I’m reading this pretty incredible book by a theologian named Robert Reymond. Right now I’m reading a chapter called The Eternal Decree of God. This chapter is dealing with the issues surrounding God’s absolute control and sovereignty over everything that has ever happened. To quote the Westminster Confession:
God, from all eternity, did by most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither God is the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions (WCF III:i-ii)
That’s basically a wordy (thorough?) way of saying that God ordained everything that was ever going to happen in such away that He is not the author of sin, nor is the freedom of His creatures destroyed, nor is the contingency (ie. freedom within the midst of difference circumstances) of secondary influences taken away—rather, God’s decree positively orders all things in such away that everything that comes to pass, including the acts of men in response to the ordering of God, are the will of God.
And now that I think about it, I’m not entirely sure if my explanation actually made that more understandable. These are fairly difficult things to explain.
The chapter culminates with a discussion of the authors understanding of a biblical theodicy (the vindication of Divine goodness and providence with reference to the reality of sin, suffering, and evil). It’s here that I wanted to quote at length from the chapter because I thought it was remarkable:
I would suggest the following as the only possible direction in which to look for a biblical and thus defensible theodicy: [God regarded the ultimate end which he decreed to come to pass as] great enough and glorious enough that it justified to himself both the divine plan itself and the ordained incidental evil arising along the foreordained path to his plan’s great and glorious end. But is there, indeed, can there be, such an end? Yes, indeed there is such an end. Paul can declare: “I consider that our present sufferings [which are ordained of God; the reader is referred to 2 Cor. 11:23-33 and 12:7-10 for a sampling of Paul's sufferings] are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”; and again: “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17; 1 Cor. 2:7). And what is that anticipated and destined end for us? It is this: Someday the elect will be conformed to the image of Christ—our highest good according to Romans 8:28-29. But out conformity to Christ’s likeness is not the “be all and end all” of God’s eternal purpose. We have not penetrated God’s purpose sufficiently if we conclude that we are the center of God’s purpose or that his purpose terminates finally upon us by accomplishing our glorification. Rather, our glorification is only the means to a higher, indeed, the highest end conceivable—”that God’s Son (N.B.: not Adam) might be the Firstborn [that is, might occupy the place of highest honor] among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29), and all to the praise of God’s glorious grace (Eph. 1:6, 10, 12, 14; 2:7).
The point of mentioning Adam in the above sentence is this: from the comparison which Paul draws between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-19 as representative of two covenant arrangements, it is necessary to insist that had Adam successfully passed his probation in the garden, he would have been confirmed in holiness, passing from the state of being able to sin (posse peccare) to a state of not being able to sin (non posse peccare), and all his descendants would have received by legal imputation [Adam's] righteousness. But then his descendants—you and I—learning of the outcome of his test, would have needed gratefully to look to Adam, still living among us, as our “Savior” from sin and death and as “our righteousness.” God would then have been required to eternally share his glory with the creature, and his own beloved Son would have been denied the mediatorial role which led to his messianic lordship over men and to his Father’s glory which followed (see Phil. 2:6-11). Accordingly, God decreed to “permit [the fall], having purposes to order it to his own glory” (WCF, VI:i).
And the quote continues. What I wanted to draw everyone’s attention to is something that hadn’t really dawned on me as clearly as it did when I read this: If Adam never fell, Jesus would be utterly unnecessary for us to innocently stand before God. If sin and suffering were not allowed (ordained) by God to come to pass, we would not need to look to God for any true need because we, on account of Adam’s performance, would not be in need of anything regarding our position before God. We would be righteous in and of ourselves, having received righteousness from the works of our human father rather than from God Himself. To a degree, God would occupy a much less important place in our minds, and Christ would never be needed as our Savior.
But, by ordaining the fall and subsequently working all things for the good of those God intended to save, God is glorified in both our salvation and in the judgment of sinners who reject Him. His immeasurable grace is made clear by the saving work of Christ on the cross, and we must look to Him for mercy because we are incapable of saving ourselves. We must truly rely upon God for all things, for in Him we live and move and have our being. We are not sufficient in ourselves, but must constantly look to the sustaining grace of a holy and beautiful Creator God who condescends to us, initiating relationship in spite of our own undeserving state.
The Fall was good for us, as horrible as it has been. The Fall brings greater good than the alternatives. We find ourselves truly in love with a God who saved us because He loves unconditionally and wants to show us grace and mercy. He is glorified by a people who turn from sin in response to His grace and glorify Him in everything we are. He receives the glory and we receive Him, all because of grace.