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Jesus Christ, Defaced, Unfazed: Barrister of Bliss
THE BARRISTER OF LOVE
What might one hope for in a barrister of love, divine, eternal, overflowing with grace and kindness, just and true, desiring to share wisdom and felicity with a people freely His. And who are these ? they are those neither conformed by intrusion nor controlled by diffusion, being lovers at liberty, yet not God, since one only is God, from everlasting to everlasting. Indeed, let us ponder the position from the beginning*1 in the God of the Bible and see how events mirror that very God to perfection.
What case might He make for man, and man-management ?
He might have considered NOTHING as the plan. Let alone. Do nothing, say nothing, have nothing in the realm of creation whatsoever, be Oneself alone.
There is no love visible in this, and we are considering the outcomes of such a Being as the Bible depicts, and as man at his most livable, lovable and effective tends towards, as to principle and procedure (cf. Christ Incomparable, Lord Indomitable Ch. 3, in loco).
Nothing has no go, no case: such a barrister would not be expected to choose that; nor did He. We are HERE.
Secondly, consider the barrister element. God is One. Where is the barrister aspect then ?
One God indeed there is, and biblically there is even more wonder. He is not, as we are, merely gifted with words, with ability to make cases, to deliver expression and to rejoice in the wonder of words: His is a Being in three persons. Each is infinitely intimate with the other, and just as we can ponder 'within ourselves' or 'urge ourselves' to this or that, expression attending thought and thought attending purpose, so God, we learn from the Bible, not merely does this, but does far more as the original through whom we, in His image, are created.
His Being exists not only as the everlasting Father, but as the everlasting Word. He expresses Himself in a Person who IS His word. Not only so, He effects His purposes through His Spirit, alike an eternal, personal person in His deity. Each is deity, each is infinitely involved with the other, and as one this Being, God, operates. Consultation, information, cogitation, action, application: all is in His purvey and in His three Persons He moves and has His Being.
Thus is the Word of God, that Jesus who became flesh*1, who in I John 2:1-2 is seen as a barrister, as one who is an advocate, who presents case for mercy to the Father. He is more; He is not less.
This loving Word of God, then, as revealed in the Bible, does He have a case for the creation of gods ? Is He to be seen as desiring to make those the same as Himself, definitive expressions of deity ? (Hebrews 1, John 8:58).
Of course not: as eternal He CANNOT make what is NOT YET there and have it also eternal. The case does not exist for this. This is no demission of His power, since it is only to do what He WILLS which is the expression of infinite power. To do what He does NOT will is merely an expression of infinite confusion. He does not do this! What He has done He has done, and that ALREADY the expression of His will.
What then ? Might He not create various kinds of original beings, from birds to mammals, from fish to butterflies ? He might indeed. Might these not express the facility of His mind, the ingenuity of His insights and be a testimony ? They might indeed.
Yet a testimony to what ? For what might the case be made, in this respect ? It might be a testimony to beings near to Himself, able to understand, yet not gods. Not gods ? Why not gods ? Why not, though they cannot be eternal or deity ? why could He not wish to make beings susceptible to no rules, to no discipline, to no limits and hence capable of anything ?
The case for this would entail that He was willing to abdicate*2A, which would mean that He was not God, since this would mean His knowledge of time, as a product involving limitations of a categorical kind, as a creation, was defective. Why IN time, a creation below Him, decide to be what He is not now, beyond the invention of chronology ? That would subject Him to His creation, the whole to the particular, the original to the invention, the all-knowing to the always known, making of Him a potential to be actualised on stimulus, and hence a creation!
For this to happen to Him, He would need to be a part of creation, subject to change and hence to a created constitution, and not objectively over all creation with all knowledge, time a mere creation in itself; and that is merely a different model, not relevant. We are discussing the works and wonders of the God of the Bible, and what the word of God, as a barrister, might propound for action and delight to do, how it all fits: what the case could be on the one hand for this revealed Being, and what has happened, in perfect and noble consistency.
Indeed, not merely is this so, but gods without limits could become fiends without limits, and this would have the same result as that above.
There have to be limits for what is not-God while God is God. Abdication is out of the question. Hence not gods... there is no case for this.
There is thus the need to have the righteousness of the biblical God involved in the creation. There are limits for His creations, not imposing on Him, but flowing from who and what He is.
This returns us to the concept of testimony in a lesser creation, such as birds, butterflies and yes, spiders, for example.
