside now:
Warn them to come and the truth embrace;
Urge them to come and be saved by grace.

Sound the alarm in the youthful ear;
Sound it aloud that the old may hear;
Blow ye the trump while the day-beams last!
Blow ye the trump till the light is past!

-Fanny J. Crosby, in Good as Gold, by Robert Lowry & W. H. Doane (New York: Bigow & Main, 1880).

Are All the Foes of Zion Fools?

Are all the foes of Zion fools,
Who thus devour her saints?
Do they not know her Savior rules,
And pities her complaints?

They shall be seized with sad surprise;
For God’s revenging arm
Scatters the bones of them that rise
To do His children harm.

In vain the sons of Satan boast
Of armies in array;
When God has first despised their host
They fall an easy prey.

O for a word from Zion’s King,
Her captives to restore!
Jacob with all his tribes shall sing,
And Judah weep no more.

-Isaac Watts, 1719

Three Deadly Words: “It’s A Girl”

“In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls(1) are missing in the world today because of this so-called “gendercide”.

Girls who survive infancy are often subject to neglect, and many grow up to face extreme violence and even death at the hands of their own husbands or other family members.

The war against girls is rooted in centuries-old tradition and sustained by deeply ingrained cultural dynamics which, in combination with government policies, accelerate the elimination of girls.

Shot on location in India and China, It’s a Girl! explores the issue. It asks why this is happening, and why so little is being done to save girls and women.

The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.

Currently in post-production, It’s a Girl! is scheduled for a 2012 release.”

As believers we know the best way to overcome this centuries-old gendercide is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the greco-roman world the Christian worldview liberated women. The gospel can affect the same change today in China and India.  The Bible is clear that women were created equal with men, and scripture speaks of their value and encourages their education. In Christ there is neither Jew or Greek,  slave or free, male or female, but Christ is Lord of all (Galatians 3:28).

The Bible lays out clear gender roles, but these do not suppress women. Their value to society and the Kingdom of God as individuals and through the raising of godly children is vast. The murder of girls, born and unborn, is very grievous to God. He cares about the needy, and promises retribution for all who oppress the helpless (Psalm 9:12; 94:23; Deuteronomy 32:35; Nahum 1:2-3).

Was the Angelic Sin of Jude 6 Sexual in Nature?

“And He has kept, with eternal chains in darkness for the judgment of the great day, the angels who did not keep their own position but deserted their proper dwelling. The second illustration is the fall of the rebellious angels, who erred from their calling by abandoning their assigned domain. Because of their rebellion, they were judged forever to be confined in gloomy darkness.

the angels who did not keep to their own position Many interpreters, both ancient and modern, believe that Gen. 6:1-8 provides the original Biblical account for these events in Jude. This interpretation is reflected also in the book of Enoch, which contains an elaborate description of the disobedient angels. Other interpreters object to the angelic interpretation of the Genesis passage, and identify the angels in this verse as those who participated in the pre-fall angelic rebellion led by Lucifer (Isa 14).The way Jude referred to the angels gives us reason to believe that this truth was well accepted by his readers and thus needed no further explanation. In the light of that, it is interesting that the uniform ancient Jewish and Christian interpretation was that Jude referred these fallen angels to the “sons of God” in Genesis 6.

but deserted their proper dwelling The angels’ proper dwelling place was in heaven except when dispatched to earth on divine business. The similar sin referred to in the next verse was the inordinate sexual activity in Sodom and Gomorrah. Sin led them to want to settle on earth (Gen. 6:1-4) and take wives from mankind in an inordinate sexual move. The parallel reference in 2 Peter 2:4-10 also implies that the angelic rebellion was sexual in nature. If this was what happened, it obviously means that the fallen angels inhabited human bodies.

he has kept in eternal bonds under deep gloom for the judgment of the great day For more on this deep gloom and the eternal bonds see 2 Pet. 2:4. The rebellious angels Jude refers to are now in bondage and await God’s judgment. These are different from the other fallen angels who are Satan’s agents and are at work in the world today, namely, the demons.

But what is the point? The apostates in Jude’s day had also abandoned a position of great privilege, namely, the opportunity to serve and glorify God. God will also judge them severely because of this spiritual departure. Perhaps the apostates in view here were never saved in the first place, but were wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).”

Lexham English Bible

Complements of: Dr. William Varner

Three quotes from John Stott

“No one can now accuse God of condoning evil and so of moral indifference or injustice. The cross demonstrates with equal vividness both his justice in judging sin and his mercy in justifying the sinner. For now, as a result of the propitatory death of his Son, God can be ‘just and the justifier’ of those who believe in him. He is able to bestow a righteous status on the unrighteous, without compromising his own righteousness.”

