The Lie that the Fall of Adam Ruined God's PlanPastor Lutzer | November 14, 1999
The providence of God is both bitter and sweet.
Selected highlights from this sermon
Creation. Redemption. Consummation. Those are the three links in God’s causal interconnected purpose.
Before He created the heavens, He already had His redeemed people in mind. He knew that one day, there would be a church and that Jew and Gentile would be brought together under the headship of Christ.
Though things may not make sense to us, it’s all part of His divine plan. And when we come together under Christ, all things will be unified, and it will all make sense.
God’s plans weren’t changed when Adam and Eve took that bite. God already knew it would happen, and He already knew how He would set things right.
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I think we’d all agree that sin certainly ruined Paradise. But I have a question for you today. Did sin also ruin God’s eternal plan?
The average person thinks that God had this plan – that Lucifer was created as an angel, and angels, of course, were to serve God, which they did. And it was God’s intention that everything go on well and then man would be created and he would serve God and there would be no sin in the universe and everything would be happy and joyful. That was Plan A. But because He gave Lucifer a man-free will, the argument goes, therefore they fell and they misused their free will unfortunately and so God said, “Since Plan A didn’t work out, I’m going into Plan B and what I’m going to try to do is to clean up the mess. This isn’t what I intended, but I’m going to redeem and do the best I can to reverse the curse.” That’s the way it’s generally understood.
But I want you to know today that I think that’s a misreading of the Bible. I’m going to be saying, and I know that this is difficult to take, but I already prayed in advance that you would have ears to hear – I’m going to take the point of view, which I think that I can show you from the Scriptures, that this is Plan A. This was God’s intention. You say, “Wait a moment. I can’t accept that.” And the objections begin to come. And I already know what you are thinking, so to preempt your thoughts, I’ll tell you what you are thinking.
Two things! First, “Well are you telling us that we’re just robots? Are you telling us that this whole scheme was laid out and everybody just falls in place, and we are puppets on a string, and God just pulls those strings, and therefore we are play-acting? Is that what you are saying?” That’s your first question.
The second question that you ought to be asking if you aren’t is, “What does this say to us about God? A God who would choose this scheme with all of this horrendous evil, with all of this gratuitous suffering, what does this say about Him? Can I trust a God like that?”
Well, as you know, this is a series of messages entitled Ten Lies About God (and how you might already be deceived). We’ve discussed the lie that God is whomever we want Him to be, the lie that He can be approached by anyone at any time in any way, the lie that He’s more tolerant than He used to be, the lie that He has never personally suffered, the lie that He is obligated to save followers of other religions and that He takes no responsibility for natural disasters. And last time, the lie that He cannot foresee the decisions that free creatures make. Today we come to lie number eight, the lie that the fall ruined God’s eternal plan.
Now I have to warn you that today we are going to go through some deep theological waters. I hope that you brought, perhaps if not swimwear, at least some wading boots, because there are going to be times when we might not be able to touch the bottom and we’re going to have to swim. But I’m so glad that you are here, and the reason that I am preaching this message is because, first of all, I want us to be able to worship God as we have never worshipped Him before. That’s the primary goal.
The secondary goal is that by the time this message is over that hopefully we will be able to trust Him as we have never been able to trust Him, accepting both the bitter providences that come into our lives as well as the pleasant ones and that we will truly believe and trust and love Him. That is the goal of this message. That’s where we are headed. But between there and here we have some territory to traverse so I want you to relax. I know that I am preaching and you are listening, and you don’t have the opportunity to talk back to me. At least I encourage you not to except very silently, but I wish actually that this were a discussion just in our living room between you and me. I want you to pretend for the next few moments that you are the only person listening to this message, and I am looking into your eyes and I’m doing most of the talking, but I am anticipating some of the problems that you are going to have so it turns out to be more of a dialog than you might have at first suspected.
