GROWTH IN THE REALIZATION OF GOD
By: James Coram, President of the Concordant Publishing Concern
WE ARE ACQUAINTED with the entreaty; "Be rejoicing in the Lord always! Again I will declare, be rejoicing! Let your lenience be known to all men: the Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, that is superior to every frame of mind, shall be garrisoning your hearts and your apprehensions in Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:7).
In the presence of such high entreaties, it is vital to our realization of truth to recognize that the apostle Paul does not come to us as a "second Moses." That is, Paul does not "command" us to do what is right on the grounds that if we fail to do so we will suffer the curses of the law, or, if we should continue to disobey that we will "lose our salvation" and find ourselves among the vessels of wrath.
Paul comes to us, instead, as a wise counselor, as the Lord's apostle, encouraging us and building us up in faith. He entreats us concerning that which is imperative to our service if God would be pleased and we would be benefited. The fear and trembling that is to attend our walk as we carry our salvation into effect (cf Phil 2-13) is not a fear of divine wrath, or a trembling born out of a contemplation of eternal punishment. Instead, it is a fear to offend our God and Father Whom we love It is a trembling produced by an awareness of the fact that the spirit of the One Who rouses Jesus from among the dead condescends to make its home in us.
Insofar as the curses of the law are concerned, "Christ reclaims us from the curse of the law, becoming a curse for our sakes" (Gal.3:1:3). We "were put to death to the law through the body of Christ" (Rom.7:4); hence "we were exempted from the law" (Rom.7:6). Consequently, we "are not under law" (Rom.6:14). These things are related to us by Paul with reference to the fact that Grace reigns for life eonian (Rom. 5:21); eonian life is a gracious gift (Rom.6:23).
As to the question of divine wrath in the future "day of indignation," how thankful we are to affirm that, "being now justified in [Christ's] blood, we shall be saved from indignation through Him" (Rom.5:9). We are also mindful that, according to God's purpose, there are many who will be "vessels of indignation" (Rom.9:22), yet only unto the end that, in due time, they themselves should also be obtaining mercy (cp Rom. 9:16; 11:32).
Those, however, who are "God's chosen ones" (Rom. 8:33; cp 2 Tim.2:10), having been graciously granted to be believing (Phil.1:29), have had the blessing of justification conferred upon them even now (Rom.3:22). In His kindness and grace to us, God did not appoint us to indignation, but to the procuring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sakes, that, whether we may be watching or drowsing, we should be living at the same time together with Him (1 Thess.5:9,10).
If some will not, as it literally is, "tenant the reign of God" (i.e., have an allotment or "place" in His reign; (Gal. 5:21; cp 2 Tim.2:12), it is not to say that they will not live under its jurisdiction. All who are members of the body of Christ will live under the jurisdiction of God's reign, whether or not they have a place in its governance.
Vivification and eonian life are a display of God's grace; they are not a display of a divine reward in response to man's faithfulness (Eph. 2:5,7). They are not a matter of qualification, but of favor. The fact that, relatively speaking, the reverse is true concerning the selection of those who will have a governing position within the kingdom is beside the point. The believer's eonian life depends solely upon the grace of God.
Concerning the oncoming eons: whether or not we take part in the reign of that day, we will, in any case, in that day be roused, vivified and seated together among the celestials (Eph.2:5,6). Our "seat" among the celestials, speaks of a settled place of useful service. Every one of us will be pleasing to God and faithful in His service. "Whenever Christ, our Life, should be manifested, then you also shall be manifested together with Him in glory"' (Col.3:4).
JUSTIFIED FROM SIN
In the grace of God, Christ tasted death for the sake of everyone (Heb. 2:9). "Christ Jesus ... is giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for the sake of all ..." (1 Tim.2:6).
"For the love of Christ is constraining us, judging this, that if One died for the sake of all, consequently all died" (2 Cor.5:14). And, "one who dies has been justified from Sin" (Rom.6:7; i.e., "freed from Sin." cp Rom.6:18).
