“Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; so that there is not anything that befalls any by chance, or without his providence; yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.”
–London Baptist Confession of 1689,
Chapter 5 Of Divine Providence, Paragraph 2
“The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also he most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth, in a manifold dispensation to his most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceedeth only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.”
–London Baptist Confession of 1689,
Chapter 5 Of Divine Providence, Paragraph 4
“Everything happens for a reason,” the old adage goes. Generally, we hear this after we’ve been given a bit of bad news. “I got laid off today,” says one man. The next responds with, “Well, you know that everything happens for a reason.” Or perhaps man one says, “My child has been diagnosed with cancer.” Any number of tragedies can be substituted with the same response. Supposedly, this is comforting wisdom with which to console our friends after some tragic event, but do we really believe that? Do we really believe that everything happens for a reason and, if so, what reason? More to the point, is this a comforting realization?
Please stay with me because this is going to get very deep very quickly. We, here at The Reformed Alliance, believe wholeheartedly that “God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass.” (LBC 1689, Chapter 3 Of God’s Decree Paragraph 1) (Emphasis mine) Isaiah 46:10 says, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:.” (KJV) (Emphasis original) This means that we do believe that everything happens for a reason and that the reason is God’s decree.
Now we wade into the deep waters. Here are the questions you are undoubtedly asking yourself: “What about bad things? What about sinful actions? What about cases of rape or abortion? God couldn’t possibly decree such things, could he?”
Let’s talk about that.
We now face a challenge. There are two options when it comes to these cases: either God is in complete and total control, or, more terrifying than this, he isn’t. What are the consequences of each possibility? Let’s start with the latter. If God isn’t in control of these situations, what does this mean for us? If God didn’t want these things to happen, and they did happen, then he isn’t all-powerful and is therefore not God. Remember the passage of Scripture quoted above. God decrees the end from the beginning. To take away this right of his is to take away the very deity of God. You see, if there is even a single atom in the cosmos that, at any time, is outside the control of God and his decrees, then he isn’t God. God, dear friends, must be in control.
“But,” comes the common rebuttal, “if God wanted these things to happen, and they did, he cannot possibly be all-good, and therefore cannot be God. Moreover, if God decreed such things, wouldn’t he be sinful?” Well, let’s consider the first challenge here. What does “good” mean? Who gets to define good? See, if you are the one who gets to define the word “good,” then why can’t I have my own definition of “good?” God doesn’t do things because they are good, the things God does are good because God does them. His nature determines the goodness of his actions. So, if God decrees the enslavement of Joseph, then his enslavement is good. However, the people who carried out that enslavement did so out of hatred for him and hatred for God. (Genesis 50:20) That is also what the Confession states. God decrees these heinous acts, yet the people who perpetrate them are freely choosing to do so. They are freely choosing to sin.
Nowhere is this more clear than in Acts 2:23: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:” (KJV) Christ’s death was determined by none other than God himself, however the people who carried it out were guilty of murder. This is because of intention. God meant the death of Christ to save his Church. The Roman soldiers and Jewish Sanhedrin meant the death of Christ to be the end of a nuisance. They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. Therefore, God remains sinless and the people have sinned in the very same action.
We now come to the end of our endeavor, the purpose. We know the reason —God wanted it to happen— but what is the purpose? Why did God want it to happen?
God wanted these things, big or small, to happen in order to glorify himself. You may say that God is a narcissist, but you misunderstand what is going on here. God is perfectly holy and sinless. This means that God has no idols, so God’s God is himself. That means that his main purpose in all things is to glorify himself. God brings glory to himself in the salvation of sinners from eternal damnation through the blood of the Son on the cross. This is his chosen means whereby to bring honor unto his name.
You may also think, “Oh, great I’m nothing more than an instrument to stroke the ego of some magic man in the sky.” If this is what you are thinking, imagine this. Say that there is a God. If we start from here, and God created everything in the universe, including you, what do you think you would owe him? You would owe him everything, but here is the catch: you don’t have anything he wants or needs. So what can you give him? Nothing except honor and praise and glory. This is the purpose for which we’ve been created. What more wonderful purpose could there be for the life and happenings of anything than to bring honor and praise to the one who calls the stars by name?
Rest assured, dear friends, everything happens for a reason. There can be no greater comfort than this.
Soli Deo Gloria.