The word “ordain” means to put in order, arrange, or appoint. To ask if God ordained the fall is to ask if He put it in order, arranged it, or appointed that it occur. Other words that carry similar meaning are: “decree,” “predetermine,” and “predestine.” Did God determine beforehand or decree that the fall should occur? The answer to this question is “yes,” but we must be very careful that we understand what this does and does not mean.
God’s ordaining of the fall does not mean that He forced Satan to tempt our first parents, or that He coerced them to disregard His command. What God’s creatures did, they did willingly. God is holy, just, and good. He does not sin, cannot be tempted by sin, and He does not tempt anyone to sin.
God’s ordaining of the fall does mean that it was certain to happen. It was God’s will that Adam be tested, and it was God’s will to let Adam both stand and fall alone without the divine aid which could have kept him from falling. God could have hindered Satan from laying the temptation before Eve, or in the face of such temptation He could have given Adam special sustaining grace to enable him to triumph over it. From the testimony of the Scriptures, we understand that He did not.
God’s ordaining of the fall also means that it was a part of His eternal plan. Before the foundation of the world, before the creation of Adam and Eve and the serpent that tempted them, before the existence of any garden or tree, God ordained the fall for His glory and the greater good of His creation. He did not merely permit our first parents to be tempted and then wait to react to whatever choice they made. He did not merely look through the corridors of time and see the fall. Rather, the fall was a part of God’s eternal plan and He predetermined or predestined that it should and would happen.
At this point a very important question arises:
“Is God the author of sin?”
This question can and should be answered with a strong negative. God is not the author of sin, nor does He coerce men to sin against Him. Although He predetermined that the fall should and would happen, He also predetermined that it should happen through the willing actions of Satan, Adam, and Eve. Although our finite minds cannot fully comprehend how God can be absolutely sovereign over every event of history and over every individual act without destroying individual freedom, the Scriptures abound with examples that demonstrate this to be true. Joseph was sold into slavery as a result of the willful sin of his brothers, and yet when the final story was told, Joseph declared, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). The Son of God was crucified as a result of man’s willful sin and hostility toward God, and yet God had ordained or predetermined the death of Christ before the foundation of the world. In the Scriptures we read:
“… this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”-Acts 2:23
“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 purpose predestined to occur.” -Acts 4:27-28
From the Scriptures, we see that God does ordain or predetermine an event to occur and yet brings it to pass through the willful sin of men. He does this without being the author of their sin or coercing them to do that which is against their will. Godless men willfully nailed Jesus Christ to the cross and were responsible for their actions, but the entire event was according to the predetermined plan of God. The fall of Satan, and the later fall of the human race through Adam and Eve, were the results of their own sin for which they alone were responsible, and yet the events came to pass according to the ordained, predetermined, predestined plan of God. God has decreed a great eternal purpose for His creation and has ordained every event of history by which that purpose is being fulfilled. Nothing, not even the fall of man or the death of God’s Son, occurs apart from the sovereign decree of God.
‘Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For “who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” Or “who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.’ -Romans 11:33-36
“… In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will….” -Ephesians 1:10-11
The Truth about Man, pgs. 26-28