What might the case possibly then be for making beings not gods, and of course not deity, but something different ? What would be the case for making what is in some sense like Him, able for example to talk, to communicate with Him, to participate in His expression, to know deeply and frankly, His word ? Given the love of the God of the Bible, this has a powerful case for presentation.
What felicity is to be exported in this way, and what gorgeous wonders may be shared with such beings, not unlimited, but delimited, and yet not without liberty, merely without autonomy, beings who could act negatively or positively, without having all the power of God, who could express themselves meaningfully towards the Lord and to truth, without gaining control of the universe, proponents of propositions, exponents of ideals, ideas, visions be they right or wrong
Love might be expected to look for such a thing as this.
Just so, is the biblical record. In fact, God made man in His own image.
What however about liberty ? Let us ponder it further.
Since nothing beyond God exists, therefore nothing can control Him and His liberty is entire. This cannot be given for the reasons noted, illimitably to a creature, to some creation; but might not love present and propound a case for having a creation of a specific spiritual kind. It could be one which, while having limits, and while being set up and designed to live in terms of righteousness, where truth and justice are present, indeed in terms of love - since God is love (I John 4:7ff.), and this is how the fulness of His being and blessing and sharing is to be found: yet has liberty.
Why liberty ? It is because this is the personal side of things without which there is really little to export, to give. Delete this and you delete love in such a creation. Liberty to think, deploy thought, ideas, ideals: this enables love. Indeed; and without it, love is but mirage and word-talk*2B.
What however of this liberty ? Must it be just an appearance, so that love might be proclaimed loudly for such a production ? Let's call it 'man' since we then know in one word about what we speak. Man could not be so made with love, since in truth God is love, and the love of truth is part of that love, for love rejoices in the truth (I Corinthians 13:6). As soon, moreover, as anyone should cease to rejoice in the truth, then there comes deviousness, collision with it (as the reality); and in fact, the case is such that the final reality, the Author of creation COULD not fail to rejoice in the truth without ceasing to BE God.
Consider the case. There would be actual reality, and there would be this 'god' (since God could not be such, and is not, thus lest His name be misused, we use this formulation for presenting the case). The two would be out of step or line or sympathy. NOT rejoicing in the truth would imply a certain reserve towards it, a lack of empathy or involvement as if it were in whole or part, outré, diverse or divergent. In that case, ultimate reality could not BE God, but would be something else. In that case, by simple definition of who God is, this god would not be He.
God then in love of truth, in making scope for man to have this love and share His wonder, would have the case. Such a case would be for the making, the creation of man. It is in the most felicitous harmony with what is revealed in the Bible concerning the nature and character of the God of creation and Lord of all. Let us then ponder further the case.
Would however man be made automatically to love truth ? That is a contradiction in terms and merely programmatic substitution for personality*2. Would man be so made then, that he might well love the truth ? Necessarily. HOW might he so be made ? It would involve susceptibility to knowing God (without which the initial case does not exist), along with liberty and knowledge of and access to the wonders of God, without being so controlled by them that other options COULD not he realised at all.
This is precisely what happened, in full concord with the God of love, of the Bible.
Thus man was given initial knowledge of God and of the world. Indeed as to the latter, man was encouraged in it, naming the animals, acting with initiative to observe, conceptualise, analyse and confer characterisation, in the usual Hebrew manner of naming evident in the Bible. Thus, being placed in a fruitful position in the world, and so able to appreciate its marvels, the handiwork of the very One who made him also, he has liberty and love as a nascent ground of being, and the use of the former will have results in the experience of the latter. It is not the same as removing the access to it (cf. Romans 5:8ff.), but it does sever experience and status at the outset, when love is dismissed and breach is the governor of thought, the lord of ideas and the rule of living.
This is precisely what happened, also.
COULD he then fall ? Of course this is so; for if not, where is liberty ?
In what way might be fall, and what would be concordant as one possibility with the case!
Man as created, would need to be able to DISCERN another way, and to be seduced into it, ONLY if it was in direct defiance of God, for the essentials need to be real. On the other hand, however, this would be in such a model, in such a way that the real options came out, so enabling the results to be proportionate to the cause, in accord with the criteria of truth, justice and love.
What happened was in exact accord with this. Man was allowed to be spoken to by an animal (Genesis 3). Since he was given authority over the whole animal realm, this meant that his role was to act in accordance with the conditions for his own creation: and authority over them does not include abeyance of the commands given to him, or the orientation involved. It does not mean to obey what he rules, far less in contravention of the orders of the One who instituted both.
