Knowing God: The Grace and Mercy of God, Part 2.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Let us examine the grace and mercy of God by breaking this magnificent portion of Scripture into a biblical outline highlighting the Apostle Paul’s major points. Please know that this examination is just a brief overview and in no means does this section the justice it deserves.

First, what were we without God’s grace? Ephesians 2:1-3 says that we were spiritually dead because of our trespasses and sins. Living rebelliously against God was our normal way of life. We followed the course and pattern for life dictated to us by a fallen and godless world system of thought and philosophies. Additionally, whether we realized it or not, we were slaves and servants of the devil (Romans 6:15-19). Like many before and after us, we lived for the fulfillment of bodily passions and lusts and carried out what we thought about in our minds. Consequently, we were objects of God’s wrath.

Second, what did we become because of God’s grace? Ephesians 2:4-9 says that God, being rich in mercy because of His great love for sinners like us, made us spiritually alive. This was God’s work of grace and mercy. We contributed nothing, in and of ourselves, to our spiritual rebirth (John 3:1-8). It was solely a work by the Holy Spirit, based upon the sovereign grace of God through the substitutionary atonement found only in Jesus Christ.

God also made us citizens of heaven. This spiritual realm is where our spiritual blessings are (Ephesians 1:3), where our inheritance is (I Peter 1:1-4), and where our affections should be (Colossians 3:1-3). We are objects of God’s immeasurable grace and kindness and merciful displays of the same.

All of this is because of God’s grace, which is personally accessed to each believer by God given faith. Faith is trust in, dependence upon, commitment to and worship of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. It requires repenting of your sin and trusting in Jesus Christ and receiving His righteousness as your own. However, the ability to repent and believe, both aspects of what is called conversion, is only possible by the God given faith from God.

Grace is grounded in God alone. Grace is grounded in God’s rich mercy. Grace is grounded in God’s great love, with which He (God) loved us (sinners). Grace is grounded towards sinners dead in their trespasses. Grace is grounded in God making dead sinners alive in Christ. Grace is grounded in God seating saved sinners in Christ Jesus in heavenly places. Grace is grounded in God’s immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward sinners in Christ Jesus.

We can boast of nothing and, independently of God, we contribute nothing to our salvation. Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Although men are required to believe for salvation, even that faith is part of the gift of God, which saves and cannot be exercised by one’s own power. God’s grace is preeminent in every aspect of salvation (cf. Romans 3:20Galatians 2:16).”

Finally, what are believers to now do by God’s grace? We are to now serve the Lord. God calls us to be His workmanship created for good works. Our good works do not produce our salvation but rather give evidence of our salvation (John 15:8; Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Timothy 3:17; Titus 2; 14; James 2:16-26). Like our salvation, our good works were ordained to be a reality before the creation of the world.

In which category do you presently belong? Are you without God’s grace? Have you received God’s grace? Are you living a life in honor and glory of God’s grace? Your answers to one or all of these questions are a matter of life and death and indicate whether you are truly living a life as God intended for you to live.

Consider these questions very carefully. Happy Resurrection Sunday! Jesus Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Knowing God: The Grace and Mercy of God.

“For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.” – Deuteronomy 4:31

I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” – Romans 9:15, 16

“It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” – Lamentations 3:22

“Do you know it was His mercy that woke you up this morning? Because His judgment should’ve killed you last night.” – Voddie Baucham

No one is redeemed except through unmerited mercy, and no one is condemned except through merited judgement.” – Augustine

Let’s assume that all men are guilty of sin in the sight of God. From the mass of humanity, God sovereignly decides to give mercy to some of them. What do the rest get? They get justice. The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice” – R. C. Sproul

“Is God unfair in not choosing to save everyone? ‘Fair’ would send everyone to hell. You don’t want fair, you want mercy.” ~John MacArthur

“Justice is when God gives us what we deserve; Mercy is when He withholds from us what we deserve; Grace when He gives us what we don’t deserve.” – Harry L. Reeder III

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, wrathful, loving, just and righteous. The Bible also says that God is gracious and merciful.

