Monday, October 15, 2012

What the Cross Says About God's Sovereignty

Part 2 of The Cross: What It Says About God

You can listen to this sermon here.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty words and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it" (Acts 2:22-24).

 The Sovereignty of God 

The sovereignty of God is the biblical teaching that all things are under God’s rule and control, and that nothing happens without his direction or permission. He “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).

God uses all things to fulfill his purposes and even uses evil for his glory and our good. 

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is the power to make great and to give strength to all” (1 Chron. 29:11-12).

Who Was Responsible for Christ's Death?

This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men (v. 23).

1. On the human level, Judas gave Jesus up to the priests, who gave him up to Pilate, who gave him up to the soldiers, who crucified him. 

“The one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him” (Matt. 26:14-16).

“So when [the priests] had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that it was out of envy that [the priests] had delivered him up” (Matt. 27:18).

“Then [Pilate] released for [the people] Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified” (Matt. 27:26).

2. On the divine level, the Father gave Jesus up to die for us. 

Jesus was “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,” but he was also “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” We see here the paradox between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The participants in the crucifixion of Jesus “were not forced by God to act against their wills; rather, God brought about his plan through their willing choices, for which they were nevertheless responsible” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 327).

Judas gave Jesus up to the priests out of greed. The priests gave him up to Pilate out of envy. Pilate gave him up to the soldiers because of fear. But the Father gave him up to die out of love.

God's Good Plans

“The cross of Christ proves that God’s plans are good. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the most evil deed ever committed on this planet. God’s own perfect Son was put to death by wicked men. What could be more evil than that? At the same time, however, the crucifixion of Jesus was the best thing that ever happened on this planet” (Philip Ryken, The Heart of the Cross, p. 116).

“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28; cf. Gen. 50:20).

In Acts 4:23-31, the followers of Jesus faced a crisis. They had been prohibited by the Jewish authorities to preach the gospel. Would they obey the authorizes and escape suffering or obey God? They needed boldness, so they prayed. In their prayer, the believers addressed God as “Sovereign Lord” (v. 24). And they acknowledged that the suffering of Jesus had been according to God’s sovereign plan (“whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place,” v. 28). The sovereignty of God encouraged these believers to have courage in the midst of a crisis.

As God was able to do a good work through the cross, he is able to do a good work in any crisis in your life.


  1. Thank you Jonathan. So much to grapple with and to hang on to. Isaiah 14 speaks of our sovereign God's plan and purposes that will stand and take place. I found this so helpful as we bow the knee to Him who gave us a son, Michael Ian. At age 27 the good work our Lord began in him was completed. The last line of your post clinches the reality that as Christians we can make much sense out of our pain. Thanks again for this blessed post - I'm going to browse the blog and list it with my others from whom I learn - and pass on what I learn. Greetings! Estelle

  2. Estelle, it's encouraging to hear your kind comment.