Is God’s Jealousy a Negative Attribute?

The Bible attributes several attributes to God. Many of the more popular attributes are God’s love, holiness, and grace. Any serious theologian will know the four core “omni” attributes: omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-presence), and omnibenevolence (all-loving). While these attributes are all positive, many critics pinpoint another attribute of God as being greatly problematic: God’s jealousy.

Critics charge that jealousy is a bad trait to hold. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins claims that God breaks “into a monumental rage whenever his chosen people flirted with a rival god.”[1] Paul Copan notes that “Oprah Winfrey said that she was turned off to the Christian faith when she heard a preacher affirm that God is jealous.”[2] Jealousy is condemned for the human being. One of the Ten Commandments states that a person should not “covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).[3] Thus, jealousy seems to be a negative trait. But wait! Doesn’t the Bible claim that God is jealous? It does.

The Bible states at least 13 times that God is jealous for His people. For instance, Moses notes that “the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Later in Deuteronomy, God says, “They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21).

What do we make of this? Jealousy seems to be a negative trait. The Bible presents God as jealous. Therefore, it would seem that God holds negative traits. One is left with three options: 1) One could claim that God holds negative attributes meaning that He is not completely perfect; 2) One could claim that the Bible is erred in its presentation of God; 3) One could claim that our understanding of God’s jealousy could be misunderstood.

The first option demerits the Bible’s presentation of God as valid. If God exists, then God must be a maximally great Being. If the God of the Bible is not a maximally great Being, then the God of the Bible is not really the God of the universe at all.

The second option devalues the Bible, the Word of God. The New Testament writers extracted their understanding of God from the Old Testament. Therefore, if the Old Testament is erred in its presentation of God, then that would carry over into the New Testament. This causes a serious problem for the believer. If we cannot accept the presentation of God in the Bible, then can we accept the God of the Bible?

The third option is best. Our understanding of God’s jealousy must be defined. There must be some misunderstanding that we hold as it pertains to the idea of divine jealousy. In fact, the third option is the only real valid option on the table. When one honestly evaluates God’s jealousy, the person comes to the understanding that God’s jealousy is actually rooted in love. Thus, God’s jealousy becomes a positive trait for three reasons.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive as it relates to God’s passion.

God has a passion for His people. Let’s go back to the passage in Deuteronomy. We all know that Scripture is often taken out of context. Placing Deuteronomy 4:24 in context, one will find that Moses was addressing the issue of the peoples’ covenant with God. God had already blessed the people immensely. God brought them out of slavery. God was about to bring them to a special place prepared for them. God was going to build a great nation out of them. However, the people kept cheating on God. God poured out His love to the nation. He was eventually going to bring the Chosen Messiah, the Savior of the world, in their midst. But they kept cheating on God. Moses says in Deuteronomy 4:23, “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you.”

The marriage analogy is often used to describe God’s jealous passion for His people. Paul Copan rightly notes that “A wife who doesn’t get jealous and angry when another woman is flirting with her husband isn’t really all that committed to the marriage relationship. A marriage without the potential for jealousy when an intruder threatens isn’t much of a marriage.”[4] God had a passion for His people. While Dawkins may think that God’s jealousy is a negative attribute due to the peoples’ “flirting with other gods,” it should be remembered that idolatry is adultery against God.[5] Thus, God’s jealousy is rooted in His love.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to God’s purpose.

God’s jealousy is also rooted in His purpose. Wayne Grudem defines God’s jealousy by “God continually seeks to protect his own honor.”[6] Critics may charge, “See! God only concerns Himself with His own glory and elevated role. This means that God is not humble.” But not so fast. Let’s put this in perspective.

Human jealousy is wrong because one covets something that he/she holds no claim in holding. It is wrong for me to covet my neighbor’s car because I hold no claim to the car. In like manner, human pride is bad because it elevates a person’s position higher than what the person possesses. I can think all day that I am the President of the United States. I can walk around like a peacock telling everyone about my successful presidency. The reality is, however, that I am not the President and will most likely never be. But what if someone who holds the office claims to be President? Right now, the President of the United States of America is Barack Obama. Regardless of your thoughts of him and his presidency, let’s ask: is it wrong for Obama to claim to be President? Is it wrong for him to demand respect for his position? Is it wrong for him to do presidential things? No. Why? It is because he is the President. Is it, therefore, wrong for God to call Himself God and to expect to be treated like God? No. Why? It is because He is God. Paul Copan rightly notes, “Is God proud? No, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being, which makes him worthy of worship.”[7]

Simply put: it is not wrong for God to be jealous over His purpose and glory. Such purpose and glory belongs to God and God alone.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to the human protection.

I am a big brother. My sister is about 7-years-younger than I. Big brothers normally have a protective instinct. I most certainly do. My sister is a loving, free-spirited woman who always sees the good. I, in contrast, see the world the way it really is. My son is much like my sister. I find that my protective juices flow overtime being a parent. Without guidance, it would be easy for my son to take the wrong path as the first shiny, attractive thing gets his attention. As a parent, it is my job to help keep him on the right track. I have a jealous love for my son because I want what’s best for him.

God’s jealousy works in much the same way. God’s jealous love is actually for the benefit, not the detriment, of human protection. God is omniscient. That means that God knows all things. God is also omnisapient, meaning that God possesses all wisdom. Going back to Copan, he notes, “God seeks to protect his creatures from profound self-harm. We can deeply damage ourselves by running after gods made in our own image. God’s jealousy is other-centered.”[8] I agree wholeheartedly with Copan’s assessment. God’s jealousy is actually for the greater human good.

Conclusion

God’s jealousy is not the same as human jealousy. The difference primarily lies in authority. It is wrong for people to be jealous over something that someone else holds because they hold no true claim to such thing. God, in contrast, having the greatest, supreme authority and power is completely justified in being jealous over His people. His jealousy is actually rooted in His love, purpose, and even human protection. Thus, God’s jealousy is not a negative attribute. It is actually a gloriously positive one.

© August 22, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 243.

[2] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011), 34.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 35.

[5] See the book of Hosea for a full treatment of this analogy.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 205.

[7] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 28.

[8] Ibid., 40.

The Holiness of God (Leviticus 11:44-45)

We have been looking at the attributes of God. One particular attribute that must be discussed as we consider God’s attributes is that of God’s holiness. Holiness means that God is set-apart. In Leviticus 11:44, God says to the people of Israel, “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45, ESV). Just how are God’s holiness exhibited and, thereby, known? We find four ways the holiness of God is exhibited.

1. The holiness of God is exhibited through His EXCLUSIVITY (“the LORD;” Ex. 15:11).

 God, speaking through Moses, reminds everyone that “I am the LORD.”[1] The personal name for God is the Hebrew term “יהוה” (Yahweh). This personal name is normally translated by the all-caps term “LORD.” The personal name of God means literally “I am what I am.” Termed another way, it means “the self-existent One.” Moses inquires, “Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders” (Exodus 15:11)? The answer is, “no one.”

Norman Geisler defines holiness, theologically, as meaning that God is “totally and utterly set apart from all creation and evil.”[2] When we speak of God’s holiness, we are acknowledging the fact that He is the only one like Himself. He is the only One worthy of praise and worship. God’s holiness means that He is the ultimate in every way. It is for this reason that the angels proclaim, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

I read a story of a minister who visited one of his members. The lady of the house tried to impress the pastor with her spiritual devotion by pointing out the large Bible on the bookshelf. Speaking in a reverential tone, she pointed to the Bible and said that she loved the book because it was the Word of God. Her young son interrupted the conversation and said, “If that’s God’s book we had better send it back to Him because we never read it.”

Often, we try to tell God what we want and how we want Him to work. However, when we understand the great holiness of God, we should simply say, “Here I am Lord, use me.” The exclusivity of God’s holiness ought to leave us in great awe and wonder.

 2. The holiness of God is exhibited through His EXALTATION (“your God;” Ps. 99:9; Isa. 5:16).

God says the He is the personal God of the people. The term “God” is translated from the Hebrew word “Elohim.” Elohim indicates one who is greatly powerful. It was sometimes used of a mighty ruler. Thus, God is not only the self-existent One, He is the exalted ruler. The psalmist writes, “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His holy hill, for holy is the LORD our God” (Psalm 99:9). Isaiah also notes that “the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness” (Isa. 5:16). God is high and lifted up. God is exalted above every known person and creature.

My graduation from Liberty University was unlike anything I have ever seen. 19,432 graduates were in attendance along with 35,000 guests filling Williams Stadium on Saturday, May 14th, 2016. Throughout the service, people gave thanks to God for getting them to graduation. The group Sounds of Liberty sang the song “Just Say Amen.” People were standing with arms raised to God, exalting him, and giving God the praise that He deserves. In a way, it is a picture of the great exalting praise that will take place in heaven.

