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MAN BEFORE GOD
His Place, His Plight and His Liberty
BACK TO BASICS
God made man. That is how man came to be. God always was; that is how anything came to be. If He had not been there, only nothing, we would now have just that, since nothing has neither future nor potential, for if it were not so, it would be something with a future (it has to be there to have a future) or with potential (it cannot be not there, and yet have potential: that is flat self-contradiction, making words meaningless, thought futile).
When God made man, He did not invent a clamorous, anti-God piece of impurity which had endless needs, no morals and no understanding, disruptive, corruptive and corrosive mutually, as if to vex His heart and undermine His quality of living; for if He had, then it would be from a contra-divine aspiration, desideratum, vexation of spirit or ambition to become what He was not, gain what He lacked, enliven or alter what was His position, and this would simply show His limits, which are impossible for that One who is the basis of all, another contradiction in terms. Hence God man made free.
He did not make Him unenchantingly vulgar, uninhibitedly profane, chronically inflamed with lusts and dedicated to useless turmoil. He made him free. If you give cost-free living to those who want to abuse it, then look out for drug addicts; if you want to give power to the puny, watch out for misdemeanours. If you want to deny wisdom to God, imagine anything. But it is irrelevant.
Why then was man made free ? That is the only way in which God could be God and yet have such a systematic source of spiritual malfeasance and incredible abuse of property, intellectual, moral, spiritual, other people and things, as man constitutes, if not always, then so characterisably that it is an inherent feature of the race. A mad god has corruptible systems, and hence is subject to their decay or alteration. That is not possibly the original source of all things determinate, directed and cosmologically, essentially and vitally conducted by code or law or containment constraints and form conservation. If it were, systems would be embedded, not eternal, and this would simply be a phantasm, not God. A bad god making such things for his entertainment, diversion or edification would lack in those areas, and being subject to such deficiencies, merely show he could not in fact be god, by acting on a delimited and limited basis.
God is neither of those things, but man increasingly in both.
Why ? Made free, he has cashed in on his potential, collapsed his connection and becoming vexatious, has secured the expected results of liberty loved not wisely but too well!
Man is free, but foolish, has become increasingly confined in concept and dysfunctional in mind when surveying God. This is the direction of flow. Mercifully it is not the only available option. Having made liberty, God has shown love.
Besides, the Bible tells us these things in outcomes, of the nature of God, and of our own. How does this work out in terms of our freedom now ?
God acts as He will, having no overseer. In this He is unique. The creation, which has no being except by donation, cannot do this, for there are always two limits for each of these: firstly, there is their construction or constriction or characterisability, in part or in whole. Secondly, there is God, beyond, behind, and over them.
This can be more or less an exemption from freedom, that is, it MUST limit mindless efforts to be or imagine becoming God. Secondly, when folly rules, power departs, as tends to be the case, in any construction.
Where responsibility does not rest, as in matter as such, there may still be degeneration of that to which they apply, in form, or function, because of available energy loss, construction diffusion or pollution, which in turn is readily traceable to the contribution of various misuses of liberty. Also, however, this is the nature of design in this world: what is specially fashioned in form and contrivance, in time, tends to lose some of this specificity, whether the DNA of man, or the magnetic shield about the earth or the height of the hills, the distribution patterns of various forces and forms, such as ice flows from Nepal (The Australian, February 28, 2012), one of the temporary stabilities which allow vast tracts of human life to be covered. Even rescue patterns can dissipate as maintenance modes themselves, continue at disadvantage because either of the requests of sin, or the bequests of man's living. While many argue about the significance of man's contributions to climate change, few ignore it; while many argue for the use of nuclear weapons, few argue for their innocence in pollution.
Degeneration in man is multiple, but amid physical constructions, such as genes, with linguistic connotation (Jesus Christ, Defaced, Unfazed ... Ch. 4), there is no lack of wearing out (Isaiah 51:6, speaks of the universe becoming like an old coat, but judgment enters in there, also, because of the non-impressive contribution of man to the realm of peace, purity, truth, mercy, loveliness and self-discipline, the relative non-interest in the God of creation and of redemption).
The laws of matter continue, some of which relate to such minuteness that it is hard to see limitlessly how they operate, though informed guesses may be made on the basis of data available (SMR pp. 419 - 421), so that statistics are sometimes used to cover complex cases. Nevertheless, the results are formulable, and this is less and less so when it comes to life. Programmatics as in computers is teaching us much about the relative ease of controlling billions of things at once, on a set basis. It does not require great genius to do this; and God is God without limit. The fact that He made the ultra-computers, our brains, and associated them with thought and will, attests the entirely elevated nature of His facility and power, as if we were children. That, incidentally, is a great thing to be when the Father is God. That is for me, any day. I am not afraid to learn and to be taught by God not only as my Creator, but Father, That, it is thrilling. Besides, I need it.
What is entirely beyond man is the creation of liberty. Man is gifted with it, spoils it, like a new car giving a wonderful degree of liberty on the road, till harassed and humbled, he believes nonsense, the biblical Lie, in massive numbers and ACTS LIKE IT, in an untenable fashion, so that he aches and grieves in spirit, worries in mind, becomes confused about power, lusts for survival and losesx all conception of what that is for ...
Mankind can find a fouling even of efforts to be helpful. Thus he can give gifts to a race within a land, for example, give land, give education, give housing and yet not in the slightest alter lust or substance abuse or violence, in any categorical manner. Again, He can treat a whole nation with gentleness and reserve, and yet find that some nationalism or internationalism makes it virtually mandatory for them to be independent. In their worry, scurry and flurry to be mightier, better, grander, more godlike with worrying about God, they then contribute to endless confrontations, exhortations, pretentious rumblings, construction of military hardware, efforts to become greater, till their sheer horror of soul, soiling of spirit, grandiose self-centredness becomes more horrid to perceive, more threatening to the world, more aesthetically disastrous and more wilfully blind that mind can well imagine.
The flood of Genesis 6, was just one such development, in a former epoch (cf. News 1). You do not need too many of those, to sense the loss, though the poignancy lessens for many (II Peter 3:5 predicted just such an attitude), as a few thousand years pass ... Man is slow to learn because sin is quick on the uptake.
Similarly, at the more individual level, man can bring up a child with every convenience and aid, and be hated for the very generosity of it; for there is in man a liability to such perversity of spirit as is, in a negative fashion, almost awe-inspiring, like a typhoon in full flow.
Man is excellent at creating havoc.
Though this is not universal, since now many know God, yet is sufficient for ruin, remorseless renegacy, brilliant in decline, like a volcano when its fierce ferocity have destroyed much, continues sulphurous and unpredictable. It is one of man's creative non-masterpieces.
ONLY HE COULD:
MAGNIFICENTLY HE DID
God however created freedom. This like all His decisions is a sovereign act simply because it is the act of the Sovereign. If He wants freedom, there it is. If you want to confer freedom, you can only specify certain lack of constraint, restraint or inhibition: NOT what will be done with it. As one puts it, you can give freedom TO, or FROM, but not freedom to will, be your programs, social, intellectual or inspirational never so clever. Freedom OF the being before you, that is another matter. Can you will as you will ? We will later see that only because of God is this possible.
