Volume 15, Issue 4: Stauron
The Plan Before Time
Plan B. Many in evangelical Christendom, subconsciously or consciously, think of the Cross as some kind of cosmic
band-aid. God had to patch Humpty back together again after man had made such a royal mess of things in Eden. Of course, there are
the variations on this theme. According to some ways of thinking, Seth and Enosh were the original Plan B, where "men began to
call on God" (Gen. 4:26). Noah then became Plan C. Just wipe the whole earth slick and start all over again. But it wasn't long
before sin reared its ugly head again and culminated in a new rebellion at Babel. So God dispersed man in chaos until Abraham
could father a new race of saints (Plan D?). Years later, Moses established the Levitical system of law and worship. But Israel
continued the rebellion, and through the periods of various judges and kings constantly proved themselves to be spiritually adulterous.
Time for a Messiah (and Plan E?).
Of course, if we pursue this line of thought to the end, we see that after another two thousand years, things are pretty
much still a sinful mess on this planet. So is there a plan F, G or H? Viewed with modern dispensational blinders on, the Cross was
largely a failure, and earth is still a basket case. However, this sort of thinking, whether it is the result of a conscious adoption of
a particular eschatology or as the result of a passive imbibing of
Left Behind drivel, is nothing short of a form of
blasphemy. According to these types of understanding of history, earth is a gigantic test tube and God plays the mad scientist who, by trial
and error, tries to solve the sin conundrum. So much for omniscience and omnipotence! Even the name,
the Lord God Almighty, under a theology of that sort becomes the very worst of oxymorons. The distorted theology itself becomes a convoluted system of
taking His name in vain.
But what does Scripture teach? Was sin's appearance in Eden a slip-up in God's plan? Was this some defect in the master
plan requiring heroic efforts on the Cross and the death of a member of the Trinity? Indeed, were the councils of the eternal
Triune God-head flawed in their design of man? Again, what would that say about God?
The key to casting out any false doctrine such as this is, of course, heeding God's Word (Ps. 119:9). According to that
Word, man's sin and God's salvation provided through Christ's death on the cross were part and parcel of His purpose and grace that
He established in Christ Jesus "before time began" (2 Tim. 1:9-NKJV
cf. Eph. 1:4). We read in Paul's epistle to Titus that the
gospel message is one of hope in eternal life which God promised "before time began" (Tit. 1:2-NKJV). The King James reads,
"before the world began." However, the most prevalent Greek term translated as "world" in the New
Testamentkosmos (e.g., Jn. 3:16), is not used here. Rather, it is the word
aionioswhich is commonly used as a modifier in phrases such as
eternal or everlasting life.
So we see that from eternity past our salvation was designed and planned for in the mind of God. But salvation presupposes
the sin that we need saving from. Does this, as many say, simply indicate God's foreknowledge? Did God devise a plan of creation,
then know in advance that this would have flaws and need fixing? If this were true, why not create the flawless system that involved
no sin? Certainly an all-wise God armed with omnipotence could manage that. Then why didn't He?
The opening dozen verses or so in Ephesians provide a description of the plan. But the parts that rub our fur the wrong
way are discussed in depth by Paul's epistle to the Romans. In the ninth chapter, Paul leaves no room for us to argue against the
fact that sin, wrath and destruction were part of God's plan from the very beginning. Our modern sensibilities recoil at this idea
and defensively pose the rebuttal: if this is true, "How can God condemn those who are simply following His plan?" Romans
9:19 reads, "You will say to me then, `Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?'" Paul reminds us in the next verse
of our limited ability to grasp these issues, and compares such a questioner to an arrogant pot impugning its potter.
The subsequent verses (vv. 22-23) reveal to us that the plan included sin as well as the goal of revealing God's glory
and character. In His wisdom, God designed a world that would
justly display His power and wrath as well as the glories of His
mercy. In a sinless universe, neither His wrath nor His mercy would be demonstrated. But in the world as God has created it, some
receive the justice they have earned while others receive grace through His mercy far beyond anything in their powers to deserve.
The Jews of the Old Testament era and the Gentiles in the New were not saints of different phases of some cosmic
research project. They were all subsumedfrom our ancient father Adam to the last man that will ever be bornas part of His
perfect plan (vv. 24-29). All history has its nexus at the Cross, but all of this is to His glory.