Unambiguous Love

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My Musing – In English, the word love can be a bit ambiguous.  I love chocolate. I love my mate.  I love my child.  Same word, different types/degrees of love.  In this text, Paul chose one of the four Greek words that are all translated love in English.  He used the word agape, which is a selfless, self-giving and unmerited love that God shows to humankind in sending his son as a suffering redeemer. (Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 14). San Francisco: Harper & Row.).

Selfless – “God demonstrates His own love for us.” Demonstrate means to show or express (a feeling or quality) by one’s actions.  He was under no obligation to do so other than His character and being demanded it.

Self-giving – “Christ died for us.”  It doesn’t get more self-giving than that.  It doesn’t get more demonstrative than that.

Unmerited – “While we were still sinners.”  Rebellious offenders (sinners) of what God demands (sinlessness) merit nothing but judgment.  Yet God offers forgiveness.  It was not if you do this (clean up your act) for me, then I will do this (offer forgiveness and salvation) for you.  That would not be a demonstration of love, it would be a demonstration of justice.  Through the sacrificial death of His Son, God found a way to simultaneously demonstrate both His “agape” love and His righteous justice in one act of grace.  “You see, at just the right time [while we were still sinners?], when we were still powerless [unable to do anything to change our sinfulness], Christ died for the ungodly [deserving eternal separation from God].” (Romans 5:6, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Show our appreciation by accepting this free gift.


Why Do We Think The Unthinkable?

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My Musings – If God is a just god, . . . [fill in the blanks]?  There was a time when this sentence did not start with the word if.  It was readily accepted that God is just.  Times have changed, but God has not.  Actually, the sentence should begin with the word since.  Since God is a just God, . . . [fill in the blanks]?

Since God is a just God, He has (Jesus on the cross) and will (the Last Judgment) deal with sin and injustice that has occurred in the world.

For those who have accepted Christ’s atoning death, sin and injustice has already been dealt with, and He will (in the life to come) make up for all the suffering that they have had to endure.

For those who do not accept Christ’s atoning death, sin and injustice will be dealt with at the Last Judgment, and the suffering that they have endured in this life will pale in comparison.

Lest one should dare to say that God is unjust, it need not end that way.  Each and every one of us has the opportunity to avoid such a fate, only because God provided a remedy that is open to all.  He was not obligated to do so,  after all, we were the ones that chose to go our own way in the first place.  But He chose to.

But if one still wants to begin the sentence with if, the blanks should be filled in like this:  If God is a just God, why would He ever offer us grace?  Because justice and mercy intersected at the cross.

My Advice – Think about it.  Once we do think about it, it is indeed “unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.”  God did not do wrong, He became “wrong” in our place in the person of HIs Son Jesus Christ on the cross.  God did not pervert justice, He perfected justice.

Treatment as Sons (Daughters)

Hebrews 12:7,8Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – There are two kinds of discipline. Discipline to bring correction and discipline to train and strengthen.

My Advice – As a Son, you will be disciplined. Welcome it as a sign of true “sonship.” Make sure you know which type it is and act accordingly: ask for forgiveness or ask to learn whatever lesson is being taught.

Study 5 – All Christians Believe God Is Just & Merciful?

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Romans 9:10-18Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election [choice] might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated [rejected].” What then shall we say? Is God unjust [unrighteous]? Not at all [may it never be]! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort [exertion], but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (NIV 1984)

Romans 9:11-12 – This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works. (NLT)

Jacob & Esau (Twins) – Everything that could possibly be the same, was the same. Yet God chose one (the younger) and rejected the other (the elder), before they were even born.

The question is: on what is God’s election based?

Foreknowledge View (Arminian) – God’s election before anyone is born (form the foundation of the world) is based upon His foreknowledge of what man will ultimately do after they are born. Based on this prior knowledge God makes His choice (election), knowing what man will choose. Final decision is based upon a human choice, not upon a divine action.

Awkward Silence (Calvinism) – While the text says God chooses before man is born, and thus before man can do anything good or evil, it does not explicitly state that His choice is based on His foreknowledge. In fact, there is no text in the Bible that states that election is based on God’s foreknowledge. Calvinist view places significance on the fact that Paul not only states “before the twins were born,” but adds “or had done anything good or bad.” This emphasizes that it is “God’s purpose in election might stand,” and “not by works.” Foreknowledge is not relevant to “God’s purpose in election.”

The question is: does this mean God is unfair?

What Shall We Say, is God unjust? – God forbid (“may it never be!“! Injustice by God is unthinkable. Paul asks a rhetorical question and provides the answer to the anticipated objection that God is not being fair. The question of fairness is perhaps the greatest objection to Calvinist view. But Paul would not even need to confront this expected objection if God’s choice was made in view of His foreknowledge of what man would ultimately choose (Arminian). God could not be accused of being unfair if He was merely ratifying man’s ultimate choice based on His foreknowledge.  Nevertheless, God is not being unjust in exercising His “divine prerogative.”

Divine Prerogative“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Some receive a measure of mercy that others do not, but no one receives injustice. All are fallen and deserve judgment. Election is done in light of the fall (all are fallen) and not in light of good or evil choices down the road. God only chooses fallen sinners for salvation, but He does not choose them all. