Why Do the Peoples Plot in Vain?

This passage is one of those points in the Bible that convince me even further of my conviction that God is totally, and completely in control of every miniscule thing that happens in the universe.  Some call it Calvinism, or predestination; however, I just call it biblical.  

Some say that if God is totally in control, why do we need to evangelize? Won’t people whom God has chosen get saved either way?  What I want to argue is that a high view of God’s glory (aka His total sovereignty) gives us all the more reason to share the gospel.  After all, that is what this passage is all about.  The believers praised God for his sovereignty, and then proceeded to ask him for the boldness to continue speaking His word. The believers recognized that God is both totally sovereign and a totally just judge who will judge them for their works of obedience.  God is sovereign and we have responsibility.  I’m not going to pretend to be able to satisfactorily explain that, we just have to realize that both truths are clearly taught in Scripture.

The prayer starts out with a declaration of who God is, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them”.  It is important to know who God is, and to declare it in praise.  We don’t declare who we wish God was, but declare who He is according to Scripture.

The prayers go on to reiterate what God has already said in his Word, “through the mouth of our father David, your child, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed (or Christ).’”  They are quoting Scripture in their prayer; we would do well to do the same.  Notice that they are quoting a Psalm, which is an Old Testament poem, and they say it is all about Jesus. 

Did God kill Jesus?

“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.” (Acts 4:27-28)

“Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed…” (Acts 2:23)

“it was the will of the LORD to crush him…to make an offering for sin”. (Isaiah 53:10)

God had planned all things–even the murder of his Son by the hands of lawless men.  These men “plotted in vain” because while they thought they were putting an end to Jesus, they walked right into a trap! By killing him, they actually fulfilled God’s mastermind scheme of saving his chosen ones from his wrath.  Our sins are forgiven because our Messiah was murdered–and rose from the dead!  At times when we feel as though the gospel is losing (ie. the death of the Messiah), we can rest assured that God is in control and everything contributes to His ultimate glory!

So, if God predestined all things—even the murder of his Son—we can know that anything we face today is within God’s plan.   It follows then, in our perverse and sinful minds, that we get screwed out of our free will, right?  Yes and no.  The danger for our sinful minds is to emphasize God’s sovereignty or to emphasize free will.  Both are an oversimplification of Scripture.  The two truths are not in opposition, however.  They are actually close friends, they work together.

Functional Calvinism?

Calvinism (or belief in God’s total sovereignty in the salvation of his chosen people) is totally and completely functional in evangelism.  The misuse of Calvinism is to overemphasize God’s sovereignty and thus become one who ignores our biblical mandates to make disciples.  This bad theology labels people the “Frozen Chosen”.  Another way to skew Calvinism is when believers begin playing “duck, duck, damn”.  We do not choose who is God’s elect–God does.  We do not know who is God’s elect–so we share the gospel with everyone. 

The great guarantee of Calvinism is that as we share the gospel with everyone, there will be those who repent and put their faith in Jesus.  It is a guarantee because God is totally sovereign, and so, conversion is not left to your ability to manipulate or the individual’s ability to rightly choose life.  The responsibility for converting people is totally God’s.  Our responsibility is to share the gospel.

The believers were facing opposition to this message.  When we face opposition, our tendency is to run and hide (facebook, videogames, sleep, boyfriends/girlfriends, etc).  The example we get in this passage is to pray for God’s help in encouraging us to stay engaged in mission.  We tend to escape from things such as: standing up for biblical convictions, standing up for someone who is being bullied/gossiped about, sharing Jesus with a hurting friend, or pioneering forward in a youth group under an uncertain transition.  What if, instead of escaping to ride out the storm, you  prayed for God to “grant you to speak his word with all boldness”?  You pray for help in staying engaged in the mission.


1.) How does God’s total sovereignty comfort you in times of uncertainty?

2.) What do you need to ask God to keep you engaged in?

3.) What responsibilities are you trying to escape from?