God’s PLAN (God’s Eternal Purpose)
GOD HAS A PLAN
It is unthinkable that a God of infinite wisdom and power wouldcreate a world without a definite plan for that world. And becauseGod is thus infinite His plan must extend to every detail of theworld’s existence. If we could see the world in all its relations, past,present, and future, we would see that it is following apredetermined course with exact precision. Among created thingswe may search where we will, as far as the microscope and thetelescope will enable the eye to see, we find organizationeverywhere. Large forms resolve themselves into parts, and theseparts in their turn are but organized of other parts down as far aswe can see into infinity.
Even man, who is but the creature of a day and subject to all kindsof errors, develops a plan before he acts; and a man who actswithout design or purpose is accounted foolish. Before we make atrip or undertake a piece of work all of us set our goal and thenwork to attain that goal in so far as we are able. Regardless of howsome people may oppose Predestination in theory, all of us in ourevery-day lives are practical predestinarians. As E. W. Smith says,a wise man “first determines upon the end he desires to attain, andthen upon the best means of attaining it. Before the architectbegins his edifice, he makes his drawings and forms his plans, evento the minutest details of construction. In the architeet’s brain thebuilding stands complete in all its parts before a stone is laid. Sowith the merchant, the lawyer, the farmer, and all rational andintelligent men. Their activity is along the line of previously formedpurposes, the fulfillment, so far as their finite capacities will allow,Of preconceived plans.” (The Creed of Presbyterians, p. 159.)
The larger our enterprise is, the more important it is that we shallhave a plan; otherwise all our work ends in failure. One would beconsidered mentally deranged who undertook to build sL ship, or ar;Ailroad, or to govern a nation without a plan. We are told thatbefore Napoleon began the invasion of Russia he had a planworked out in detail, showing what line of march each division of hisarmy was to follow, where it was to be at a certain time, whatequipment and provisions it was to have, etc. Whatever waswanting in that plan was due to the limitations of human power andwisdom. Had Napoleon’s foresight been perfect and his control ofevents absolute, his plan — or we may say, his foreordination –would have extended to every act of every soldier who made thatmarch.
And if this is true of man, how much more is it true of God! “Auniverse without decrees,” says A. J. Gordon. “would be asirrational and appalling as would be an expresstrain driving on inthe darkness without headlight or engineer, and with no certaintythat the next moment it might not plunge into the abyss.” Wecannot conceive of God bringing into existence a universe without aplan which would extend to all that would be done in that universe.As the Scriptures teach that God’s providential control extends toall events, even the most minute, they thereby teach that His planis equally comprehensive. It is one of His perfections that He hasthe best possible plan, and that He conducts the course of historyto its appointed end. And to admit that He has a plan which Hecarries out is to admit Predestination. “God’s plan is shown in itseffectuation to be one,” says Dabney. “Cause is linked with effect,and what was effect becomes cause; the influences of events onevents interlace with each other, and descend in widening streamsto subsequent events; so that the whole complex result is throughevery part. As astronomers suppose that the removal of one planetfrom our system would modify more or less the balance and orbitsof all the rest, so the failure of one event in this plan would derangethe whole, directly or indirectly.” (Theology. p. 214.)
If God had not foreordained the course of events but waited untilsome undetermined condition was or was not fulfilled, His decreescould be neither eternal nor immutable. We know, however, thatHe is incapable of mistake, and that He cannot be surprised by anyunforeseen inconveniences. His kingdom is in the heavens and Herules over all. His plan must, therefore, include every event in theentire sweep of history.