Man however, despite the obvious mischief of an animal talking rebellion, clearly a spiritual phenomenon in whatever guise, or instrument, took action. He listened. Indeed, initially in the person of Eve, he heeded. Both therefore fell, in unison with each other, and defiance of the Lord.
The case itself, for such an action on the part of man, one against divine orders, could only be put in this way in direct contravention of the authority of man and the source of that authority. Lust for power, for prestige, position or greatness were all involved. Satan, using the format of a snake, thus enabling men to see the enormity of listening and the nature of the source as adverse to God and order, put the case for disbelieving God and impugning His motives. He suggested that God might be on the rampage, trying to suppress the innate greatness or grandeur or destiny of man, and thus giving orders, not out of love, but out of shove, If you prefer, it could be phrased a little differently: the devil's proposition would be that God in making the rules, had done so out of an arrogant and disdainful desire to lord it in simple selfish squalor, over the mere subordinate realm in which man was placed. God was made to appear a self-preserving tyrant.
Adam and Eve bought this, the latter first as a proposition, though in the propaganda format Satan provided, and then both in action.
The idiocy of such a proposition as Satan was presenting, might very properly have appeared. The case was by no means too difficult.
Not only was it simply obvious that an assault on the WORD of God, which the devil sought to contravene in simple breach of divine orders on the part of Eve, was an assault on the nature of man, since God alone was his source, so that the satanic suggestion HAD to be destructive; but it also meant that the bond of trust was to be broken on the basis of mere suggestion. To yield to 'stories' about anyone without evidence is neither loving nor true, but an abortion of all decency, an assault on truth and a slide into gross dereliction.
Yet it was far worse even than this, the failure of Eve to obey God, and of Adam in participating in this failure; for it involved their voluntary derailing from contented creature status, into mindless rebellion! If God in fact desired to get something out of man, to complete His own satisfaction, then He would have a yen, desire, need, deficiency which until the creation would be unmet, so that His would be an incomplete nature, one in which demands within - speciously in this model simply built on the limited status of man, a creation of His - were seeking an outcome to fulfil the needs or desires so far unmet in the divine being.
That is a simple contradiction in terms.
If desire or need once outstripped attainment, let alone in this basic and deep-seated fashion, then it would be a constituent in the divine being acting on its own donated or created manner, in a system or situation where it was beyond the means provided. It is therefore a creation situation, not the Creator condition which is then being held in view.
A nature with unmet needs is one with a dower of omitted power, and hence the subject of being placed by what made it so. This not being possible when there is no dower, but simply the Eternal Being, God, it is clear that the discussion is dealing with someone not he, some 'god' of the imagination. We however are not considering what is impossible, indeed a mere contradiction in terms, but the outcome of love in the Creator whose word declares Him to be such. We are finding the ridiculous character of trying to invent another 'god', such as Satan speciously suggested to Eve.
This was not only a perfidious act in Eve, an unfounded one, therefore: it was an irrational one and added to rebellion from simple command, and divinely donated perspective, the additional deficiency of imputation both of evil to God, and irrational thought at the same time. While it may be rather a lot to expect Eve to surmise in her proceedings, all that has so far been said, yet she had a number of walls to breach before she took the step that she did. If she had the least compunction about assaulting the very name of the donor of such felicity as she found; if she had looked to the least contribution of reason to the need to substantiate the propositions emanating from this animal, the permitted format for Satan in this test; if she had even considered her power as proper, to rule the animal world (as this creature appeared to inhabit), and not to be ruled by its insinuations or other authority: then she would not have fallen.
Multiple were the barriers to be broken before the Fall occurred; multiple was the transgression, and precise though polluted was the human performance within the meaningful and vast, but not unlimited liberty with which mankind had been created. Meaningful and educative, a free choice had been made, one couched in a multitude of elements, where love, trust, gratitude, reason and obedience and reliability, faithfulness and a clean imagination were all part. Such was the amazing outcome of this creation. It was amazing not because of the Fall in itself, merely, from such beauty of holiness and provision to scheming spiritual squalor and ambition, but because of the wonder of the creation of a being of such powers to decide as were then in operation, and the simple magnificent aptitude of the test!
What then might one expect, what SORT of thing
might one imagine, then for love, the love of the
God of the Bible to present for man ? What might the Word as a barrister, a blessed barrister, present, outside creation, for having such a being as man to be formed, created and instituted, on with such powers of enterprise and thought, will and intimation ?
