MUCH OF OUR THINKING is distorted by pride. Even if we
have been graced to come to Christ as our Lord and Saviour, that is no indication at all
that we are particularly inclined to repudiate our trust in the flesh as to our daily
affairs. Indeed many seem to become much more proud and self-reliant after
conversion than ever before.
When our minds are puffed
up by concepts of free will and self-satisfaction over our decision for
Christ, we lose any real appreciation for Gods grace in choosing us before the
disruption of the world and calling us entirely apart from anything in ourselves that
might make us more worthy than anyone else. We begin to think that we at least are more
willing and sufficiently disciplined than others, and so it is only right that
the unbelievers should be condemned to unending torment or loss.
Just think of it! For all
eternity we can say, All those miserable sinners burning in hell could
have gone to heaven too. Certainly the work of Christ saved no one at all, including
myself. It wasnt supposed to. All it did was make salvation possible. Besides, every
single one of those sinners deserves to be in everlasting burnings, for, unlike me, they
didnt do what they should have and could have done. And here I am, in eternal bliss,
perfectly good and perfectly happy, even though billions of my fellow creatures are
perfectly miserable and doomed to stay that way forever! Yet, in the end, I only got here
myself because of what I did, not because of the sacrifice of Christ. I chose to
meet Gods demands for His so-called free gift and did so. I wasnt
given any special grace; it wasnt any easier for me than for anyone else. Its
too late now anyway, so let them burn. Too bad for them, but not for me. Im happy,
and so is God. In fact were all happy here.
Many do not seem to
realize that one does not succeed in avoiding boastfulness by simply being modest. For
such a person is still a boaster, albeit a modest and pleasant boaster instead of a
haughty and vocal boaster. One can only avoid boasting in self by truly ceasing to
believe, think and say things that are inherently of a boastful nature. It is only the
word of the cross that effectively and wisely trains us in this true humility (cf 1
Cor.1:18-30) so that if anyone is boasting, in the Lord let him be boasting (1
Cor.1:31; cp Gal.6:14). It is an empty gesture to go through the motions of
giving all the glory to God, while at the same time continually believing,
thinking and often even insistently declaring that good decisions and acts are things
which ultimately owe their existence to ones own self, God having but made them
possible. May He enlighten us to see, truly, that it is in the grace of
God that I am what I am (1 Cor.15:10).
It is wonderful to know
that mans rebellion, including all our proud imaginings, are no problem to God
whatever. For whenever He exercises His strong and saving hand, His people volunteer:
Your people shall be willing in the day of Your valor (Psa.110:3).
Behold! You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great vigor and by Your
outstretched arm. Not any matter is too marvelous for You (Jer.32:17). He is saying,
All My counsel shall be confirmed, And all My desire will I do (Isa.46:10).
SUBJECT TO HIS JUDGMENT
accountable to God; they are subject to His wise judgment, for the sake of His own
purpose and their good. They are not responsible in the sense of being
able to avoid, or prevent, their actions. May God cause us to remember this when we begin
to boast in ourselves, or, to grovel in undue self-condemnation. Let us not foolishly use
the freedom of this truth as an incentive to the flesh, yet let us not deny or neglect it
out of fear of so doing (cp Gal.5:13). And when others offend and injure us, may
God bring us to our senses by powerfully impressing these things upon our minds once
again, that we may be enabled to be much more sympathetic to all, bearing with one
another and dealing graciously among yourselves, if anyone should be having a complaint
against any. According as the Lord also deals graciously with you, thus also you. Now over
all these put on love, which is the tie of maturity (Col.3:13).
We, who in ourselves are
nothing and useless (Rom.3:12; Gal. 6:3), are nonetheless called upon to live by these
lofty ideals, and a great many others. They are our duties (or, in this sense, our
responsibilities), and it will be our loss to the degree we fail to carry them
out. It is evident, then, they are not given to us so that we might glorify ourselves
through our faithfulness, but to leave us no recourse than to turn to our God and Father
for His saving grace if we would fulfill them at all.
Divine indignation is a
theophany, a manifestation of the Deity. Gods
indignation is a figure of likeness; expressed in ordinary language, we
have called it condescensiona matter in which God condescends to being
spoken of as if He were human . . . so that He may reveal Himself in
terms within the range of human perception (KEYWORD CONCORDANCE,
In the day of His just
judgment, God will pay each one in accord with his acts (Rom.2:6). For their evil deeds,
they will receive indignation and fury, affliction and distress (Rom.2:9).