First the human or other created will cannot be utterly free, since as above, ONLY God CAN have this. He is there whether it appeals or not. Secondly, it cannot be MADE persuasible only by good, or what you deem so, since if you do this, that is the very END of freedom. Such could come in liberty only by liberty coming to that point. Otherwise, It is your brain wave put into actuality, and that certainly is not free. You contrive it; t he thing on which you make such a contrivance is not your babe but your reflection, whether personally or per plan.
God however both can and does create liberty if He wants to do so. It is delimited in scope, but not in quality. Thus, there are some limits: you CANNOT be God even if you want to, since you are too late, in time instead of creating it. You begin. You cannot now be perfect since, although you may not have realised this yet, your soul is damaged, your spirit liable to lust in any dimension of mind, body or thought, your will can be erratic, assertive, unwise, self-sufficient, delusive, subject to spouts of silliness disguised as wisdom, or merely intrusively ambitious; indeed, it can become sated with this world, and cease alliance to realistic thought, embalmed in content or its ministrations. You are now imperfect and limited. Freedom at this level is doubly deficient; it is not absolute. It is however entirely significant, and not without such a quality, because impaired.
What it was before it, wore thin, was used to transgress God so that now this world mainly ignores, jettisons, mischaracterises Him, or invents unsustainable substitutes (cf. SMR Ch. 10, Religion, Religiosity and Reality in Christ).
It was misused when it came in its purity (though limited to available fields, one of which was God, just as now many substitutes become common). That was the reason for the calamitous disjunction between the glory of God and the goriness of man, impaling mind, body and spirit as if drugged, but it is the spirit, the will which is immersed in imagination, and misdirects in wantonries which need to be faced, for it is not just dictators who DO the works we behold, but those who obey them; not just Parties, but those who join them, not just pawns, but those who accept such a role.
Freedom, at its realistic best for a creation, CAN be relatively extensive. This is not in some way which always interferes with choice, but in a way which merely limits WHAT you can choose: for example, to run the universe. In any such desire, however, whether populous and popular, or individual, you would be incompetent and so heady in aspiration, that you would run it into the ground, even if you wanted otherwise. The will thus becomes bruised, pathological, infected with desire, impossible plausibilities and the like. It falls to circuits of folly, by no means limited to the ideological, but ones which may be psychological, desecrative or cynically unrealistic (SMR pp. 292 - 307).
Thus Nazis, Communists and various sects act as if they are pseudo-gods, knowing the score, or some as if to become gods, which is ludicrous, since what is in the element of god and not man, has to transcend the power of man and become immune to the liabilities of dependence. Otherwise, it is just another limited and law-girt being, call it what you will. Calling yourself a god does nothing to make it happen. In fact, God has delicious irony on this pathology in Ezekiel 28:9. Will you still call yourself a god when I slay you! He asks. It is better to let liberty have mind with it, and then you may enjoy the best of its residual use. Ignoring reality never enhances it, or you.
God in His creation, gave man a species of relative freedom; but as much of it as one could well imagine. We have from the first, seen the magnificent extent of it; but of course, as has been stressed, it is always of limited application. That however, in kind, is not the nature of its quality where it IS applicable.
Thus in QUALITY it was ultimately free at the first, since it could divorce from God, as supervisor, superintendent, Supernatural Wisdom and final Authority. How massive is this, for nothing governed by the thought of man can do this. While man has marred freedom, it is still visible in the scope of his desires, the ambition of his thoughts, and the visitations he makes on law-breakers when so moved, as at Nuremburg. Before, however, it can be marred by misuse, there is always the constitutive mode of its institution. TO MAKE SOMETHING BE, you have to organise it, so that it does this and that or the other, and so on, however many may be the contingencies which you invent and program, or give as input. To invent autonomy, even in kind, even as limited, however, this is to invent spirit, and this man never does; he cannot even control his own.
God made man SO free that he could chose his own final resting or restive place, as the case may be, his final Authority and his heart's love at the Source level, than which nothing could be greater in the nature of created liberty. Thus, to be sure, he CANNOT alter the source, inveigle it, manipulate it or invade it, become the creator of the God who made him, just a trifle too ridiculous since the fact is the other way around both logically and chronologically, but he can disjoin, or could do so, from Him. Satan has tried both indirectly (Genesis 3), and directly (Revelation 12), and indeed personally and casuistically (Matthew 4) to manipulate God, distort the truth and disjoin man from the God of creation. It is rather like a crooked lawyer, trying to induce one of the children to come into the business of malfeasance and so gain the property: not attractive, just or honest.
Man chose to disjoin. That, like a cricket match, was the way it went. Satan helped him do so, and man did not refuse the help.
He had been told there would be results to such divorce, such disobedience, such erection of alternative authority even in his own breat. As it was told, so it came to be. Freedom operated. Law operated, and man was born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. The cause and the consequence were aligned, and the cross-hairs made the target secure, in its fall.
Death lay at the heart of it, as told by the God who created this glorious thing, liberty, source of love, opportunity for friendship, attraction of invention, stimulus to creativity. Death came early of course for the body, which is by nature, as it was, decidedly unpleasant and presents massive problems to many; for if you set your heart on being a god, or a would-be god, an independence candidate in the market of Fate or some such imagined entity; if you wish to become indeed the master of your fate, paddling your own canoe and all that sort of thing, then it is disruptive of your self-made design and failing dynamic to be reminded that as a matter of simple fact, you are not a god.
This option is delusive, divinely derisory in fact (hence there is the impact of Ezekiel 28:9). You simply wear out, in a most un-godlike fashion. You are then not even free to argue, with any type of fallacy, you may prefer. Opportunity freezes, bluster fails.. You had your time for that option.
So man was sovereignly made by the utterly free God to have a qualitatively remarkable liberty, to choose the fact or the Lie. After all, if you choose to lose, ignore, deny, expostulate against, reject God, then since He IS God, you are lying, in spirit or mind or quality. Your life becomes a lie, so that as you see in I John 2:22, it is correct to ask this: "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son."
To do this, is like saying that mathematics cannot have numbers. It is not rational. It is too knowledgeable for its own good.
But why Jesus Christ ?
This brings us to the second main point. Since man chose to oust God from the purely authoritative and trustworthy relationship with which at creation he naturally found, therefore he lost that ineffably lovely, intransigently glorious, magnificent bond which made of life an entrancing and delicious thing, with all answers available as needed. In fact, from the shelter provided, fallen man was evicted, since life is not just symbol, but reality, and when you are divorced you change home. Life is different then.
How would he live ? would the promised death be physical, permanent and hopeless in cast ? Would be be like a filleted fish, in form but not in fact, a fish; a residue ? Would man then be constantly a severed being, lost, defiled ? Yes, that is so, except that there was delay. There was hope. There were provisions for the case, as after an accident in a car, when the driver dies, but the car remains.
