Piper: the all-encompassing invincibility of God’s purpose

Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. —Acts 1:16 ESV

John Piper, in a sermon, What Judas’s Death Teaches Us About the Spirit, tells of the invincible purpose of the Holy Spirit:

God wants us to see this morning that when the Holy Spirit says something, it will be fulfilled, even if it takes a thousand years.

You see this invincible purpose most clearly in the words “had to” in verse 16: “The scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke.” How can Peter say, “It had to be”? Why did it have to be? Isn’t life full of contingencies? Isn’t the future open-ended? Aren’t people free to make of life whatever they want so that even God has to adjust his plans? How can he say, “It had to be!”? I think there is only one answer: either Peter was wrong (and you must decide whom you will believe, the skeptics or the apostles)—either Peter was wrong in verse 16, or the purpose of the Holy Spirit, expressed in Scripture, is invincible—unconquerable, indomitable, supreme, omnipotent.

This is one of the things you want to see on the Father’s face when you look up to him in a time of crisis and danger—and especially in a time when you are being betrayed. You want to see that his purpose is not crumbling; that he is not worried; there is no panic in his face; but only the confidence of an invincible purpose. He has spoken and it has to be.

Why Use the Story of Judas to Illustrate This?

James J. Tissot (1836-1902

Then I asked, why illustrate the invincible purpose of the Holy Spirit with the death of Judas? Why remind us that he sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and threw the money back in the temple, and that the priests put their heads together and evidently said, “Well, this is not our money, it belongs to Judas. He’s dead, so let’s buy a field (probably the very field where he died) in Judas’s name, and use it to bury people like that”? So in a sense Judas, the thief, leaves the blood-money of his inheritance behind to buy a desolate graveyard for his habitation. But why use this ugly, brutal, tragic story to illustrate the invincible purpose of the Holy Spirit?

I think the reason is that it is not hard to believe that God’s purposes are invincible when things go well for God’s anointed. But when things go bad, when there is lying, and mistrust and betrayal, and death, then you need all the help you can get to believe that the purposes of God are invincible. And that is what Luke gives us: not even Judas and Satan could undermine or escape the all-encompassing invincibility of God’s purpose.