Volume 20, Issue 17 (April 29, 2018)
Delivered Up by the Determined Counsel of God
By Kyle Pope
In Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, a profound declaration of the providence and predetermination of God is set forth. The death of Jesus was not a victory of darkness over light. It did not take Deity by surprise nor thwart Divine intentions. It had, in fact, taken place, “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23, NKJV). The word horizō in Greek, translated “determined” (NKJV), “determinate” (KJV, ASV) or “predetermined” (NASB), came from a word meaning “boundary.” In the Greek Old Testament (LXX) horizō often referred to the literal marking off of boundaries (Num 34:6; Jos 13:27; 15:12; 18:20). When used of time, as it often is in the New Testament, it refers to the marking off of a boundary of time that might be set for a person or thing. The event or duty thus marked off, did not occur by chance, but in the realization of the purpose of the one who set the boundaries of time to begin with.
Jesus was “ordained (horizō) by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). God has “appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained (horizō)” (Acts 17:31). Jesus stated that the manner of His death would occur “as it has been determined (horizō)” (Luke 22:22). The resurrection of Christ, “declared (horizō) the Son of God with power” (Rom. 1:4, NASB).*
Peter asserts that Jesus’ death was something that God in eternity past, looked down the path of time and established the boundary point at which it would occur. Long before we ever started, in our own lives to think about our accountability to God, He was thinking about the horrible and yet wonderful plan whereby He could redeem us from our sins by the Lamb without spot and blemish. John speaks of Jesus as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8). This is hard for us to fathom. Our entire existence occurs within the finite, limits of our short lives. We see our lives, or Jesus’ death as something that occurs at one point on the timeline. “The Lord does not see as man sees” (1 Sam 16:7). Even before our creation, before our sin, before our alienation from God, He determined how we could be reconciled back to Him by Jesus’ death. No action of man, nor angel, nor demon could have altered this.
The word rendered “foreknowledge” in Peter’s assertion, has come directly into English with a different application: prognosis. A doctor, upon examination of a patient will give his best prediction regarding how an illness will progress or diminish with the prescribed treatment. Unlike the limited abilities of a human physician, God can in all things issue an infallible prognosis. God is He whom Isaiah speaks of as, “declaring the end from the beginning. And from ancient times things that are not yet done. Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:10).
If God determined from the beginning that Jesus would die, does that mean that God killed Jesus? The control of Deity over Its creation is two-fold. In a broad sense anything that happens only happens because He allows it to. Not a bird falls to the ground (Matt 10:29), not a single soul lives on for a moment (James 4:15) apart from the permissive will of God. Yet, allowing something is not the same as carrying it out of one’s self. In Acts 2:23, God “delivered up” (ASV, NASB) Jesus, yet “the hands of godless [or “lawless” NKJV, ASV] men...put Him to death” (NASB). God was obviously, neither “godless” nor “lawless.” On the contrary, in this act of predetermination God used the “godless” for His own purposes. The infinite mind of God, knowing the freewill choices of men, used the deeds of the godly and the godless to accomplish His purposes. So, although He determined that it would happen, He does not bear the guilt of carrying it out. He is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26).
When Peter spoke these words, his motive was clear. Those who perhaps only days before shouted “crucify Him, crucify Him!” had to recognize their error. They had killed God’s anointed! Many, recognizing this were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) and obeyed the gospel. Yet, Peter was also calling on them to recognize how this fulfilled the eternal purpose of God to offer redemption to man and purchase a people unto Himself. This people, the church, Paul says was also a part of God’s, “eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:11). We, like those on Pentecost can choose to be a part of God’s eternal purpose.