The grace and mercy originating from and sourced in God alone is the motivation behind God’s dealings with the elect. Believers in Jesus Christ should have no confidence in their ability to come to Christ. Anyone who is a believer is so because of the sovereign grace and mercy of God.

Grace and mercy are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. God’s benevolence upon the condemned has two perspectives. Mercy is God “not giving” the believer in Christ what he/she deserves: judgment. Grace is God “giving” the believer in Christ what he/she does not deserve: salvation.

Puritan Thomas Watson writes, “Every link in the golden chain of salvation, is wrought and interwoven with free grace! God’s saving MERCY is free and spontaneous. To set up merit—is to destroy mercy. We do not deserve mercy, because of our enmity. We may force God to punish us—but not to love us! If God would show mercy only to such as deserve it—He would show mercy to none! Mercy is an innate propensity in God to do good to distressed sinners. Mercy proceeds primarily, and originally from God. He is called the “Father of mercies.” (2 Corinthians 1:3).”

Watson continues by stating, “God’s saving mercy is powerful. How powerful is that mercy—which softens a heart of stone! Mercy changed Mary Magdalene’s heart, out of whom seven devils were cast. She who was an inflexible adamant—was made a weeping penitent!”

“God’s mercy works sweetly—yet irresistibly. It allures —yet conquers! The law may terrify—but mercy mollifies. Of what sovereign power and efficacy is that mercy, which subdues the pride and enmity of the heart, and beats off those chains of sin, in which the soul is held!”

“God’s mercy is superabundant. The Lord has treasures of mercy in store, and therefore is said to be “plenteous in mercy” (Psalm 86:5), and “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). The vial of God’s wrath, only drops—but the fountain of His mercy, runs. The sun is not so full of light—as God is of mercy. His mercy is over-flowing and ever-flowing. His mercy is infinite—without bounds, and without end. “His mercy endures forever.” Psalm 136. Every time we draw our breath—we suck in mercy!”

When we meet tomorrow, which is Resurrection Sunday 2018, we will examine one of the most definitive biblical texts regarding the grace and mercy of God: Ephesians 2:1-10. I hope you will join me.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Knowing God: The Righteousness and Justice of God, Part 4.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26).

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, wrathful and loving. The Bible also says that God is just and righteous. How then can fallen and condemned sinners (Romans 3:9-20) stand accepted before the just and righteous God of heaven and earth?

The answer can be found in Romans 1:16-17. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The Apostle Paul explains in detail what the gospel contains and proclaims in Romans 3:21-26. Four times in this section Paul refers to the righteousness of God. It is a righteousness which He alone possesses and originated. Righteousness is inherent within God’s being but is foreign in the being, nature, heart and soul of fallen mankind.

Therefore, how may God declare a sinner righteous in His sight when the sinner stands condemned before Him? The Apostle Paul sets forth the truth that Jesus Christ alone has bridged the huge gulf which exists between the righteous God and the unrighteous sinner.

Jesus Christ has alone provided justification (Romans 3:24). God can declare the sinner righteous in His sight solely based upon the merits of Christ’s righteousness. As one pastor explains, “God imputed a believer’s sin to Christ on account in His sacrificial death (Isaiah 53:1-5; I Peter 2:24), and He imputes Christ’s perfect righteousness to God’s law to Christians (Romans 5:19; I Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). The sinner receives this gift of God’s grace by faith alone (Romans 3:22, 25).”

Jesus Christ not only justifies, He also redeems (Romans 3:24). The image behind the Greek word ἀπολύτρωσις; apoloytrosis comes from the ancient slave market. It meant paying the necessary ransom to obtain a prisoner’s or a slave’s release. While gold of silver could redeem an ancient slave, the only adequate payment to redeem sinners from sin’s slavery and its deserved punishment is “in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:1-61 Peter 1:18–19), and was paid to God to satisfy his justice.