In this case, the car was a sundered spirit and a chastened body, where labour became more than investigation and realisation; it became potentially distasteful or disastrous, or even deadly (Genesis 3).
However, soon it became clear that there were two approaches left, which needed clarification. On what basis, now, could man approach his jilted and disjoined God ? More individuals arrived as provided for in the design that made man. How return if he so desired in the case of any news individual ?
It was emphatically not by showing what he had done/could do, as we see in the case of Cain and Abel, but otherwise. Cain used a form of the former, and was rejected in approach. Abel used a sacrifice, what acknowledges guilt and shows death as a mode of entry, thus admitting the case explicitly as noted from the first, as one of penalty. The death however is not of the giver, but of the given. An offering of a slain creature was bringing back to God, what He made, but doing so in a s symbol of penalty and pain, borne by another, since one could not satisfy now in oneself. Bruised goods from S.I.W., do not have what it takes, to make up for deficiency of nature. What has fallen is a deficit at the first, and its works follow it, in quality. You can never pay by increasing the works of deficiency, only increase the deficit, more or less.
So the situation is at least represented aright, for repentance and realism, in the sacrifice. Cain did not like this, and many are just the same, wanting by their improved morals or great works or wonderful lives to make God accept them. Why worry if He does not ? some ask. In that case, He would not be a God worth having! If they do not actually THINK it, their works SUGGEST that this is their sole hold on reason! It is slippery however, and does not stand. Stand on that, and you fall where the fall has no end, because it is then literally, past redemption, for it tramples that too.
What then when man will neither repent nor accept ransom from God Himself, freely as is needed, since deficiency never rises to the level of perfection (Ephesians 2, 4, I John 1) ? What of his form of pathology, even at the level of rescue! (cf. Hebrews 2:1-3)!
Thus they show their wonderful gift of freedom to be in quality to the uttermost degree, a massive and marvellous divine invention. THEY are now as gods confronting God and bringing Him up to par in education. They are telling Him, or giving him so graciously the opportunity to listen to their moral orations, presuppositions or hopes It is truly a wonderful thing, that something constructed with laws, made into being with form, given millions of words of direction, for his very physical composition in the commanding DNA (as in Genesis 1's orders by word), and a world of what you need to live in, can prescribe to his Creator on what terms, being disjoined, he can be rejoined.
Normally, if you offend, the offended party tells you the conditions of restoration, which you may or may not accept; but here, YOU tell the offended party the conditions. For audacity it has little parallel. The same sense of near incredulity at man's outrageous continuation in wilful arbitrariness is seen in Proverbs 1, Ezekiel 20, Jeremiah 7, Hosea 7; but the glorious perseverance of God in offering His free remedy is seen in Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 49-50, 52-53, Titus 2-3, Hebrews 2-4.
So does man in masses act. Such is the need of every man. God however, knowing all and having all to the uttermost in power and possession, is the truth. To vary from it is self-attack; and God is not a contesting duo, for that implies a created situation unresolved in powers that be. God is the power that is. There is no limit imposed or imposable, internal or external. To impose a limit internally would merely be an appearance; it could be removed at any time, and as the eternal state has no limit, this would be an imaginary rupture, or a temporary feature in some phase of plan, not affecting His actual state. He did impose a measure of limit temporarily when for sacrificial and illustrative purposes, the Father sent the Son (incarnate by womb), to be the Saviour of the world, the Spirit operating as in Isaiah 48:16ff..
The tragedy of lapse from this glorious opportunity, with a specific impact to be sure is seen there. Love does mourn. You see that too in Luke 19:42ff. Christ as man actually wept for such diseased, continued disjunction from Deity, resulting in loss. When the remedy is the loss, the condition threatens at once to be by definition, irremediable, for there is no other Lamb, no other sacrifice (Isaiah 66), no other name given among mankind by which any may be saved (Acts 4:12). God has one mind, one plan, one salvation, on method, one offer, one diagnosis, one prognosis, one operation for man. Man is man: fallen freedom exhibit. God is God, is love (I John 4), is truth (John 14:6), is the only POSSIBLE source of truth, knowing all, without prejudice, with all power, and having been active in the entire creation, to make it without aid (Isaiah 44:24ff., 45:12ff.)
God is pure. Indeed as John 3 tells us, He not only loved a fallen creation, man, but SO loved that He gave in a way obviously discernible as the utmost, directing such efforts not to clear the mess by judgment (John 3:17), simply clearing a condemned mess (office cleaners could remove it), but to avoid judgment, for the entire world, seen in the context, creator and creature, cosmos and creation.
He so loved it that He was practical, and the offer was even placed in human format, to become in Himself a covenant, granting salvation, freedom from guilt, from the devastations of misused mind and invasive spirit (II Timothy 1:7), and a place as adopted child in the spiritual kingdom of His recreated life for man. Nothing could be more except untruth, or the follies which make up sin, yearning their way up, to divorced standards and the taint of wilful departure from truth. In truth, it is man who is a violator of God's great goodness in granting in the first place, liberty in selecting either to reject Him, in mind or heart or both.
That past, he now has liberty to ignore Him in either of these dimensions, to hate Him or in any case, NOT to heed Him or follow Him. But are you in this plight ? That depends on your freedom concerning His remedy for your situation.
Let us look back to foundations. The position became clear as in Genesis 4, through sacrifice. Even this was made a subject for freedom, NOT to alter the condition of forgiveness and new co-operation, but to accept it or not, even to accept it in principle ... or NOT. Thus when Cain was so very upset because his offering (unlike the case with brother Abel) was not acceptable to God, he was given a notion and a warning. IF, said God, you do well, will you not be accepted ?
In other words, Abel's case showed what was acceptable. It was a matter of principle not unjust and discriminatory preference. Abel offered sacrifice. Cain offered the product of his works. As noted, it can never be a matter of our works (cf. Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2).The preference was on the part of man, not of God; the principle was what was from God.
Could Cain then not proceed to do well ? Had time then ceased to exist ? Was the tutelary warning and teaching incapable of being received ? Was it too hard to work out that this had not pleased God, that the other had, and to see that sin should be ruled over, and that doing well was the point, in terms of obedience. Could he not then find an animal ? Was there no other! It was simple enough and clear enough if he wanted it! The Lord further clarified the position. "If you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire if for you, but you should rule over it."
Here was the first lesson in the remedy field. There is the way home; use it. If you do not use it, then what is the problem is sin, a voluntary omission of what is true, and just and right and fitting. Like a wild beast, it lies at your door, mortal in its lust, ready to devour you. That is what is being shown in the divine answer to the act of Cain in Genesis 4.
You should not allow such a state of affairs. Sin that swallows up the simple remedy provided, and lusts to gain you and distract you is NOT a thing to be considered as a natural gift or proper field for collaboration. You should rule over it, as Paul showed at length in terms of this same Jesus Christ, much later, in Romans 7-8. But he didn't. Alas and alas, it ruled over him, and he did not take the way on and out and up.