That even the small events have their place in this plan. and thatthey must be as they are, is easily seen. All of us know of certain”chance happenings” which have actually changed the course ofour lives. The effects of these extend throughout all succeedinghistory in ever-wideiiing influences, causing other “chancehappenings.” It is said that the quacking of some geese once savedRome. Whether historically true or not it will serve as a goodillustration. Had not the geese awakened the guards who gave thealarm and aroused the defending army, Rome would have fallenand the course of history from that time on would have beenradically different. Had those geese remained silent who canimagine what empires might have been in existence today, or wherethe centers of culture might have been? During a battle a bulletmisses the general by only an inch. His life is spared, he goes oncommanding his troops, wins a decisive victory, and is made thechief ruler of his country for many years,–as was the case withGeorge Washington. Yet what a different course history wouldhave taken had the soldier on the other side aimed the slightesttrifle higher or lower! The great Chicago fire of 1871, whichdestroyed more than I half of the city, was started, we are told,when a cow kicked over a lantern. How different would have beenthe history of Chicago if that one motion had been slightlydifferent! “The control of the greatest must include the control ofthe less, for not only are great things made up of little things, buthistory shows how the veriest trifles are continually proving thepivots on which momentous events revolve. The persistence of aspider nerved a despairing man to fresh exertions which shaped anation’s future. The God who predestinated the course of Scotchhistory must have planned and presided over the movements ofthat tiny insect that saved Robert Bruce from despair.” (The Creedof Presbyterians, p. 160.) Examples of this kind could be multipliedindefinitely.
The Pelagian denies that God has a plan; the Arminian says thatGod has a general but not a specific plan; but the Calvinist saysthat God has a specific plan which embraces all events in all ages.In recognizing that the eternal God has an eternal plan in which ispredetermined every event that comes to pass, the Calvinist simplyrecognizes that God is God, and frees Him from all humanlimitations. The Scriptures represent God as a person, like otherpersons in that His acts are purpose- ful, but unlike other personsin that He is all-wise in His planning and all-powerful in Hisperforming. They see the universe as the product of His creativepower, and as the theater in which are displayed His gloriousperfections, and which must in all its form and all its history, downto the least detail, correspond with His purpose in making it.
In a very illuminating article on “Predestination,” Dr. Benjamin B.Warfield, who in the opinion of the present writer has emerged asthe outstanding theologian since John Calvin, tells us that thewriters of Scripture saw the divine plan as “broad enough toembrace the whole universe of things, and minute enough toconcern itself with the smallest details, and actualizing itself withinevitable certainty in every event that comes to pass.” “In theinfinite wisdom of the Lord of all the earth, each event falls withexact precision into its proper place in this unfolding of His eternalplan; nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without Hisordering, or without its peculiar fitness for its place in the workingout of His purposes; and the end of all shall be the manifestation ofHis glory, and accumulation of His praise. This is the OldTestament (as well as the New Testament) philosophy of theuniverses world-view which attains concrete unity in an absolutedecree, or purpose, or plan of which all that comes to pass is thedevelopment in time.” (Biblical Doctrines, pp. 13, 22.)
The very essence of consistent theism is that God would have anexact plan for the world, would foreknow the actions of all thecreatures He proposed to create, and through His all-inclusiveprovidence would control the whole system. If He fore- ordainedonly certain isolated events, confusion both in the natural -worldand in human affairs would be introduced into the system and Hewould need to be constantly developing new plans to accomplishwhat be desired. His government of the world then would be acapricious patch work of new expedients He would at best governonly in a general way, and would be ignorant of much of the future.But no one with proper ideas of God believes that He has to changeHis mind every few days to make room for unexpected happeningswhich were not included in His original plan. If the perfection of thedivine plan be denied, no consistent stopping place will be foundshort of atheism.
In the first place there was no necessity that God should create atall. He acted with perfect freedom when He brought this world intoexistence. When He did choose to create there was before Him aninfinite number of possible plans. But as a matter of fact we findthat He chose this particular one in which we now are. And sinceHe knew perfectly every event of every kind which would beinvolved in this particular world-order, He very obviouslypredetermined every event which would happen when He chose thisplan. His choice of the plan, or His making certain that the creationshould be on this order, we call His foreordination or Hispredestination.