Jesus Christ not only justifies and redeems, Paul also explains that Jesus Christ alone has satisfied all of God’s just and righteous demands for the sufficient payment of sin’s penalty. The word which describes this is propitiation.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Crucial to the significance of Christ’s sacrifice, this word carries the idea of appeasement or satisfaction—in this case Christ’s violent death satisfied the offended holiness and wrath of God against those for whom Christ died (Isaiah 53:11Colossians 2:11–14). The Hebrew equivalent of this word was used to describe the mercy seat—the cover to the ark of the covenant—where the high priest sprinkled the blood of the slaughtered animal on the Day of Atonement to make atonement for the sins of the people. In pagan religions, it is the worshiper not the god who is responsible to appease the wrath of the offended deity. But in reality, man is incapable of satisfying God’s justice apart from Christ, except by spending eternity in hell (1 John 2:1-2).“

It is because of the person and work of Jesus Christ that we can refer to this day as Good Friday. Dr. R.C. Sproul comments:

“If I’m happy with my life, why do I need Jesus? I hear that from a lot of folks. They say to me, “I just don’t feel the need for Christ.” As if Christianity were something that were packaged and sold through Madison Avenue! That what we’re trying to communicate to people is “Here’s something that’s going to make you feel good, and everybody needs a little of this in their closet or in their refrigerator,” as if it were some commodity that’s going to add a dash of happiness to our lives.”

“If the only reason a human being ever needed Jesus was to be happy and a person is already happy without Jesus, then they certainly don’t need Jesus. The New Testament indicates, however, that there’s another reason you or somebody else needs Jesus. There is a God who is altogether holy, who is perfectly just, and who declares that he is going to judge the world and hold every human being accountable for their life. As a perfectly holy and just God, he requires from each one of us a life of perfect obedience and of perfect justness. If there is such a God and if you have lived a life of perfect justness and obedience—that is, if you’re perfect — then you certainly don’t need Jesus. You don’t need a Savior because only unjust people have a problem.”

Dr. Sproul continues by writing, “The problem is simply this: If God is just and requires perfection from me and I come short of that perfection and he is going to deal with me according to justice, then I am looking at a future punishment at the hands of a holy God. If the only way I can escape punishment is through a Savior and if I want to escape that, then I need a Savior. Some people will say that we’re just trying to preach Jesus as a ticket out of hell, as a way to escape eternal punishment. That’s not the only reason I would commend Jesus to people, but that is one of the reasons.”

Dr. Sproul concludes, “I think that many people in today’s culture don’t really believe that God is going to hold them accountable for their lives—that God really does not require righteousness. When we take that view, we don’t feel the weight of the threat of judgment. If you’re not afraid to deal with God’s punishment, then be happy as a clam if you want. I would be living in terrible fear and trembling at the prospect of falling into the hands of a holy God.”

What about you? Are you attempting to live your life as if you do not have to face the justice and righteousness of Almighty God? The only hope is to repent of your sins and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord and receive His righteousness. Only then can this day truly be a Good Friday for you.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Knowing God: The Righteousness and Justice of God, Part 3.

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, wrathful and loving. The Bible also says that God is just and righteous. How then can fallen and condemned sinners (Romans 3:9-20) stand accepted before the just and righteous God of heaven and earth?

The answer can be found in Romans 1:16-17. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The Apostle Paul stated that he was not ashamed of the gospel. To be ashamed (ἐπαισχύνομαι; epaischynomai) means to personally and presently feel embarrassment or disgrace because of something. It may also mean awkwardness, humiliation and discomfort. Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel (εὐαγγέλιον; euangelion) or the good news of salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Why was this the case?

