How God used a murder to accomplish his purposes

How God used a murder to accomplish his purposes December 13, 2010

This Jesus, delivered up according to ithe definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23–24).

In our discussion about Calvinism and Arminianism perhaps one of the critical verses is Acts 2:23-24. In it we see both man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty displayed. I thought I would share a couple of quotes from others on that verse:


“For though it was predetermined, still they were murderers.”

-Chrysostom in Philip Schaff, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Vol. XI (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 38.


Frequently the New Testament links predestination and free will, the two elements of a divine paradox. God handed over Jesus for crucifixion, but wicked men put him to death. So often people ask, “Does God choose us for salvation, or do we choose to believe the gospel?” Human reason searches for philosophical solutions, but the only biblical answer is a simple yes. Somehow in God’s eternal plan these two seemingly parallel roads come together.

-Kenneth O. Gangel, vol. 5, Acts, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 28.

Matthew Henry:

Neither God’s designing it from eternity, nor his bringing good out of it to eternity, would in the least excuse their sin; for it was their voluntary act and deed, from a principle morally evil.

-Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), Ac 2:14–36.


Peter carefully balanced the elements of God’s divine purposes and the human responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus.111 In the paradox of divine sovereignty and human freedom, Jesus died as the result of deliberate human decision made in the exercise of their God-given freedom of choice. The Jewish crowd at Pentecost could not avoid their responsibility in Jesus’ death. Nonetheless, in the mystery of the divine will, God was working in these events of willful human rebellion to bring about his eternal purposes, bringing out of the tragedy of the cross the triumph of the resurrection. The Jews were not alone in their responsibility for Jesus’ death, however. They worked through the agency of “lawless men” (“wicked,” NIV), a term used by Jews to designate Gentiles. Jesus died on a Roman cross;112 Gentiles too shared the guilt. Peter carefully balanced all the participants in the drama of Jesus’ death—the guilt of Jew and Gentile alike, the triumphal sovereignty of God.

-John B. Polhill, vol. 26, Acts, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 112.

Wayne Grudem:

The fact that we are responsible for our actions means that we should never begin to think, “God made me do evil, and therefore I am not responsible for it.” Significantly, Adam began to make excuses for the very first sin in terms that sounded suspiciously like this: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12). Unlike Adam, Scripture never blames God for sin. If we ever begin to think that God is to blame for sin, we have thought wrongly about God’s providence, for it is always the creature, not God who is to be blamed. Now we may object that it is not right for God to hold us responsible if he has in fact ordained all things that happen, but Paul corrects us: “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, a man, to answer back to God?” (Rom. 9:19–20). We must realize and settle in our hearts that it is right for God to rebuke and discipline and punish evil. And, when we are responsible to do so, it is right for us to rebuke and discipline evil in our families, in the church, and even, in some ways, in the society around us. We should never say about an evil event, “God willed it and therefore it is good,” because we must recognize that some things that God’s will of decree has planned are not in themselves good, and should not receive our approval, just as they do not receive God’s approval.

-Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), 333-34.

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