Let’s just relax and think about God when He existed all alone. Before there were stars, before there were angels, before worlds were spun into existence, before humanity, all that there existed was just God – the Trinity. Now you know, as we’ve been emphasizing in this series of messages, God did not choose the attributes that He has. He didn’t wake up one day and say, “I want to be merciful and holy and loving and just.” That’s who He is. He didn’t say to Himself, “I’d like to be a trinity.” He was a trinity. And God in that state was totally complete. Did He have great lacks? No. The Apostle Paul said on Mars Hill, “God is not served by human hands as if He needed anything.” The fellowship and the Trinity were so special and so unique, and the wonder of His beauty occupied Him, and God was indeed content.
Now if you ask the question first of all, “How long was it that God was in existence from eternity past, of course, and how many eons passed by before He created the worlds?” or if you say, “What was He actually doing before He created the world?” then I can do no better than to quote the words of the great theologian, Calvin, who said, “He was preparing a hell for people who ask those questions.” (laughter) Nobody knows. He hasn’t seen fit to tell us, but according to Jonathan Edwards, another great theologian, he said that the reason God created is that it was a spillover of His own glory. It was just like a fountain that was about to burst, and God said, “I want to create the stars, and I’ll create billions of them. And I want to create the worlds, and so forth.” And so God made the decision to create.
Why did He create, however? That’s the question. But I want you to know that the Bible for that question gives a consistent answer in dozens of verses. For example it says in Isaiah 43:7, “Bring my sons from afar, daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.” For His glory! You’ll notice that the Scripture says in Jeremiah, “Why did He elect Israel? To be my people so that I might receive praise and honor.” Why is it that He redeemed them out of Egypt? The Scripture says that He saved them for His name’s sake to make His power known. Why did Jesus come to this earth? In Romans 15, Jesus said that He came to die to win praise for God from among the Gentiles. And why did Jesus die on the cross? Paul says in the book of Romans, “God set forth Christ to declare His righteousness.” That was the first purpose of the cross.
And if you ask the question, “Why does God even lead us?” He leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. And why is it that Jesus is coming back to earth? “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power when He comes to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired.” My new NIV I think says, “to be marveled at among those who believe.” God is relentlessly, consistently self-serving. His glory is what matters. You say, “Well, isn’t that selfish? I mean how can God be so self-absorbed?” And that’s not too strong a term at all. Well think it through. He has to be because obviously if He is God, and if He is a good God, He is going to value that which is of highest value. As John Piper has pointed out in some of his books, God values Himself because there is nothing else in the universe that is more valuable than God. And so, of course, He values Himself.
The reason that self-absorption is so wrong for us is because we are valuing something that is second rate. We are valuing the creation rather than the creator. And that’s why God invites us to join Him in the adoration and praise and value that He attaches to Himself, and that is the purpose of it all. You say, “Well, where do we fit in? Is he loving, and so forth?” I need to remind you that the next message in this series deals with the lie that we have to choose between God’s pleasures and our own, where I hope to show that if we choose the greatest pleasure, we will choose God’s will and God’s way.
So here we have God. Why did He create? For His glory!
Why did He create? For Christ! It says in the book of Colossians, “By Him were all things created.” Look at how exhaustive this verse is. “By Him were all things created, whether visible or invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created by Him and for Him.” I’m not going to, but I would like to say ten times in a row, “By Him and for Him.”
Now, let’s go back and think of God. Here He is. He’s omnipotent – all power. Our God is in the heavens. He has done whatsoever He has pleased. Imagine having the power to do whatever it is you want to do. And by the way, I cannot stop here to discuss all of these theological issues so I’m just throwing these things out as we go through. But it would have been possible, you know, for God to create beings who would always worship Him, who would always desire Him, who would always serve Him like the good angels, or like we are going to be in heaven. There’s nothing that stands in God’s way. His options, so far as we know, are limitless.
So here’s a God with awesome power. Here’s a God with awesome knowledge because He knows all things. You can take the message that we preached last time and put it right here. There is nothing that can catch Him off guard or take Him by surprise. Our plans are sometimes frustrated, aren’t they, because of lack of knowledge? We plan to go on a vacation and what we don’t know is one of the children is going to be sick and we’re going to have to stay home. We go to the hospital to visit somebody, as happened to me once, and then discover that he had already died the preceding day.