Paul understood that the gospel, and the gospel alone, was the power of God for salvation. The word power (δύναμις; dynamis), from which we derive our English word dynamite, means supernatural ability. This ability contained in the gospel belongs to and originates from God alone. It is not a manmade power or strength.

This power from God alone contained in the gospel results in salvation. The gospel is the good news that (1) God exists; (2) sin exists; (3) One Savior exists: Jesus Christ; and (4) salvation or deliverance exists from sin’s penalty, power and eventual presence. God’s justice and righteousness is satisfied by the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is good news.

This good news is for everyone who believes, or comes to God by faith. Believing (πιστεύω; pisteuo) is the God-given ability to trust in, commit to, depend upon and worship Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This salvation is available for both the Jew and the Gentile. But this salvation is only available by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Why is the good news, or the gospel, of Jesus Christ the only way a sinner can be reconciled to the just and righteous God? The answer is given in Romans 1:17.

The phrase “for in it” refers us back to the subject at hand: the gospel. The Apostle Paul says that it is in the gospel alone that the righteousness of God is revealed. Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη; dikaiosyne) means to put right with, to cause to be in a right relationship and to be declared righteous. This righteousness belongs to and originates from God alone. It is not earned by man, but graciously given by God through God-given faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; Acts 13:48; 2 Peter 1:1-2). By this imputed, or credited, righteousness God can and does declare the condemned sinner just or justified.

As one pastor explains, “God is inherently righteous (Deut. 32:4; Psalm 11:7; 116:5; John 17:25; I John 2:1; Revelation 16:5) and man falls woefully short of the divine standard of moral perfection (Romans 3:10-20; Job 9:2; Matthew 5:48). But the gospel reveals that through the instrument of faith – and faith alone – God will impute or credit His righteousness to ungodly sinners (Romans 3:21-24; 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:8-9).”

When the Apostle Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4 that the just, or those God declares righteous, will live by faith he intends to prove that justification by faith alone has always been God’s way of saving sinners. Abraham is a pattern of justification by faith alone (Romans 4:22-25; Galatians 3:1-7). Additionally, true saving faith will be demonstrated by the believer’s actions (Philippians 2:12-13; James 2:14-26). This good news is always through faith and faith alone.

The righteousness Paul speaks is not the inherent righteousness God’s possesses, even though the Bible teaches that God is just and righteous. Rather, the righteousness of God, spoken of in Romans 1:17, is the imputed righteousness God credits to the condemned sinner by faith in Jesus Christ.

Why Christ? Because Jesus received upon the cross the just and righteous wrath as our substitute. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Pastor John Piper writes, “Historically, Protestants have believed that the Bible teaches that our salvation depends on what Christ has accomplished for our pardon and our perfection. We accept by faith his substitution for us in two senses: in his final suffering and death, he was condemned and cursed so that we may be pardoned (Galatians 3:13; Romans 8:1-3) and in his whole life of righteousness culminating in his death, he learned obedience so that we may be saved (Hebrews 5:1-9). His death crowns his atoning sufferings that propitiate God’s wrath against us (Romans 3:24=25; 5:1-9), but it also crowns his life of perfect righteousness—God’s righteousness —that is then imputed to us who believe (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-22; 4:1-11; 5:18-19). God provided in Christ what God demanded from us in the law. 

Hymn writer Edward Mote wrote these wonderful words. The hymn is entitled The Solid Rock.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

Refrain

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

Refrain

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

Refrain

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Refrain

May you rest today that the just and righteous God of heaven and earth has declared you justified and righteous by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Knowing God: The Righteousness and Justice of God, Part 2.

“The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice.” – R. C. Sproul

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, wrathful and loving. The Bible also says that God is just and righteous.

The word righteous, from the Hebrew word sedeq, means accuracy, or that which is correct and right. It is doing what is right according to a standard. Righteousness in synonymous with honesty. Justice, from the Hebrew word mispat, literally means to make a decision in a court case. We may conclude that God renders decisions regarding the punishment of sinners in an accurate, correct and righteous way.