Hence in calamitous confrontation and refusal to accept even this amazingly free and simple remedy for being alien from his very God, which no liberty could alter, Cain proceed to be ruled over by this acrid alternative vision and force, this sin, which would not ACCEPT what God was and said and had made. Surging on, being ruled over by this disastrous AMPLIFICATION of the defilement of the beauty of liberty, He murdered his brother in jealousy, so setting the tone, yet by this very act, showing the extraordinary and amazing scope of liberty. However, while in his liberty, he could wander off as if away from God, far from His provisions, there was still the truth.
It can hurt. It is a marvel God has provided an ointment to assuage this grief, and a way in which the truth is delicious! But not then for Cain could it come. His liberty was tied to the leg of an ass.
The blood of his brother, the Lord declared, "cries out to Me from the ground." In other words, justice notes, and penalty moves. Act aright now, or accept the result of folly.
This is a vile violation of the gift of life. It distances even further from God, and exhibits the RULE of sin which moves the freely alienated man further and further into deeds so shameful as to be almost better nameless, aspiring to glory in shame, and uttering grossness as if life were a game.
This is exhibited in some depth and detail in Romans 1, and the matter of salvation in view of all this, in Ephesians 2.
The end of the sacrifice chain, animal slaughter repetitively, was indicated for many centuries in increasing fulness. It would not last forever, this symbolic witness. Sacrifice was to become not only significant in its message, but sufficient to sate justice, liberate life forever, and bring an even more delightful freedom back, that of loving what you find lovely for ever.
It was to be a man. He too would be murdered. It would have several differences. He would be God as man, hence incarnate, the Father sending His own expression (John 1, Ezekiel 34, Isaiah 7-9, Hosea 13:14), not just words but the Being, The Word (The Bright Light ... Ch. 10), as man to be killed instead of merely being sighted by faith, depicted in symbol as in the case of animal: no here, there would not be symbolic action, figuring atonement, but actual, final atonement, once and for all (Hebrews 9:12 - 10-14). That is, just as man deserved moral, mental, physical and spiritual death for sin, that specious and serpentine control agent, obliterative in various degrees both of truth and of righteousness, the very nadir of love, then this God-as-man, whose name is Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9), Immanuel (God with us - Isaiah 7), would cover the case and die FREELY for the Abels who wanted to receive what God offered.
That, it is not because they are Abels or some spiritually superior type of being, but because in ultimate and pre-time liberty, as before God who knew them before they even were, such was their desire, for light and not for darkness. He would also be available for the Cains, as in Genesis 4, should they choose otherwise, for it is not the name, but the game which matters, to trust or not, to come or not, to love or not, to be saved or not, as known to God. If not, then sin lying at the door, and controlling, these, like Cain, would wander in voluntary alienation whither they would. Again, truth enters in: rebels from the founder of life move in the domain of the fouling of life. If this is desired, it is available. Do you have to trust God in all of this ? Of course, reason confirms (cf. SMR), but faith acts. Why not ? In this very thing, spiritual reality is shown, and if it is not there, the thing cannot be there either. In that sense, it is self-selecting! The lordly alas, their castles are too costly, and all reeks of ruin.
The remedy for ruin and separation and idolatry (for man is always trying to satisfy the God-ward bent in his very nature, fallen, and it gets out of control like other things out of place), is without parallel. It is totally adequate, marvellously worked out, while passionate in sincerity and desire; for God would have ALL men brought to the knowledge of the truth and to reconciliation with Himself (I Timothy 2, Colossians 1:19ff., Ezekiel 33:11*1), but NOT at the expense of freedom. He saves souls, not the soulless, not some parallel: He acts on what is there in integrity of its being, through the power of His wisdom. Freedom was where man foundered, and God does not assault the very nature of what He made, since it is in HIS OWN IMAGE. Instead God rescues it, where He is received with His Remedy, redemption, Gospel of Grace, in the Person sent as Saviour, Jesus the Christ. There the payment is received, hence transmitted (Romans 8:32).
Where God has made provision for real persons with real wills and preferences and real results and available options, there is truth. Hence He does not force man to accept His remedy, either by controlling His will and so making it lose the very quality which distinguished it, like having another body and abandoning the first one in the case of a surgeon's operation, or through a corrosive force.
God in stating His own WILL and willingness, that whosoever will may come, and that every one who believes in Him, so sacrificially sent as God from God, should not perish but have everlasting life: did not mar His own product in the process. He does not alter. Having made man free, despite the diminution of man's powers which sin brings, so that it readily rules over him, and in the absence of God personally in his life, he becomes alien almost as if belonging to another race altogether, God is not about to deny this, and call that remedy which in fact ruins the entire creation, point and purpose.
Since man is so disabled in vision, marred in understanding, and so by a kind of kinkiness, does not find it in his heart to come to God of his own will (John 1:12), and yet God desires him to continue and to be free in nature as created (as in Colossians 3:10), with nothing left out in his innovation as at the first, then God does it. In His image man is made, to His image is he recalled, and so "renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him." How can He do this, since freedom is to the point ? It is clear enough in John 3:16-19, that as far as God chooses to be concerned, He has paid to the uttermost, acted to the ultimate degree, shown His love past all apogees, and does not act in this dimension in judgment at all. In this, that is not in the least His desire. This is stated (John 3:17).
How is it effected ? what does the word of God say ?
What then IS the impediment by God stated ? It is that "men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil," John 3:19. The case is in the field of Cain.
Man is responsible for the disruption of remedy, as often as it occurs, despite the love and desire and provision of God. That is in that context. This is where the will is cited against the adequacy of God's provision and the inveterate and illimitable character of His love, so that He is averse in this remedial situation, to judgment. "He did not come to judge the world but that the world might be saved." In the remedy element, God would, and man would not: that is what He continually is saying in many ways throughout the Bible*1. This involves the negative field. It is precisely as in Matthew 23:37. Not once, but historically OFTEN, God was not only willing but like a mother hen, constantly calling the chicks to her own safe side: with Him, it was through the drawing of His Spirit, through the appeals of His prophets and His word. Now it is by that of His Son (Hebrews 1:1ff., John 8:28, 12:32). How great is this divine desire! Consider Matthew 23:37 for a moment.
It was first of all a NATURAL desire for His ''chicks". Secondly, it was a PERSISTENT desire for them. Thirdly, it was a TENDER-HEARTED desire. It betokened nothing bleak or programmatic, but personal and warm, cordial and concerned. Fourthly, it came in the midst of genuine peril, which could lay the chicks low at any point (as in Psalm 1), and fifthly, it was not only intense and immense, but practical and personal, for (John 1:29), for it gravely concerned the hen. Thus, He came as the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. This is the direction of flow, of plan, of design; and if any does not come, then darkness being preferred to light, loved above light (John 3:19), that is freedom's privilege to the end.
All this is intensely and intensively clear, what God has done, what man has done, what God did as a result of what man did, why God did it, the scope of His interest and provision, and how keen God is not to injure liberty. He wept, in Christ, rather than simply rescind the results of liberty. That is the nature of liberty, of love, of the Lord. This is what He has shown not once or twice, but with a scope of variable impacts so vast as to beggar belief that any could ignore it, with a straight face. But that is man: how readily does the obvious dissipate! Only by grace, indeed, is anyone saved.
