Acts 4:28-29 (ESV) -- to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness
Many Christians freak out when they hear or read the word “predestination.” I have had some Christians ask me, “You don’t believe in predestination, do you?” That question is ridiculous. Predestination is in the Bible—literally. The word shows up in several places, and the concept shows up in many more. Why do people get up in arms about it? I believe the root of it has to do with man’s impulse to feel he’s in control of his life and future. Predestination smashes the idea that we are simply autonomous creatures creating our destiny. No, the word itself implies that God predetermines our destiny. To “predestine” something is to give it a destiny.
Our passage today addresses this issue. Acts 4:28-29 says, “to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness…” The passage is a part of a prayer that the believers offer up to the Lord after the release of Peter and John from prison. Its details give us wonderful theological things to reflect on and think about.
Their prayer was addressing the arrest and death of Jesus at the hands of Jewish religious leaders and Roman authorities. They then acknowledge that these events were a part of “whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” The early Christians understood that Jesus’ death was no accident or mere unfolding of wickedly devised plans by those who opposed Him. No, these things were a part of the plan and hand of God. He predetermined these events. It says so plainly in Scripture. That doesn’t mean the people involved weren’t acting in line with their heart’s desires or were fully responsible for their actions. They were. This is where so many people go wrong in thinking about predestination. God predetermining events does not eliminate human responsibility or accountability for their actions. How do you untangle the two? You don’t. The Bible never tells us to.
How can this passage encourage us today? Nothing is ever outside the scope of God’s eternal decrees. This is how we know all things are going to end in our victory. The prophets weren’t guessing or hoping things would turn out as they said. No, they were repeating what God told them about His plans. And the reason God can guarantee the events is because He is over them. Yet in all of this, each person is responsible for his actions and motives. We live in a world where both are true. The moment you try to unravel the mystery, you usually run into error.
Reflection & Journal:
- Why does the word “predestination” upset so many Christians?
- How does a passage like today’s help us understand the work of God in events?
- What are some specific encouragements and comforts predestination gives us?
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