God’s Will: Moral Standards and Sovereign Control

by John Piper

“…The Scripture leads us again and again to affirm that God’s will is sometimes spoken of as an expression of his moral standards for human behavior and sometimes as an expression of his sovereign control even over acts that are contrary to that standard.

This means that the distinction between terms such as “will of decree” and “will of command,” or “sovereign will” and “moral will,” is not an artificial distinction demanded by Reformed theology.

The terms are an effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation. They are an effort to say yes to all of the Bible and not silence any of it. They are a way to say yes to the universal, saving will of Ezekiel 18:23 and Matthew 23:37, and yes to the individual, unconditional election of romans 9:6-23.”

-John Piper, Does God Desire All to Be Saved? (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 35-36.

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: https://modernpuritan.com/2014/03/18/providence1/

[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: https://modernpuritan.com/2014/03/19/providence2/

[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).

Fierce Tornadoes and the Fingers of God

John Piper gives a hard, but scriptural response to the devastating tornadoes which afflicted our nation. We grieve suffering because we see the pain it brings. But suffering is a result of the Fall and our sin, and thus we cannot blame God. His divine purposes are perfect and aren’t we thankful that He sent His Son to rescue us from the consequences of the Curse!

Posted at Desiring God:  http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/fierce-tornadoes-and-the-fingers-of-god

“Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?

If God has a quarrel with America, wouldn’t Washington,D.C., or Las Vegas, or Minneapolis, or Hollywood be a more likely place to show his displeasure?

We do not ascribe such independent power to Mother Nature or to the devil.

God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.

•“The wind of the Lord, shall come, rising from the wilderness, and it shall strip Ephraim’s treasury of every precious thing” (Hosea 13:15).

• “The Lord turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea” (Exodus 10:19).

• “God appointed a scorching east wind” (Jonah 4:8).

• “God commanded and raised the stormy wind” (Psalm 107:25).

• “Even winds and sea obey Jesus” (Matthew 8:27).

But why Marysville and not Minneapolis? Why Henryville and not Hollywood?

God has spoken about these things. Consider three ways he addresses — all of us.

1. Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job’s ten children died because “a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people” (Job 1:19).

Job cries out to God, “Why have you made me your mark? . . . Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? . . . Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?” (Job 7:2013:2421:7).

In other words, Why Henryville, and notHollywood?

God’s answer to Job is not that he was a worse sinner than the “wicked” — or that Maryville had some dark secret.

His answer was, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’” (Romans 11:33–34Job 15:836:22f).

Job’s loss was not a measure of his immorality. “Job was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1).

In fact, perhaps God chose Job for that deadly wind because only the likes of Job would respond: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

2. Luke 13:4–5, “Unless you repent.”

A Tower fell and killed 18 people in Jesus’ day. Jesus spoke into that situation: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4–5).

This is a word to those of us who sit safely in Minneapolis or Hollywood and survey the desolation of Marysville and Henryville. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Every deadly wind in any town is a divine warning to every town.

3. 1 Peter 4:17, “God’s own people are not excluded.”

We are not God’s counselors. Nor can we fathom all his judgments. That was the lesson of Job. Let us beware, therefore, of reading the hand of providence with too much certainty or specificity. God is always doing a thousand things when he does anything. And we see but a fraction.

But stir into your mental framework this truth: When a time for judgment comes, it usually includes, and begins with, God’s own people. That’s what the apostle Peter says.

“It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17Jeremiah 25:29Ezekiel 9:6Amos 3:2).

Therefore, God’s will for Americaunder his mighty hand, is that every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every person of every religion or non-religion, turn from sin and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus rules the wind. The tornadoes were his.

But before Jesus took any life in rural America, he gave his own on the rugged cross. Come to me, he says, to America— to the devastated and to the smugly self-sufficient. Come to me, and I will give you hope and help now, and in the resurrection, more than you have ever lost.

You can show your partnership in suffering, and help lift the load, at Samaritan’s Purse.”

-John Piper, 03-05-2012

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

-William Cowper, 1774