Our plans are constantly subject to the fact that we don’t know the future. God does not have such limitations. Omnipotent - all powerful; omniscient - knowing all things, omnipresent! “Not even the heaven of heavens can contain Thee,” said Solomon, “much less this house that I have built.” There is no place in the universe where there could possibly be a meeting in some dark smoke filled room where some beings are getting together to hatch a plot, and they have barred God out. He is everywhere.
Now it’s time for me to relax and to look into your eyes and ask you a question. Are you telling me that that God that we are speaking about is going to make a plan that is going to be frustrated and will not work out, that He has to adjust to and do His best with? Is that what you are telling me? I think I’d be more encouraged if you were to say, “No, Pastor, that’s not what I’m telling you.”
But rather what I’d like to do is to quote the words of Job who says, “I know Thou can do all things and no plan of Thine can be thwarted.” Wow! I love that!
There are three links in the chain that we’re discussing today. The first link is the link of creation, and we’ve already covered it. Let’s go on to a second link in God’s causal interconnected purposes. The second link is redemption, and for this I do invite you to take your Bibles and turn to the first chapter of the book of Ephesians.
You’ll notice that the Apostle Paul here writes this book with a sense of awe and adoration of God. Every single phrase, particularly in chapter 1, is filled with all kinds of meaning. You know, you read this and you know that no man could have written this without the inspiration and the wisdom of God.
Paul says (in verses 3 and 4), “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world (notice that), that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Here what the Apostle does is he brings together the first link in God’s chain called creation, and he tells us that even before the creation of the world, before Adam and Eve, before Eve was overcome by the beautiful fruit, God chose us in Him to be holy and perfect, and so forth. God already had His people in mind having been redeemed.
What is it that I am saying to you today? Well, to be as clear as I possibly can, the purpose of creation was redemption because when God created, His redemptive purposes were already in place. The Scripture says in 2 Timothy 1:9 that God has shown us grace (catch this now) from all eternity. And in case we have a skeptic with us today who is still wondering, would you continue in the book of Ephesians and look at chapter 3, and I’m going to pick it up at verse 7.
“Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles (I love this phrase) the unsearchable riches of Christ (Paul says, “There’s no way that you can plumb the depths.” That’s why I said that today we’re walking through some deep waters.), and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things (and why did He create?) so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” The fact that the church would be redeemed, the fact that Jew and Gentile would be brought together, this wisdom was to be made known not just to the good angels, but also the bad ones. That’s the expression in the book of Ephesians regarding the heavenly realms.
And notice now, “This was according to the eternal purpose.” It was already then rooted in God, that the church would exist, that Jew and Gentile would be brought together, that there would be a redeemed people. It was from all eternity. That’s why the Bible in Revelation 13 speaks of those whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before the foundation of the world.
You say, “Yeah, but!” And I may be talking here to somebody who is not a Christian. You are interested in religion. You are interested in Christ. You must have some interest because you are listening to this message. But you say, “See, is this some kind of a small little select group, and if I’m not a part of it then I can’t get in on it, or whatever?” I’m so glad you were thinking that way so that it gives me a chance to respond to you and to say, “Look, don’t you dare use these passages as an excuse because the Bible makes it very clear that you can find out whether or not you are a member of this select company. And that is by simply humbling yourself and placing your confidence and trust in Jesus Christ, and therefore proving that you are indeed among those that we have been talking about. And the invitation, of course, is to all people. And I not only recommend that you do it. I urge you to do it. I implore you to give up all hope of saving yourself and transferring your trust to Christ alone, proving the fact. The Scripture says, “Make your calling and election sure,” proving the fact that you belong to God. If you humble yourself and accept Christ, you can be a member of that company.
Well, we’re making progress, folks. The first link in God’s chain is creation. The purpose of creation is redemption so that God’s glory could be seen, so that God’s justice could be seen, so that God’s love could be seen in redeeming humanity.