How then does God manage the will of
man, if it is too injured in function to be able to choose God, in and of
itself, now ? First, being God, He has an inimitable privilege in His very
own personal being. It is a lovely thing to think of love having a privilege in
its exercise, and one can only admire in wonder this beauty.
THE IMPEDIMENT REMOVED
God can KNOW before the creation, just what it will be, and who will be what, and know it as a fact, relative to liberty and love. He does not have to wait; nor does He need any guess. Before time makes you wait, God who made time (Romans 8:33-36), did not wait, but knew by supernatural and illimitable power and liberty, who would be His, who would, in essence and reality, with liberty as at first made, choose to obey. It went deeper, but with the same purity of qualified but pure liberty.
Since it was no longer just a question of STAYING (as with the first man), or NOT, but it included the total reality, COMING BACK, or NOT, God knew this too. He knew each case where a man would rather NOT find in a ransoming Saviour his way back, for any reason, preferring the darkness of disability to the rank reality, as he might conceive it, and so become utterly and entirely removed by seduction to a hopeless case, divorced even entirely from the saving work of God. He knew it before time and being truth, it was thus exhibited in time, freely. Yet even here, beauty glitters.
It is sometimes WHEN and because a person tends to realise that he IS indeed a hopeless case, that God imbuing his dead soul with life, arouses life and regenerates, the dead thing quivering, the enlivening wisdom of God knowing His own. Then the reality is found and the liberty is realised by grace, with nothing even of autonomy to gloat in, so none can say, Behold, I have attained! (cf. Romans 3:23 on boasting ? no grounds, negative!).
If some, in fact two, as at the first, did not like to see God as the entirely truthful and reliable being, and so listened to sin's champion, the devil, then some might not want to see God, either, as the entirely rescuing and utterly reliable remedy, through sacrificial blood, which admittedly does not say much, indeed anything, for the ones bought by this sacrifice, atoned for, covered by this grace. There are some for whom THAT is just too much! It is too true, readily sometimes said, rather than realised; for phrases do not save you, but what you believe in your heart (Romans 10:9).
It took MUCH in a MOST humble way to do this. Even God so humbled Himself. Those who through pride insist on living in its style or flow of spirit, are going to have GOD, even their God, abase Himself, for love or for anything else. Some would under no conceivable circumstances be willing to accept ANY deliverance from anyone in such a matter. It is a matter of personal pride, orientation, perspective!
God knew all this. It is man's will IN THIS SITUATION which John 3 talks of, Colossians 1 making even plainer, God's willingness and desire, as does I Timothy 2 and so forth. God's willingness is notorious, glorious, persistent, but not duped. If then any man, despite the amplitude of the divine action, the altitude of the love, the breadth of the mercy and the depth of the concern, does not want this love stuff, as he might conceive it, or this majesty, or this glory in another, even if it be God, or for any reason prefers the darkness of deceit, deviousness or mere ephemeral flitting of the will to be one's very own, without limit, which not being true, cannot be anyway: then his it is. He is of another race by decision, of a perishing race by inclination, divorced from the consummation of the true, and distorted by deception, to which he or she falls, sometimes aligning the insidious with the invidious to make a gorge in the very soul.
This is infinitely sad. Yet with that, the option is grandly glorious, that it was there, even if God operated it in pity, and in integrity. It was sustained in principle, kept in fact, and free beings who would have it so, as in the sight of God, are there, one race, one of grace, with faces to one place, the very face of God. That is a wonderful thing technically, this created and preserved freedom, even to the point of the divine FOREKNOWLEDGE before time and sin and fall came to man. It enables love to be where it should be, liberty to direct as after all, by no mere chance, but as before God, it wishes. It makes the whole array of personal meaning potentially holy, with glorious glades of reality, and wonders of development, as when a child grows up. As II Peter 3:18 puts it, grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ.
Spiritually it is most tender, most responsive, the life in the love of God, and the very nature of His nurture.
In practice, therefore, when the time comes, a man may feel the movement of the Spirit of God - for God knows who are His (II Timothy 2:19)- and being moved, find his normal parameters of spirit transcended, with a conviction gained of his sin, of God's righteousness and judgment, borne by Christ, available as substitute. Like a plant suddenly taken from darkness and exposed to the light, thus he may respond in utter delight and become free once more. God in dealing with any dead thing, can bring life to it. When the human will is concerned, in His foreknowledge, He is aware of the result, so that as He convicts, there is a certain sense of authenticity, yes of reality about it all, and it may seem to be so sovereign that one had nothing to do with it. Whatever is wrought in this setting, is not only achieved by the Lord, but concerns the situation as it is foreknown in very truth. It is not an invasion, but a discernment past mere pathological aversion; for it that were so, no flesh could be saved (I Cor.2:14).
On the other hand, since there is the potential for a real confrontation, a man may find the reality of how bad he is and how wilful, abundantly represented in his spiritual experience, as God acts on his spirit. He may feel intensely how much he is involved, though what he is offered, is supremely a gift, and a free one, without partiality or discrimination at all. He may even get the mischievous misconception that it was just his own free will that acted, contradicting both its fallen state, far worse than he imagines (Ephesians 2 and 4), one become alien by nature. It IS his will, foreknown, foreseen, revealed to God before man was even created, so great is THIS architect of time; but like a Great Physician, God intervenes with true foreknowledge of the truth of each case, the direction desired, to deliver even the muted will, which liberated, may feel the thing natural, right and just, as indeed it is.
How wonderful that thus freedom is secured, in reality and not just in name, that God is sovereign, not only in loving as He will (in fact setting it forth toward all to the uttermost), but in making conditions for remedy, as He will, and acting by intervention amid corrupted human will, to secure sovereignly but as THIS sovereign wills, namely with due regard to freedom in its reality, and not just in appearance, as if by subterfuge. Some then, may feel a sense of liberty as they come, and this in view of what went before time, not surprisingly. It is truth which is being expressed. Some may in conversion, on the other hand, sense a certain overwhelming power of God, and imagine it had no basis relating to liberty at all, except in this, that freedom once obtained is great. For some, what is foreknown is as good as not there at all, and all is just mystery on an unknown basis, as if God did NOT desire that all might be reconciled to Him through the blood of the cross.
NECESSITY FOR MISSIONS: INVARIANT
It is understandable how these two misconceptions may come, one at either extreme, but it is God who knows. When by knowledge before time and actualisation of any man, He knows, hence the certainty may be very apparent as He acts: it IS certain. Again, it is a very wilful being whom He courts, and man's free use of preference IS the case. Hence God may permit a type of confrontation to appear impending with awe. There IS confrontation. In penetrating to the depths of the human heart, beyond its own normal status in sin, God is able to bring to light what He will, for nature does not control God, but God nature. Yet in this control, He delightedly preserves man's liberty, so that the REALITY of the case, man's liberty as from the first, is preserved.