The exaltation of God’s holiness demands our worship and praise. We often think our problems are big. But when we give God the exaltation that He deserves, we find that God is much bigger than our problems.

 3. The holiness of God is exhibited through His ETHICAL PURITY (“I am holy;” 2 Cor. 7:1).

God reminds the people that he is holy. In this sense, God’s holiness refers to his ethical purity. Wayne Grudem notes that God’s holiness refers to God being “separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor.”[3] God’s holiness means that He is the absolute good.

When Grandpa died, Mom was at the hospital. I told her that she would not drive home as she had been awake for over 36 hours and was emotionally strained. While driving to the hospital, I had to set on the cruise control because I was tempted to drive faster than I should. But how did I know that I was breaking the law driving too fast? I did because I knew the law said that the particular stretch of highway was regulated at 65 miles per hour. I had to first know the law before I could know what it meant to break the law. In a similar sense, we must first know God’s goodness before we can know any aberrations from His goodness. Evil is the lack of good as it stems from the lack of God’s presence in one’s life.

God’s holiness means that He is the absolute good. There is no evil or not badness in God. God is absolutely pure. Because of God’s moral purity, we can trust that He has our best interests in mind. We can trust Him in His edicts and in His decrees. We can trust Him to do what’s right.

When we experience someone’s goodness, we should desire to work harder for such a person. When I worked public work, I had one boss who was very kind and another boss who was very cruel. For the nice boss, I worked extra hard. For the boss who was cruel, I only did what was necessary to do the task. As good as God has been to us, we should desire to work hard for Him. We should desire for this holy God to purify us and make us like Himself.

 4. The holiness of God is exhibited through His ELIMINATION OF SIN (“Consecrate yourselves;” Ps. 78:41; 2 Cor. 7:1).

God tells the people in Leviticus to “consecrate yourselves.” The phrase comes from the term “qadash.” Qadash means that one is set apart, devoted, and dedicated unto the Lord. God was in the process of giving the priests and the people means of setting themselves apart for the service of the Lord. Mark Rooker notes that Leviticus chapter 11 ends with a “final admonition to underscore the importance of distinguishing between the clean and the unclean. The reason the Israelites were to obey the dietary laws was that they were to be holy because they had been redeemed by God (11:45). This call to holiness is the climax of the chapter, for all the preceding contents of the chapter prepare for this final admonition.”[4]

God’s holiness is so that He cannot stand in the presence of sin. God’s holiness indicates that God is absolutely pure and holds no sin whatsoever. God must do something with sin. God will either purify sin or He will eliminate the sinner. God gives all of us the opportunity to receive Christ and to be purified. However, God’s atonement of our sins does not mean that He gives us a pass to continue in sin. Rather, it means that He forgives us our sins and purifies us of our sins. If you have received Christ and have not experienced a change in your life, then you really didn’t receive Him. When God enters a heart, He does not leave it as it is. He rearranges, transforms, and casts off those things which are not holy from our lives. Paul writes, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

The story is told of a rather pompous-looking church leader was endeavoring to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. “Why do people call me a Christian?” the man asked. After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.”[5]

Evaluate your life. See if there is anything in your life that is causing you to stumble. If so, give it over to the Lord. We are to purify ourselves because we have been purified by a holy God.

 Conclusion:  I was challenged this past couple of weekends. Weekend before last, I was challenged by Dr. Ed Hindson, dean of the Liberty University School of Divinity. He said, “We have the ability to reach far more people than even the Apostle Paul did. When we stand before the Bema Seat of Christ (i.e., the Judgment Seat of Christ), what will we say when He asks us, ‘What did you do with the resources I gave you?’ We are obligated to reach individuals for Christ with all the resources given to us. This past weekend, we celebrated the legacy of my grandfather, Odell Sisk. Altogether, God was showing me that we have a great ministry to do while on planet Earth. God is a holy God. We are to be a holy people. Will we make an impact for God?

 

© May 20, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman, 1995).

[2] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 566.

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 202.

[4] Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus, vol. 3A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 180.

[5] Evie Megginson, “A Rather Pompous-looking Deacon…,” SermonCentral.com (March 2001), retrieved May 20, 2016, http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-evie-megginson-humor-holiness-loveofthedisciples-apologeticsgeneral-1977.asp.

Qualities of God’s Mercy (Numbers 14:18-19)

Nearly all of us have heard the song Great is Thy Faithfulness. The hymn states, “Great is thy faithfulness. Great is thy faithfulness. Morning to morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand hath provided. Great Is thy Faithfulness Lord unto me.” Unlike some other hymns, this hymn is not the result of some tragic event in Thomas Chisholm’s life but a powerful witness to his daily walk with Jesus as he experienced “morning by morning” new mercies from His Everlasting Father. Pastor Chisholm always trusted his Everlasting Father to take care of him, sustain him, and provide for his daily needs. Just before his death in 1960 he wrote this power, personal witness: “My income has never been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. But I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”[1] Chisholm’s hymn demonstrates not only the great faithfulness of God, but also the great mercy of God. Chisholm’s health would have failed him much earlier if it were not for the mercy of God. Chisholm realized that he was being sustained by the mercy of God.

We have spoken about the grace of God. Grace was defined as “giving someone something that they do not deserve.” Mercy is quite the opposite. Wayne Grudem defines mercy as “God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress.”[2] In other words, mercy is not giving someone something that they deserve. Some have asked whether mercy is an attribute or an activity. Norman Geisler has stated that “Regardless of whether mercy is itself an attribute or an activity of God, it is deeply rooted in His unchangeable nature. As such, it reveals something extremely important about God’s character.”[3]

1. The mercy of God has the quality of PATIENCE (14:18a).

 Moses acknowledges in his prayer the patience of God as he says “the LORD is slow to anger.”[4] Moses had witnessed God’s great mercy in demonstrating patience in times past. Moses was asking for the same as the people had rebelled against the Lord. People were exclaiming, “We would have been better off in Egypt!”

It’s interesting to note the difference between the lack of patience from the people and the overwhelming patience of God. Remember, mercy means NOT giving someone something that they deserve. Did the people deserve a divine pop in the nose? Yes! However, God demonstrated mercy by his patience. What if God acted to us the way the people acted to God? Would they have been afforded the opportunity to enter the Promised Land? No!

2. The mercy of God has the quality of KINDNESS (14:18b).

Moses continues with his prayer noting that God has “abundant lovingkindness.” This phrase comes from two Hebrew words “rab” and “chesed.” The word rab means “mighty, “strong, or even “numerous.” Chesed means “lovingkindess” that has its root in one’s mercy. Thus, one could say that kindness is rooted in mercy. Moses was pleading for the kindness of God.

Let’s think this over. God had great mercy on the Hebrews keeping them from the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians. God had mercy on the Hebrews allowing them to cross through the Red Sea on dry ground. God had mercy on them by giving them manna from heaven. God had mercy on them leading them into the Promised Land. God had shown nothing but mercy to the Hebrews. Yet, still the Hebrews rebelled against God. Perhaps the problem was not so much with God’s mercy, but with the gratitude of God’s people.

3. The mercy of God has the quality of JUSTNESS (14:18d).

Moses was praying for God’s mercy. But, Moses also realized that there would be some who would not repent no matter how much grace was extended to them.  As we learn earlier in the chapter, many were saying, “Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt” (14:3)? What was the real sin? The writers of the New Bible Commentary note that “The Lord’s word begins with an accurate analysis of Israel’s sin—it is unbelief.”[5]

Three things can be said about the justness of mercy. 1) Isn’t it amazing that the people, who could not save themselves, thought that they knew better than the One who delivered them? Some people claim that God is unjust for sending people to hell, while at the same time accusing God for allowing evil to go unpunished. The same people will accuse God for not revealing himself to the world, while at the same time accuse God of foolishness for revealing himself on earth as Jesus of Nazareth. God’s mercy is extended, but his mercy does not force the obstinate and those who refuse to repent.

2) It was G. K. Chesterton who said, “Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation (as has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape.”[6]

3) God is not unjust for sending unrepentant people to hell. God is merciful to allow anyone to go to heaven. It would be unjust of God to allow unrepentant people to enter into heaven.

4. The mercy of God has the quality of FORGIVENESS (14: 18c, 19).

Moses pleads with God to forgive the repentant. Moses played the part of a lawyer. Moses argued: “If the Lord wiped out the nation, it would reflect more on His character than on the character of rebellious Israel. His inability to fulfill His promise to bring this people into the promised land would negatively impact His reputation if He carried out His plan to destroy the nation. Moses, however, knew that the Lord could not let this rebellion go unpunished.”[7] Of course, God knew this all along. Thus, Moses pleaded for God to show mercy through his forgiving nature.

