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The Masterplan

• Greg Boyd

This week we kicked off B.C., our Christmas series, with a look at what God’s plan was before time even began, why it’s dangerous to think of the Incarnation as a rescue mission, and at the intimate relationship we’re drawn into with God through a baby in a manger.

Topics: Covenant, Free Will, God's Will

Sermon Series: B.C.

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Audio File

Focus Scripture:

  • Ephesians 1:3-6

    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

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18 thoughts on “The Masterplan

  1. Kevin says:

    If i am in the glass, in Christ, and now made a part of the triune God and then make the miserable choice to partake in unrighteousness, by getting drunk let’s say; am i now drunk in the glass or have i climbed out of the glass or gotten kicked out of the glass?

  2. Dave Pritchard says:

    Kev –

    In the short term, these verses might help answer those questions to a degree, but…. that last one sure is a doozy! The debate has been raging for centuries.

    1 John 2:1 –

    “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.…”

    Romans 6:2 –

    “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?…”

  3. Denni Arli says:

    Again, thank you for sharing it Ps. Greg! This is mind blowing! This change my perspective on God and suffering especially in this current situation where violence and suffering are so prevalent…thank you Ps. Greg!

  4. Julie says:

    Greg, I praise God you are in my life. Your gift from God of explaining scripture has healed me in ways I would not have thought possible. God bless you Greg!

  5. Peter says:

    Having heard Greg’s message, then John 17 (especially 20 – 26) should now be read with a far greater understanding of a believer’s position in God’s ‘Masterplan’. Keep in mind that this is Jesus’ prayer to the Father that is being fulfilled with its final consummation upon His return,

    “‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
    ‘Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
    ‘Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.’”

  6. Denise says:

    It seems this message has brought me to another C.S. Lewis quote from his book “Miracles” he writes, “…in our species the Lord of Nature is now included. And it would be all of a piece with what we already know if ninety and nine righteous races inhabiting distant planets that circle distant suns, and needing no redemption on their own account, were remade and glorified by the glory which had descended into our race. For God is not merely mending, not simply restoring a status quo. Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious that unfallen humanity would have been, more glorious than any unfallen race now is (if at this moment the night sky conceals any such). The greater the sin, the greater the mercy: the deeper the death the brighter the rebirth. And this super-added glory will, with true vicariousness, exalt all creatures and those who have never fallen will thus bless Adam’s fall.

    I write so far on the assumption that the Incarnation was occasioned only by the Fall. Another view has, of course, been sometimes held by Christians. According to it the descent of God into Nature was not in itself occasioned by sin. It would have occurred for Glorification and Perfection even if it had not been required for Redemption. Its attendant circumstances would have been very different: the divine humility would not have been a divine humiliation, the sorrows, the gall and the vinegar, the crown of thorns and the cross, would have been absent. If this view is taken, then clearly the Incarnation, wherever and however it occurred, would always have been the beginning of Nature’s rebirth.”

    What a beautiful God we serve! I do not think that the only thrust of Jesus coming to be the Son of man was for our redemption (though we needed it); He had so much more in mind. I believe He would have come regardless of whether we were in need of redemption or not. Because what all humanity, unfallen or not, is in need of is Him. His Incarnation is not just our Redemption but it is also our Glorification and Perfection! Because as Lewis states above, “God is not merely mending, not simply restoring a status quo”. We will be a part of something so much more glorious than Adam and Eve were a part of because our God will not just walk with us in the cool of the day but He now lives in us for our glorification and perfection! Not just humanity’s glorification and perfection but all of nature. We will live in a new heaven and earth. Praise be to God.

  7. kevin says:

    Thanks Dave; i know that ‘those who think they are in’ find themselves out and ‘those who think they are out’, find themselves in. I’d be happy somewhere in the middle lol

  8. Ryan says:

    Predestination concept at about 23 minutes in is presently blowing my mind. Nice.

  9. Denley McIntosh says:

    @ Denise,

    Season’s Greetings Denise, I definitely agreed with Greg. And what you’ve etched so beautifully and eloquently about God being always Immanuel, God with us, is masterfully and wonderfully true. God’s plan was always to be with us – his people. When God walked in the cool of day in Genesis 3, which was not anthropomorphic speech but a theophany of some kind, was showing His intention to dwell humanity. In fact, brilliant and leading New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, commented that Genesis 1 and 2 was primarily about God building his temple that He may dwell in it. That’s the function of the creation story: God building his temple on Earth.

    A temple by definition was a place where the god’s dwell. Creation was to be no different. Yehweh informed his Old Testament people that the whole Earth was the temple and not just some building built by the hands of idol-pagan worshippers. Hence, we saw why Hebrews 8 -10 spoke about the earthly tabernacle to be a pattern of the true tabernacle in Heaven. God’s goal was always to dwell with his creation where humanity would be the jewel of his creation and the “apple [iris] of His eye”.