What then is the condition of sinners before a just and righteousness God? The Apostle Paul gives a clear indication in Romans 1:18-3:8. In this lengthy discourse, the apostle argues that all sinners are under the condemnation of God. This includes those who some would identify as pagan, self-righteous and even religious.

The apostle then provides a climatic conclusion to this argument in Romans 3:9-20. By quoting from the Old Testament Scriptures in this section, Paul is demonstrating that God is perfectly just and righteous in punishing sinners and that this conclusion is not just a New Testament teaching. Romans 3:9-20 says,

“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

Theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards comments, about this argument from the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, that, “The main subject of the doctrinal part of this epistle, is the free grace of God in the salvation of men by Christ Jesus; especially as it appears in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. And the more clearly to evidence this doctrine, and show the reason of it, the apostle, in the first place, establishes that point, that no flesh living can be justified by the deeds of the law. And to prove it, he is very large and particular in showing, that all mankind, not only the Gentiles, but Jews, are under sin, and so under the condemnation of the law; which is what he insists upon from the beginning of the epistle to this place. He first begins with the Gentiles; and in the first chapter shows that they are under sin, by setting forth the exceeding corruptions and horrid wickedness that overspread the Gentile world: and then through the second chapter, and the former part of this third chapter, to the text and following verse, he shows the same of the Jews, that they also are in the same circumstances with the Gentiles in this regard.”

 18th Century evangelist George Whitfield also explains, “Whoever is acquainted with the nature of mankind in general, or the propensity of his own heart in particular, must acknowledge, that self- righteousness is the last idol that is rooted out of the heart: being once born under a covenant of works, it is natural for us all to have recourse to a covenant of works, for our everlasting salvation. And we have contracted such devilish pride, by our fall from God, that we would, if not wholly, yet in part at least, glory in being the cause of our own salvation. We cry out against popery, and that very justly; but we are all Papists, at least, I am sure, we are all Arminians by nature; and therefore no wonder so many natural men embrace that scheme. It is true, we disclaim the doctrine of merit, are ashamed directly to say we deserve any good at the hands of God; therefore, as the Apostle excellently well observes, “we go about,” we fetch a circuit, “to establish a righteousness of our own, and,” like the Pharisees of old, “will not wholly submit to that righteousness which is of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 What is the answer to the truth that God is just and righteous in condemning sinners? We will continue to look at the Epistle of Romans to find our answer. Please know that God’s justice and righteousness are never compromised in order for sinners to become acceptable to God. Rather, God’s righteous justice is satisfied. How? I encourage you to read Romans 3:21-26 as one biblical text containing the answer to this question.

Until next time, Soli deo Gloria!

 

Knowing God: The Righteousness and Justice of God.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you. (Psalm 89:14)

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. (Psalm 103:6)

The Lord is righteous, he is in her midst, he will do no unrighteousness. Every morning he brings his justice to light; he never fails, but the unjust knows no shame (Zephaniah 3:5).

Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is no one besides me (Isaiah 45:21).

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, wrathful and loving. The Bible also says that God is just and righteous.

All of God’s attributes are in harmony with each other. They do not contradict each other. Therefore, the attributes of God provide the student of Scripture a multi-faceted perspective on the person and work of the One, True God.

To proclaim God is loving is not contradicted by also saying He is a God of wrath. To proclaim God is wrathful does not mean He is not the God of love. What counterbalances these two particular attributes are the Lord’s attributes of justice and righteousness. Therefore, we may initially conclude that God’s wrath is a just and righteous wrath and that God’s love is a just and righteous love.

Psalm 19:14 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” The word righteousness, from the Hebrew word sedeq, means accuracy, or that which is correct and right. It is doing what is right according to a standard. Righteousness is synonymous with honesty. Justice, from the Hebrew word mispat, literally means to make a decision in a court case. We may conclude that God renders decisions regarding the punishment of sinners in an accurate, correct and righteous way.