After all, IN saving man, God is doing so in terms of man's liberty even to reject His remedy differentially. For all He comes, for some He receives, but what does not is the preference of man, some and not others, towards God as KNOWN to God. Such is Christ's exposition of the motivation, scope of saving love, activation, individuation and ground of rejection.
So great is this glory of the living God that He is not blocked by man's spiritual pathology, and can, does and before all time did look the facts in the face, and implement this foreknowledge by the secure certainties of predestination.
What then of missions ? Why bother ? If God knows His own, why not let Him do it all ? He is very capable!
Note first that this consideration, for what it is worth, applies to ANYONE who accepts the Bible as the uninhibited word of God, that is, what HE has to say (as in I Thessalonians 2:13,I Corinthians 2:9-13, Psalm 119). God foreknowing the case for anyone, and for everyone, having chosen in Christ who are His own not only before they COULD choose in history (knowing the REALITY), but before sin entered the race not yet made, beyond any pollution or condition which would harass liberty, will not fail for any. He knew; He does.
Why missions! It is the same question in essence, whether it is realised that the liberty of man is taken care of with due view of ensuring its action is preserved, or not.
Indeed, when the entire biblical scope of the love of God is seen and realised*1, then the relevance and intensity and immensity of desire in His disciples, to be like that, to share it, to be part of it is all the more. This is so, without mysterious omissions, for God has SAID what is the motivation for Himself, and we are to seek to conform to that wonder in heart and spirit (cf. Matthew 20:28). The mystification process in substitution for a holy and divine clarity may please some theologians; but it has nothing whatsoever to do with God. God would have all, says so, and has acted on this as in John 3. So then would we seek all!
Why then should anyone bother to be a missionary ?
There are sever obvious reasons.
Firstly, if you love, then you have a condition, just as a mother has, when with babe in the womb. It is not an abstraction: it occurs and has its own nature. Hence, you would not WANT to fail in securing as soon as you wisely and effectively may, those without God. It is too horrible at any one moment, almost to bear. You do not have all power, but you have sensitivity, susceptibility and desire. So you mission, or act to facilitate it, or move to find.
Secondly, if you love (John 8:42), you do not want perils of satanic viciousness to be forwarded in the race, lest many taste the horrendous and find the unbearable. There is thus the positive side, to bring to the wonder of the God of creation, not as an option merely, but for the reality that this it is, broadly or at least effectually, where life is. Whether human life be daunted or vaunted, proud or pitiful, desire is there to flow on from the glory of God, to endeavour to make up what remains of the manifestation of the love of God (Colossians 1:24). There is also the negative side of the often unrealised plight of the unaware. Would you ignore someone about to walk over a cliff, while drinking beer and listening to his electronic music ? This brings us to another point.
Thirdly, many ARE unaware, whether wilfully or not. This it is desired to prevent. Hence one is in favour of telling them. How will they hear without a preacher ? Ignorance is NOT bliss. Love is like that. It is concerned.
Fourthly, many search in delirium of spirit, even delusion of mind, oppressed and afflicted, seeking ardently for some light, and finding none, degrading to despair, desolation of spirit and wandering woes which augment horror into horror more advanced. Quanderies of perplexity thus proliferate, as more are born. When clarity of light is available, how can love regard this as if missionaries were needless, and missions a folly!
Fifthly, ALL the world has to be TOLD before Christ will return. Since this world is now so tragically wicked that countries once drawing near to God, are becoming like wayward children, enticed into folly, and the whole is becoming like a giant bubbling cauldron, the desire is that many escape, and the glory of God be shown in their deliverance, since power is one thing God does NOT lack. The fact that a forgetting of this fact of the intense power of God is predicted for our times (Answers to Questions Ch. 5), does not make the plight of those concerned less serious! Rather is it made more so, for it is an increasingly potent consideration. There is therefore a great sense of dire need.
Sixthly, there is further, a sense of urgency, for as with a developing cloud filled with potassium cyanide, love hates to see mere inaction, when salvage is possible. It is, to be sure, in the spiritual environment that this is so; but even then, it amplifies on all sides to many species of environment, illustrations, applications and concentrations alike. The very thought of their predicament, as when fire threatens, activates desire.
Seventhly, what brings nearer the return of Christ, with peace and glory and majesty and at last, the one Leader who is perfect, the exposure of what is hideous and the enclosure of what is His in entirety, when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea: this is to be desired. It is like air suddenly coming to the Black Hole of Calcutta. Who would not aspire to it!
There are more reasons, such as the divine commission in Matthew 28; but it is enough. The command is there. Let it be done.
WHERE GUILT LIES AND GLORY COMES
What then is the position ? It is this. God created in love, redeemed in love, selected in love, and has destiny prepared in love (John 14:1-3), for those whose desire is not alien (John 8:42). He is not responsible for the misuse of liberty which every human being on this earth has practised times without number, perhaps in ignorance, perhaps in stultified non-repentance, in the harsh, arid pride of self-sufficiency and content, as if nothing else were REALLY there or mattered, except as an adjunct to one's so glorious being, or concept of being or whatever other fiction makes flitting sense to the peripheral vision of the godless. You are NOT born Christian; it is something you acquire, or not, by the grace of God. It is a gift - Romans 6:23.
It is a gift by grace, total, final and pre-emptive of all contestants (John 10:9,27-28, Romans 5:15, 6:23); for it results from pre-temporal choice (Ephesians 1:4), in terms of eternal verity, not forced, not contrived, but granted where grace prevails, and so faith proceeds, accurately summing up the real situation.
The content and the serial number, if you want to put it in that form of imagery, are both a gift, as is the security within it (II Timothy 1:8ff., Ephesians 1:11, Romans 8:29ff.), as likewise is the PROCESS of giving it; for it is from the Father as long known (John 6:65), without equivocation, cost or charge, insusceptible to misplacement.
Whence then the evil ? It is from man, as in John 3:19, despite God*1, and His love, and the universal extent of it even to the point of the blood of the Cross offered (Colossians 1:19ff.), as from His compassion and His passion, His incarnation and His sacrificial quenching of the guilt of sin for those who take the ample provision. The evil, it is not from God as initiating source, as if there were a mysterious depletion in the love, contrary to His word which is truth, but it is from man as outlaw. This he pursues either by inventing laws not there, depleting those that are, ignoring them, becoming lawless, even confirming the same and worse, not adopting the remedy.
It is from his multitudinous and quintessential unwillingness to come before the God of truth and confess entanglement with the Lie, in repentance, that evil leers. It evidences itself not only in terms of lacking faith at any time in the sovereign mercies of God as disposed in Jesus Christ, but in being imbued with, or contoured by the culture of ignoring, distorting, marginalising or finding no value in God, or too little, or else multiplying gods, admitted or covert, overt or merely administrative. Whether in seething psychic turmoil, or complacent self-assured negligence, man moves in major components, inviting evil and even calling it good.