Through this wise and expedient exhibition, He will present Himself thus. The technical
term for such figures as divine indignation and fury (even as divine
regret or repentance), is anthropopatheia (human emotion).
As with all divine manifestations, this theophany will be effected through His Son,
Who is the Image of the invisible God (2 Cor.4:4), the Effulgence of His
glory and the Emblem of His assumption (Heb.1:3), to Whom He has given all
judging (John 5:22).
GOD DESIGNS ALL FOR GOOD
isliterally and absolutely speakingangry at no one at all. At the deepest
level, God is love (1 John 4:8) and love is not incensed (1 Cor.13:5). All is out of,
through and for Him, occurring in accord with the counsel of His will according to which
He operates all. Thus all accords with what must be (Rom.8:26).
This divinely assumed role
in which Christ will be manifested as the righteous God Who can only be indignant with
those who are persuaded to injustice (Rom.2:8), will prove to be an altogether
wise and expedient exhibition. For, at once, it will commend Gods own righteousness
(when set in contrast to mans injustice; Rom.3:5) and chasten (2 Peter 2:9) those of
whom He is fond in a way that is best for them. We mortals cannot become indignant without
also becoming sinful (cf Eph.4:26). But God is able to manifest Himself in such an assumed
role for the sake of His own glory and the benefit of all concerned, while all the while
acting in and being motivated by love and perfect righteousness. His motives are of the
highest order, and His purpose is for the greatest good.
The story of Joseph and
his brothers clearly illustrates the fact that since God operates all together for good,
there is therefore no ground whatever for literal, absolute indignation toward anyone. At
the human level it was a sordid tale of jealousy and hatred, wickedness and guilt. Though
at first the brothers had plotted to put him to death (Gen.37:18-20), they finally sold
him into the hands of Midianite merchants (Gen.37: 28). Years later, however, after having
been brought there as a slave, Joseph rose to a very high station in Egypt and was finally
appointed its governor by the Pharaoh.
Yahweh was with Joseph and
gave him the wisdom to recognize that He had devised his evil experience, doing so
for the good of all concerned. Joseph, perceiving the hand of God in it all, realized that
his brothers were but the men of His counsel, instruments in His hands. Therefore, not
only was Joseph not angry with his brothers, but he did not want them to be upset with
themselves either: And now, you must not grieve, and it must not be hot in your eyes
that you sell me hither, for to preserve life the Elohim sends me before you . . . the
Elohim [was] sending me before you to constitute you a remnant in the earth and to
preserve your lives for a great deliverance. And now, not you send me hither, for it
was the Elohim (Gen.45:5,7,8). You, you designed evil against meyet
the Elohim designs it for me for good, that it may work out as at this day
It was not that God merely
(as some will say) allowed but did not cause the actions of Josephs brothers. No, to
the contrary, God actually designedHe planned and brought to passthe
brothers evil (and sinful) deeds. But He did so for good, in the best interests of
all concerned and for His own glory.
The apostle Paul reveals
that the Hebrew scriptureswhatever was written beforeare to be
understood as representative of Gods ways with ourselves (Rom.15:4). For, if
not, they could hardly afford us endurance, consolation and
expectation as to our own trials and sufferings.
Gods WILL AND INTENTION
matters, undoubtedly, are among the depths of God (1 Cor.2:10). While He is
able to reveal them, He is surely able to conceal them: I am acclaiming Thee,
Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for Thou hidest these things from the wise and
intelligent and Thou dost reveal them to minors. Yea, Father, seeing that thus it became a
delight in front of Thee (cp Matt.11:25-27).
The Lord Jesus made this
acclamation of praise to God at the very time when He had just reproached the cities in
which most of His powerful deeds occurred, for they do not repent (Matt.11:
20). Our Lord recognized that it was Gods intention (or decretive will) that His
preceptive willChrists own call for repentanceshould be withstood.