This justification from Sin, which is now the portion of all, is wholly the achievement of the cross. "What was impossible to the law, in which it was infirm through the flesh, did God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sin's flesh and concerning sin, He condemns sin in the flesh" (Rom.8:3). Thus, in Christ, we behold "the Lamb of God Which is taking away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
Sin in the flesh does not await condemnation: it has already found condemnation. Sin in the flesh is not to be condemned in a future judgment (such as in the second death) It has been condemned in a past judgment. the judgment of the cross. The sin of the world has been taken away through the sacrificial offering of the Lamb of God. Christ Jesus our Lord. God made Christ ("the One not knowing sin") to be a sin offering (2 Cor.5:21). Indeed, in literal terms, "He makes Him [to be] sin" — that thus sin might be condemned and taken away.
Consequently; God has not only conciliated us to Himself through Christ, but has, in Christ, conciliated the world to Himself as well. Accordingly; He is not only dealing graciously with all our offenses (Col.2:13), but, concerning the world as well, He is "not reckoning their offenses to them" (2 Cor.5:18,19).
Sin speaks of failure; it speaks of that which "misses the mark, the mark or target of that which is inherently good, well pleasing and perfect (cp Rom.12:2). Sin in the flesh, "the sin of the world," has met its judgment through the One Who is the Sin Offering. Now, through the work of Christ, man is justified from the evil slave owner, Sin (2 Cor. 5:14; Rom.6:7b). Man is declared to be in the only right relationship to Sin, which is to be freed from its jurisdiction. Sin personified (literally man's sinful deeds), no longer has the prerogative concerning man's judgment. Instead, God through Christ has gained the prerogative!
Therefore, God — not Sin — will now determine each man's judgment and final destiny. He will do so according to His own purpose, not according to individual merit. Indeed many who will be subjected to God's indignation are far less deserving of it than others who will be saved from it. The vessels of mercy enjoy mercy solely because of God's gracious purpose, not because of any deservedness of their own (1 Tim.1:12-16; Rom.9:15,16).
WHAT THE HUMAN DESERVES
Insofar as just deserts are concerned, all are deserving of death (Rom.1:32). Considered in themselves, in their own sinfulness, apart from the divine purpose, humanity is well suited and worthy only of death. If this were the only consideration, it would be altogether fitting not only to put man to death, but to leave him there on a permanent basis.
This is true of the entirety of humanity, not merely of some. Remember, all sinned; and all are wanting of the glory of God (Rom.3:23). The glory of God represents the only ideal standard of righteousness. It is not merely that man comes short of the glory of God that is significant. It is that he is found wanting of the glory of God. Not only have all mankind sinned, but all mankind — including those who are least offensive — are members of the old humanity which is corrupted in accord with its seductive desires (Eph.4:22).
WHAT GOD WILLS
Howbeit, in the end, God, who loves all (John 3:16), and wills to save all (1 Tim.2:4), will become All in all (1 Cor. 15:28). In that day, God will fully manifest Himself as the One Who indeed is the Savior of all mankind (1 Tim. 4:10). Until then, with respect to all interim judging, it is only a question of whether one best serves the divine purpose as a vessel of mercy or as a vessel of indignation.
OFFENSES NO LONGER RECKONED
The fact that God has conciliated the world to Himself and is not reckoning offenses to the all who have sinned, affirms the fact that man's sinfulness continues to be offensive to God. It is not that man's sinful ways are no longer offensive to the Deity. That is far from the case. It is that now that the Sin Offering has been made, God is no longer reckoning man's offenses to him.
It must be emphasized that the conciliation does not exempt man from his close and often painful connection with the generally attenuated yet sometimes full-toned indignation of God which, even now, is being revealed from heaven upon the irreverence and injustice of men (Rom.1:18). We become acquainted firsthand with God's appraisal of sin whenever we ourselves experience the practical retribution which attends our own failures (cf Rom. 1:18-32; cp 1 Tim.6:9).
