Thomas Schreiner on God’s sovereign rule in the book of Acts


“God’s sovereign rule over all things does not mean that everything that occurs is intrinsically good. It was God’s plan that Jesus suffer and die for the sins of his people. A common theme is that believers must be prepared to suffer as well. The death of Stephen indicates that God’s plan is often worked out through the suffering of his own people. In Acts 12 Herod took action against the church and beheaded James the brother of John. Luke expresses no shock, recording the event abruptly and without detail. The death of James scarcely led to the conclusion that God is not in control, for Peter was released supernaturally, probably because of the church’s fervent prayers. Luke is not suggesting that the church failed to pray for James. He offers no explanation for the deliverance of Peter and the execution of James, proposing no neatly packaged answer for why some suffer and others are spared. God’s rule over the world does not lend itself to formulas by which evil can be easily explained. Given Luke’s worldview, he must have believed that God could have delivered James as well, and yet no reason for God’s actions are given. The rationale for much of what happens is obscured from human vision. Still, God’s control over all is conveyed powerfully by the conclusion of the story. The same Herod who executed James is struck dead by God when he fails to give God glory. God rules over the kings of the earth, and the evil that they inflict is under his hand, but God himself is untainted by evil.”

– Thomas Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ, p. 141

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