This will be the fifth and final post on The Counsel of God series. As we read this final excerpt of John Owen’s, remember the question we posed at the end of part 4, “How could we be in a better and more permanent estate being saved from the wrath of God than we would have been if we had never been sinful and fallen in the first place?”
Here’s Owen (emphasis mine) :
4. There were, therefore, eternal counsels of God, whereby he disposed all things into a new order, unto his own glory, in the sanctification and salvation of the church. And of them two things may be considered : (1.) Their original ; (2.) The design of their accomplishment.
(1.) Their first spring or original was in the divine will and wisdom alone, without respect unto any external moving cause. No reason can be given, no cause be assigned, of these counsels, but the will of God alone. Hence are they called or described, by—the ” good pleasure which he purposed in himself;” (Eph. i. 9) “the purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will:” verse 11. “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath first given unto him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things:” Rom. xi. 34-36. The incarnation of Christ, and his mediation thereon, were not the procuring cause of these eternal counsels of God, but the effects of them, as the Scripture constantly declares.
But, (2.) The design of their accomplishment was laid in the person of the Son alone. As he was the essential wisdom of God, all things were at first created by him. But upon a prospect of the ruin of all by sin, God would in and by him—as he was fore-ordained to be incarnate—restore all things. The whole counsel of God unto this end centred in him alone. Hence their foundation is rightly said to be laid in him, and is declared so to be by the apostle : Eph. i. 4. For the spring of the sanctification and salvation of the church lies in election, the decree whereof compriseth the counsels of God concerning them. Herein, God from the beginning “chooseth us unto salvation through sanctification of the Spirit ;” (2 Thess. ii. 18 ) the one being the end he designeth, the other the means and way thereof. But this he did in Christ;” he chooseth us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love ;” that is,”into salvation through sanctification of the Spirit.” In him we were not actually, nor by faith, before the foundation of the world ; yet were we then chosen in him, as the only foundation of the execution of all the counsels of God concerning our sanctification and salvation. Thus as all things were originally made and created by him, as he was the essential wisdom of God—so all things are renewed and recovered by him, as he is the provisional wisdom of God, in and by his incarnation. Therefore are these things put together and compared unto his glory. He “is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature: for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible; ….all things were created by him and for him : and he is before all things, and by him all things consist: and he is the head of the body, the church ; who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead ; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence :” Col. i. 15-18………Herein he is glorified, and that in a way unspeakably exceeding all that glory which would have accrued unto him from the first creation, had all things abode in their primitive constitution.
Tying It Up….
The last sentence in the quote ties it all together. We must not think that God was, in any way, surprised or taken off guard by the fall of man. It was used and ordained in the counsel of His good pleasure to be a part of the means to one end alone. God was pleased with the fall to bring about the glory He so desired. Everything else is a result of this one thing. He seeks His glory.
To answer the question at the top of the post, I must begin with asking one more question, If you are going to read a book that is a story of epic value, or say, watch an epic film, do you not continue with the story until its glory is revealed in the end? The beauty of the story is not in the beginning or the end alone. It is in the culmination of the two with the means of getting from one to the other. And Christ is The Beginning and The End, The Alpha and The Omega, and in Him we live and move and have our being.
The question asked so often by Christians who want to understand the will of God, is, “If God knew man would sin, why didn’t He just keep us from being able to do that in the first place?” We might well say that there is no such thing as a stupid question, but we should explain that there is such a thing as the wrong question. Human reasoning brings us to the question just stated mostly because we know that God is Love. First we must understand that God loves Himself first and foremost, hence the first four Commandments.
In part 1 of this series of posts, I posed the question, “When God made man in His image and then says that ’It is not good for man to be alone,‘ to what extent did He mean that, only physically, or spiritually as well and if spiritually, with whom should man be with?” I believe that the story of history, His-story, is the answer to this question, in fact the response of God to Himself, in His own eternal counsel the solution to the problem that it was not good for man to alone. The story of redemption is the story of God bringing man into a perfect union with the triune God. Man needed God, needs God and always will need Him. This is all done for His glory. Amen.