Romans 8:20 says, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.”
What is clear in this verse? The world, all creation, was subjected to futility, or frustration. It was not subjected willingly, in that it did not want to be subjected to futility. That is clear. What does it mean in the second half of the verse when it says, “because of him who subjected it in hope?” Albert M. Wolters, in his book, Creation Regained, says this:
“Paul states that the whole creation, not just the human world, was subjected to frustration (i.e., to ‘vanity’ or ‘futility’ or ‘pointlessness’) by the will of “the one who subjected it” (i.e., Adam, through his disobedience).” (Creation Regained, page 56)
Is Wolters correct? Was it Adam who in fact caused the whole of creation to be thrown into sin? Did Adam sin, eat of the fruit the Woman gave him, in hope? Absolutely not. Adam ate and chose the created thing over the Creator. It was a disobedient act and in it he tried to grasp equality with God (Phil. 2:6). No, it was not Adam. What Wolters does not address is the last phrase in the verse, “in hope.”
If Adam did not do it, who did? It was not the serpent, he was trying to deceive and lie. It was not the Woman, she grasped the fruit in doubt because of the serpents influence. So who subjected the world to sin, in hope? To answer this, we must ask a different question. Who had an agenda of hope in Eden? Adam didn’t, the Woman didn’t, the serpent didn’t. Who did? God did. God had an agenda of hope in Eden. God subjected the world to sin, in hope. How? Why? Do I mean that God let, or allowed, or ordained sin into the world? YES!
I really mean that, and I praise God for it. How? God, in letting sin into the world, opened the jaws that would eventually slam shut on His Son. If sin were not present, Jesus would not have died. If sin were not in the world, Jesus would never have been a man of sorrows, He would never have been crushed for our sins. Read Romans 5:8 carefully, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” John Piper comments on this verse and says, “God wanted to show His love toward us. While we were sinners, there had to be sin! Christ died, there had to be death!” If sin and death were not allowed or ordained to come into the world, Jesus would not have died on the cross.
This is how God subjected the world to sin, in hope. He did it for His Son. He did it to display Himself fully to us! He did it, because it was always plan A. When sin came in, God did not say “Oops, let’s go to plan b. My Son, you have to die now!” Acts 2:23 and 4:27-28 tell us that the cross was predestined by God. God does not say oops.
Albert M. Wolters later says:
“There is no sense in which sin ‘fits’ in God’s good handiwork…Any theory that somehow sanctions the existence of evil in God’s good creation fails to do justice to sin’s fundamentally outrageous and blasphemous character, and in some subtle or sophisticated sense lays the blame for sin on the Creator rather than on ourselves in Adam.” (Creation Regained, page 57-59)
I do not say that man is not at fault in Adam’s sin, we are. But behind our sin and guilt, God is at work always planning for His glory. O’ how sweet the praise God is not getting because His sovereign plan of grace is not loved, exulted in and treasured above all! He planned for the death of His Son and planned that grace would flow from it to sinners like me before the world began! Because of this, He subjected the world to sin, to set the stage for His Son. He subjected the world to sin, IN HOPE. With Jonathan Edwards I agree, “It is not sin in God, to will that sin be.”