Free Download: John Piper on the Supremacy of Christ in Calamity
The congregation of Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, Florida, was blessed to have John Piper fill the pulpit on March 27th after Ligonier Ministries’ 2011 National Conference.
In this message, John Piper anwsers the question, “Why does this world exist like it is?”, by looking at the supremacy of Christ and the sorrow of calamity.
One of the truths we affirm with trembling joy is that God is supreme in all things and that He is Lord of this universe. We don’t say that God is supreme in all things except tsunamis or war or calamities. We don’t formulate our doctrine of God’s supremacy in a rosy world—we formulate it biblically in a real word of pain, suffering, and evil. As Christians, we are called to live an emotional life, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice.
It is perhaps surprising to us that God can stand forth with stunning clarity in the midst of evil. The biblical question is, “What’s the explanation for this world—futility, calamity, conflict, and misery?” There are two answers that are not the case and four answers that are.
Two Wrong Answers
1. God is not in control. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29). The sparrows fall and the dice roll by His divine decree. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5). Anyone who knows the Bible knows this answer cannot be true.
2. God is evil. God is holy, holy, holy. “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).
Four Right Answers
1. The world of calamities exists because God planned a history of redemption and permitted sin to enter the world through our first parents, Adam and Eve. “God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:9). Unmerited favor came to us through Christ before the creation. That means God planned a history of redemption climaxing in Jesus, which means He ordained that there be sin. You can’t have redemption unless you have something to be redeemed from. The world is the way it is because God ordained that He permit Adam and Eve to sin.
2. Calamities and conflicts exist in the world because God subjected the world to futility (Romans 8:18-21). Creation was unwillingly subjected to futility in hope that the whole Creation would be set free from its decay. Cancer and tsunamis are in the world because God subjected the world to futility. Why? Because of sin. But why the correlation between physical horrors and moral sin? Because we are not outraged at sin like we should be. We get outraged when we get sick and see natural disasters while making light of our moral outrage. The reason physical, horrible evils are in the world is because they are parables of the moral evil we take so lightly. Our sin against a holy God is ten thousand times more outrageous than the sweeping away of all people on the planet in a tsunami.
3. This world exists in order that the followers of Christ may experience and display that no pleasure and no treasure here compares to knowing Christ. God means for us to be so satisfied in Jesus that when losses come we magnify His worth by not being sad. Everything is loss for the surpassing value of knowing Christ as Lord. Loss is gain. That’s what He wants us to show.
4. This world exists like it does to make a place for the Son of God to suffer and die for our sins. We think that God responded to a fallen world with a redeemer, but that’s not the order in which it happened. God ordained that there be grace flowing through a crucified Christ before He created this world. Therefore this world is the stage prepared for Christ, the apex of the revelation of the glory of grace. There is terror in the world that Christ might be terrorized. There is trouble in the world so that Christ might be troubled. The ultimate revelation of the glory of God is the revelation of grace flowing to unworthy sinners through a suffering Savior. There could be no suffering Savior had there been no sin, fall, or misery. It’s all for Christ. (Romans 5:8)
The deepest answer to terrorism, calamity, conflict, misery, cancer, and death is the suffering and death of the Son of God. He entered our fallen world, bore in Himself the cause of it all, and through His death bought the cure of it all, forgiveness and everlasting joy in the age to come. The world exists to make plain the horrors of sin and the wonders of Christ.