To put it in terms of our analytical approach, what do we find in the case that might be made ?
It is this. The divine barrister indeed might look for or urge a situation in which the moral, rational and cogitative capacities of man were challenged into action, where the whole nature of love was at issue without mere abstraction, the entire thrust of trust and of contentment also. It would be one allowing the thrust of other options to be presented in a way conspicuous for its folly, yet subtle enough not to be a mere opportunity for thoughtless dismissal, without sensing the scope of the options.
He might in other words have done JUST SUCH A THING as we learn that He did. It matches. It is near, it is intimate to the nature of the outreach of love and truth, that He should do so. It harmonises, in other words, to perfection with the declared nature of God that He acted in this declared manner. Indeed, even the direct intimation of the attitude in view was made explicit by Satan.
Picturing the Word in His barrister gown, then, in order to convey the essential points, we proceed. The next question now arises.
What might then be done when mankind fell ? Love might interpose and urge that destruction should be not the only result. Mercy which is an essential component of love (cf. Matthew 5:7), might seek to find, in truth the manner in which this might be achieved. Truth might insist that the case for death had been STATED and STIPULATED from the first, and should be performed. Mercy might then seek arrest, and indicate that this did not mean that nothing else could be done, which might indeed enable this to be done, and yet attenuate or even overcome the result.
As we consider in this way the EXPRESSION of the various characteristics biblically revealed of God, in this sort of activated scenario, we find that we are moving. Let us move with it, as from the word of a barrister of love, a splendid Person equipped with all wisdom, understanding, truth and of the nature of love, indeed participating eternally in love's original, the Word of God.
It might then be urged that death MUST occur; and to this response could be made that this was indefeasible: that it must be done, but that it must be countermanded. That thought could make for confusion, so that its meaning might be presented: simply overcome. Then it could be countermanded BECAUSE overcome.
HOW could such a thing be done ? While of course God knew from the beginning what He would do (Acts 15:18, Isaiah 46:10, 45:21, 14:24-27, Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 2:8-9, Revelation 1:8, Romans 11:33-36, Amos 3:7, Matthew 5:17-20), and time is merely a creation, itself (Romans 8:37ff.), in which what is beyond it is given scope for its eternal knowledge to be applied, yet the realities involved are all the more potent for thought.
What then ? Mercy's appeal might be conceived as meeting truth's insistence, while love looks. And what in wisdom does it see ? (cf. I Corinthians 1:30). It sees that death can be transferred as a penalty. (In our parlance, we might seek a parallel in the transfer of the burden of a debt from son to father, who pays: and this avoids the negation of truth and responsibility on the one hand, while showing mercy on the other).
To what then could it be transferred ? It could be given to some other parallel creature ? Too small, for man being the highest creation in material format, biblically - and it is this for consistency and harmony and wonder of wisdom which we are examining - there is nothing equal to the task of receiving such a debt. Could another man be created, another mankind, so that it might bear it ? What however would this gain ? It would do to the second what was desired to be avoided for the first, and achieve morally and in terms of love, precisely nothing. What if then it was a species of man which did not have freedom, that could be created as a substitute: it would be not personal, and hence could take the rap without such carnage and horror as it would mean in such a being as mankind in fact is, where pity must yearn and sorrow be strong for his folly!
No, for in that case, there would be the counter that such a 'man' was in name only, and to name something is not to have it, and to name an action is not to perform it. This would be as unequal as choosing some other phase, facet or being in the world of creation, already made, below man, as his substitute.
What then if some spirit were chosen to take the penalty, to whom it might well be transferred ? What indeed - such a thought... if some wicked spirit were chosen for the purpose (shades of the heresy of White in the Seventh Day Camp of origin! - cf. Hebrews 2, 9-10). Could not justice be weighed out to such a spiritual culprit ? and why not the devil himself, for he is highly elevated in kind, though fallen in nature, and deserving of discipline!
However while truth insists on an equality, love requires a willingness. To place the penalty for someone else's crime on ANOTHER is not just, unless the other is willing. If it is not willing, then a heartless judge is seen as giving to the other the results of the first, so that neither is truth nor is justice done. Further, a spirit is not a man, and the vulnerabilities and openness to defections and displacements in man are of their own kind; and again, a non-infinite being is too small for such a burden as all of mankind, nor could the understanding needed in bearing as INNOCENT the guilt which had made innocence fall, be instituted in the devil.
The cases are unequal, inadequate and disparate. It would not do.