 Mercy is at the heart of forgiveness. People really only hold two options when they are offended: they can hold grudges and seek revenge, or they can forgive giving the people over to God. But really, if we consider all for which God has forgiven us, it should be no big issue to forgive others. Jesus says quite bluntly, “If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:15). When we hold on to bitterness, we really in the end only hurt ourselves anyhow.  

A medieval story captures the manner in which bitterness holds us a prisoner. Long ago, two monks were traveling and approached an unusually rough river. Standing alone on the bank was a woman who approached the monks and asked if they could help her across so she could return home to her family. Knowing it was forbidden to touch a woman, one monk quickly looked the other way, ignoring her request for help. The other monk, feeling compassion for the desperate lady, decided to bend the rules. Breaking tradition, he lifted her into his arms and carried her safely across the rushing water. Exceedingly grateful, the lady thanked the helpful monk and left for home. The two monks continued on their journey. After miles of silence, the first monk finally said with disgust, “I can’t believe you picked up that woman! You know we’re never supposed to touch the opposite sex.” The compassionate monk replied, “I put her down miles ago, yet you still carry her in your heart.” God grants us mercy by his forgiveness. By God’s mercy, we are afforded the opportunity to forgive others as well.

Conclusion: A little boy named Johnny and his sister Sally stayed at their grandparents’ house for a week during the summer. Johnny had just received a brand new slingshot. However, Johnny wasn’t a good shot. His grandma called him in for supper. Frustrated, Johnny took a shot at his grandma’s pet duck. However, this time he hit the duck in the head and killed it dead. Johnny panicked. He took the duck’s corpse and hid it under a bush. His sister Sally had watched the whole thing. She said to him, “You’d better do what I say or I’ll tell Grandma.” So, the next day after lunch, Grandma said, “Sally, I need you to help with the dishes.” Sally said, “Johnny wants to do it.” Sally looked at Johnny and whispered, “Remember the duck.” Grandpa said to the children, “Let’s go fishing at the pond.” Grandma said, “I need Sally to help with supper.” Sally said, “Johnny wants to help.” She looked at Johnny and whispered, “Remember the duck.” After a few days of being Sally’s slave, doing chores, and obeying her every whim, he confessed to Grandma. Grandma said, “Honey, I was standing at the window when you accidently shot the duck. I forgave you then and there. I was just wondering how long you were going to be Sally’s slave.[8] The grace of God gives us heaven. But it is by the mercy of God that we are forgiven, transformed, and changed. If God has had mercy on you, remember you are a changed individual. Don’t be enslaved by the Devil’s reminders of your past. In life fashion, if you have received the mercy of God, demonstrate that same mercy unto others.

 

© April 29, 2016. Brian Chilton. Published May 5, 2016.

Notes

[1] Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1990), 366

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 200.

[3] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany, 2011), 595.

[4] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[5] D. A. Carson, et. al., The New Bible Commentary (Liecester, UK: Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, 1994), Logos Bible Softward.

[6] G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: SnowBall Classics Publishing, 2015), 57

[7] Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds, The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Bible Publishers, 2014), 234.

[8] Adapted from the story given by Ellen Klinke, “The Duck and the Devil,” SermonIllustrationLibrary.org (May 3, 2006), retrieved April 29, 2016, http://www.sermonillustrationlibrary.org/illustration56.

The Graces of God (1 Corinthians 15:10-11)

During the building of the Golden Gate Bridge over San Francisco Bay, construction fell badly behind schedule because several workers had accidentally fallen from the scaffolding to their deaths. Engineers and administrators could find no solution to the costly delays. Finally, someone suggested a gigantic net be hung under the bridge to catch any who fell. Finally, in spite of the enormous cost, the engineers opted for the net. After it was installed, progress was hardly interrupted. A worker or two fell into the net but were saved. Ultimately, all the time lost to fear was regained by replacing fear with faith in the net. God has given us a net of protection. His net is called salvation. One of the attributes of God that emanate from his loving nature is that of grace. God’s grace is defined as “God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment.”[i] God is never obligated to show such grace. Rather, it is an act completely done of his own free will.

I am a congruist, meaning that I believe that God’s sovereignty and human freedom completely work in harmony. Thus, I accept terms concerning God’s grace that come from both the Calvinist and Arminian. I have a friend on social media from New Jersey, named Jose Nieves. He calls this “Calminianism.” There may be something to his claim. Millard J. Erickson says that congruism “holds that God works congruously with the will of the individual; that is, God works in such a suasive way with the will of the individual that the person freely makes the choice that God intends.”[ii] Congruism “gives primary place to God’s sovereignty, while seeking to relate it in a positive way to human freedom and individuality. This theology is a dualism in which the second element is contingent on or derived from the first.”[iii]

Side Note: The system of congruism, in my opinion, is not so much found in Calvinism or Arminianism. Rather, it is the admonition that God’s sovereignty and human freedom work in harmony. I think I noted this in a previous article. I had a professor who once said that salvation was like walking through a door. When one entered the door, they would notice over the door frame the words “Whosoever will, let him enter.” After one has passed through the door and looks back upon the frame, one would find the words written “Only the elect will enter.” I think this sums up the system quite well. Nevertheless, I digress. This article is about the graces of God, not congruism.

1. God’s PREVENIENT grace (15:10b; Romans 5:6, 8; Matthew 5:45; Heb. 1:2-3).

In the second section of 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul notes that “his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:10b).[iv] Paul has just given an ancient creed dating from the time of the earliest church (1 Cor. 15:3-7). Some scholars believe that this creed may have found its root just from a few weeks to year after the actual resurrection took place. Gary Habermas notes that the early creed found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 “links the historical life of Jesus, and the central Christian message of the gospel, in particular (vv. 3-4), with those eyewitnesses who testified to his resurrection appearances, beginning on the third day after his death (vv. 5-7). In addition, Paul had not only met some of these witnesses personally (Gal. 1:18-19; 2:9), but he explains that his message concerning these facts is identical with their eyewitness testimony (1 Cor. 15:11; cf. 15:14, 15).”[v] Paul explains that this historical event made him who he was and that God’s reaching work to save was not in vain.

Prevenient grace is “God’s grace given to all humans indiscriminately.”[vi] Some refer to prevenient grace as common grace. Some identify prevenient grace in differing ways. Prevenient grace holds the idea that God knows what free people would do in particular circumstances. Erickson argues that “God has a foreknowledge of possibilities. God foresees what possible beings will do if placed in a particular situation with all the influences that will be present at that point in time and space.”[vii] In other words, God issues grace to all people. Jesus said that the Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). The writer of Hebrews states that Christ “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). All of us have experienced God’s grace in one way or another. Our existence is an example of God’s great grace.

We often have a tendency to look for the negative. However, we all have reasons to be positive. Regardless of where we are in life, God has bestowed his grace upon us. Just being here to listen to this little message demonstrates the great grace of God that is upon us.

2. God’s EFFECTUAL grace (15:11; John 6:37, 39).

Paul shows that God’s effectual grace, or persuasive grace, is often brought forth through the preaching of the gospel. Paul notes that “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (15:11). Thiselton notes that “whether we are talking about how God’s grace became operative through other apostles…or we are considering Paul as an example of one who received grace and witnessed Christ’s appearance, the apostolic keryma retains the common basis to which the common tradition (vv. 3b-5…) bears united witness.”[viii] In other words, God persuades us to faith much as he did the apostles.

Effectual, or effective, grace indicates that it is “efficacious, that is, effective, to those to whom it is given.”[ix] Norman Geisler compares this to a courtship. “God will woo and court so persuasively that those willing to respond will be overwhelmed by His love.”[x] This is the compelling of the Holy Spirit that we experience when we come to faith. In fact, the entire process of God’s wooing us is a matter of grace. God could have left us as we were. However, God loved us so much that he wanted us to have life eternal. The atonement is brought through the work on the cross, but is applied by the wooing of the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus said that “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).

When you courted your spouse, you were in the process of trying to woo that person. God demonstrates his effectual grace by persuading, but not forcing, you into a covenantal relationship with himself.

3. God’s SUFFICIENT grace (15:10a; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:22).

In the first part of verse 10, Paul says that “by the grace of God I am what I am” (15:10a). He has been made what he is by the salvific grace that he experienced through Christ Jesus. Christ’s grace made him both a child of God as well as an apostle.

Sufficient grace, or saving grace, is “God’s grace extended to us to establish a spiritual relationship with God and to grow believers in that relationship.”[xi] God brings us into this relationship. This relationship is sufficient to do the task. You see, salvation is not about a one-time prayer. Many hold the idea that you come to Christ, say a little prayer, and that’s all she wrote. That’s not the case. God regenerates us by this faith. He makes us into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He also justifies us in the faith. This means he claims us as forgiven (Rom. 2:24). God also sanctifies us. This means God works in our lives to make us more into the image of Christ (Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11). Eventually, this salvation also means that we will be glorified by God’s grace (Rev. 21:2-3). God does not give us a partial salvation. He goes all the way with his grace.