“The value of a love-gift is assessed both by what it costs the giver and by the degree to which the recipient may be held to deserve it. A young man who is in love, for example, will give his beloved expensive presents, often beyond what he can afford, as symbols of his self-giving love, because he believes she deserves them, and more. Jacob served seven years for Rachel because of his love for her. But God in giving his Son gave himself to die for his enemies. He gave everything for those who deserved nothing from him. “And that is God’s own proof of his love toward us” (Rom. 5:8).”

“When we look at the cross we see the justice, love, wisdom and power of God. It is not easy to decide which is the most luminously revealed, whether the justice of God in judging sin, or the love of God in bearing the judgment in our place, or the wisdom of God in perfectly combining the two, or the power of God in saving those who believe. For the cross is equally an act, and therefore a demonstration, of God’s justice, love, wisdom and power. The cross assures us that this God is the reality within, behind and beyond the universe.”

-John Stott, The Cross of Christ, 207, 210, 221

Words From One Under the Altar

“Therefore our Saviour, desirous to set out the pains of hell unto us, and to make us afraid thereof, calls it fire, yea, a burning and unquenchable fire. For as there is no pain so grievous to a man as fire  is, so the pains of hell pass all the pains that may be imagined by any man. There shall be sobbing and sighing, weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, which are the tokens of unspeakable pains and griefs that shall come upon those that die in the state of damnation. For you must understand that there are but two places appointed by Almighty God, for all mankind, that is, heaven and hell.

And in what state soever a man dieth, in the same he shall rise again, for there shall be no alteration or change. Those who die repentant and are sorry for their sins—who cry to God for mercy, are ashamed of their wickedness, and believe with all their hearts that God will be merciful unto them through the passion of our Saviour Christ; those who die in such a faith, shall come into everlasting life and felicity, and shall rise in the last day in a state of salvation. For look—as you die, so shall you arise. Whosoever departeth out of this world without a repentant heart, and has been a malicious and envious man, and a hater of the word of God, and so continues, and will not repent and be sorry, and call upon God with a good faith, or has no faith at all; that man shall come to everlasting damnation; and so he shall arise again at the last day.

For there is nothing that can help a soul when departed out of its damnation, or hinder it of its salvation.”

—Bishop Hugh Latimer, (1485-1555) , martyred for the Name of Christ. From Pulpit of the Reformation

“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.” – Revelation 6:9-11 NASB


God’s Blessed Wrath

Eight Reasons why the doctrine of hell sets our faces like flint toward Jerusalem from Kevin DeYoung:

1. We need God’s wrath to keep us honest about evangelism. “The one thing that matters for all eternity [is] urging sinners to be reconciled to God.”

2. We need God’s wrath in order to forgive our enemies. Romans 12:16. “The only way to look past our deepest hurts and betrayals is to rest assured that every sin against us has been paid for on the cross or will be punished in hell. We don’t have to seek vigilante justice, because God will be our just judge.”

3. We need God’s wrath in order to risk our lives for Jesus’ sake. Our “innocence will be established when God finally judges [our] persecutors.”

4. We need God’s wrath in order to live holy lives. Gal 6:6-7; Matt 10:28. “Sometimes we need to literally scare the hell out of people.”

5. We need God’s wrath in order to understand what mercy means. “Divine mercy without divine wrath is meaningless.” Eph. 2:3; John 3:18; Rom. 5:10

6. We need God’s wrath in order to grasp how wonderful heaven will be. Hell is as vivid as heaven, there is no greater contrast. No torment is as ghastly as hell while no rest as splendid as heaven.

7. We need the wrath of God in order to be motivated to care for our impoverished brothers and sisters. “What better impetus for social justice than Jesus’s sober warning that if we fail to care for the least of our brothers we will go away to eternal punishment (Matt. 25:31-46)?”

8. We need God’s wrath in order to be ready for the Lord’s return. “We must keep the lamps full, the wick trimmed, the houses clean, the vineyard tended, the workers busy, the talents invested lest we find ourselves unprepared for the day of reckoning.”

-Kevin DeYoung, in Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys who Should Be), Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, 2008

Impending Judgment

“There is a judgment coming! People have their reckoning days, and God will at last have His. The trumpet shall sound. The dead shall be raised incorruptible. The living shall be changed. All, of every name, nation, people and tongue, shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The books shall be opened, and the evidence brought forth. Our true character will come out before the world. There will be no concealment, no evasion, no false coloring. Every one shall give account of themselves to God, and all shall be judged according to their works. The wicked shall go away into everlasting fire, and the righteous into life eternal. These are dreadful truths! But they are truths, and ought to be told.”

– J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, volume 2, pp. 422, 423. {John 12:44-50}