Christ speaks of God as
acting intentionally, actually hiding His truth, not merely allowing
men to remain ignorant of it. Similarly, by removing our blindness (while we are yet
minors in faith), He reveals His truth to us. God is leading us toward maturity,
into all the riches of the assurance of understanding, unto a realization of the
secret of the God and Father, of Christ, in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
are concealed (Col.2:2,3).
In order to
hide the truth from us, no other means are needed than our own flesh, the
Adversary, and the influences which come upon us from this deceived world in which we
live. We will do well to follow the Lords example and entrust ourselves to God, not
to mortal flesh: Jesus Himself did not entrust Himself to [the Jews], because of His
knowing all men, for He had no need that anyone should be testifying concerning mankind,
for He knew what was in mankind (John 2:24,25).
Since God is good, we know
that He has a good purpose not only in the good, but in the evil as well, in darkness even
as in light. For God is operating all together for good. May He grace us to perceive His
glory concerning all (cp John 12:41).
counsel and will are common nouns. In some passages they are used
in reference to Gods counsel, or advice, which men will do well to heed that they
might receive the benefits attending such a course. Such passages speak of Gods
preceptive will, those things which He has chosen for mans instruction.
They point us to the will of God, good and well pleasing and perfect
(Rom.12:2; cp 1 Thess.5:18).
In other passages, the
terms will and counsel reveal the divine plans, those things which God has decided should
occur. These passages speak of Gods decretive will, what He has purposed to happen
or transpire. God is operating all according to the counsel of His own will. Concerning
all things, He has decided what should occur. Consequently, He acts accordingly, operating
all, causing everything that happens to come to pass (Eph.1:11). The only advice
acceptable to Him is that of His own decisions (cp Rom. 11:35). Concerning all, God
has decided what is best, and, He will do what is best. For He is God.
GOD IS LOVE
not that His indignation is not real, but that it fails to reveal His inmost
Being. It is a genuine divine assumption, one of many roles the Deity assumes
during the eonian times. Each one is full of wisdom and according to His purpose. The
purpose of this assumption is to make a display of indignation,
and to make His powerful doings known (Rom.9: 22). God is love. He is
We are never told
that God is justice, or God is power, or God is wisdom. These are His attributes, not His
essence. The distinction is of vital import, in the conflicting maze of reasoning
concerning Gods ways and words. Justice and power and wisdom are relative, but love
is absolute. He is never so just as when He justifies the unjust, for that is in line with
His love. He is never so strong as when His weakness overpowers human strength, for that
links it to love. He is never so wise as when His foolishness confounds the wisdom of men,
for that glorifies love.
All His attributes
appear and withdraw at the beck of love. All serve it and never go counter to its
commands. We cannot reason that God will do thus and so because He is just, or strong or
wise. Love may not give leave. But we can safely lay our heads on the bosom of His love
and there learn the great lesson that He is love, and has both the power and wisdom
to carry out the dictates of His affection. What clearer proof can be given that all that
He has done and is doing is leading up to that grand ultimate when He will be All in all,
and love will rest in being loved?*
Gods judgments are
not in opposition to or a denial of Pauls evangel, the good news of
lifes justifying for all mankind, being constituted just one day through the
obedience of Christ (Rom.5:18,19). For God is the Saviour of all mankind, and all will
be made alive (1 Tim.4:10; 1 Cor.15:22). The glorious fact is, our Saviour, Christ Jesus,
indeed, abolishes death (2 Tim.1:10), and God is vivifying all
In the midst of speaking
of Gods severity in the day of judging, Paul rejoices to interject that even this is
according to his evangel (Rom.2:16; that is, in accord
with, or founded upon his evangel; kata, DOWN). The
indignation and death which precede the glorious consummation are only temporary and will
soon pass; love and life are permanent and will never lapse.
We who are members of
Christs body have not been appointed to indignation, but to salvation (1
Thess.5:10). We shall be saved from the indignation of God through Christ (Rom.5:10). For
in the oncoming eons, God has purposed to display the transcendent riches of His grace in
us (Eph.2:7). For ourselves, Grace reigns for life eonian (Rom.5:21),
even if our work is a loss and we get no wages (1 Cor.3:14,15). Therefore, Gods good
news to us is, Where sin increases, grace superexceeds (Rom.5:20). Now
thanks be to God for His indescribable gratuity! (2 Cor.9: 15).
*CONCORDANT COMMENTARY, p.371; A. E. Knoch