It does not follow from the fact that, as a timeless truth, sin has been taken away, nor from the companion fact that, personally speaking, offense is not being reckoned, that God will therefore do nothing at all insofar as personal adjudication is concerned with respect to the dreadful deeds of His beloved creatures. God will still bring every act into judgment (Ecc.12:14), both in the case of the believer (at the dais of Christ; 2 Cor.5: 10) and of the unbeliever (before the great white throne; Rev.20: 11,12).
GOD'S WORK OF JUDGMENT
Divine judgment, however, simply speaks of divine decision. For the sake of the accomplishment of the divine purpose, it remains expedient that the various judgments in which God would engage in response to man's wickedness still be carried out. Through these means, God will further make known the awfulness and injuriousness of sin.
Yet it must be recognized that the indignation in the day of the indignation and revelation of the just judgment of God (Rom.2:5), will itself proceed "according to" (or, "in accord with") that glorious body of divine revelation which Paul terms "my evangel" (Rom.2:16)! Paul's evangel is the evangel which reveals the eventual "life's justifying" and reconciliation of all mankind through the saving work of Christ (Rom.5:18,19; Col.1:20). How we rejoice to know that the events of the day of judging will proceed on the basis of and in the light of the glorious consummation when God becomes All in all.
In all future, adversative judgments, then, God will be mindful that the "sin in the flesh" of those undergoing judging has already been condemned and taken away through the sacrifice of Christ. He will be mindful as well that, through Christ's sacrifice, every sinner — even the most wicked — is already joined to Himself. That is, this is so in fact, all human unbelief notwithstanding.
It is true that, in the current era, God acts in conciliation toward mankind. It is true as well that, in coming times of indignation, it will appear that God surely is reckoning the offenses of humanity against them. Yet in fact, in the depth of His heart, this will not be so. This is because, at the cross, God was in Christ, conciliating the world to Himself. The recognition that, practically, this is a truth applied in a special way in the present, must not be misused so as to obscure the realization that, factually, it is a timeless and abiding truth.
In His work of judgment, through Christ, what is seen on the surface covers what is in the depths of God, made known in the One revealed in Paul's evangel (cf 1 Cor.2:6-10). Let no one imagine that Christ, the Righteous One, departs from virtue in assuming the role of Divine Indignation. He does so for the sake of the glory of God and the benefit of all concerned, being motivated by love, wisdom and perfect righteousness. His motives are of the highest order, and His purpose for the greatest good.
FOR GOD AND HIS GLORY
It is vital to realize that the divine indignation of the day of indignation will be the manifestation of an assumed character, not the reflection of what, deeply and ultimately speaking, is actually so.
Furthermore, the indignation of that day will be just the right amount, neither too much nor too little. It will soon be past, and, even as all else, will prove to be for the glory of God and the benefit of man. How glorious it is to know that God does not afflict "from His heart" (Lam. 3:33). How we rejoice in the realization that, ". . . though He afflicts, yet He has compassion according to the abundance of His benignities" (Lam.3:32).
The Son of God, then, to Whom all judging has been given (John 5:22), will yet, as the Emblem of God's assumption (Heb.1:3), assume the role of One Who is indignant. For the sake of the fulfillment of the divine purpose, even as for the benefit of the creature, it is wise and expedient that Christ should be manifested thus. This theophany will occur principally in the conclusion of the current eon, and then in the day of judging following the thousand years. This assumed, indignant Character, while true to form, is not at all reflective of the heart of the One Who is love (1 John 4:8) — love, which is not incensed, neither is it taking account of evil (1 Cor.13:5), evil being the outworking of the divine intention (cf Rom.9:19).
