One of the main points of the forthcoming book Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ is that sin and God’s wrath against it were part of God’s plan when he created the world. This is different from saying that God sins or that he approves of sinning.
The main reason for making this point is to exalt the revelation of God’s grace in the crucifixion of Jesus to the highest place. This is the point of the universe—the glorification of the grace of God in the apex of its expression in the death of Jesus.
Jesus died for sin (1 Corinthians 15:3). The death of Jesus for sin was planned before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; Ephesians 1:4–6). Therefore, sin was part of the plan. God carries this plan through in a way that maintains full human accountability, full hatred for sin, full divine justice, and full saving love for all who trust Christ. And we don’t need to know how he does it to believe it and rest in it and worship him for it.
This morning I was meditating for my devotions on Ezra 8 and 9. I saw there another pointer to the truth of God’s planning for human sin and divine wrath.
In Ezra 8:22, Ezra says, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and his power and his wrath are against all who forsake him.” This text leads me to ask: Did God know before creation that his creatures would “forsake him.” Yes, he did. The plan for their redemption was in place before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3–6).
Was Ezra 8:22 true before the foundation of the world? Yes, it was. God did not become holy and just after creation. He has always been holy and just. “His power and his wrath are against all who forsake him” because this is, and always has been, the holy and just thing for God to do.
Therefore, since God knew that his creatures would forsake him, he also knew that his power and wrath would be against them. Therefore, this was part of his plan. He created the world knowing that sin would happen and that he would respond as Ezra 8:22 says he does.
This planning is what Paul means in Romans 9:22 when he says that God was “desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power. . .” And if you ask Paul why God would go forward with this plan, his most ultimate answer is in the next verse: “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy” (Romans 9:23).
God knew that the revelation of his wrath and power against sin would make the riches of his glory shine all the brighter and taste all the sweeter for the vessels of mercy.
“The riches of his glory” are the riches we inherit when we see his glory in all the fullness that we can bear (Ephesians 1:18) and are transformed by it (Romans 8:30; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2). These riches of glory reach their supreme height of wonder and beauty in the death of Jesus as he bore the condemnation of God’s wrath and power in our place (Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:13).
In other words, God’s plan that there be sin and wrath in the universe was ultimately to bring about “the praise of the glory of his grace” in the death of Christ (Ephesians 1:6). What is at stake in the sovereignty of God over sin is the ultimate aim of the universe, namely, the exaltation of the Son of God in the greatest act of wrath-removing, sin-forgiving, justice-vindicating grace that ever was or ever could be. The praise of the glory of God’s grace in the death of Christ for sinners is the ultimate end of all things.
Christ is the aim of all things. When Paul says, “All things were created . . . for him” (Colossians 1:16), he means that the entire universe and all the events in it serve to glorify Jesus Christ. May the meditations of our hearts take us ever deeper into this mystery. And may the words of our mouths and the actions of our hands serve to magnify the infinite worth of Jesus and his death. This is why we exist.