Not long ago, I was privileged to serve on a Question and Answer panel for the first time. There was a general debrief beforehand, so I had some expectations as to what would happen. Yet, it was nothing like I expected. The pressure got the best of me. In hindsight, I thought of all the scriptures and points that I should have made but didn’t.
God, unlike me, doesn’t have to worry about hindsight because He knows all things in all times all at once. He knows the ending from the beginning (Is. 46:10). Moreover, according to the same passage, God “declares the end from the beginning.” So, “I will accomplish all my purpose,” He says.
One of the questions went something like this: “We know that Judas betrayed Jesus, but was Judas created for this purpose?” This is not an easy question to answer because it often leads to more questions. I admittedly fumbled the response. But, here I am to answer in hindsight.
My response was to the point, but it probably wasn’t as thorough as it should have been. “Yes, we find in Acts that Judas and the others involved in the betrayal and murder of Christ were destined to do as they did.” Of course, I added the following disclaimer to prevent any objections: “This does not mean that God is the author of evil. Rather, Judas acted willfully and was judged for his actions since he was to blame.” Paraphrased, of course.
There are a number of ways to skin this cat. My response, however, only gave it a good trim—in hindsight.
I should have turned to Acts 1:16 and showed that it was prophesied beforehand that Judas would betray Jesus. Then I should have turned to Acts 4:27-28: “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
Now, I’m no dummy. Judas is never mentioned here. But, he is implied. Since Judas was key to the process, we can include him among the names mentioned—especially since the whole thing was prophesied beforehand by David, and Judas is applied to the prophetic fulfillment (Acts 1:16; with Ps. 69:25; 109:8). Judas was, to use the biblical language, predestined by God according to the definite plan and foreknowledge, to betray the Son of God (Acts 2:23).
This is not so difficult to see. Throughout the Bible, God is said to have a plan before creation that would not be thwarted (Job 42:2; Ps. 115:3; 135:6) and that all things are worked to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). It might be most evidenced in Pharoah. God openly admits to hardening Pharaoh’s heart so he would not let the Israelites go (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, etc.). In fact, God says, “for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Ex. 9:16).
One might object and say God looks down the corridors of time, sees what will happen, and then makes His decision based on what He sees. However, this would imply that God does not know the end from the beginning. If He must look, then He must learn; and if He must learn, then He is not all-knowing. In effect, this robs God of His deity and turns Him into a man.
Paul wrestles through this in Romans. He relates God’s sovereign grace to Jacob and Esau. “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” On what account does God love Jacob and hate Esau? Not by looking and learning from the future, but “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls” (Rom. 9:11).
The answer is simply this: God’s purpose of election.
Now, in the end, we can say that not only was Judas part of the plan beforehand, but all things are part of the plan—beforehand. And in some mysterious way that only God knows, this plan unfolds in our willful choices to obey or disobey Him and thereby makes us accountable for our actions (Rom. 9:14-24).
How then shall we perceive our loved ones, children, parents, and friends? Should we say that God has destined them for evil and not appeal to them with the gospel in the hope of leading them to repentance? Of course not. We are to cast the seed (gospel) on all grounds (hearts) according to Jesus (Parable of the Sower, Mark 4:1-20). We are commanded to be witnesses of Christ and admonish that all repent of their sins and surrender to Jesus as Lord. Moreover, unless you can see all things with hindsight, you have no idea who is or isn’t destined for good. Otherwise, you would be God, and frankly, you don’t look the part. We are to see everyone as possible converts until they can no longer be converted.
This is the response I should have given. But again, it is in hindsight.