God has a purpose in all that occurs (cf Rom.11:36). Man's injustice commends God's righteousness (Rom.3:5). "The truth of God," by virtue of its being afforded an entity of contrast through the vehicle of "my lie" (i.e., through the innumerable lies in which men so frequently engage), indeed, "super abounds." That is, God's truthfulness, in the face of man's untruthfulness, thus becomes much more apparent and precious "for His glory" (Rom.3:7).
God wants to display His indignation and make His powerful doings known (Rom.9:22). Accordingly, He has made the world and all that is in it (Acts 17:24), doing so in such a way that the world will surely contain both creatures and creaturely deeds well-suited to the visitation not only of His indignation, but as well of all His concomitant, powerful deeds. "Yahweh has made everything for its own pertinent end, yea even the wicked for the day of evil" (Prov.16:4; cp Eph.6:13). All is not only out of God, and through God, but all is for God as well: to Him be the glory for the eons! Amen! (Rom.11:36).
According to Paul, everything that exists and everything that occurs is "for" God. That is, everything is for His purpose; it exists unto the end that the purpose which requires its ephemeral presence might be achieved. It follows, then, that all that is "not of God," faithfully speaking, is nonetheless out of Him, ultimately speaking.
WE RELY ON THE LIVING GOD
All will yet redound to God's glory. Thus we say, "to Him be the glory," in anticipation of and with a view toward the good that God will surely bring into existence out of the evil upon which the corresponding good is dependent.
God cannot be glorified as the Savior He intends to become, unless His creatures are the kind of sinners they need to be unto this end. Nor can God bless each one with salvation from sin in the way and to the degree that He intends, unless each one's particular kind and degree of sin is fixed. Therefore, that all might accord with God's purpose, all accords with what must be (cf Rom.8:26). All, indeed, accords with what must be, since all is out of, through, and for God (Rom.11:36), Who is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will (Eph.1:11).
Nonetheless, human behavior still occurs voluntarily, according to one's own choice. It is not true that since all is out of God (and, therefore, that human choice is out of God), that it makes no difference what we do, or that future events will come about in spite of what we do. To the contrary, future events will come about because of what we do. Accordingly, since we cannot know what we will do before we actually do it, the matter of decision making, even as self-discipline and self-control, remains vital.
We are awaiting the realized achievement of the full Saviourhood of God. Unto this end, we rely on the living God (1 Tim.4:10). Accordingly, we give thanks to Him in everything (1 Thess. 5:18) and for everything (Eph.5 :20). We do so, in word and deed, in the form of our unfeigned assurance and trust in His goodness and wisdom in the face of all the evil extant in the world, replete with such an abundance of horror and misery. God is our Savior, and He is the Savior of all mankind.
The existence of sin and evil is a harsh and unchanging reality. Whatever we may do, whatever our own course may consist of, in any case, the current eon itself will continue to be a wicked eon (Gal.1:4). We are all being afflicted. The entire creation — involuntarily — has been subjected to vanity, the slavery of corruption (Rom.8:20,21). It is on account of God that "we are being put to death the whole day," that "we are being reckoned as sheep for slaughter" (Rom.8:36). We are all dying; we are all sorrowing and groaning in our bodies of humiliation.
In his present state of corruption, man has become characterized by pride, bitterness and wrath. Yet a proud heart can only be changed by the transforming power of a thankful spirit. A spirit of thankfulness affirms that any virtue we may enjoy is ultimately God's gift to us, including the virtue that makes good use of the gifts which He grants.
A bitter and wrathful spirit can only be subdued by a spirit of kindness and love. God alone can grant us such a spirit. Yet the means of grace unto the possession of such an endowment may well be acceptance of and growth in recognition of God as God.
How helpful, then, it is truly to realize that the same awful deeds that man devises against us for evil, God designs for us for good (cf Gen.50:20; cp Rom.15:4). How beneficial it is to know that all is out of, through and for God.
It is in an awareness of this glorious truth that we say, "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, our Father, Who loves us, and is giving us an eonian consolation and a good expectation in grace, be consoling your hearts and establish you in every good work and word" (2Thess. 2:16,17)