Of this, one depiction concerning one nation is seen, in ancient days and thus more readily digested in perspective, in Isaiah 5:18-21. It remains applicable, in many a nation, in vast arenas of current history.
"Woe to those who draws iniquity with cords of vanity,
and sin as if with a cart rope;
That say, 'Let Him make speed and hasten His work,
That we may see it:
And let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come,
That we may know it
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness,
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
"Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!"
Perfection is a glorious thing, and no man is near it, but He who is it, who came and went, being sent bodily away, with a high-horse-power thrust from the boot of man. To be sure, it was foreknown, predicted and even part of the plan of salvation (I Corinthians 6-9), God making use of the wrath of man to serve Him! (Psalm 76:10). Moreover, the eviction of force, it was temporary, a matter as so often predicted, of 3 days.
Yet that expulsive and repulsive act had spiritual as well as physical thrust. Its very force hit Israel (as foretold in Micah 5:1ff.), and has ricocheted to the Gentiles, in some way re-enacting the coming and going of Israel, now in their own more and more mordant violation, as if they even were seeking to do one better in hideous hide and assured folly, than Israel. What then of the nations (cf. Psalm 2) ? returning bovinely to the brink of extinction, playing with fire (Hebrews 12:25-29) as if it were merely pleasantly warming, they grow nervous, and consult their gods of meteorology, and argue, and wrestle, and pollute the world's mental, moral, national and international machineries with machinations and fears, troubles and vexation of spirit (cf. Isaiah 8-9, Luke 21:8-11,26)..
The guilt however of man, does not produce any confusion in God, who has even foretold and given the prognosis for his spiritual disease. With God, though the depths of magnificence are illimitable, yet the realities are clear, as in vast crystalline wonders (cf. Ezekiel 1). The MEANS of procedure, the entire biological, physiological, psychological, economic, meteorological, atomic, molecular, synthetic, programmatic and free, intellectual and activistic is like so many eyes that see (as in the Ezekiel vision), means and ways in the wheels of activity, which move as set up, subject to the movement of the Spirit of God, who can initiate and sustain any given direction for the whole (cf. Ezekiel 1:16-18), which yet continues en bloc, drawing near to its end (Ezekiel 10), relative to any people or to all people, with diminishing protection (cf. Revelation 6), astronomical ,magnetic or whatever else seems good to the inventor of all this equipment.
Israel has given the world a foretaste. It fell to a foolish nation (cf. Deuteronomy 32:15-21, Isaiah 30:1-5), but the world, when it duplicates, nay amplifies the fall into the crevasses of time, it will fall as one whole into the overweening control of an arrogant ass (II Thessalonians 2), proud, self-acclaiming, intoxicated and then smashed in his drunken orgies of spirit. The operation becoming world-wide, there is then manifestly no deliverance except in Christ, evacuated because of majesty and truth (Isaiah 53:9), and soon to return in fidelity and demonstrated power and necessity, to take over His own world, till its day ends (Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 24:35).
It is in essence so simple. Before departure, He left the Christian Church which became the religion of Rome, in relating to Himself, and in this He left those who saw the consummation of His earlier program, always as pre-defined and predicted. Sickness scattered, death departed at His word (Matthew 4:24,12:15, John 11, Luke 7:11ff.), then as foretold in John 2:19-20, Matthew 17:22-23), His body was evacuated, this time not by man in killing it, but by God in raising it, so that though its location was clear (Luke 23:55)), it could not be found, and would not be shown, except to His people who believed, the nations having done their work, and having to wait till judgment for the next appearance (cf. I Thessalonians 1, Psalm 2). Were they ignorant who watched the Son of God completing His labours, His body taken to a prepared tomb, the resurrection the forecast, worship the concomitant ? Would a miser be indifferent to the location of his wealth, or the bank where it was stored, or the disk on which the particulars had been put, or the destiny of his millions!
Staggered yet, to see this greater miracle, the direct action of God on the sacrificial Lamb, the role of Jesus the Christ, they yet were to be convinced as in Luke 24, overcome as with fear first, with triumph at last; but it was no superficial triumph! It still means taking up your cross DAILY and following Him in the application of His Gospel and the imbuing of this world with its testimony as its day of judgment, a terminus for mercy, drew nearer. It could not come soon (II Peter 3:9, Matthew 24:12ff., II Thessalonians 2:1ff.), but it would come in its time. NOW there was work to do. Man's evil was contained, but only selectively in the saints, the believers, those in whom the Lord by His Spirit lived, the children of God. It blast would continue till the lessons to be learnt and the testimony to be made was complete (Revelation 6:10ff.).
Outline was scarcely difficult. The body of Christ was the site of the incarnation; the location of the miracles by the Spirit, the "finger" of the Lord, the pulpit for the word, the site for significance and signification of what was to be and why, and the exhibit for who the Lord is, the definitive declaration of God on earth.
The body of Christ was the site of execution, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God (John 12:32).
The body did not rot; that is why there is no tomb for it (Acts 2:24-35), no place for a rotting corpse in the heart of the early Church. The Prince of Life was indeed betrayed, but rules for all that, each convolution or contour of the historical outcome to the return, traced in truth and then in fact. It began with creation, continued in judgment, arose in restoration, concentrated in configurations of its own importance, was characterised in Christ, assailed Him in fury, was met in power, death itself the victim, as Christ showed its defeat, as one with a test-tube illustrates a principle, bringing life and immortality to light, manifestly, simply, irrefutably, and continuing the work in His own power (Acts 1:1ff.).
It was all fact. It worked by faith, a faith that worked. A universe (Hebrews 11:1ff.), a body, a demonstration over sickness, death, disaster, a remonstration, a realisation in resurrection. A child could and often does follow it. It is both natural and necessary, the divine at work on sin and the solution to evil (cf. SMR). Christ power and work, and then His very body became elements of the demonstration. That is why the Church was founded on it, on what they had heard and seen (Acts 4:19-20, 5:29-32), miracles and majesty in life, precision in penalty-bearing death, point by point fulfilment of predictions to the precision of the plan, raising of Lazarus after four days, in the plain sight of all, of Himself in three as foretold (John 2).There was no mysticism. On the challenge of Jesus the Christ, Thomas was to poke in the finger and SEE; on the mental challenge: "a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see Me to have!" they were invited to THINK!
It was as became in much a norm in the Exodus, with Joshua, with the prophets: suffering and strength, wisdom and patience, power and prevailing, correction and revival, God at work when you opened your eyes, but always with the high-profile uplands on the map, the work of the Saviour, first to come, and then, as now, to come back, not as an after-thought, but as the whole thought, the verification of truth to the end, and the vindication of justice with the epitome of mercy in its place, even in every heart which believed, and in so doing, became a site for regeneration and a power-plant for the work of the Spirit of God.
As in all the other cases of divine intervention, so here, it happened: not only as the magnificence of the motivation for His sacrifice elevated it, but as the sheer point of the resurrection expressed it; forhere was death defiled, judgment borne, and so simply the victory taken in its application, to make it one's own (I Corinthians 15).
