His Achievement Are We
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 God’s 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 wasn’t 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 didn’t 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 God’s demands for His so-called ‘free gift’ and did so. I wasn’t given any special grace; it wasn’t any easier for me than for anyone else. It’s too late now anyway, so let them burn. Too bad for them, but not for me. I’m happy, and so is God. In fact we’re 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 one’s 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 man’s 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
Men are 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. God’s “indignation” is a figure of likeness; expressed in ordinary language, we have called it “condescension”—a 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, p.358).
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
God is—literally and absolutely speaking—angry 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 God’s own righteousness (when set in contrast to man’s 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 me—yet the Elohim designs it for me for good, that it may work out as at this day” (Gen.50:20).
It was not that God merely (as some will say) allowed but did not cause the actions of Joseph’s brothers. No, to the contrary, God actually designed—He planned and brought to pass—the 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 scriptures—“whatever was written before”—are to be understood as representative of God’s 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.
God’s WILL AND INTENTION
These 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 God’s intention (or decretive will) that His preceptive will—Christ’s own call for repentance—should 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 Lord’s 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).
The words “counsel” and “will” are common nouns. In some passages they are used in reference to God’s counsel, or advice, which men will do well to heed that they might receive the benefits attending such a course. Such passages speak of God’s preceptive will, those things which He has chosen for man’s 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 God’s 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
It is 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 not indignation.
“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 God’s 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?”*
God’s judgments are not in opposition to or a denial of Paul’s evangel, the good news of life’s 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” (1 Tim.6:13)!
In the midst of speaking of God’s 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 Christ’s 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, God’s 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
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