Theologian Charles Hodge writes, “The word justice, or righteousness, is used in Scripture sometimes in a wider and sometimes in a more restricted sense. In theology, it is often distinguished as “justitia interna,” or moral excellence, and “justitia externa,” or rectitude of conduct. In Hebrew it means, in a physical sense, straight; and in a moral sense, right, what is as it should be. It  means rightness, that which satisfies the demands of rectitude or law.”

Dr. Hodge continues by saying, “When we regard God as the author of our moral nature, we conceive of Him as holy; when we regard Him in his dealings with his rational creatures, we conceive of Him as righteous. He is a righteous ruler; all his laws are holy, just, and good. In his moral government He faithfully adheres to those laws. He is impartial and uniform in their execution. As a judge he renders unto every man according to his works. He neither condemns the innocent, nor clears the guilty; neither does He ever punish with undue severity. Hence the justice of God is distinguished as rectoral, or that which is concerned in the imposition of righteous laws and in their impartial execution; and distributive, or that which is manifested in the righteous distribution of rewards and punishment. The Bible constantly represents God as a righteous ruler and a just judge. Notwithstanding all the apparent inequalities in the distribution of his favours; notwithstanding the prosperity of the wicked and the afflictions of the righteous, the conviction is everywhere expressed that God is just; that somehow and somewhere He will vindicate his dealings with men, and show that He is righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works.”

To say God is holy refers to who God is by nature. To say God is just and righteous refers to what God does on the basis of His holy nature.

Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon comments, “Man’s injustice shall receive retribution at the hand of God. Mercy to His saints demands vengeance on their persecutors, and He will repay it. No blood of martyrs shall be shed in vain; no groans of confessors in prison shall be left without inquisition being made concerning them. All wrongs shall be righted, all the oppressed shall be avenged. Justice may at times leave the courts of man, but it abides upon the tribunal of God. For this every right- minded person will bless God.”

Take time today to thank God that He is just and righteous. We may not always understand why things happen the way they do, but we can rest assured that God will do what is right.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Knowing God: The Love of God, Part 4.

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, and wrathful. If, of all of God’s attributes, the one which often solicits the most controversy and debate is God’s wrath, then it could also be argued that the attribute of God which is most often misunderstood is His love.

As we have already noted, God’s love is a holy love. It is also a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is not a love like human love which tends to be self-centered, emotionally driven and inconsistent.

God’s love is also a multi-faceted love. This means it is not a love which is singularly directed but rather has multiple objects. We will look for the next couple of days at four biblical examples of God’s love.

First, there is God the Father’s love for the Son. Four times in the Gospel of John the apostle speaks of the love of the Father for the Son: John 3:35; 5:20; 15:9-10; 17:26.

Second, there is God the Son’s love for God the Father. This statement of truth is found in John 14:31.

Thirdly, there is God’s providential love for all which He has created. While the Hebrew and Greek words for love are not specifically used, God’s act of creation, and His subsequent sustenance of the same, is an example of His love.

Fourth, there is the benevolent, magnanimous love God has for rebellious sinners. This is the love of which most frequently speak of knowing and which is taken from John 3:16.

Finally, there is God’s love for the elect. This is a particular love. It is a choosing love done before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6; Titus 1:1-3). It is a love which actually saves.

We witness this electing love of God for Israel. In Deuteronomy 7:1-8 the text reads, “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, but thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire. “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

We also witness this electing love by God for the church. Romans 9:6-18 says,” But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”

Dr. Don Carson comments that, “The striking thing about these passages is that when Israel is contrasted with the universe or with other nations, the distinguishing feature has nothing of personal or national merit; it is nothing other than the love of God. In the very nature of the case, then, God’s love is directed toward Israel in these passages in a way in which it is not directed toward other nations.”