What however if it were urged, by the barrister, that we must consider whether the penalty in justice COULD be transferred to another even if willing ? Might He, the divine barrister not urge that without this, there fails to be a meeting of the case, but an impersonal manner of doing it for persons which, being the nature of the case, means that justice is mulcted.
It might, but the barrister could then resolve the issue, pointing out that where willingness to pay is in question, and that for another, this is the very nature of love with its colossal concern for its object, and that as to justice, it is met by being paid for. The personal element needed, to satisfy justice, would require only that a person should pay, one capable of experiencing at least what would have come to the culprit in the fall.
It might moreover be urged that a refusal to allow a willing party to pay the penalty for the one who committed the 'crime' is unjust in this, that it would mean that justice was prejudicial to performance, and wanted to grab its man regardless of mercy and willingness, thus making for an impersonal realm, whereas the truth is personal.
What however if the point were then presented that the culprit MUST be at least be made to realise the error, or spiritual truth would be falsified, and to repent of it. This agreed, however, the counterpoint could arise that the repentance would need to be as deep as the life which committed the crime, in the interests both of justice and of truth, and indeed to involve the experience of the loss of innocence, at least vicariously. While this would not need to be in heart, since it is mere transfer, it would have to be in experience, so that the damage in its utmost reaches should be received and paid for in full substitutionary horror.
From this there is no answer, unless from a willing party, who also is adequate.
What if, then, the Barrister of Bliss, as He is now being seen to be, should add to His case that He Himself was willing to be that one, the transferee so that justice would be not mulcted, and truth not besmirched.
What however of the depth of repentance required in the culprit, and how could this be achieved ?
It would at least be satisfied if the very mode of accepting the penalty were such that the culprit had to die with the Sin Bearer. Yet how could this be done if life was the objective ? It would mean then that the spiritual nature of the culprit must die in and with the Saviour, so that the creator's hand could then conceive anew this very being, as if born again from the womb (as in John 3, II Corinthians 5:17ff.).
There would need to be not only a vicarious atonement, but an achievement of identity, so that it would be IN and WITH the Saviour that the culprit's very personality would die, and from Him that it would rise again, a new creation, identical as before, but with an outcome of high import. This ? It would be that now, though stricken in spirit, the one pardoned would now arise from that death in the vitality of God Himself. Since the Word IS God, then in Christ Himself, would the sinner now shriven, arise, alive to, in and through the Lord of glory, the Messiah: Christ being the same as the Hebrew 'Messiah' and this being the one to bear the sin.
It might be further urged that this remedy should be intimated from the first (as in Genesis 3:15, the prelude to John 3:16, which arithmetically moves up one!). Thus the ground would not be the last word, but the first; and from it there would be visible the heavens in their mercy, until the time, the set time (Psalm 102), the fulness of time (Galatians 4:4), the precise time (as predicted in Daniel 9:24-27*3), should come.
This is just what happened. The match continues to be perfect between the revealed wisdom, love and righteousness of God, His mercy and faithfulness, and history, what He did.
In what way however could this step in view be taken, could this work be done, unless the Saviour who died, Himself was resurrected physically, so showing that death was beaten, not merely in appearance but in reality, not merely in some form, but in the very form that the sinner's guilt required ? Since God in His own Being and form, cannot be killed, even the form of man would have to be one in which the Spirit of the Christ would be committed to the Father at t he arrival of death (as occurred - Luke 23:46), and the body duly raised when it was clear enough that it was a resurrection.
Since God would therefore, in the form of man, and the name of the Christ, have a resurrection, man could be conceived as sharing in this renewal of life by being spiritually resurrected in Him, the physical aspect coming later (I Corinthians 15:51ff.). Why later however ? why not at once ?
Here the Sublime Barrister might urge that to resurrect at once would mean a litter of people coming to be again in eternal bodies, before history was complete, a situation of disorder. If it is for any, in justice then, for all; so that there would be the suitability at least, of a general resurrection wherever the end of history was in view, or at least of the Age of the offer of this transfer of guilt to the Christ. It might appear as GOOD NEWS (the Greek term from which Gospel is derived). That too was predicted (Isaiah 52:7 cf. Nahum 1:15).
But to whom would the transfer opportunity be given ? Why to all, since God is love (cf. Colossians 1:19ff., Titus 2-3, I John 4, I Timothy 2). But how, it might be contested, could the very nature of man as a person in God's image be maintained (so that it was indeed a resurrection, and not some DIFFERENT being that was now in view), unless man no more NEEDED to accept this divine offer of mercy through the vicarious atonement of the Messiah, than Eve needed, than Adam needed, to reject the bliss of being friends with God as new creations!
