Romans 8:28 yet again1
One of John Piper’s lesser known but extremely insightful books is titled, Spectacular Sins, and their global purpose in the glory of Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). In this book John writes chapters on such sins as the fall of Adam in Eden, the rebellion of Satan and his demons, the tower of Babel, and the sale of Joseph into slavery. Continue reading . . .
One of John Piper’s lesser known but extremely insightful books is titled, Spectacular Sins, and their global purpose in the glory of Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). In this book John writes chapters on such sins as the fall of Adam in Eden, the rebellion of Satan and his demons, the tower of Babel, and the sale of Joseph into slavery. His purpose for talking about these “spectacular sins” is this:
“My aim is to show that sin and evil, no matter how spectacular, never nullify the decisive, Christ-exalting purposes of God. . . . These spectacular sins do not just fail to nullify God’s purpose to glorify Christ, they succeed, by God’s unfathomable providence, in making his gracious purpose come to pass” (17).
There’s one more spectacular sin that John discusses, and it is found in the gospel accounts of our Lord’s choice of Judas Isacariot.
The man who consistently appears last on the list of apostles is named Judas Iscariot. Everyone knows Judas. For heaven’s sake, why did Jesus choose him? Some of you may be tempted to say, “Well, it’s obvious that he had no idea that Judas would betray him in such a way that would lead to his death.” Oh really?
Do you remember what Jesus said at the last supper in the upper room, on the night before his betrayal? He told his disciples that not all of them were clean, “for he knew who was to betray him” (John 13:11a). Then he said, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scriptures will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me’” (John 13:18).
Jesus’ choosing of Judas was not a mistake. It was part of God’s sovereign plan that would result in the most spectacular sin of all: the crucifixion of the only righteous person who ever lived. Yet in the commission of that evil, evil itself is overcome!
A lot more could be said about this, but my concern here is simply to point out how God can take what may appear to be a colossal mistake from a human point of view and turn it for great and glorious good. That doesn’t make the sin that is committed any less sinful. It simply glorifies and magnifies the marvelous and unfathomable providence of our sovereign God in achieving his purposes.
It had to have been hard on Jesus for those three years: he let Judas hold the money bag from which Judas regularly stole; he fed Judas; he trained him; he prayed for him; he empowered and authorized him to heal the sick and cast out demons.
But it had to have been especially hard on the other eleven. They laughed with Judas, they cried with him, they shared their amazement at the things Jesus said and did. They thought he was their friend. All the while he was a con artist, a thief, a liar.
I often hear stories of people who tell of how they were wounded by the church. Either it was leadership that failed or a friend who professed faith in Christ who turned on them. Or the church didn’t live up to their expectations of what a church was supposed to be. There are other reasons too.
Well, how do you think the eleven disciples and Jesus felt? But they never lost confidence in God for having permitted it and for then using it to achieve his ultimate goals. Some of you have been betrayed badly by other Christians. You’ve been disappointed, let down, and disillusioned. Some of you have been robbed, cheated on; you’ve been the unwarranted victim of gossip and slander. But don’t think for a moment that God can’t turn that sin and that betrayal for your ultimate growth and good. He did it for his own Son!
Perhaps that’s a good place for us to conclude. Perhaps we should pause and praise God once again for the marvelous mystery of Romans 8:28, a truth that must have often sustained Jesus throughout his life and death. I think it will sustain you too.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”