    I remembered these quotes from Revelation 21 and 22.

    Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:1-3 ESV)

    Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:1-4 ESV)

    Immanuel was always to be in the flesh and be with us in human form at the “centre” of creation. If there were no sin, would He have been born Jewish in the ethnic sense? Maybe not… but definitely human, the Son of Man!

    Look forward to hear more thoughts from you Denise. Merry Christmas to you and my fellow bloggers/podrishioners!

    ~ Denley

  10. Alexis says:

    I’m a newbie Christian and would like to know why people say that GOD was born as a human. I thought Jesus is his SON that He SENT.

    I’m looking at:

    John 7:29 – For I am from Him, and He sent Me
    John 13:31- Now the Son is glorified and God is glorified in Him
    John 13:20- he who receives Me receives Him who SENT me
    John 13:16 -A servant is not greater than his master
    John 14:10 -The Father who Dwells within Him does the works
    John 12:49 -He has not spoken of His own authority
    John 14:11 – He is in the Father and the Father in Him
    John 14:12 – He goes to his Father

    I know…a lot of John, but no where do I see that Jesus is claiming to be God.

    Also, I think it’s very sweet you highlight Jesus’s love for us on the cross. But, he did pray that he wouldn’t die that way, it was more of an obedience type deal, right? Isn’t the most important thing Him OVERCOMING death and defeating Satan? John 3:14-15

    Also, why do people say that Jesus was sinless? He himself said that no one is good but God. Mark 10:18

    I have SO much to learn.

    Also, when is your women’s bible study? I only see men’s classes… why?

  11. Kevin says:

    This, my second time listening, i caught Greg, in a way, saying that he holds to a ghastly picture of God. Quote:

    “and whether you think hell is eternal conscious suffering and flames or whether you think it’s annihilation, ‘as i’m inclined to think’, it’s still a ghastly picture of God and it’s a picture that can’t possibly be true because it doesn’t look like Jesus Christ giving His life for all humanity on the cross!”

    Brother Boyd; you must now depart from your current belief that annihilation is true and begin believing that God predetermines Everyone to enter the Kingdom, yeah?

  12. Denley McIntosh says:

    @ Alexis

    Very good questions Alexis! My answer to you is a little lengthy for a blog but the complexity of your question requires a little more thoroughness on my part. I hope you understand.

    Many times unfortunately we impose our cultural understanding on to the Scriptures. Jesus’ claim to divinity is one of those cases. Readers especially skeptics (which I know you’re not) are usually looking for the term or phrase “Hi. I’m Jesus. And I’m God” or something to that phrasing or verbiage. Hence one of our challenges is discovering Biblical language, which conveys divinity as oppose to an I-am-God statement that is never quoted. For our part, we must endeavor to understand the language of the Scriptures (the Bible) especially the Gospels and how the Gospel communicated divinity to its original readers in the 1st Century, which were predominantly Jewish hearers and readers. The statements in the Gospel that conveyed divinity are terms like: Son of God, Son of Man and I AM. Each of those terms communicates divinity from different angles or perspectives. I will touch on those briefly:

    Son of God was a term that Jesus used to communicate God was his Father. The Jews in that time understood that anyone who claims God as his Father implied that the claimant was His Son as Jesus proved. If Jesus is God’s Son, He is equal with the Father in rank as being creator and in essence as being divine.

    “For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: ‘You are my Son. Today I have become your Father. God also said, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.’ And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said, ‘Let all of God’s angels worship him.’ Regarding the angels, he says, ‘He sends his angels like the winds, his servants like flames of fire.’ But to the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice. You love justice and hate evil. Therefore, O God [the Son], your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.’” (Hebrews 1:5-9, New Living Translation)

    Son of Man was a term that Jesus used to communicate Jesus was the human-but-divine Messiah as prophesied in the book of Daniel. As Messiah, Jesus would be the rightful Judge of the Earth.

    As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14, New Living Translation)

    “…Then the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Mark 14:61b-62 New Living Translation)

    I AM was a term that Jesus used to communicate Jesus is the One who is pre-existing, self-existing and incomprehensively existing (sorry no better to word to say that God is beyond definition). When Jesus used this term, the Jews at that time understood that He was referring to the God of Moses, the I AM, as revealed in the Burning Bush in Exodus 4.