In this, it might be tabled, there was no real difficulty, except in the extent of the love which would need to be shown. It would mean that sullied, spoilt, soiled, conditioned and relapsed man would have to be drawn out of his condition, not merely dragooned. If it were the latter, that would mean force; and neither does love force, as all men should know, nor can its ministrations abide in such a realm. How then could man be drawn ? It could be only if he might refuse. Yet he would refuse, if sin still gripped his soul.
How then would mercy act!
Could the sin be stripped away long enough for man as if a fresh creation to choose all over again, then ? Not really, for this is merely playing the parameters of man, and pretending that what is, is not, that man's guilt is detachable while he continues to be merely a fallen man, so deluding and distorting the reality and merely playing with models. The point is this: man's almost god-like propensities, in surveying and choosing, are not those of an actual 'god' since there are none of these, as we saw. ONLY One has the necessary freedom from limits and control. How then could the reality of freedom, and hence of love, be protected ?
It could be so protected only if God made the change that related to the free transfer of guilt from the culprit to the Messiah, yet made it with respect to a freedom which HE recognised and which HE could enact through a power past mere empathy: and so ensure that only those to whom it related, would be freed. These then would die into and with the Messiah, and be raised, first spiritually and then later, at the general resurrection, with Him as Lord returned for the event (as foretold in fact in Acts 1:7ff., I Thessalonians 4, Matthew 24).
Would this not however mean that some men had been created better intrinsically than others, and hence would be seen as the fitting choice for God ? No, that occurs only if, contrary to scripture, you divorce man from having a relevance of his will to God. If you propose a contradiction of the word of God in this point, naturally you defile the issues and remove the harmony of truth.
Could not then man's will simply choose God out of his sin ? No, we have already seen that this would be to discharge the consequences of sin in a way which defiled the realities and was not true. Sin spoils and when the spirit is soiled it is not operative as if it were not.
Could not then God temporarily enlighten the fallen spirit so that it chose when in this ecstatic or ex-sin condition ? No, for there IS no such ex-sin condition for sin, and to remove from sin before it is borne and transferred is simply a contradiction in terms.
With what then, the Barrister might urge, are we left ? It is with God choosing His own on the basis that does not blight liberty, nor acknowledge superiority, and in this knowledge, bringing the enlightenment and repentance as a grant to His own ? Thus is love satisfied nay sated in the splendour of mercy and the height of kindness to mankind (cf. Titus 2-3, where this kindness to man is declared as reflected no less in Colossians 1:19ff., I John 2, I Timothy 2 and John 3:16-19*4).
Would it not be better, however, the counter-claim might be surveyed, if God simply chose some, and they were not known or involved at all. He just mysteriously*5 chose them ? No, comes the rejoinder, for God IS love and would have ALL to repent and come to a knowledge of the truth, as He states and as conforms to His self-declaration. To the contrary of that, this now envisaged sort of segregation is precisely that which puts man into a kind of capsule wherein something in him, not will, is the criterion. What then is the sort of criterion for God but godliness ? Is He to prefer less when there is more!
Yet the Bible, the Word Himself, tells us that the wonder of His love is this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5), that few of the wise or noble are chosen (I Corinthians 1). Not to defile the stated grandeur of His love, nor to deify the wrecked inability of man's fallen will: there is a means for this.
It is to act relative to man's will in the sense of John 3:19, where THIS IS THE CONDEMNATION, that men in the very presence of the present light of the incarnate Christ, PREFER darkness. It is impossible to remove the will from relevance in the light of this, just as it is impossible to place it in the cockpit, in the light of John 1:12, where what brings man to God is NOT the will of man or his blood or any such thing. It is of God alone.
Thus the will of man in its God-known reality is relevant but inoperative. This is precisely what the Bible teaches and fits precisely with the God of love which the Bible reveals. IT does not choose God, but God chooses it (John 15, Romans 9:16); and yet, with this, He chooses in such a way that it is sin against the light of the Christ of advent which is in view, not just sin in general. What if the case might continue to be put: Is it not a superior susceptibility to God which would make a man willing to come to God ?
To that is the reply to hand. Yes, indeed it would be if we were thinking in terms of fallen man, and his world and its witness and its ways. It is this however which we have excluded. Predestination is in eternity (Ephesians 1:4), and the ways of predestination, election, do not wait upon history! (Romans 9:11), far less upon works (Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2:1-10).