The same can be said for the elect comprising the church of Jesus Christ. Believers in Christ can claim no special merit in order to earn or possess the love of God. God chooses to love some and to leave others to deserved and divine judgment.

Ephesians 1:3-5  says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” 

This love by God generates the most debate and is the most controversial. Yet, it is biblical and therefore true. We are believers in Christ due solely to God’s sovereign and electing love which existed before the foundation of the world.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, take time today to thank God that He chose to set His love upon you. Think about His love.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Knowing God: The Love of God, Part 3.

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, and wrathful. If, of all of God’s attributes, the one which often solicits the most controversy and debate is God’s wrath, then it could also be argued that the attribute of God which is most often misunderstood is His love.

As we have already noted, God’s love is a holy love. It is also a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is not a love like human love which tends to be self-centered, emotionally driven and inconsistent.

God’s love is also a multi-faceted love. This means it is not a love which is singularly directed but rather has multiple objects. We will look for the next couple of days at four biblical examples of God’s love.

First, there is God the Father’s love for the Son. Four times in the Gospel of John the apostle speaks of the love of the Father for the Son: John 3:35; 5:20; 15:9-10; 17:26.

Second, there is God the Son’s love for God the Father. This statement of truth is found in John 14:31.

Thirdly, there is God’s providential love for all which He has created. While the Hebrew and Greek words for love are not specifically used, God’s act of creation, and His subsequent sustenance of the same, is an example of His love.

Dr. Don Carson explains the, “Lord Jesus depicts a world in which God clothes the grass of the fields with the glory of wildflowers seen by no human being, perhaps, but seen by God. The lion roars and hauls down its prey, but it is God who feeds the animal. The birds of the air find food, but that is the result of God’s loving providence, and not a sparrow falls from the sky apart from the sanction of the Almighty (Matt. 6). If this were not a benevolent providence, a loving providence, then the moral lesson that Jesus drives home, via that this God can be trusted to provide for his own people, would be incoherent.”

Fourth, there is the benevolent, magnanimous love God has for rebellious sinners. This is the love of which most frequently speak of knowing and which is taken from John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, ”John 3:16 may or may not be the most familiar verse in all of Scripture, but it is surely one of the most abused and least understood. The verse is so well known that the reference alone is thought by some to be a sufficient proclamation of the gospel. Arminians extract the phrase “God so loved the world” from its context and use it as an argument for universal atonement, meaning Christ’s death made redemption possible for all. More extreme Universalists push the same argument even further. They claim the verse proves that God loves everyone exactly the same, and that all will be saved—as if John 3:16 negated all the biblical warnings of condemnation for the wicked.”

Dr. MacArthur continues by stating, “To think like that is to miss the point completely. The immediate context gives the necessary balance: “Whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (v. 18). Surely, that is a truth that needs to be proclaimed to our generation with at least as much passion and urgency as the message of God’s love and mercy. Moreover, John 3:16 does not focus on the extent of the atonement; the verse is a statement about the magnitude of God’s love. Here is a profound wonder: God loved “the world”—this wicked realm of fallen humanity—so much that He sacrificed His only begotten Son to pay the price of redemption for all who believe in Him.”

Next time, we will see the final type of love which Scripture mentions: God’s love for the elect. Until then, ponder the various ways in which God has chosen to love you. Have a blessed day in loving and knowing God.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

Knowing God: The Love of God, Part 2.

“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35).

“For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.” (John 5:20).

“but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.” (John 14:31).

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, and wrathful. If, of all of God’s attributes, the one which often solicits the most controversy and debate is God’s wrath, then it could also be argued that the attribute of God which is most often misunderstood is His love.

As we have already noted, God’s love is a holy love. It is also a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is not a love like human love which tends to be self-centered, emotionally driven and inconsistent.

God’s love is also a multi-faceted love. This means it is not a love which is singularly directed but rather has multiple objects. We will look for the next couple of days at four biblical examples.