And there’s a third link in the chain, and that is the link that we call consummation, the way in which it is all going to end. Your Bible is open to the book of Ephesians, so may I invite you to turn to chapter 1 again, and I’m picking it up at verse 9: “Making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Another translation talks about when times will have ceased to roll.
You know, historians talk about different times. They say that there is the Dark Age. There is the Middle Age. There is the Age of Aquarius. Today we have Generation X, and following Generation X will be some other generation, and times will continue to roll. But there is a time coming when the Scripture says that God will sum up everything in Christ in one head – under Christ and not under some other religious leader but under Christ.
Now you and I know that everything that is left to itself always goes toward randomness and disintegration. We look at the world today and we see all of these senseless things. We see all of these strands of history that are happening that really seem to be falling apart, and sometimes we say this world is falling apart. But God’s intention is that under Christ everything is going to be brought together under one head. Everything is going to be unified. Everything is going to make sense. Everything is going to become part of God’s intimate plan.
If I had time I’d read you 1 Corinthians 15 where the Apostle Paul says that the day is coming when Jesus Christ is going to return, and He’s going to crush all authority and all power, and all things will be brought under subjection to Him. And then He shall commit Himself to the Father, that the Father might be all and in all. Sense is going to be made out of this senseless world.
Do you remember that illustration of the man who was in a rug factory? And as he was looking at this huge rug that was being made, he was looking at it underneath. The rug was being made on the second story, as it were, on some rafters, and all that he could see was tangled webs of thread, different colors, different directions, different patterns, no pattern at all really – a senseless jumble. But then he was invited to go up the ladder to see the top of the rug, and as he looked at the top he saw that very beautiful design. That’s what God is doing. If you look at the senseless things that are going on in today’s world, how can we possibly even begin to fathom the senselessness of the suffering that humanity inflicts upon humanity – the abuse and the shootings and the crimes and the wars? And you begin to name the list and it goes on and on, and it makes no sense to us. But some day when we look at it no longer from the bottom up, which is all we can do, and we begin to see it from God’s point of view, we’ll see this beautiful design, and it will be the figure of a man. It will be the design of Christ. God is bringing all things together under Him. There’s a consummation coming. The purpose of creation? Redemption! The purpose of redemption? Consummation, so that God will receive the glory and be all in all.
Now it’s time for your questions. And question number one on your mind is, “Well, if that’s really true, and if this is Plan A, and if this is the way (quote) it was supposed to be, if this is the way God ordained it, what about free will?” Well, you know there’s a story about a group of theologians that were discussing this controversy, which has a very long history, as you might understand. And finally they couldn’t agree, so finally they broke into two groups. And over here you had the free-willers, and over here you had the predestinarians – two groups.
One man, seeing the two groups, not quite knowing which one to belong to, went over to the predestinarians and said, “May I join your group?” They said, “Now, why are you joining?” He said, “Well, I just came here of my own free will.” They said, “You don’t belong over here. You can’t come into our group of your own free will.” He said, “Oh, okay.”
So he went over to the free-willers, and he joined them. And they said, “Why are you here?” And he said, “I was sent here.” They said, “You can’t be sent here. The only people here have to join of their own free will.” He, of course, was left out in the cold.
Now folks, I need to tell you that if this were a seminary classroom I would go into great detail, defining terms and helping us to understand. But I shall give you the real quick answer here. It’s interesting that the Bible does not experience this as a contradiction. We’re the ones that struggle with it. It’s interesting that in the book of Acts Paul said, “Christ was offered by the predetermined plan of God, and you wicked men put Him to death.” Christ was offered according to God’s plan, but the men who did it were considered to be wicked, and they will be punished for it. So what you have in the Scripture is the will of man, and the will of God going in what theologians call concurrence, going along together, and yet us not being able to deny one or the other, so I’ll simply say this: Any view of free will that denies the fact that history is God’s story, and that God rules in the affairs of men is a wrong view of free will. But any view of predestination that says that we are only robots on a string, and our wills are totally controlled by alien forces, and therefore we are like puppets, that is a wrong view of predestination. So what we must humbly do is to recognize that there is mystery here that we cannot put together, but that we must believe both, and let us not deny either of them. How do you like that for a quick explanation?