    “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him…” (John 8:56-59, New King James Version)
    I’ve outlined sketchily 3 names of Jesus. Undoubtedly they are many others but these names should drive our argument forward on the issue of Jesus’ divinity. So it begs why Jesus did not shout this divine claim from the rooftop, to the mass public, for everyone to know (although it wouldn’t matter because they would have still crucified him :). Jesus’ main mission was to point humanity to God the Father. (As John the Baptist did for Jesus as his forerunner, Jesus does the same for the Father.) That was Jesus’ sole focus. It was the job that the Father sent Jesus His Son to do. He did only what his Father told him to do, “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work’” (John 4:34). Jesus as being the Word of God (throwing in another name for Jesus) was God the Father’s Messenger to the World for repentance and salvation. Jesus’ first coming centered on the Father fulfilling his role of being a His Divine Messenger. However, the second coming would be centered more on Jesus as God’s Divine Judge for the World.

    This leads to your other question about Jesus and sin. The reason Jesus said no human beings were good but God is because Jesus was identifying with humanity as sinners. If you remember in Matthew 3:16-17, Jesus was baptized. Jesus had no sin and did not need to be baptized but Jesus was identifying with the sinner. Therefore, Jesus was sanctifying our humanity for us in John 17:17-19, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (New King James Version)

    The second reason, as mentioned earlier, Jesus’ focus was on the Father and not himself. It was not His time to gloried and honored. Jesus entrusted the Father to reveal his special status to the World commencing with Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River; climaxing with His resurrection on the 3rd day; and accentuating with His ascension to the Father to rule with Him as God within our humanity.

    I think what’s hard to appreciate in our contemporary culture that Jesus did not go around boasting and beating his chest as an ape of his divinity as our culture would do if they were God. (It’s comparatively the difference between Donald Trump who flaunts his billionaire status and Warren Buffet who still drives a pickup truck in Nebraska or even Sam Walton when he was living.) Again that was not Jesus’ focus to our contemporary critic’s chagrin. The things that Jesus taught like humility and temperance as virtues are ones He himself exercised. Jesus didn’t flaunt his status nor he need to. This was how the Apostle Paul put it in Philippians 2:6-8.

    “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privilege; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (New Living Translation)

    Nevertheless, when the question is asked if He was God by His disciples, the Pharisees and Sadducees and Pilate, Jesus responded affirmatively like in Matthew 26:62- 65.

    “Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy.” (New Living Translation)

    As I close, remember God can take on the form of man but man cannot take on the form of God. In Jesus, we see God take on the form of humanity while remaining God. (Jesus mentioned with God all things are possible – anything good that is.) Jesus has done this act in order for us humans NOT to be God – but to SHARE or participate in the zoe life of God as sons and daughters of the Father. The Apostle Peter puts it this way to close:

    By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share [participate in] his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 New Living Translation)

    I hope that helps Alexis in addressing most of your questions. Feel read to read those passages in its full context on your own, which I know you will. I’m so happy by the way that you’re following the Way and eager to learn more about your walk with Him. May the Lord bless you more richly in 2015! Happy New Year Alexis!


  13. Molly Griffith says:

    At about 17:45, Greg says that the cross was added to the Masterplan after the fall (God didn’t know that his creation would sin and require a rescue). His premise of B.C. begins with the “foundation of the world”, and in Revelation, John says that names were written down from the foundation of the world.” Revelation 13:8 – All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

    If names were written before the fall . . .

    It also sounds as if the crucifixion was part of the plan from the foundation as well? Is God all-knowing or not?

  14. Denley McIntosh says:

    Hi Molly,

    The answer is yes – God is all knowing. However, I think what Greg is trying to communicate that God has basically 2 plans for his humanity, which He planned from eternity. The first plan is the preferred plan, desired track or happy path for his humanity where there are just blessings and no judgment or condemnation e.g. The Garden of Eden with the Tree of Life. The other plan is the redemptive plan, track, path where humanity experience God’s judgment and curse but God is bringing his humanity back preferred plan, desired track or happy path e.g. Jesus’ Crucifixion and humanity’s return to the Garden of Eden as in Revelation 22. (Redemption means to buy back in essence, which implies possessing, then selling, buying and re-possessing as its process.) We know God has these basic 2 plans for humanity because God has used Israel in the Old Testament as the example for choosing the right plan versus wrong plan – the right life versus the wrong life.

    Both plans within the covenant were planned from eternity but only one plan God desired for Israel (read Deuteronomy 28). The plan of judgment and curse had in it redemption as well to bring it back to the preferred plan. Here’s Deuteronomy 30:15, 19-20 and you’d see the 2 plans God has for Israel in the Old Testament:

    Deuteronomy 30: 15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil…19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore CHOOSE LIFE, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

    The Holy Spirit speaking through Moses has made this statement about Israel’s options of blessing or cursing. However, if Israel chooses cursing as their plan, God had redemption within if they choose to depart from their sin and return to the plan of blessing. In similar way, God had given that same option to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Plan A was the Tree of Life. Plan B was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve should have chosen life but they chose death. With both plans, God planned from eternity and foreknew the outcome with Adam and Eve. At that point, it’s a mystery to all of us how God could give genuine choice to Adam and Eve but knew that they would sin. Because Adam and Eve did not have to sin (Tree of Life) yet God knew that they would sin (Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil).