The writer of Hebrews states, “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus said, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:39-40). Jesus also says, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:29-30). God will save us and he will keep us in the faith.

Craig Groeschel tells the story of being pulled over for an expired tag. He was taken in front of the judge in traffic court. Before him, there were several individuals who would say, “It’s not my fault. I shouldn’t be required to pay the fine.” The judge called Groeschel in front of the court. He said, “What’s your story?” Groeschel responded, “I was driving without a tag.” The judge asked, “What did you say?!?” Groeschel said, “Yes, Your Honor. You heard me correctly. I…am…guilty…I am an idiot.” Groeschel goes on to say, “The judge announced mockingly, loud enough for everyone to hear, ‘We’ve got this guilty person standing in a room full of innocent people. I’ve got to quickly get this idiot out of here before he corrupts the rest of you innocent people. Craig Groeschel, you are free to go. You don’t have to pay the fine. It’s all forgiven.”[xii] We often accuse God of being unfair. However, we really don’t want God to be completely fair. I repeat, we do not want God to be completely fair. Because if he were completely fair, we would not be going to heaven. Grace is a gift given to those who are undeserving. We did not deserve heaven. But God, being gracious as he is, gave heaven to us of his own free will!!! Praise God for his grace today!!!

Copyright, April, 29, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[i] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 200.

[ii] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 385.

[iii] Ibid., 448.

[iv] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[v] Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996), 30.

[vi] Erickson, Christian Theology, 933.

[vii] Ibid., 387.

[viii] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1213.

[ix] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, Revised and Expanded (Chicago: Moody Bible Publishers, 2008), 346.

[x] Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will, 3rd ed (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010), 104.

[xi] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 355.

[xii] Ibid., 103-104.

3 Manifestations of God’s Love

Not long ago, we had our cat declawed and fixed. He had to be declawed because he would have destroyed our couches otherwise. Our cat’s name is Boo. We named him that because he is jet black and arches his back when he is scared like the Halloween cats you see depicted. Living in town as we do, we have to let him roam around with a harness. It may seem odd to have a cat on a harness. But with him being declawed and living in an urban area, he would quickly be killed either by the neighborhood animals or the ongoing traffic. While I was preparing this message, he was begging to go outside. A few minutes after being out, a truck stopped at a local store unloading supplies. Boo went crazy. He wanted inside badly. He was scared! He tried everything possible to get inside. But he would never by his own power make it. So, I had to go out to him and let him inside. The manifestation of God’s love is very similar. God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. God’s love is a moral attribute. We sometimes use the word omnibenevolent recognizing that God is fully love and fully good. The apostle John puts quite aptly, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). But how do we see God’s love manifested? We see God’s love manifested in three ways. But first, let’s look at S. S. Smalley’s “three observations about John’s description of God as love:

  1. Its background is the Jewish (OT) understanding of God as living, personal, and active, rather than the Greek concept of deity which was abstract in character.

  2. To assert comprehensively that “God is love” does not ignore or exclude the other attributes of his being to which the Bible as a whole bears witness: notably his justice and his truth.

  3. There is a tendency in some modern theologies (especially “process” thought) to transpose the equation “God is love” into the reverse, “Love is God.” But this is not a Johannine (or a biblical) idea. As John makes absolutely clear in this passage, the controlling principle of the universe is not an abstract quality of “love,” but a sovereign, living God who is the source of all love, and who (as love) himself loves (see vv. 7, 10, 19).”[i]

 1. God’s love is manifested in God’s REALITY (4:8b).

 John demonstrates the great reality of love. John is not saying that love is God. There are several varieties of love. Love is not God. Rather, God is love. We must note that “The same construction is found in 1:5 (“God is light”) and in 4:2 (“God is spirit”). The noun love, referring to a process, is the predicate of the sentence; it says something about God’s quality, character, and activity. The translator must take care not to give a rendering that equates God and love. This would imply that the clause order is reversible and that God is love and “love is God” are both true propositions—which is certainly not what John meant to say.”[ii] In other words, John is showing that God is the source of love as love emanates from the person of God.

Wayne Grudem defines love as “self-giving for the benefit of others.”[iii] Norman Geisler defines love as “willing the good of its object.”[iv] Geisler goes on to say that “love and goodness can be treated synonymously. Literally, the word omnibenevolence means ‘all-good.’”[v] Thus, God’s goodness indicates God’s moral excellence and virtue. God’s love denotes God’s desire for the good of others. Goodness and love are moral standards. One must first know love before one can know hate. One must first know good before one can know evil. The only way we can know love and goodness is if we know God. God is the source of goodness and love.

2. God’s love is manifested in God’s RESPONSE (4:9-10).

John’s argument continues in showing the manifestation of God’s love in his response to human sin. John argues that God’s love was made manifest in this way: “God sent his 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” (1 John 4:9-10).[vi] God ultimately showed his love for us by making a way for us to enter into heaven. John demonstrates that God loved us first before we could ever even know what love was. God’s act through Jesus freed us from the penalty of sins (1 John 3:5) and to defeat the power of Satan (1 John 3:8).[vii]

We must understand that God was the first mover as it pertains to creation. But, God was also the first lover. All of humanity is the beloved. God loved the world and made a way to save it. Often in modern times, people want to take the credit for God’s love. However, such is not the case. God loved us first so that we could love him. Augustine said, “You cannot therefore attribute to God the cause of any human fault. For of all human offences, the cause is pride. For the conviction and removal of this a great remedy comes from heaven. God in mercy humbles Himself, descends from above, and displays to man, lifted up by pride, pure and manifest grace in very manhood, which He took upon Himself out of vast love for those who partake of it.”[viii] In other words, Augustine is saying that if God had not intervened, humanity would succumb to the depravity of its own pride and sin. God demonstrated his love for you by giving of himself in the ultimate display of love. As Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

3. God’s love is manifested in God’s RELATIONSHIP (4:7-8a, 11-12).

John provides two powerful points as it relates to God’s manifestation of love in relationships. First, John says, “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” (4:8a). But look what he also says in verses 11-12. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (4:12). What does John mean by that no one has seen God? Akin explains that “No man has seen God in his unveiled essence, glory, and majesty. Indeed, we are incapable as finite sinful creatures of looking on God. It would certainly be our death. He can be seen, however, in the lives of those who demonstrate his love to others.”[ix] So while we do not see the full essence of God, we do see the moving of God in our lives and in the lives of others. In addition, this love will spill out into a person’s relationship with others.

 John argues that since God is love and manifested his love through his Son, then a relationship with the God of love will produce love in the life of the recipient. A person cannot physically see God. For one, God is spirit and immaterial. Two, God’s great power would not allow one to see God and live. God told Moses, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). However, we can see God in our relationship with him. We can feel his embrace. We can experience the joy from the Holy Spirit. Do you want to annoy a hypocrite? Be genuine. That will annoy the hypocrite worse than anything.

Some of you may have heard this story. It is supposedly a true story although I cannot verify that it is. It is a story of a young man who, while quite athletic and considered a “jock,” notices another young man who was the victim of bullying. The victimized boy, who was somewhat nerdy, wiped tears from his eyes and was in the process of picking up his belongings off the sidewalk when the jock came by to help. The jock began talking to the nerdy fellow while assisting him. The jock walked the nerdy boy home. As they reached the nerdy boy’s home, the jock invited the so-called nerd to play football with him and some of the fellas over the weekend. The nerdy fellow agreed. Over time, the nerdy fellow developed and built up his bodily strength. In high school the former nerd actually began to have more dates than the jock, much to the chagrin of the jock. As expected, the so-called nerd graduated as valedictorian of his class. During graduation, the former nerdy fellow gave the valedictorian speech. Much to the surprise of the jock, the former nerdy fellow thanked the jock for his friendship. He later revealed that on the afternoon when the jock befriended him, the nerd was planning to take his own life. He took all of his possessions home from school that day because he did not want force his mom to come back to school after his suicide. The now valedictorian said that his friend’s act of love and kindness saved his life. The jock, stunned, began to wipe tears from his eyes when he noticed he valedictorian’s mother look at him and say, “Thank you so much!” You will never know the damage that is done from a heart full of hate. However, you will also never know the great blessings and benefits that come from random acts of kindness that truly demonstrate the love and compassion of God.

Notes

[i] S. S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word, 1984), 239-240, in Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 178.

[ii] C. Haas, Marinus de Jonge, and J. L. Swellengrebel, A Handbook on the Letters of John, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 121.

[iii] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 199.

[iv] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 585.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[vii] Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 179.

[viii] Augustine of Hippo, “A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants,” in Saint Augustin: Anti-Pelagian Writings, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Peter Holmes, vol. 5, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 55.

[ix] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 181–182.

How Does God’s Aseity Affect You?