This made disciples missionaries and men heroes, the uneducated eloquent, and Jerusalem open to the challenge, for just as they knew who Jesus was, and what He had said, so now they saw the consequences, and could not dismiss the testimony and its fulfilment, the culmination of years of amazement in a sacrifice even more potent, because of sin's coverage, than the individual miracles wrought on others. The thing was perfected, inspected and blindness corrected; and now they positively looked forward without fear to joining the God of their institution, their creation, their commencement, in covenantal mercy, adopted as children, reverential, revering in awe.
This was no fraud. He HAD done and said and was not available for display by the murderers, though doubtless they would have given much to be able to even pretend such a thing. Moreover, it was predicted long before in Psalm 16, as in time by Christ, and it was on the exact time, three days, as noted, and indeed for that matter, in the year predicted (cf. Christ the Citadel Ch. 2). It was like a blitzkrieg of self-immolation, on Himself, by Himself, bearing the humanly unbearable, conspicuous in the vast historical context, covering future history as the word of God had covered His own coming, with majestic precision and generic oversight.
He will return. Having been judged by man, He will judge mankind (Hebrews 2-4, Acts 17:31). It is the individual, the family, the race, the cities, the citizens, the nations, this present world which is swirling in a whirl-pool of meaningless haste, downward voracity and increasingly unresisting sagas. Each layer has its answer to make, each people (cf. Matthew 25). To each, and to each layer, the word comes: You ARE responsible, so you might as well be responsive now, rather than mulish or blind by aversion of the eye, await condign judgment. Man is answerable.
It does not lie in a mystery, however, concerning God and how He relates to man's defection and continued defection despite grace, in such multitudes. God has spoken of His own will. He has told the motivation, the activation, the installation, the ground of revocation of the curse in bearing it Himself (Galatians 3:10-13), and the point of application where faith shows the aperture for life eternal, that it might come where after all, it belongs in kind, though sin would deny it. God has spoken clearly of the scope of His concern, universal and without any truncation (Colossians 1:19ff. ...).
It does not lie in an impotence of God: love disdains force, which would destroy the reality of the person, individual, issue and the liberty. It is rather like those who do not wish to use atomic weapons: they are there, but it soils and spoils beyond the immediate point. So where is the confounding implement, in view of the love of the Lord ?
It lies in one place: in the heart of man.
This total clearance of God from anything even conceivable, however remotely as evil, discriminatory, as indulgence, is absolute, universal, eternal. Moreover, it depends on no changing seasons, but on His own KNOWLEDGE, and His own offer, and His own integrity, so that bound by nothing, exposed by light, each one goes where love may place him or her (John 8:42 shows this principle), beyond occasion, or the transient littlenesses that simply swamp. The destiny of each is not a circumstance, but a holy depiction foreknown, works out, reality in, past any contrivance or necessity, the liberation of liberty and the consummation of that vast realism, being made in the image of God, not manipulated but manifested, both the light of God and the life of the one lit up by His knowledge, His foreknowledge, His love that seeks all and finds some, in the very interstices of His universal love.
On the other hand, there is no confusion nor any mitigation of the trial. IF, this being so, and reality being preserved by the wonder of God's wisdom and love, anyone is found to deny and reject the offer of Jesus Christ, knowing the Gospel, then that being the criterion, in time or eternity, is operative.
The test is not at all slanted. Even Jews who knew very much indeed about God from the Old Testament and from viewing the work and wonder and wisdom and power of Jesus Christ Himself personally, because they had the light and rejected it - the FINAL test, just as foreknowledge is the ultimate test - were jostling to the destiny of hell because they said NO (John 15:22). What is found in eternity is shown in temporality, and what is known in time is not contrary to what is ascertained before it. However, the matter is one of principle. IF YOU HAD NOT seen and heard what Christ has done, He told these people (John 15), you would have had not sin, that is, would not be rejected as outcasts, or found to be such. There would still have been the equivalent of His coming, of His meeting them, of their opportunity for response, and there would yet remain the outcome of that. To be sure, it was known in eternity, but it is shown at the last, in time.
The love and power of God, His principles do not change: when HE is satisfied (from eternity), then the issue is solved and the day will show it, on His return (I Corinthians 4:3-5). The principle of exclusion then, is knowing rejection of the mercy needed. That is what He taught. How happy one is to know that it is DIVINE knowledge which knows the result, whether it be in time shown, or not, for many have known nothing about the matter! No one goes to hell, has this kind of "sin" of which Christ spoke, for some circumstantial reason. Rather is it because in the seeing and knowing wisdom of God, this rejection leaves no other way for a free person. No one preferring light, the light of God which alone shows truth without qualification or corrigibility, will inherit darkness; no one preferring the latter, will come anomalously into heaven (Revelation 21:8).
Peace in His provision is wonderful. He is glorious, His work is glorious, His majesty is one of splendour not in mere form but in fact, His salvation is precious, His gift is surpassing, and it is available (Psalm 145:10ff., II Corinthians 9:15).
Another aspect of His glory is this, that we are responsible. While the way in is paid for, the lost soul that comes to Him is paid for, the new status as children of God is paid for, the energy for bringing the soul back to God is free, the love is transcendentally and exuberantly free: all this makes the miserableness of defiance the more an impress of a new dimension of guilt. We are not soulless transport convicts, but convinced souls made so in terms of the ways of love from the power of the timeless God, who yet made time and entered it. Therefore we should behave responsibly, as those aware of magnificent equipment, brilliantly hi-tech, leaving man behind as very much a junior, product of the One who made the mind and the liberty to use it, the spirit and discretion to make it meaningful, even in relationships with others, defying vengeance, seeking good. While this is an issue of challenge, never ignoring the responsibility to avoid evil and help others if one can, to do the same, without force, but with conviction, it is no dream.
If this is for the believer, what is the position for the unbeliever, even for the one who rejects the very basis! It is needful to come to realise that without God in God's world, each such person still remaining so, is liable, guilty already (John 3:18), in need of succour, like one thirsty and empty, running on hope only.
It is then when with a humble and a contrite heart one comes brimful with thankfulness and gratitude to God for having such a salvation that one avoids with singular joy (Isaiah 66:1-2, 51:11), the otherwise just challenge, How can you escape who neglect even so great a salvation!
The fear of God is rather like the ocean in one respect. It is clean and it cleanses (cf. Psalm 119). The cleansing is special, it is the blood of Christ (Revelation 7:13-14, Titus 3:5-6), the just for the unjust to bring us to God (II Peter 3:18). The cleanness provided is glorious, an intimate, ultimate and absolute goodness, incorruptible, uncorrosive; and like the ocean it is vast, inspiring awe, but here, not just temporal but eternal.
See for example:
LOVE IS PURER,
Overflight in Christ Ch. 2
The Face of God ... Ch. 9,
Great Execrations ... Greater Faith Chs. 7 and 9,
The Christian Pilgrimage Ch. 3,
The Glow of Predestinative Power Ch. 4
Outrageous Outages ... and the Courage of Christ Ch. 9
Serenity ... Ch 14.
To Know God Ch. 1.