His Achievement Are We
WE TRUST this study will make it evident that indeterminism or “free will” is unscriptural, but no more so than fatalism. Yet both these philosophies contain vital truth. Free will ideally recognizes the essential place of those things which are means to an end, and fatalism truly perceives that whatever God has appointed will surely come to pass, according to His own operations. Truth is not made the worse for the company in which we may find it.
Neither are we contending for any cold, secular determinism which knows nothing of loving design, wise direction, and glorious purpose. We seek only to point the believer in Christ Jesus to the divine disposings, the gracious counsels and operations of his God and Father, that he may know Him, trust Him and rely upon Him:
“For I laid all this on my heart, and my heart saw all this: That the righteous and the wise and their services are in the hand of the One, Elohim” (Ecc.9:1). “Just as you have no knowledge what the way of the wind may be, Or how bones are formed in the belly that is full, Thus you cannot know the work of the One, Elohim, Who made everything” (Ecc.11:5). “Again I saw under the sun That the race is not to the fleet, Nor the battle to valiant masters, Nor even bread for the wise, Nor riches for the understanding, Nor even favor for the knowing, For season and mischance [or, “occurrence”] shall happen to them all. For, moreover, a man does not know his season, Like fish that are held in a vicious weir, And like birds that are held in a snare, So the sons of humanity themselves are trapped by a season of evil when it falls on them suddenly” (Ecc.9:11,12). “I applied my heart to inquiring and exploring by wisdom concerning all that is done under the heavens: it is an experience of evil Elohim has given to the sons of humanity to humble them by it” (Ecc.1:13).
Indeed, “According as it is written [Psa.44:22], that ‘On Thy account, we are being put to death the whole day, We are reckoned as sheep for slaughter’” (Rom.8:36).
“Account” is a variant of logos, LAY (say)ing; it is usually translated “word”. The sense is, concerning the evils that attend our course, God has decided, and He has spoken, saying that this should be our lot, even if the particulars concerning the affairs of each person are far too numerous to record as part of His written Word. Indeed, “Who is this who speaks and it is coming to be when my Lord did not instruct? Is not the evil and the good faring forth from the mouth of the Supreme?” (Lam.3:37, 38). “For, as the downpour and the snow is descending from the heavens, Yet it is not returning there but rather soaks the earth, and causes it to bear and to sprout, so shall My word which shall fare forth from My mouth. It shall not return to Me empty, But rather, it does that which I desire and prospers in that for which I sent it” (Isa.55:10,11).
It is on account of God that we experience evil, and, as surely as “sheep [are set] for slaughter”, we will continue to be subjected to it. But this is only so that in the midst of our afflictions and sufferings we might find the assurance of God’s love. It must be a vast love (cp Eph.2:4), full of patience and power, for the opposition is fierce and formidable. Though all manner of things threaten to separate us from Him and do their utmost toward that end, in all creation, nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord. In all our pains, “we are more than conquering through Him Who loves us” (Rom.8:37). As good as it is to “conquer,” it is far better to be inseparable from the love of God.
When we are conformed in character to the image of God’s Son and given a glorious body even as His own (Rom.8:29; Phil.3:21), it will be a great understatement to say that we have conquered our failings and overcome our afflictions. As good as it is to meditate upon the marvelous and total victory which lies ahead, it is even better to meditate upon God’s present love for us and what this love portends. His grace upon us consists of far more than the eventual defeat of Sin. Its riches are to be found in a realization of His love. Since God is able and since He loves us “neither death nor life, nor messengers, nor sovereignties, nor the present, nor what is impending, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom.8:38,39). Through Him Who loves us, we are “more than conquering”; we are loved.
GOD HAS MADE US
Most believers seem to realize that at least the rest of creation never comes into existence, and can never be sustained, except according to divine providence. Yet if men and their ways were somehow an exception to this, we might never have been born at all. The “possibility” of our having been generated by chance is even far more remote than the absurd fantasy that, “Given enough time and typewriter ribbons, a roomful of monkeys could both create and type out the Encyclopaedia Britannica.” It is vital to recognize that “Yahweh, He is Elohim; He it is Who has made us, and we are His” (Psa.100:3).
Left to the winds of chance, we could never have become “pre-expectant in the Christ,” and destined to be “for the laud of [God’s] glory” (Eph.1:12). We could never have become ourselves, with all the countless things that make us unique, except through our own actual parents, and through that unique begettal, in all its details, which resulted in our birth, to say nothing of all that has happened since. The truth is, most do not even realize that God is their Creator, much less the Creator of evil. They merely think He created all the natural processes which made their life “possible,” and then left whatever might happen to freewill chance.
HONORABLE DEEDS AND DIVINE PROVIDENCE
The truth of our words is well represented in the following popular claim: “My parents, even as all of their ancestors before them, ‘chose’ to have me—or at least they could have chosen not to. No one had to be conceived. Otherwise, there would be no honor in the bed of matrimony or dishonor in adultery.”
Such words, which are most persuasive to those attuned to the world’s ethics, are actually altogether foolish. In response, we can only say, “Let no one be deluding himself. If anyone among you is presuming to be wise in this eon, let him become stupid, that he may be becoming wise, for the wisdom of this world is stupidity with God” (1 Cor.3:18,19).
Such claims can never be maintained. For the determination of what is honorable or dishonorable is not to be discovered by the supposed relationship between human actions and free will, but by ascertaining what God has said is right and what He has said is wrong, according to His revealed preceptive will.
