Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;
I love this verse because it is perhaps the simplest statement in all of Scripture that reveals the unstoppable, sovereign power of God while also clearly showing the responsibility of man. Men have wrestled with these two realities for thousands of years. How can God be a Creator who “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11) and yet hold man accountable for sin? (Rom 9:18-19) The fact is that, whether we can wrap our minds around it or not, the word of God repeatedly declares that God is absolutely sovereign while man is absolutely responsible for his sin. God says, “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is 55:9) Whether we can fully explain it or not, we should accept what He says as truth!
Let’s break this verse down a bit and understand the fullness of what these words reveal regarding God’s sovereign power. Our verse states Jesus was delivered to be put to death “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God”. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “determined” means “to mark out or bound”. Jesus may have been taken by lawless hands and put to death, but there were boundaries established by God that limited what those lawless hands were permitted to do. When the soldiers came to speed up the death of the thieves dying next to Jesus, Jn 19:32 says the soldiers broke their legs. When they came to Christ though in v. 33, He was already dead, so they didn’t break His legs. Coincidence? Not according to v. 36! “For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “NOT ONE OF HIS BONES SHALL BE BROKEN.” The soldiers were limited in what they were allowed to do so that God’s purposes would be fulfilled!
God’s “purpose” is the next key word in our text. Strong’s says it means “volition”, a word that Webster’s defines as “the power of choosing or determining”, i.e. the “will”. Much is made in churches today regarding man’s will, but, too often, little is made of that will which matters most–the will of the sovereign Almighty! God’s will is the only will that cannot be thwarted! Nebuchadnezzar received a lesson in that fact when he foolishly declared that he had gained his great kingdom by his own strength and power and for his own glory. (Dan 4:30) While he was speaking, within that very hour, the Scripture says God took his sense from him, and he ended up growing his hair and nails out like a wild man and eating grass like an ox! (v. 33) When God in His mercy brought the king back from his insanity, he knew the truth regarding the sovereign will of God: “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'” (Dan 4:35)
Finally, our text says Jesus was delivered by the “foreknowledge” of God. Most of us would simply assume this word means God knew about it ahead of time, but as our other words have clearly shown, God was an active participant in these events rather than simply an observer. The word “foreknowledge” declares that fact as well because Strong’s says it means “forethought”. Turn that word around, and we understand, God thought this up before it happened. At the very outset of creation, immediately after man fell into sin, God prophesied to the serpent of Christ’s crucifixion and ultimate victory over Satan. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen 3:15) Rev 13:8 says Christ was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. Calvary happened according to God’s plan from the beginning of creation! In fact, before man even fell into sin, Jesus was intended to shed His blood for the deliverance of His people, being “foreordained before the foundation of the world”. (1 Pet 1:20) Jesus being delivered into wicked hands was a choice made by God before we were ever created!
I hope this verse will bring you great comfort, dear believer, when you are surprised by the events that spring up in your life. They may shock you, but they didn’t surprise God! He has planned them to work out for your good (Rom 8:28), and lawless hands are limited by His eternal decree! Certainly, the powers of darkness would annihilate the children of God if they had liberty to do so, but as the first two chapters of Job reveal, God limits Satan and those that follow him so that any destruction they are permitted to bring will only work as a fire to purge out our impurities and cause us to shine more brightly as gold for God’s glory. Job never blamed Satan for his trial. He always knew it was directed by God’s hand. “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)