    I hope that helps Molly but I can clarify further if need be. Plan B is not a back-up plan but undesired plan for humanity from eternity, which entails crucifying his Son Jesus.

  15. Dave Pritchard says:


    Denley has beautifully laid out a vivid explanation from scripture for God’s dynamic sovereignty and omniscience. Both a “Plan A” and/or a “Plan B”, as well as potentially even a “Plan C”, etc… would have an inherent flexibility built within them. Either way……. God will stop at nothing in order to communicate His tremendous Love towards us, build His family and eventually resurrect His Kingdom.

    As you might know, Greg has been a proponent of the “Open View” for quiet some time and has written extensively on the subject. Not all “Open Theists” however are in complete agreement with one another on every aspect of this view, as is also the case with let’s say, hardline Calvinists, Arminians or Molinists, etc… Each of these schools of theological thought attempts to answer and resolve scriptural questions of Predestination, Election, Free-will and Determinism. Often when one hermeneutical conundrum is settled within the framework of a particular view or approach, eschatological fissures then open up on other fronts. That’s why personally I’m a big fan of a Christ-centered Soteriology where The Cross is the epicenter of my faith and worship. Now, some might see that as being a bit naive and even scripturally limiting, but it seems that the further we move away from that moment of revealed truth of God’s incredible Love for us, the more speculative and extrapolated our understanding grows.

    I’m not suggesting for a second that those names aren’t important or that we shouldn’t seek to understand the nuances of God’s plan for our lives, the world and the whole of scripture – Please, please be a “Berean” and “search the Word daily”, but the fractious nature of that “gegrammenos” topic can be somewhat wearisome – and here I am talking about it….again – Ha!

    One need not absorb all the facets of a particular approach to continue to grow in the knowledge and wisdom of the Faith either. Some would say – “Well, you can’t hold onto this doctrine…… if you hold that one over there to be literal, etc…”
    I say nonsense – hold onto what The Holy Spirit places in your hand and apply it where relevant! A couple of resources I just want to mention –

    “Four views on Divine Providence (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)” Helseth, Craig, Highfield, Boyd.

    And this website –

    Christ-Centered Spirituality | Christ-Centered Christianity

    I hope that in no way, I have come across here as being condescending or haughty in this post – I’m a “searcher” just like yourself! Focusing on what Paul says in Philippians 3:13 – 14 often helps –

    13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.


  16. Denley says:


    Well said…Being Christo-centric is the key. I like the Apostle Paul’s refrain of “In Him” especially in Ephesians 1 & 2. We’re predestined “In Him” because Christ is the only predestined One. Humanity finds their predestine-ness so to speak “In Him”. If we as Christians are in Christ, in Him, we not only share his Jesus present, future but Jesus’ past as well, which is eternity past. Jesus’ love, joy, peace and eternity past of being the Chosen or Predestined One is ours as well.

  17. Joel says:

    I like the thought of God’s plan as not primarily a rescue plan, but what about Rev. 13:8 where the Lamb (Jesus) is slain from the foundation of the world? This would seem to indicate that it was always in the plan for Him to die (presumably for our sins).

  18. Denley says:

    Hi Joel,

    Death is part of Plan B. Plan A for obedience and Plan B for disobedience were and are independent plans and both had been foreknown by God. In the sense one was in response to obedience and the other to disobedience. Both tracks were planned from eternity.

    Adam was placed in Plan A but sinned to put us in Plan B. However, God has placed an opt-out clause so to speak with Plan B. The death and resurrection of Christ was planned to be a way for humanity to get out of Plan B and return to Plan A as originally intended: to be with God in eternal fellowship with His Son in the Spirit.

    Hence the Garden in the City of God in Revelation was and is proof of Plan A. Humanity has returned to Plan A. Of course, those who still reject the work of Christ, the love of God will remain in Plan B, outside of the Garden and City and as Jesus puts it in John 3:16-18 condemn themselves.

    Does that make sense?

    (Note: I by no means want to construe our relationship with God can be understood through contractual means. I use the language as merely a metaphor. Our relationship with him should be understood in covenantal terms as revealed in Scripture.)

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"Thank you all the way from Oregon. I deeply appreciate being shepherded by Pastor Greg and everyone else on the panels. You are a rare find in the church nowadays. Tackling tough questions with humility and a kingdom perspective. It has been life changing for me in such tumultuous times."

– Heather, from Oregon