Acts 2:23 – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
Do you want to ponder something that will absolutely stretch the limits of your understanding? Then think about this: God planned the sacrifice of Jesus. You say, “Of course he did.” But wait, think. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ, while something we embrace as the source of our salvation, is also the cold-blooded murder of the Son of God. It is a crime committed against the infinitely holy God. It is the worst crime ever committed. The murder of Jesus is the greatest sin ever committed by man, and it was brought about by the plan—not only the foreknowledge, but the actual plan—of God.
How can it be that God would actually plan the acts of the lawless men who crucified the Son of God? My only answer is that I can’t explain it completely. However, there are some truths that we have to affirm from this text if we are to truly and rightly follow the scriptures.
First, let us affirm that God is not the author of sin. God did not sin in planning and bringing about the crucifixion of Jesus. Our Lord is holy. He does not force any person to sin. He does not, in one sense, want anyone to sin. So, we cannot say that the heart desire of God was for evil men to commit the most heinous act of human history.
Second, we have to affirm that the most heinous act of human history was not only foreseen by God, but was his plan. God planned and brought it to pass that Jesus would be crucified by evil men while not at the same time forcing men to sin. Our sovereign God allowed evil men to do what they would most naturally do by their own hearts’ desires, but never losing his own control. There was absolutely no chance involved. There was no chance that the Son of God would not be crucified by evil men. It was God’s plan. Yet those men did exactly what they wanted, and were most certainly accountable to God for their actions.
So, what do we conclude? We have to conclude that God is sovereign, and that man is free within God’s sovereignty. God is sovereign, meaning that God is in control and nothing, absolutely nothing, happens without his allowing it to occur and even planning for its occurrence. Nothing goes on over which God is not sovereign. At the same time, man is free within that sovereignty, meaning that man is free to act in how he desires under God’s sovereignty. No man will ever behave in a way that will contradict or even challenge the sovereignty of God.
What is the appropriate response? We should praise our God, honoring him for his sovereign power. Our Lord is in control. He is the Mighty One who is over all. We may be free, but not so free as to ever trump his control. And his control is not merely knowledge of what will happen; God plans and rules over everything. Of course, this leads us to say that we cannot understand why God does all that he does, but that should not be a surprise. On the other hand, there is great comfort and joy in knowing that our lives are under the control of our great and wonderful God who came to earth and sacrificed himself for our sin.