Acts 4:28

Memorial to fighting in the Meuse Argonne Offensive.

Sunday, 30 January 2022

to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Acts 4:28

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The sense of the words is much clearer when stated as a whole with the previous verse –

“For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

As can be seen, the words now presented show us that a divine hand is guiding the ages. However, in evaluating the words, immense errors in thinking can (and often do) arise. The previous verse noted that these various groups of people “were gathered together.” This was a willing decision on the part of each.

Herod voluntarily took the actions he took. The same is true with Pilate. Likewise, the Gentiles and the people of Israel all willingly gathered together. As such, the next verse now begins with, “to do.”

It is a simple and common word in the Greek signifying “do,” “make,” “observe,” “perform,” and on and on. It has a great deal of significations. Comparing the actions of a person to a plant, it is translated as to “bring forth” fruit. It can be a voluntary thing, such as, “someone did as they were told.” It can be something done with purposeful intent, such as Jesus saying, “I will make you fishers of men.”

An action is described. In this case, the people gathered together “to do.” But Luke next records the words of the disciples as crediting the “doing” to God. This is seen in the words, “whatever Your hand.”

The hand is that which accomplishes a thing. For example, in Exodus, the Lord specified various things to be brought forward to erect a tabernacle. However, he did so through Moses. As such, Moses is the one to accomplish the action –

“The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the Lord, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the Lord, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done.” Exodus 35:29

Now, in Acts, the people have gathered together “to do,” but the action is by the Lord’s hand. Further, the account continues with, “and Your purpose.”

The Greek word comes from a root signifying “volition.” There is the sense of the act of a will that is driving the matter. The word itself signifies a purpose, counsel, plan, decision, and so on. It is the same word rendered in Acts 2:23 as “plan.” One can see a similar thought is given there that is stated here –

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Acts 2:22-24

The men of Israel took an action that was set forth “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” This is the same general idea again now presented. The various groups had gathered together, obviously voluntarily, and yet it is stated that it has been done at the hand of God and by His purpose which was – as it next says – an event “determined before to be done.”

This is a new word in Scripture, proorizó. It is found six times in the New Testament with five of them from the hand of Paul. It comes from the words pro, or “before,” and horizó, meaning “to establish boundaries.” Thus, it signifies to foreordain, predetermine, or mark out beforehand.

One can see the basis of our modern word “horizon” in it. There is a defined boundary, and that boundary was set in advance. As this is a boundary set forth by God, it is one that occurred even before creation. He set a boundary that is fixed and unchanging. The event will come to pass.

As such, the actions of those gathered against Jesus are voluntary (obviously) actions of the people, and yet they came about by the hand, purpose, and predestined decision of God. For this reason, many cannot comprehend how the “free will” of man could be a part of the equation. And yet, to ascribe the evil that occurred to God is something unthinkable.

Because of this, many incorrect doctrines have arisen concerning man’s state before God. Calvinism, for example, denies man has free will to choose Jesus Christ, but that God elects them, regenerates them, and then they choose Jesus. This is something Scripture does not even hint at.

In the case of the events of Acts 4, God had set up the time, location, and all of the details of the unfolding narrative so that He knew what would transpire. The outcome was logical and inescapable, and yet it was by the freewill of those who were involved. God’s foreknowledge does not, in any way, negate man’s free will choices. We are responsible for the choices we make, and we will be held accountable for them.

If a pastor sets up a church to meet at a certain time and all of the conditions are set forth in advance – seating, popcorn, particular movie, set time, and so on – then it is logical to know that a certain number of people will show up to view the movie he has selected for movie night. He may know that a particular person will sit in a particular seat, and so – in advance – he puts a note in that seat for the person.

Everything comes out as he figured it would. Does that mean they did not have free will? Of course not. If a man can predetermine certain things in advance, then how much more can God – who is infinite in knowledge – predetermine the setting for the crucifixion of Christ. And yet, free will is a clearly presented principle and an inescapable aspect of what the Bible teaches. In fact, it is plainly and evidently seen in both this account from Acts 4 as well as the account from Acts 2 which is cited above.

Life application: If it seems that the events of the world are following an exact and predetermined course of history, it is because they are. The book is written. The words of the prophets and the apostles have been recorded. History is catching up with what they state, and it will happen exactly as God has indicated in His word.

And yet, every single event that happens among man is based on his freewill choice. God, having created all things, and who knows the hearts and minds of man, knows every choice that will ever be made. And yet, He is not forcing man to make those choices any more than the pastor did not force the congregant to choose what seat he would sit in.

When the Bible speaks of the wisdom and knowledge of God, it is because He is infinitely wise and understanding. And yet, He has given us the right, the honor, and – indeed – the responsibility to freely choose Him or to willingly reject Him. This is the wonder of God’s hand as it works in the stream of human existence –

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.” Psalm 139:1-6

David didn’t understand the matter, but he accepted it as an axiom. God is not the author of evil, even if evil exists. God does not force our will, and yet God knows what our will is and what we will do with it. Great is our God! Let us carefully consider His ways.

Lord God, it is with the greatest awe and wonder that we stand before You, voluntarily having come to You, and yet You knew – before the first atom came into existence – that we would do so. We thank You for allowing us free will, but we are also sorry for having constantly used that will against You and in defiance of Your will. Thank You for Jesus who alone has made our reconciliation possible. Thank You for our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.