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked up one scientist to go and tell God that he was no longer needed. The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you. We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things through science. So, why don’t you go and get lost?” God listening patiently said after he was finished speaking, “Very well, how about this? Let’s say that we have a man-making contest?” “Okay, fantastic!” replied the scientist. “But,” God said, “we have to do it just as I did back at the very beginning.” “Sure,” the scientist replied. The scientist bent down and grabbed some dirt and chemicals. God looked at him and said, “No, no, no. You go and create your own dirt, air, water, chemicals, and universe.” The scientist conceded their defeat.[1]

In Exodus 3:13-14, we read God’s response to Moses. Moses was a Hebrew growing up in Egypt. Egypt had a multiplicity of gods. Here, God had asked Moses to lead the Hebrew people out of bondage. It was natural for Moses to ask, “Who should I tell them is sending me?” God gave his personal name, “Yahweh.” The name Yahweh is a complicated name which means “I AM WHAT I AM.” In other words, it means the “self-existent One.” Theologically, this attribute of God is known as “aseity.” Aseity comes from the Latin term “aseite” or “a se” which means “to exist from oneself.” What does this mean? Due to the complexity of today’s topic and to simplify the issue, many of our points today were borrowed from the section of Norman Geisler’s book Systematic Theology dealing with aseity.[2]

God’s aseity demonstrates God’s ACTUALITY (Exodus 3:13-14).

Looking back at today’s primary text, Moses said to God, “’If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:13-14).[3] Here, we find the name “Yahweh aser Yahweh.” The name Yahweh is defined by Strong’s Dictionary as “to exist, be in existence.”[4] In other words, the name of God demonstrates that God is self-existent. Theologically, this is called God’s “actuality” which means that God is independent and self-existing.

God’s aseity demonstrates God’s UNCAUSALITY (Psalm 90:2).

Psalm 90 is a psalm written by Moses. Moses writes, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’ For a thousand years in your sight are but yesterday when it is past or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:2-4). In other words, Moses, in his psalm along with Genesis 1:1, teaches that God is the uncaused cause of all things. God had no cause. He is eternal, timeless, in nature.

God’s aseity demonstrates God’s NECESSITY (John 1:3; Romans 11:36).

John writes “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Paul writes, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). In other words, they tell us that God’s existence is necessary because of the existence of anything.

God’s aseity demonstrates God’s Immutability (Malachi 3:6).

The prophet Malachi, speaking for God, writes, “For I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6). When we speak about God’s immutability, we mean that God is unchangeable.

God’s aseity demonstrates God’s SUSTAINABILITY (Colossians 1:17).

Paul writes in Colossians 1:17 that God is “before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). In other words, God’s self-sustaining existence demonstrates the need for God to hold and sustain all of creation together.

So, how does God’s aseity affect you?

  1. God does not need us, we need him!

So often we feel that God needs us in some form or fashion. God could have existed just fine without creating us. Our existence was never necessary. God’s existence is. Thus, we should realize that God should be the center of our worship and adoration. Worship is God-centered not man-centered.

  1. The universe does not revolve around you, it revolves around God.

Living in a time of self-entitlement, this reality may serve as a blow to the ego as we post on social media to see how many “likes” we can obtain. Often people seek to brag about their accomplishments to obtain approval from another. However, God’s aseity reminds us that the world and the universe really does not revolve around us. It revolves around God.

  1. If we refuse to be used by God, God will use someone else.

A person should be humbled to realize that their existence is not necessary. Yet, the believer should be further humbled to realize that it is a great privilege to serve Christ. If the believer refuses to serve God, God will simply use someone else. God’s mission to extend salvation to humanity is not stopped by one person’s obstinacy.

  1. God speaks his love to us by deciding to create us.

The psalmist writes that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Yet, God’s aseity also demonstrates God’s love for all of humanity. God did not have to create any of us. The fact that we can experience life is a demonstration of God’s great love. God gave us life. Life is a great blessing!

  1. It is unspeakable to think that God would also desire to save us!

If you are humbled by the fact that God demonstrated grace to create you, it is mind-boggling to think that God went out of his way to save you! God would have been perfectly justified in condemning all of humanity to an eternal hell. However, God didn’t. God chose, rather, to save those who would receive his grace. God’s aseity should humble us and cause us to desire to worship God with every morsel of our being.

 

© March 9, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Sources Cited

Geisler, Norman. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

Hodgin, Michael E. 1002 Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.

Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995.

Notes

[1] Michael E. Hodgin, 1002 Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 280.

[2] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 436.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).

God’s Omnisapience: What is it and How Does it Affect You?

I had the opportunity to meet a great man of God early in my ministry. He was one who served as a mentor to me. His name is Rev. Gilmer Denny. While Gilmer Denny was an intelligent man, he did not have an incredible wealth of knowledge according to the world’s definition of knowledge. He had no advanced degrees. He penned no books or novels. While he was an intelligent man, Preacher Denny (as he was often called) was a simple man. But, Preacher Denny had one thing that many do not. He had wisdom.

In stark contrast, there is an atheist theoretical physicist teaching at Arizona State University by the name of Lawrence Krauss. Krauss is incredibly knowledgeable in the realm of science and mathematics. In many ways, Krauss holds an incredible amount of knowledge. However, Krauss does not possess a great deal of wisdom. Many have noted Krauss’ poor philosophical abilities. Many scholars and reviewers alike have noted that Krauss would be better served if he kept quiet on philosophical issues, noted on a recent podcast of Reasonable Faith.[1]

Knowledge and wisdom are similar, if not complementary. However, it is quite possible for one to be knowledgeable without being wise. Knowledge is acquired “facts, information, and skills.” Wisdom is better understood to have the “quality of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.” Merriam-Webster defines wisdom as the “knowledge of what is proper or reasonable: a good sense of judgment.”[2] In other words, knowledge is understanding how something works, whereas wisdom is the understanding how to apply information to life. Knowledge requires intelligence. Wisdom requires integrity. We find that God is known to be omnisapient. “Omni” meaning “all” and “sapient” meaning “wisdom.” God is all wise. In Proverbs along with other passages of Scripture, we find that wisdom is applied in four different means.

1.God’s wisdom is applied from his NATURE (Proverbs 2:5; Job 12:13; Dn. 2:20; Rm. 16:27).

In verse 5, Solomon notes that those who seek understanding will “understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”[3] In other words, Solomon notes that God is the source of wisdom. In verse 6, Solomon notes that “the LORD gives wisdom.” Job notes that “With God are wisdom and might” (Job 12:13). Daniel says, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might” (Daniel 2:20). In other words, wisdom is ultimately given through God as he is the source of wisdom.

2. God’s wisdom is applied by his WORDS (Proverbs 2:1-2, 6; Ps. 19:7; Jer. 8:9).

In verse 1 and 2, Solomon tells his son to listen to his words of wisdom because God had given Solomon wisdom…even though Solomon did not always listen to the wisdom of God. David writes that the “law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). Psalm 119 states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The prophet Jeremiah states that “The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them” (Jeremiah 8:9)?

3. God’s wisdom is applied by his ACTIONS (Proverbs 2:11-15; Jer. 10:12; Hos. 14:9).

Explanation: In verses 11 through 15, Solomon discusses how God acts in wise ways. In verse 12, Solomon says that God will be about “delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech” (2:15). Jeremiah states that God is “he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens” (Jeremiah 10:12). Hosea states that “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9).

4. God’s wisdom is applied to his PEOPLE (v. 3-9; Gen. 41:39; 1 Kgs 3:28; James 1:5).

In verses 3 through 9, Solomon advises his son to seek wisdom. The one who seeks for wisdom will find wisdom in the “fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” (2:5). Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are” (Genesis 41:39). The people witnessed the wisdom that God had given to Solomon so much so that they “stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice” (1 Kings 3:28). James also notes that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

So, how does God’s omnisapience affect you? God’s omnisapience affects you in 4 ways.

  1. God’s wisdom combined with his love means that God is going to bring about, not what you want, but what you need. David aptly writes in the 23rd psalm that “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). This does not mean that God will provide his children with every whim and fancy that comes across their mind. Rather, it means that God will provide for the needs of his children. An elderly lady I know once told me how she grew up without many of the luxuries that she possesses today. However, she noted that God always took care of them. They never went hungry and they always had a warm place to stay. Their clothes were not always fancy, but they always had clothes to wear. She said, “God was all that we had and he is all that we needed. I miss those days.”
  1. God’s wisdom promises that he is working to bring things to the best end possible. Perhaps Paul puts it best when he states that “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God never promises that one will walk an easy road. God never says that there won’t be briars and thorns in one’s path. He promised that in the end he will work all things (good and bad) for the good of his people.
  1. God’s will is based in his wisdom and love, looking for the best for those who are in Christ Jesus. The writer of Hebrews states that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). Sometimes God has to put us through difficult situations to build us up. For instance, God will not give instant patience to his children. Rather, he will put a person driving behind every slow person in three counties only to be met with every red light possible (I am speaking from experience)! Instead of providing instantaneous faith by metamorphosis to his children, God will, rather, put one in circumstances to build one’s faith in God.
  1. God will grant wisdom to the one who searches for him (Romans 12:1-2; James 1:5). As it was noted earlier, James states that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). Do we truly seek wisdom? Do we desire wisdom? God promises that he will provide wisdom to the one searching for him, for the one desiring wisdom. Thus, wisdom is an attribute imputed to the faithful, for those desiring the trait.