Even the sinful acts of men are included in this plan. They areforeseen, permitted, and have their exact place. They arecontrolled and overruled for the divine glory. The crucifixion ofChrist, which is admittedly the worst crime in all human history,had, we are expressly told, its exact and necessary place in theplan (Acts 2:23; 4:28). This particular manner of redemption is notan expedient to which God was driven after being defeated anddisappointed by the fall of man. Rather it is “according to theeternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Eph.3:11. Peter tells us that Christ as a sacrifice for sin was”foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world,” I Peter1:20. Believers were “chosen in Him before the foundation of theworld” (or from eternity), Eph. 1:4. We are saved not by our owntemporary works, “but according to His purpose and grace, whichwas given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal,” II Tim. 1:9.And if the crucifixion of Christ, or His offering up Himself as asacrifice for sin, was in the eternal plan, then plainly the fall ofAdam and all other sins which made that sacrifice necessary werein the plan, no matter how undesirable a part of that plan they mayhave been.
History in all its details, even the most minute, is but the unfoldingof the eternal purposes of God. His decrees are not successivelyformed as the emergency arises, but are all parts of oneall-comprehending plan, and we should never think of Him suddenlyevolving a plan or doing something which He had not thought ofbefore.
The fact that the Scriptures often speak of one purpose of God asdependent on the outcome of another or on the actions of men, isno objection against this doctrine. The Scriptures are written in theevery-day language of men, and they often describe an act or athing as it appears to be, rather than as it really is. The Biblespeaks of “the four corners of the earth,” Is. 11:12, and of “thefoundations of the earth,” Ps. 104:5; yet no one understands this tomean that the earth is square, or that it actually rests upon afoundation. We speak of the sun rising and setting, yet we knowthat it is not the motion of the sun but that of the earth as it turnsover on its axis which causes this phenomenon. Likewise, when theScriptures speak of God repenting, for instance, no one with properideas of God understands it to mean that He sees He has pursued awrong course and changes His mind. It simply means that Hisaction as seen from the human view-point appears to be like that ofa man who repents. In other places the Scriptures speak of thehands, or arms, or eyes of God. These are what are known as”anthropomorphisms,” instances in which God is referred to as ifHe were a man. When the word “repent,” for instance, is used inits strict sense God is said never to repent: “God is not a man, thatHe should lie, Neither the son of man, that lie should repent.” Nu.23:19; and again, “The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; forHe is not a man, that He should repent,” I Sam. 15:29.
The contemplation of this great plan must redound to the praise ofthe unsearchable wisdom and illimitable power of Him who devisedand executes it. And what can give the Christian more satisfactionand joy than to know that the whole course of the world is orderedwith reference to the establishment of the Kingdom of heaven andthe manifestation of the Divine glory; and that he is one of theobjects upon which infinite love and mercy is to be lavished?
1. God’s plan is eternal:
II Tim. 1:9:(It is God) who saved us, and called us with a holycalling, not according to our works, but according to His ownpurpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before timeseternal.
Ps. 33:11: The counsel of Jehovah standeth fast for ever, Thethoughts of His heart to all generations.
Is. 37:26: Hast thou not heard how I have done it long ago, andformed it of ancient times?
Is. 46:9, 10: I am God and there is none like me; declaring the endfrom the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yetdone.
II Thess. 2:13: God chose you from the beginning unto salvation insanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
Matt. 25:34: Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand,Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared foryou from the foundation of the world.
I Peter 1:20: (Christ) who (as a sacrifice for sin) was foreknownindeed before the foundation of the world.
Jer. 31:3: Jehovah appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I haveloved thee with an everlasting love.
Acts 15:18: Saith the Lord, who maketh these things known from ofold.
Ps. 139:16: Thine eves did see mine unformed substance; And inthy book they were all written, Even the days that were ordainedfor me, When as yet there was none of them.
2. God’s plan is unchangeable:
James 1:17: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be novariation, neither shadow that is cast by turning.
Is. 14:24: Jehovah of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely, as I havethought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall itstand.
Is. 46:10, 11: My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure: .. . yea, I have spoken, and I will also bring it to pass; I havepurposed I will also do it.