Let’s go on to your second question. Your second question is, “But Pastor Lutzer, are you saying that this world with all of its evil is somehow God’s will? I mean is it not exactly contrary to God’s will? I mean if there is anything that is opposite to God’s will, look at all the evil that is going around, and yet you’re saying that this was all (quote) prearranged.”
Another really quick explanation! The Bible distinguishes between two aspects of God’s will – His revealed will, which is not done on earth. It is fought against. Whatever God says, people do the opposite. That’s His revealed will, but His hidden will is always accomplished. In fact, even in Ephesians we just read a moment ago that He works all things after the council of His own will. That is His hidden will, which is always done.
Now let me give you an illustration. Here you have a nobleman who has a wonderful grove of trees. In fact his whole farm is filled with trees, and he loves his trees. Maybe he even calls his trees by name, but he has a neighbor who is an evil man, who hates this nobleman. He is full of envy. He’s full of anger, and so the neighbor whom we’ll call Mr. Evil is scheming to try to find out how he can do his neighbor in.
Finally one night Mr. Evil gets up enough nerve to climb over the fence. He goes over and he chooses a tree in a very spacious and special place, and he works all night to chop it down. In fact, because he is so mad, he chops it right down from the roots, and he works and he works. And then as the tree falls, unfortunately Mr. Evil runs in the wrong direction, and the tree falls on him and he is pinned lying there. He is still alive but he’s in bad shape. But he has this evil perverse satisfaction of knowing that at least he was able to chop down one of the nobleman’s favorite trees.
Well, in the morning the nobleman comes walking along with a friend, and they are talking. And this man who is lying there can hear them coming in the distance. And when they get near, this Mr. Evil says in a choking voice, hardly able to talk, “I know that you are going to get me, but I chopped your tree down.” And the nobleman says, “Well I want you to know that the gentleman that I have with me here today is a builder. He is a contractor. And the reason that we were taking this walk is I wanted to show him where I wanted a new house built. And it was to be built right here, and so I want you to know that you chopped down a tree that needed to come down, and you have done a lot of the work already for me.”
That’s the way it is. Does that mean that Mr. Evil gets by? No, he’s punished. He had evil intentions and therefore he is going to be punished. It’s just like the devil and like mankind. They fight against God. They rail against Him. They do everything opposite to what God says, “but He who sits in the heavens laughs and He has them in derision.” And what they don’t know is the more evil they do, the more wicked they become. They always keep doing God’s ultimate purpose anyway. And that’s why the Bible says in the book of Proverbs, “God has made all things for Himself, even the wicked for the day of evil.” God is still in control, and His purposes are being done.
A third question: Can we trust a God like this? Can we trust a God with whose plan apparently involves such things as Kosovo, and the Holocaust, and we could name a number of other things? Is that feasible that a God like that can be trusted and loved? Well, I’d like to say to you today that the sovereignty of God actually invites trust because what that means is that the senseless things that we have been talking about, the fact that there is not only human tragedy, but human tragedy upon tragedy. When there’s an earthquake it not only destroys villages and people, but then it rains for a week, so that the survivors can’t even find those who are buried under the rubble. What sense does all this make? What sense does it make to have a plane with some folks in it who want to help others suddenly crash so that that help is negated? What sense is it when children die of disease and starvation? Can you make sense of this? I can’t, but the thing that gives me hope is the fact that God has a plan and I have to believe that in the end, from the standpoint of eternity, once we see it from Point A to Point B, and we look at it through His eyes, I am convinced that all of us will eventually say, “He does all things well.”