Thus is put the case: we however, constrained by the scripture (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 9:16) are NOT to consider the work as in and of our own time. Our deeds are not the criterion, nor any part of their interstices, but God's actions (cf. John 6:65).
Thus the Blessed Barrister of Bliss could conceivably have urged: It is only when the will is fallen that its inferior or superior qualities becomes matters of relative merit. When it is conceived as unfallen, it is back in the precise situation which explicitly expressed freedom at the first, at Eden, in terms of which responsibility man was judged, and condemned to death, the penalty foreknown by man.
In this situation then, or its parallel as known to God, not only is there no merit, since goodness only is there, but there is no differential of higher or lower intrinsic value (as in car models). Innocence is innocence and that, in terms of created GOODNESS, is that!!
When the will falls, then, in this elemental situation, it is not because of this or that superiority, since all in that type of situation, are perfect. Rather is any fall because the will's own elemental power, as surely as the Creator who calls it, as a created thing, to account (John 3:19, Isaiah 48:16ff.) does so in the light both of love and justice alike. The will is real and operative at its own level, and though befouled and inoperative, is not defaulted, as if man were no more man, or God no more God, to deal with him in reality as the being made, however fallen.
A will that CANNOT choose evil is not free any more than one which MUST choose good. The test was of freedom in the reality of love; and without this, there is no place for love at all. Love hopes all things, and where it adheres, this is so. Where it is not so, love is being detached. Where love is inoperative in the vulnerable and tested plight of man, God is not in it, for He is love. Love does not compel, but rather impels (cf. John 6:44); yet until judgment itself brings the end of liberty to its own conclusion (cf. Isaiah 57:15, John 3:36), the operational reality is the love of God in mercy and profundity. He does not change.
Yet HOW, the case might be elaborated, COULD evil suggest itself to the perfect person, as in the case of Eden. This is not a problem, comes the reply, since this WAS the case. You cannot dismiss history by saying it cannot happen. You merely talk; it does. Yet let us go further in our case as imagined and present it.
First, then, evil DID suggest itself in the format of Satan. That is how it is.
Yet HOW could it have a spiritual receptor in the perfect person? the point is pressed.
Not a difficulty, comes the reply. The perfect person for love's setting, which is the biblical depiction which we investigate in this manner, in giving a reason for the hope which is in us (I Peter 3:15), as authorised, it is this: this person has certain qualities.
What then are those qualities ? the matter is urged.
They are those, comes the reply, which enable departure or allow continuance with God on the part of the initial creation, in terms of love. To be perfect MEANS to be perfectly able to respond to evil, and in no way to be defiled by being so ABLE: since this is part of the point and meaning, the specification and the case for the creation in the first place.
This is what essentially it IS. You see this reflected dramatically in Joshua 24:15-16, for a covenant people whose hearts were far from where they should have been; and again it is found Genesis 3:9ff., where God as it were, discovers what has been done. While He knew from of old, it is yet a fresh historical fact, not a mere programmatic resultant, and it is one for which the guilt rests as the text shows, squarely on the hideously needless folly of the pair. Justice, which is the Lord's, is not condemning for being programmed! It would in such a case be the programmer's own fault.
Truth therefore insists on this, then, that man in his unfallen state was free, and it was no inferiority of program which MADE him fall, but the condition of freedom so PERFECTLY imparted that it could operate, as could any accident, by simple failure to meet the rules. It involved much more as we have seen above in considerable detail; but not less!
Before God therefore it is possible within the ambit and nature of man the creation, for that divine Being to KNOW what the will is set to, even when it is disabled, when sin apart (not in reality but in divine knowledge) it is discerned. It is no mere duplication of Eden; but it has an essence somewhat similar. God KNOWS, even if man does not, where the heart lies that sin compels; and is able to find as surely as Adam and Eve were able to show, the inclination towards salvation or otherwise, outside the bruising parameters of polluted human nature. There is in this, unlike the mystery case, NO merit. It is all on a par with the perfection in kind of liberty as created at the first, but inoperative in THIS regard at the last: yet not defunct and unmeaningful any more, before God.
Thus mercy might be urged, by the Barrister of Bliss, to act on behalf of love, and the Messiah, knowing that the offering for sin as a vicarious testimony and testament, must be voluntary and from the heart as we have noted to be the case, might offer Himself.