Ultimately, one can trust that God is doing the right things to bring about right result. While we do not always know how or what God is currently doing, or why he may be doing a particular thing the way he does, and confused by God’s allowance of certain things and events in life; we can trust in God’s sovereign wisdom to do the right thing in the end. We live in a good world now. But God is working to establish a perfect creation for those in Christ Jesus. Then, we will see the fullness of God’s great tapestry of wisdom in all its glory and grandeur!

 

© March 1, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] William Lane Craig, interviewed by Kevin Harris, “Is This Scientist a Bad Philosopher,” podcast, ReasonableFaith.org (February 14, 2016), accessed March 1, 2016, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-this-scientist-a-bad-philosopher.

[2] Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, Accessed March 1, 2016, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wisdom.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

How Does God’s Omnipresence Affect You?

My mother and I have always been especially close. After I graduated Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, I was called to pastor a church near Southport named the First Baptist Church of Sunset Harbor…in fact, the only Baptist church in Sunset Harbor. I found great support while at the church. However, the most difficult thing about living at the beach was the absence of my family. My mother had tears rolling down her cheeks as they traveled back to their home. I shed a few tears myself. Then I truly knew the depths of our locational limitations.

In contrast to our locational limitations, God is said to be omnipresent. Again the term “omni” means all. So when we speak of God’s omnipresence, we are saying that God can be in all places at all times. In Acts 17:22-34, we hear the message that Paul delivered before the Athenians. Paul is a great example of one who never changed the message, but employed differing methodologies to reach various people groups. When confronting the paganism of this supreme intellectual city (home to many top-notch philosophers), Paul discussed the omnipresence of God. This passage of Scripture shows the depth of Paul’s philosophical prowess. He uses four types of philosophical tactics to present the gospel: 1) exordium v. 22-23 (introduction of a discourse); 2) proposito v. 23b (a statement or assertion that expresses a judgment or an opinion); 3) probatio v. 24-29 (the test of a certain statement); and 4) peroration v. 30-31 (conclusion intended to inspire enthusiasm). In his message, we find three aspects of and reasons for God’s omnipresence.

God is all-surpassing in his presence due to his ESSENCE (17:24b; John 4:24).

Paul notes that God “does not live in temples made by man” (17:24b).[1] That is, God is not a physical being. Yes it is true that Christ, the incarnate God, came to earth. But, God as he has been from eternity is non-spatial, a spirit. Jesus tells the woman at the well that God is “spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Wayne Grudem defines God’s omnipresence as the following: “God does not have size or spatial dimensions and is present at every point of space with his whole being, yet God acts differently in different places.[2] (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 173). Thus, God is not limited by physical location as we are.

God is all-surpassing in his presence due to his TRANSCENDENCE (17:24-25; Is. 66:1).

Paul notes that God “who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (John 17:24-25). That is to say, God is beyond the scope of physical creation. God is not limited by physics, physics are limited by God. When we study the physical nature of the universe, we understand the normal operation. But, God transcends such boundaries as he also transcends space-time.

God is all-surpassing in his presence due to his IMMANENCE (17:26-27; Psa. 139:7-8; Jer. 23:24).

Lastly, Paul notes that God is all-surpassing due to his immanence. This means that God is not a “dead beat dad.” He is a God who is actively involved in creation. Paul notes that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (17:26-27). I especially like the last part of Paul’s teaching. Often one may feel that God is distant from them. Feeling perhaps that God has long forgotten them. But, God’s omnipresent nature promises that God is always around us. Closer than we would ever think. So what does this mean to you?

  1. God is with you when no one else can be. You are never alone. Norman Geisler describes omnipresence as “God is everywhere at once…Negatively stated, there is nowhere that God is absent.”[3] God promises that he will be with you now and for all eternity (Matthew 28:20; Gen. 28:15). You are never alone.
  1. God is with your loved ones when you cannot. God is able to protect your loved ones from afar (Gen. 48:21). Even when you are not there, God is. Thus, while we can contact one who is ever-present to look after our loved ones when we cannot…and even when we can.
  2. God is with your loved ones who have already passed. Jesus quoted to the Sadducees who did not believe in the afterlife Exodus 3:6 where God stated that he is “the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Jesus uses this argument to defend the reality of the afterlife. God is with our loved ones in eternity. Our loved ones continue to exist. Those who are in Christ are safely in his arms.
  1. God is working in creation even when you cannot see it. God is beyond the scope of creation, but is always working in creation (Ps. 147:4; Jer. 31:35). Thus while things seem chaotic, God is always at work being present where we cannot.
  1. God’s presence is with the believer in a personal fashion. While God is everywhere, God is personally with those who receive Christ (John 5:38; 8:31; 15:4-9). God’s Holy Spirit (personal presence) is with those who trust in Christ. Therefore, the believer definitely has a companion that is closer than anyone else could.

 

© February 23, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Bibliography

 Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

 Notes

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 173.

[3] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 493.

God’s Omnipotence and You

I have always been an avid weightlifter. In high school, I did not take up many of the popular sports. I was too short for basketball, too slow for football, and too uncoordinated for baseball. However, I found something that I enjoyed and found great success in doing: weightlifting. Weightlifting is not a sport where one competes against another person. Rather, it is a sport where one competes against oneself. A person tests their limits. Through the years, I have had great success with the hobby. In my early thirties, I posted a personal best in the bench press lifting 555 pounds and a squat well over 800 pounds. This was something I thought was pretty good until I watched a video of a man named Scot Mendelson posting the world record bench press at just over 1,000 pounds.

800 lbs squat
A picture of Pastor Brian squatting 800 lbs.

I have kept pushing myself through the years. However, digestive problems and other medical issues not only made me realize my limitations, but also took away the ability to post some of the numbers that I once achieved. I realized something that I did not want to accept—I have limited power. While we as human beings will always have our limitations, God does not.

God is known to have the attribute of “omnipotence” (omni, Latin for all; potent, Latin for power). Omnipotence means “all powerful” or “unlimited power.” God is known to be omnipotent in the Bible, partially due to his names. God is called in the Old Testament El Shaddai which means “the Almighty.” In the New Testament God is called the pantokrator which means “almighty” or “all powerful.” Norman Geisler rightly defines omnipotence as the ability in “that God can do whatever is possible to do. Or, God can do what is not impossible to do.”[1] Even still, we must understand that even God cannot do three things:

  1. Act in a way that is contrary to his nature (i.e. he cannot lie, do what is evil—Titus 1:2).
  2. Act in a way that impedes human freedom (he can coerce, persuade, but there must be an aspect of human response, e.g. Matt. 23:37). This does not mean that God could not override human freedom. However, should God override human freedom, human freedom would be lost.
  3. Act in a way that is logically impossible (i.e. create a married bachelor, a squared circle, swear by a name that is higher than his own, etc. Heb. 6:13).

 In Jeremiah chapter 31, we learn that Jeremiah was told to buy a field in a time of great uncertainty. Jeremiah bought the field and gave the deed to Baruch, his associate. However, Jeremiah had doubts as to whether he should have purchased the field. But, Jeremiah prays in chapter 32 and finds strength in the omnipotence of God. So, what does this omnipotence of God mean to you? Let’s look at five areas that God’s power affects the life of the believer.

  1. God’s power exceeds that of the power found in creation. God created everything that exists. Therefore, God is able to work within the bounds of nature and outside the bounds of nature. God can do the miraculous at his will. Creation does not restrain God, rather creation is restrained by God as God creates and sustains all that exists. That being said, nothing is too powerful for God.
  1. God’s power is extended to his children. We are told that we can move mountains with just a morsel of faith (Mt. 17:20). Great power is found in prayer. Because God has the power, not us. If we try to work without prayer, we are merely working by our own power. If we operate by prayer, we are working by the power of God.
  2. God’s power has been and is used to offer every means possible for a person to be saved. God doesn’t desire for anyone to be condemned to hell (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus did not come to condemn, but to save (John 3:16-17). Thus, understand, salvation is not a work that you have done. Salvation is not a work that is achieved. Rather, salvation is a work received as it is a work that God has done. Because of God’s great power, he has made a way for you to live with him for all eternity.
  1. God’s power means that he is the ultimate authority. God’s grant of forgiveness is irrevocable. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).[2] If God deems you forgiven, then no one else can say otherwise. If you enter into eternity without Christ, then God will rule you guilty. Understand, there is no court superior to God. No Supreme Court can override the edict of God. God is the ultimate authority. The doors God opens, no one can shut. And, the doors God shuts, no one can open. If you are forgiven, you have an eternal promise of eternal life. God cannot lie.
  1. God’s power along with God’s incapacity to lie means that victory is certain! Just because God hasn’t judged the world yet, doesn’t mean that he won’t. God is allowing time for more people to come to salvation. But understand, victory is as certain as the words before your eyes. As Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31). Victory is certain. Evil will be defeated. So, stop worrying!