Nu. 23:19: God is not a man, that He should lie, Neither the son ofman, that He should repent; Hath He said, and shall He not do it;Or hath He spoken, and shall He not make It good?
Mal. 3:6: I, Jehovah, change not; therefore, ye, 0 sons of Jacob,are not consumed.
3. The divine plan Includes the future acts of men:
Dan. 2:28: But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, andHe hath made known to the King Nebuchadnezzar what shall be inthe latter days.
John 6:64: For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were thatbelieved not, and who it was that should betray Him.
Matt. 20:18, 19: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son ofman shall be delivered unto the chief priests and scribes; and theyshall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him unto theGentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify ; and the third dayHe shall be raised up. (All the Scripture prophecies which arepredictions of future events come under this heading. Seeespecially: Micah 5:2; Cp. with Matt. 2:5, 6 and Luke 2:1-7; Ps.22:18, Cp. John 19:24; Ps. 69:21, Cp. John 19:29; Zech. 12:10, Cp.John 19:37; Mark 14:30; Zech. 11:12, 13, Cp. Matt. 27:9, 10; Ps.34:19, 20, Cp. John 19:33, 36.)
4. The divine plan Includes the fortuitous events or chancehappenings:
Prov. 16:33: The lot is cast Into the lap; But the whole disposingthereof Is of Jehovah.
Jonah 1:7: So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
Acts 1:24, 26: And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, who knowestthe hearts of all men, show of these two the one whom thou haschosen . . . And they cast lots for them; and the lot fell on Matthias.
Job 36:32: He covereth His hands with the lightning, And giveth ita charge that it strike the mark.
I Kings 22:28, 34: And Micaiah said, If thou (Ahab) return at all inpeace, Jehovah hath not spoken by me . . . And a certain man drewhis bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between thejoints of the armor.
Job 5:6: For affliction cometh not forth from the dust; Neither dothtrouble spring out of the ground.
Mark 14:30: And Jesus said unto him (Peter), Verily I say untothee, that thou, today, even this night. before the cock crow twiceshall deny me thrice. (Cp. Gen. 37:28 and 45:5; Cp. I Sam. 9:15,16and 9:5-10.)
5. Some events are recorded as fixed or inevitably certain:
Luke 22:22: For the Son of man indeed goeth, as it hath beendetermined; but woe unto that man through whom He is betrayed.
John 8:20: These words spake He in the treasury, as He taught inthe temple; and no man took Him; because His hour was not yetcome.
Matt. 24:36: But of that day and hour (the end of the world)knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, butthe Father only.
Gen. 41:32: And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharoah, it isbecause the thing is established of God, and He will shortly bring itto pass.
Hab. 2;3: For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and ithasteneth toward the end, and shall not lie; though it tarry, wait forit; because it will surely come, it will not delay.
Luke 21:24: And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentilesuntil the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Jer. 15:2: And it shall come to pass when they say unto thee,Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them. Thus saithJehovah: Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for thesword, to the sword; and such as are for famine, to the famine; andsuch as are for captivity, to captivity.
Job 14:5: Seeing that his days are determined, And the number ofhis months is with thee, And thou has appointed bounds that hecannot pass.
Jer. 27:7: And all nations shall serve him (Nebucbadnezzar), andhis son, and his son’s son, until the time of his own land come; andthen many nations and great kings shall make him their bondman.
6. Even the sinful acts of men are included in the plan and areoverruled for good.
Gen. 50:20: As for you, ye meant evil against me (Joseph), but Godmeant it for good.
Is. 45:7: I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, andcreate evil: I am Jehovah that doeth all these things.
Amos 3:6: Shall evil befall a city and Jehovah hath not done it?
Acts 3:18: The things which God foreshowed by the mouth of all theprophets, that His Christ should suffer, He thus fulfilled.
Matt. 21:42: The stone which the builders rejected, the same wasmade the head of the corner.
Rom. 8:28: To them that love God all things work together forgood, even to them that are called according to His purpose.
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