First, there is God the Father’s love for the Son. Several times in the Gospel of John the apostle speaks of the love of the Father for the Son.

John uses the word agape in John 3:35. The word ἀγαπάω (agapao) is a present active verb. It not only means to be self-sacrificial, but also to take pleasure in and have an appreciation for. Jesus makes this statement within the context of His dialogue with Nicodemas.

John also uses the Greek word phileo in John 5:20 which means to have affection for. The word φιλέω (phileo) is also a present active verb. It is a love based upon an interpersonal association. God the Father takes pleasure in and has an interpersonal relationship with God the Son. This statement, also by Jesus, is spoken in the context of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic man by the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-16) and His subsequent discussion with the Jewish leaders who criticized Jesus for healing the man on the Sabbath (John 5:17-21).

Second, there is God the Son’s love for God the Father as explicitly stated in John 14:31. The word for love which Jesus uses is ἀγαπάω (agapao) and is in the present active form. Not only does God the Father take pleasure in and possess an appreciation for God the Son, but the same can be said for God the Son towards God the Father.

Jesus makes this statement during the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) with His disciples. This is done during the hours immediately preceding His crucifixion. Jesus’ obedience to Father’s will and commandment demonstrates the Son’s love for the Father.

Jesus reiterates this truth of loving obedience in John 15:9-10 which says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

Jesus also acknowledges this love the Father and Son have for each other in His High-Priestly Prayer. John 17:26 says, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Dr. Don Carson writes, “This intra-Trinitarian love of God not only marks off Christian monotheism from all other monotheisms, but is bound up in surprising ways with revelation and redemption.”

We must not overlook Jesus’ statement to His disciples in John 14:22-24. “Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

Jesus’ love for God the Father was demonstrated by His obedience to the Father’s commandment (John 14:31). So also should be our love for the Father and for the Son. If we claim to love God, then obedience to His commandments is evidence of that profession. See I John 2:29, 3:1-9; 10-12; 16-23; 4:7-11; 20-21.

Have a blessed day in loving and knowing God by being obedient to Him.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

Knowing God: The Love of God.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:7-11).

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, and wrathful. If, of all of God’s attributes, the one which often solicits the most controversy and debate is God’s wrath, then it could be argued that the attribute of God which is most often misunderstood is His love.

One book I discovered by a noted biblical theologian is entitled The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. The author, D.A. Carson, is concerned that the love of God is so often distorted in order for people to make it something less offensive to the fallen and sinful human mind.

Dr. Carson writes, “We live in a culture in which many other and complementary truths about God are widely disbelieved. I do not think that what the Bible says about the love of God can long survive at the forefront of our thinking if it is abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God—to mention only a few nonnegotiable elements of basic Christianity. The result, of course, is that the love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable. The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all sentimentalized. This process has been going on for some time. My generation was taught to sing, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love,” in which we robustly instruct the Almighty that we do not need another mountain (we have enough of them), but we could do with some more love. The hubris is staggering.”

The Bible teaches that God’s love is a holy love. It is not a sentimental emotion which turns a blind eye or a deaf ear to sin and the sinner’s rebelliousness. Rather, in I John 4:8, which is in harmony with John 3:16, God’s agape love is a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is not a love which denies the reality of sin but rather recognizes it, calls it for what it is, and has done something about it in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

God’s love is in keeping with what the Apostle Paul mentions in I Corinthians 13:4-8a. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

God’s love for sinners is a patient love. It is a kind love, while never being envious, boastful, arrogant or rude. God does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but He rejoices in the truth.

God demonstrates this love by loving sinners who deserve His wrath. Romans 5:7-10 says, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

But is God’s love for sinners, as under attack as this truth is nowadays because not many believe in sin anymore, the only example of the love of God? Is there more to be found in the Scriptures? I believe so!

Take time today to thank God for His love for you. Take time to express your love for Him based upon His love for you.

Soli deo Gloria!