Because God is omnipotent and is also all loving (omnibenevolent), this means that the believer serves a God of possibilities. Where our power is limited, God’s power is limitless. Are you depending on your own power or the power of God today?

 

© February 16, 2016. Brian Chilton.

  

Source Cited

 Geisler, Norman. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

 

Notes

[1] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume. (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 487.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Finding Comfort and Order in the Midst of Chaos

At times, life seems chaotic. It appears that the harder one tries to make sense of the world, the more bizarre it becomes. I recently told my dad, “Just when I think that things cannot get any worse, something happens to demonstrate how much worse it can become.” However, the more I have studied God, the more I realize that chaos is an illusion. If God is what the Bible purports Him to be, then God is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present in all places), a se (unchangeable), immortal (eternal and timeless), holy (the perfect good) and indestructible (incapable of being destroyed). If this is true, then nothing takes God by surprise. In addition, this means that the chaos of the world is fitting within the sovereign plan of God. But wait, isn’t there a lot of evil things taking place in the world? What comfort can we find in these attributes of God?

Joseph was a man who was met with severe forms of evil. He was thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers and was eventually sold as a slave. The people who were supposed to have loved Joseph the most performed one of the highest acts of treachery and evil. Yet, the tables turned for Joseph. Joseph would eventually score a high-ranking position in Egypt under the Pharaoh. His brothers sought help from Egypt. It was then that Joseph was able to forgive and say to his brothers, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:21).[1] How could Joseph say such a thing? There are three things that must be kept in mind.

chaos_to_order

Human actions are free, but planned by God.

There are two seemingly opposing viewpoints offered in the Bible: humans have freedom of the will and God is sovereign (in complete control). How does one reconcile these two truths? Hardline Calvinists (or hyper-determinists)[2] will say that people have no choice in any matter. Hyper-Arminians, especially of the Open Theist variety, will claim that God does not know what will happen. Yet, I feel that the more moderate Thomistic (and even Molinist) compatibilist interpretations fit the realm of Scripture. For instance, the writer of Proverbs notes that “The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). That means that man plans his/her steps, but God foreknows and has already established such a free act. Proverbs also states that “The lot is casts into the lap, but its decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33). I like how the New Living Translation translates this verse. The NLT reads, “We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall” (Proverbs 16:33, NLT).[3] This may not be good news for the one who goes to Vegas. But free human actions fall into the sovereign plan of God.

God will bring forth an ultimate good despite the seeming chaos of human actions.

Paul writes, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). This does not mean that all things will work in the end for all people. It will work for the good to those who love God and have submitted to his will. God is good and God is powerful. This means that God will bring an ultimate good despite the great evil in the world. Joseph was met with great evil, but he knew that God would use that evil to bring about an ultimate good.

Thus, chaos is an illusion as God is sovereign.

Two classic theologians note that chaos is seemingly an illusion due to the great attributes of God. Norman Geisler writes,

“God is a simple Being, all of whose attributes are one with His indivisible essence. He has no parts; He is one in essence. If He had different parts, He could come apart, but He is immortal and indestructible…But if God is simple (absolutely one), then both foreknowledge and predetermination are one in Him. That is, whatever God knows, He determines. And whatever He determines, He knows. More properly, we should speak of God as ‘knowing determining’ and ‘determinately knowing’ from all eternity everything that happens, including all free acts. If God is an eternal and simple Being, then His thoughts must be eternally coordinate and unified” (Geisler 2010, 145).

Thus, God’s knowledge and actions do not negate free will. Nevertheless, God knows absolutely what free beings will choose. Therefore, God is able to place people in certain times and places, knowing what those beings will choose. Therefore, even with human freedom and the seeming chaos that ensues from bad human decisions, God still is moving to bring things to a greater good. Thomas Aquinas writes,

“It should be noted, however, that with natural things the specification of the act is from form and the exercise is from the agent that causes the motion. But the mover moves for the sake of an end. Thus the first principle of motion with respect to the exercise of the act is from the end…It should be said that man’s will is discordant with the will of God insofar as it wills something God does not want it to will, as when it wills to sin” (Aquinas 1998, 557, 561).

In other words, God does not order evil. God does not will evil to exist, yet evil is the natural outgrowth of the human freedom to will. God is moving upon all of creation with his grace. However, human beings misuse the grace of God afforded to them. God knows that they would. Thus, God is able to use human free decisions to bring about the ultimate good.

All of this is to say, chaos is an illusion. God is working to bring about the greater good which will be actualized in eternity.

Conclusion—the Roller Coaster

I am not a fan of roller coasters. I don’t like the drops and turns as it makes my stomach very queasy. When I dated my wife, I tried to act like a macho man and ride roller coasters with her…I eventually became sick. Roller coasters give the illusion of chaos. However, coasters are designed to provide that experience while they bring the person back to a common end. Life seems to be much like this. Things may appear to be chaotic, but a good, loving, Almighty God has an order and a plan.

Joseph realized that what man meant as evil, God used for the greater good. When we keep this perspective, we will realize that God has an order despite the seeming chaos of the times. Understand, God is still in control. Don’t despair. Don’t lose hope. God will bring an ultimate good out of the midst of great chaos.

© November 2, 2015. Brian Chilton

 

Sources Cited:

Aquinas, Thomas. “On Human Choice. Disputed Question of Evil, 6 (1266-72). In Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings. Edited and Translated by Ralph McInery. London, UK; New York: Penguin Classics, 1998.

Geisler, Norman. Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will. Third Edition. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] Hyper-Calvinism does not represent the general Calvinist viewpoint. Some sects of Calvinism do hold to a hardline, or hyper-Calvinistic, interpretation. The hyper view is what is being discussed here.

[3] Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013).

A Theology of Missions

When the term “missions” is used, great missionaries such as Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, and/or William Carey come to mind. For others, missions may bring the thought of a Christian sitting amongst tribal peoples in a jungle. Yet, the term “missions” is understood to be, as Moreau and his colleagues describe it, the “specific work of the church and agencies in the task of reaching people for Christ by crossing cultural boundaries.”[1] Yet, one must inquire, what theological foundation exists for one to engage in missions? This paper will argue that missions is built upon biblical and systematic theological understandings about God. The paper will first examine two Old and New Testament texts that support missions. Next, the paper will examine the nature of God as he relates to missions work. In addition, the paper will examine two theological attributes of God and how they relate to missions endeavors. Then, two motifs pertaining to mission theology will be evaluated. Finally, the paper will demonstrate that missions should be part of the lives of missionaries, clergy, and the laity alike. In the first section, the paper will provide two Old and New Testament texts that support the field of missions.

Old and New Testament Texts that Support Missions

Strewn throughout the Bible, one will find evidence that God has been involved in missions endeavors since the fall of humanity. The first evidence of God’s mission work is found in Genesis 3:15. Moreau and his fellow authors call Genesis 3:15 the “protoevangelium…the promise that Jesus will come for all people.”[2]

In the so-called protoevangelium, God makes the promise to Adam and Eve, as well as to Satan—the instigator of the fall—that God would “put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, brackets mine).[3] Thus, the passage ensures that God would save humanity from the fall and the separation that exists between God and humanity. This solution would materialize in the Messiah who “takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Yet, within the Old Testament there exists another example of God’s mission mindset.

In Genesis 12:1-3, God calls Abraham, then known as Abram, to leave his homeland. God promises Abram that he would “make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). While God concerned himself with the so-called chosen people, known as the Israelites, God’s mission mindset was demonstrated as he sought to use the Israelites to reach other nations for his glory. As the psalmist recalled, “All of the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you” (Psalm 22:27). Whereas the mission-mindedness of God is acknowledged in the Old Testament, the mission-minded nature of God is clearly demonstrated in the New Testament.

Sometime after the resurrection, Jesus meets eleven disciples in Galilee (Matthew 28:16). Jesus tells them that they are to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Particular individuals who hold to extreme forms of cessationalism view the commands of Christ as applicable to only the eleven apostles at the time. Yet, William Carey, the patriarch of the modern missions movement, argued that “if the command of Christ to teach all nations be restricted to the apostles…, then that of baptizing should be so, too…then ordinary ministers who have endeavored to carry the Gospel to the heathens, have acted without warrant…[and] the promise of the divine presence in this work must so be limited.”[4] That is to say, if Christ’s command to evangelize all nations was only given to the apostles, then the promises offered by Christ were only given to the apostles. In addition, one must ponder the following: if the commands of Christ given in the Great Commission only applied to the apostles, then why was Matthew compelled to document Christ’s teaching in the first place?

