God’s Will and the Evil of the Cross
The following is a transcript of the audio.
Last Wednesday in episode #411, we talked about God’s moral will — about how we come to know what God wants us to do in various ethical situations, and in situations when we must decide who to marry, what car to buy, and what vocation to pursue. But there’s another dimension to God’s will — another will altogether, of God’s ultimate sovereign will over every event in this world, and including his will over the evils of the cross. The following sermon excerpt is taken from the sermon “What Is the Will of God and How Do We Know It?”
It is really crucial that we understand this difference between two meanings for the phrase the will of God. Knowing the difference between these two kinds of the will of God in the Bible will be a key to unlock one of the biggest mysteries or the biggest perplexities in the Bible, namely, that God is absolutely sovereign over all things and disapproves of many of them. That is a very puzzling paradox. God governs and controls all that is and manifestly in the Bible hates much of what happens. That is an insoluble and, I think, contradictory situation unless the term the will of God in the Bible has more than one meaning which it clearly does. And you will be able to see it as I just take you to the various texts.
So we want a handle on how to manage this paradox or mystery that God forbids things he brings about. And God commands things that he hinders from happening. That in one sense something is the will of God and in another sense that same something is not the will of God. Without this category of thought, I don’t think you can make sense out of the Bible, the God of the Bible.
So let’s look at these two kinds of willing. Here is number one. Let’s call it either the sovereign will of God or his will of decree. It means God’s sovereign control of everything that comes to pass. It is one of the clearest teachings of the Bible. Let’s look at some verses. You know them, most of them.
Matthew 26:39. Jesus is in Gethsemane and he prays like this. Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. Matthew 26:39. What does as you will mean? What kind of will of God is that? Well, it means his plan for Jesus to be crucified. If there is no other way, Father, if that is the infinitely wise way, the infinitely loving way, the infinitely just way, do what you must do.
And here is the crucial thing to observe. It was shot through with sin and could not have happened without sin. It is sin to kill the Son of God. It is a sin to mock the Son of God. It is a sin to whip the Son of God with stripes prophesied in the Old Testament. It is a sin to be expedient and wash your hands and hand him over. And yet we all know from Acts chapter four verse 27: Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed both Herod and Pontius Pilate along with the Gentiles and peoples of Israel to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. The script was written for this night and this good Friday in Isaiah 53 in great detail and in Psalm 22 and in many other passages. The script was written. The will of God is a fixed, determinate purpose to bring about the death of his Son. Isaiah 53:10. It was the will of the Lord to bruise him. And it was full of sin, which means we must have a category of thinking that says God can ordain that sin happen without being a sinner.
If you don’t have that category in your mind, you can’t handle the cross and the prophecies. God ordains that there be sin in the particulars of the death of his Son—because he couldn’t have been crucified without it—and he is not himself a sinner in ordaining that sin be.
We have over 1,200 John Piper sermons on our website desiringgod.org, but none of them are more popular than this is one, titled: “What Is the Will of God and How Do We Know It?,” preached on August 22, 2004. Check it out and download the MP3 from our website, free of charge. Well does God delight in other Christians more than he delights in me? Pastor John says yes, and he’ll explain why tomorrow. I’m your host Tony Reinke, thanks for listening to the Ask Pastor John podcast.