One day I was mowing the lawn and I saw a piece of paper that had blown across the way, so I looked at it more carefully. It was a letter that someone sort of tore up and then threw away, I guess, into some kind of garbage bin, and part of the letter was there. And I read some of it because a paragraph or two were still legible, and that was the part that came to me. But, of course, I couldn’t understand the whole story. There was so much mystery because it talked about a relationship between two people and why this person did whatever. And then it ended, and that was it. And I even looked around and wondered if there were other pieces. (laughter)
That’s what we have when we look at the Bible. God says, “I’m giving you a letter that is truthful and it makes sense, but there’s so much that you do not know. If you could see My hidden plans, and what I’m working behind the scenes, and if you could see from all of eternity and understand that evil men keep railing and doing this evil, and they are always still accomplishing my purposes, and if you would understand that then you would find that there is adequate reason to believe and to trust.
And that’s the thing that gives me hope. Because God is in charge, these things that are so senseless to Him obviously must make some sense. Now if He wasn’t in control, if this were only Plan B, if He were trying to shore up something that kind of went out of whack, and he was trying to come up with the best, then I would really wonder in my heart whether everything is really going to turn out okay. Yes, we can trust!
There is such a thing as the providence of God, which is both bitter and sweet, isn’t it? In the Old Testament Naomi (whose name, I think, meant sweet), said, “Don’t call me Naomi.” She said, “Call me Mara; call me bitter.” She had lost a husband and two sons and she said, “The Almighty has dealt bitterly with me,” because she understood that they died under His hand, even though they died of (quote) natural causes. But yet, for the saint who goes on believing, there is something sweet about knowing that God is bigger than these circumstances.
Listen to the words of Sarah Edwards, the wife of Jonathan Edwards. He was only 54 years old, and going to become president of Princeton University, when he got smallpox. And they went to a doctor, and the doctor gave him a shot, way back in 1758, that caused him to die. It would have been better actually if he had just had the smallpox. It was one of those cases where the cure was worse than the disease. Now how did she take that? Did she rail against the doctors and say, “Oh why did they do that? How does God expect me to do this?” That’s the modern way, you see, but she had been instructed in the beauty of God’s providence. She understood that these things do not happen without divine permission, and they come to us from His hand.
She wrote to her oldest child, and she had ten of them. “What shall I say?” she said after her husband died. “A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. Oh that we may kiss the rod and lay our hands on our mouths. The Lord (notice that) has done it. He has made me adore His goodness that we had him so long (speaking of her husband), but my God lives, and He has my heart. Oh, what a legacy my husband, your father, has left us. We are all given to God, and there I am and I love to be.”
Of course we don’t understand it all. But providence means that we go on believing because our faith is precious to God. It makes no sense to us. Let us admit that, but He knows all things. And what is it that Cowper said? He said, “Behind a frowning Providence there is a smiling face.” There is a purpose.
Last question: Can we worship? Oh, can we worship! The Apostle Paul discussed the promises of God and the eternal plan of God in the book of Romans 9 where he talked about Pharaoh and the potter and the clay, and in chapter 10 where he talks about Israel, and in chapter 11 where he continues to talk about Israel. Remember he ends the benediction by saying, “Of Him, that is creation; through Him, that is redemption; and to Him, that is consummation (those are the three links that we talked about) are all things.
Let me conclude by worshipping even as Paul worshipped.
“Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out. For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor, or who has given to Him and He has to give back in return? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, both now and forever, Amen.”
Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created.” Revelation 19:6: “Praise be unto God for the Lord God omnipotent reigns.”
And with that we bow to pray.
Our Father, we pray that You will help us to be worshippers who do nothing but adore You and give You praise. For those, Father, who are going through trials, through the bitter aspects of providence, that dark cloud about which we just mentioned, we ask today, Father, grant them sustaining grace. And help them through that cloud to see Your providence and Your grace.
Father, for that which lies around us in ruins, for a world that is so disintegrated, help us to rejoice that in the end it shall be brought together under a just and holy purposeful God. Create great faith in our hearts we pray, for the little irritations of life, as well as the tragedies. Grant us, oh Father, a people who will know that in the end You shall triumph. And therefore, Father, we can never, never be pessimistic, for our hope in You.
For those who have never trusted Christ as Savior, we ask that this vision of God may create within and in them a desire to say, “Yes, I, too, believe in the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Do that for us, Father, for we are needy. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.