Even this changes in many ways, depending upon the divine administration under which we are living. It was not wrong for the people of Israel to omit performing those things which were only given through the apostle Paul many centuries later. And it is not wrong for us today to refrain from doing many an external that brought dishonor and severe judgment to the transgressor of the law of Moses. For he was under the law of Yahweh, and subject to its curses. However, for ourselves, ”Christ reclaims us from the curse of the law, becoming a curse for our sakes” (Gal.3:13).
Though we are not lawless people—we are not without God’s law, His rules of action for us (1 Cor.9:21)—nonetheless we are not under law at all, but under grace (Rom.6:14). Therefore we are certainly not under the law which God gave to Israel through Moses. To be “under law” is to be subject to the lordship of Sin and Death (Rom.6:9,14), because of one’s having committed a violation of law. For “sin is lawlessness”(1 John 3:4), and the “ration of Sin is death” (Rom.6:23a). But, “Sin shall not be lording it over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom.6:14). For ourselves, “now the consummation is life eonian.” For “the gracious gift of God is life eonian, in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom.6:22,23).
The unbelief of the Jews remained a dishonor to them, even though they were unable to believe (John 12:39). Yet to the chosen ones, “according to the foreknowledge of God” (1 Pet.1:1,2), who were believing “through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11), was “the honor, yet to the unbelieving: . . . [the dishonor of being those who rejected Christ] who are stumbling also at the word, being stubborn, to which they were appointed also” (1 Pet.2:7, 8). Their stumbling was to be accounted for by their being stubborn, yet they were appointed to this by God (cf Isa.6:9, 10; Rom.11:32).
It is hardly to the dishonor of a woman of the most excellent virtue and strength of character that she is unable to engage in base, sordid acts. She cannot choose them, for they are abhorrent to her. Likewise, the vile, wicked acts of those “that do not stop from sin” (2 Pet.2:14), who love unrighteousness and commend the unclean, do not become any less abominable because they are but flesh and the flesh is not able to be subject to the law of God (Rom.8:7).
Apart from God’s all-encompassing operations, any number of things might have hindered either the beginnings of our life or its continuance at countless points along the way. Consequently, we thank Him for our life and breath and all. It is far from ideal to think of ourselves, more or less, as self-made men. For it is not our name that is to be glorified but His. To be faithful, our prayer can only be that our God should be fulfilling every delight of goodness and work of faith and power in us (2 Thess.1:11). Prayer must never be based upon the proud sentiment, “Help me, but not too much, for I still want some glory of my own.”
It is God Who fulfills all that is good in us. As the Lord Jesus said of Himself, “Now the Father remaining in Me, He is doing His works” (John 14:10). For ourselves as well, then, it can only be thus, “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, in accord with the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess.1:12).
INTERCONNECTION AND DEPENDENCY
Not realizing that God’s creation of evil is a righteous creation for the good of all and for His own glory, many express shocked disbelief when hearing us say that it is the work of His hand. Yet their unbelief concerning His creation of evil distracts them from facing the fact that neither do they believe that He is the Maker of good, certainly not in man’s personal character and well-being, since these, indeed, depend in such great measure on his own choices, and yet it is insisted that nothing at all, certainly not God, causes him to choose as he does. Therefore, notwithstanding its followers’ best intentions and outward forms to the contrary, traditional Christianity has largely become an atheistic religion. For the realm of Chance is under the direction of no one at all.
Christianity often represents itself as if it were dualistic: “God only makes good, the Devil makes evil”, only to turn about and become polytheistic: “Where you spend eternity is ‘up to you’.” It likes to pretend to be monotheistic: “God is the sovereign Lord of all;” but in the end proves itself actually to be atheistic: “Man, even as God, possesses free will [that is, the power of contrary choice], and is not caused to behave as he does.”
Nonetheless, if God had not caused someone to bring the evangel to us, or if we had died prior to such a time, we would hardly have been in a position to believe or to do anything else. Yet, as history and universal experience have shown, things quite inconsequential in themselves have often altered the subsequent course of men’s lives in far-reaching ways. This principle of interconnection and dependency is true of all things and at all times, though it should spread to concern itself with multiplied trillions upon trillions of details throughout all time.
The secret of God’s will (Eph.1:9) is “to have an administration of the complement of the eras, to head up all in the Christ . . . in Whom our lot was cast also” (Eph.1:10,11). This reminds us of Proverbs 16:33: “It is the lot that is cast forth in the bosom; Yet from Yahweh is its every judgment.” That is, the determination of our destiny, and the destiny of all, is entirely in the hands of God. This is the very point of the figure, “in Whom our lot was cast also.” God appoints His Son “enjoyer of the allotment of all” (Heb.1:2), and “Head over all” (Eph.1:22). And when God heads up all in Christ, all will find their allotment in His allotment. None will receive anything but what is first of all His. Truly, all is of God.
However, in the relative sense, many things are “not of God,” for they are contrary to His preceptive will as well as to His callings (e.g.,1 John 3:10; Gal.5:8). But even these, absolutely speaking, find their source, means, and goal in the counsels and operations of God. “Let all the earth fear Yahweh; . . . For He spoke, and it came to be; He enjoined, and it stood firm. Yahweh, He annuls the counsel of the nations; He repudiates the designs of the peoples. The counsel of Yahweh shall stand for the eon, The designs of His heart for generation after generation” (Psa.33:8-11).
It is true that God’s preceptive will and counsel can be repudiated, indeed this is usually the case today. But it is just as true that His decretive will and counsel shall stand. “All My counsel shall be confirmed, And all My desire will I do” (Isa.46:10b). It will come to pass, on account of Him.
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