That however raises the problem of problems, and the only one insoluble ... except for the grandeur of love. What is that problem ? It is one thing, the case goes, for someone to offer Himself for others, One infinite for many, One pure for the impure, One perfect for the defected. It is however quite another for Him to have to face hearts as hard as adamantine, black diamonds of devious deceit, engines of iniquity, coagulants of corruption, when on earth, since there is no mere matter of overwhelming people with good. Not overpowering but empowering is the point. In the meantime, the diabolical dissidences in fallen man become a cacaphony of horror (cf. Psalm 1, 22, Luke 11:52ff.).
Their evil might shut their eyes; and it did (as shown by Isaiah 6 and in Matthew 13:14ff.).
This is not an intellectual problem, nor a rational one. Yet it is a necessary element. If Satan bruised the new-made spirit of mankind with mockery of God, must not the Saviour bear the same! He is to take what willing acceptance of that evil amounted to at the first: at the last!
It is indeed rationally construable, but its source is love, the delight in mercy. WHO is going to be the Messiah who will be willing not only to die, but to live amongst such mockery, hardness, flint-like follies in mounting arrogance, and to be susceptible to their claws! It is only the infinite One, and there is the question sublime for which (as it were, for in fact it is all known from the first) we wait, WILL HE be willing!
You sense something of this in Revelation 5:2ff., which we must cite for intimate awareness of these things.
"And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. "Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice,
'Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?'
"And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.
"But one of the elders said to me,
'Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David,
has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.'
"And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
"Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne."
The tenderness and triumph shown in this passage of scripture, the apprehension and the realisation of the grandeur and the uniqueness, the necessity indeed of His coming to perform the role of opening the end of history: this reflects the enormity of His action. It is a magnificent enormity, a lustrous wonder of commitment, a conquest for love which gives it a name beyond the names of all men, the very name of God Himself verified in it (cf. Philippians 2:1-12).
Here was the Deity, willing for this, and all that it entails; and how could He be willing ? As Isaiah 51:16 with 49:2 shows, the willingness is part of the very creation. If this had not been so, creation COULD not have been so.
Unless the solution, the only solution in the end, were present, then creation must be absent from the first and never occur. However the willingness was present from the first (cf. Psalm 40:1ff.*5), and so creation came to be, but more than this, the willingness was translated into reality and the price being paid, sinners can be 'translated' or transferred to heavenly places in Christ, and resume the magnificent spiritual Concorde (with no apologies to the aircraft) which was their first heritage (Colossians 1:12-13, Ephesians 1:6, 2:6)
It is the wonder of the glory of God, the epitome
and original of love, the basis and eternity of its meaning, the reason for the
sense of the endless which comes with it, that the Word of God was willing to do
it. Hence the need and the will OF GOD were bound together. What was this need ?
It was not one for God, since His needs are all met. It was an intrinsic need IF
the creation were to occur. Without this, love would have been breached or
freedom sacrificed or both, and the magnificent idea of making man in the very
image of God would have been broken. God however did not NEED to create; and
this would simply have made it improper and so not done.
How great is our glory in Him, the God of the Bible, of history, of love and of liberty, that He DID make us, and is willing to remake us, crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20, 5:24), taking up our cross, each one, and dying daily (Luke 14:27ff., 9:23ff.), so being raised in Christ, first in spirit (II Corinthians 5:15, Romans 6:6-11), and then in the general resurrection in body! The sublime Barrister of Bliss, His case is in Himself, who met the condition: it was one which reason could not muster, since it involved His will, but yet one which it could congratulate, since in God, there is all harmony, holiness and love and in Him nothing shall be called impossible.
*1 See Gracious Goodness and This World in Disorder Ch. 6, and The Bright Light and the Uncomprehending Darkness Ch. 9. See also Organ of Sight and Beginnings with SMR pp. 179ff., and 226ff., 482ff..
See Acme, Alpha and Omega: Jesus Christ Ch. 8. See also 2B, on love and liberty.
*2B See Overflight in Christ Ch. , *1.
*2 See Spiritual Refreshings ... Ch. 9, Endnote 1 with Christ Incomparable, Lord Indomitable Ch. 3 and The Pride of Life ... Ch. 4.
*3 See Highway of Holiness Ch. 4.
Glow of Predestinative Power Ch. 4,
Beauty of Holiness Ch. 2; Outrageous Outages Ch. 9,
Christ's Ineffable Peace and Grace Ch. 2
*5 See Joyful Jottings 22.