Before the ascension of Christ, Jesus provides a model by which the apostles were to perform their missions work. Jesus instructed the apostles that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). From the instructions given by Jesus, the apostles were to begin where they were located—“in Jerusalem” (Acts 1:8). From there, the apostles were to reach outlying areas—“Judea and Samaria” (Acts 1:8). In the end, the apostles were to reach the world with the gospel message—“to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Jesus’ command not only provides an example for the great emphasis that God places on missions, he also provides a model by which mission work can be accomplished.

The Nature of God and Missions

God’s attributes are so complex that not even the most brilliant of scholars could traverse the width and breadth of the canyon of his being. Notwithstanding, God has revealed to humanity certain elements of his nature and character. This paper affirms John S. Feinberg’s notion that the “simplest division of the attributes distinguishes those that reflect moral qualities of God and those that refer to non-moral qualities.”[5] The non-moral aspects of God’s character are far more complicated than the moral aspects, as the moral aspects are related to God’s dealings with humanity. Of the moral attributes as it relates to missions, God’s omnibenevolence stands supreme. Omnibenevolence refers to God’s all-loving nature. Geisler denotes that John refers love to God in such a way in 1 John 4:16 as if “applying the term to His essence.”[6] Thus, God’s essence is that of love. It is important to note that God’s love coexists with God’s holiness, thereby discrediting any universalistic methodological interpretations to salvation. Nevertheless, as it pertains to missions, God’s love is central. God does not desire that “any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, one would expect a loving God to be involved in missions activities. One must also query; do the non-moral attributes of God anticipate God’s involvement in missions?

How Mission Relates to God’s Aseity and God’s Omniscience

Two non-moral attributes of God, among many others, relate to God’s involvement in missions. The first attribute may sound bizarre to some readers; nevertheless it is the so-called “aseity of God.” J. I. Packer states that “The word aseity, meaning that he has life in himself and draws his unending energy from himself (a se in Latin means “from himself”), was coined by theologians to express this truth.”[7] Isaiah demonstrates this truth in proclaiming that “The LORD is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28). God’s aseity also includes the acknowledgement that “there are not properties independent of God upon which he depends in order to have the constitutional attributes he possesses”[8] as well as acknowledging that God is “totally immune to external influences so that nothing that happens in our world fazes him.”[9] So how does God’s aseity relate to missions?

God’s aseity impacts missions when one understands the concept that God’s salvific emphasis did not stem from something that God was forced to do. No higher authority pressed upon God the necessity to save souls because there is no higher authority than God. Rather, God chose to offer salvation to individuals not for the need or desire that God had in and of himself, but rather due to God’s good pleasure and loving nature. This demonstrates John Pipers’ point vividly in that “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.”[10] Therefore, missions is performed for the good of humanity not because of some deficiency in God. Missions work brings people to a saving relationship with the God of aseity. Due to this, one should consider it an honor that God would choose not only to save anyone, but to also use his people to do missions work. God relies upon nothing; therefore God does not need human help to reach others, but chooses to allow people the opportunity to reach others as part of his kingdom work.

Another missional aspect of God’s character is God’s omniscience. Timothy George defines God’s omniscience as God’s “comprehensive knowledge of all that was, is, and ever shall be.”[11] George also notes that God’s omniscience is a “corollary of his eternity.”[12] God’s omniscience indicates that God knows all events in the past, present, and future. God knows all contingencies. Therefore, God knows what a person would do, would not do, and would do under certain circumstances.[13] In correlation with God’s omniscience, God is also omnisapient. Geisler defines omnisapience as God’s “unerring ability choose the best means to accomplish the best ends.”[14] Since God is all-knowledgeable and all-wise, then God knows who would be saved, who would not be saved, and what it would take to reach those who would be saved. In combination with God’s power and love, one can clearly note that God’s plan to reach others will always be effective one way or another. God’s choice to use those in missions is an example of the person’s worth to God. Therefore, missions is a high calling for anyone and should never be taken lightly.

Two Key Motifs of Mission Theology: Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Scott Moreau and his colleagues provide six motifs that are fundamental to mission theology—“1) the kingdom of God, 2) Jesus, 3) the Holy Spirit, 4) the church, 5) shalom, 6) the return of Jesus.”[15] While all six motifs are important, two are critical for mission theology.

First, Jesus (i.e. Christology) is essential for missions. Moreau notes that “Jesus is central not only to the Christian faith, but also to the mission that is integrated into the faith.”[16] Jesus is the means by which individuals are saved. Peter and John made it clear before the Jewish council that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Without Jesus, no mission work would be necessary. All would be lost and there would be no plan of salvation. However, because Jesus came, salvation is available to all who would receive the salvation afforded to them by the invitation and revelation of the Holy Spirit. Piper states that “A new day has come with Jesus Christ. The people of God are being rebuilt in such a way that they will no longer fail in the task of reaching the nations.”[17] Jesus is the reason that mission work is possible. Therefore, a proper understanding of the person and work of Christ is of utmost importance as it relates to missions.

In addition, the Holy Spirit is essential for missions to work in the first place. It is impossible for anyone to come to faith without the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit of God. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus noted that “when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). It is impossible to convince someone to come to faith unless the Holy Spirit is drawing that person. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the lifeblood to missions. Without the Holy Spirit, there can be no success in any mission effort.

How Missions Relates to the Church

The previous sections have discussed the nature and attributes of God as God relates to missions. Yet, a person may inquire how mission work applies to the individual Christian. The universal church consists of all regenerate believers across the world and is comprised of various individuals in heaven and on earth. The universal church also consists of congregations which themselves contain individual believers. Without the work of each person, missions work would not be accomplished. Geisler is correct in noting that “whereas the universal church contains the whole body of Christ, the local church has only part of it. Christ, the Head of the church, is visible to members of the universal church who are in heaven, but He is the invisible Head of the local churches on earth.”[18] Thus, under the leadership of Christ, church leaders cast the vision for missions to the laity. The laity, responding to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, provides means for local and global mission work. Missionaries, who are called by the leadership of Christ, use the means afforded to them to spread the gospel message to particular areas. Great things can be accomplished when Christians heed and respond to the leadership of Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

This paper has demonstrated that the concept of missions is rooted in a proper biblical and theological understanding of God. It is clear that both the Old and New Testaments demonstrate that God has a global purpose to his salvific plan. God’s loving nature demonstrates his desire for people to join him for eternity, while God’s aseity and omniscience provides exemplifies the free choice God made to save the lost. The work of the incarnate Savior provided the means to salvation, thus allowing for missions; while the Holy Spirit is the imparter of grace. Thus, God is the agent who saves and illuminates, yet God chose to use his children to partake of the blessings of the kingdom. Missions is a critical aspect of Christian ministry. When one fails to understand one’s role in missions, one fails to understand the God who made missions possible.

The preceding consists of the academic work of its author. This paper has been scanned and submitted through SafeAssign. Any efforts to plagiarize the content of this paper will be detected by one’s institution of learning.

Bibliography

Carey, William. An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. In Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader. Fourth Edition. Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009.

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

George, Timothy. “The Nature of God: Being, Attributes, and Acts.” In A Theology for the Church. Edited by Daniel L. Akin. Nashville: B&H, 2014.

Moreau, A. Scott, et. al. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.

Packer, J. I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1993. Logos Bible Software.

Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad: the Supremacy of God in Missions. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010. Kindle Edition.

Copyright July 20th, 2015. Brian Chilton

—–Footnotes—————————-

[1] A. Scott Moreau, et. al., Introduction World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 17.

[2] Ibid., 30.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture used in this paper comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] William Carey, An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, 4th ed, Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), 314

[5] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 237.

[6] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology: All in One (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 585.

[7] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), Logos Bible Software.

[8] Feinberg, No One Like Him, 240.

[9] Ibid., 241.

[10] John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad: the Supremacy of God in Missions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), Kindle Edition.

[11] Timothy George, “The Nature of God: Being, Attributes, and Acts,” in A Theology for the Church. Daniel L. Akin, ed (Nashville: B&H, 2014), 197.

[12] Ibid.

[13] This is also known as Scientia Media, or Middle Knowledge, as popularized by Luis de Molina and philosopher William Lane Craig, a concept that this writer accepts.

[14] Geisler, Systematic Theology: All in One, 515.

[15] Moreau, et. al., Introducing World Missions, 80.

[16] Ibid., 81.

[17] Piper, Let the Nations be Glad, Kindle Edition.

[18] Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume, 1146.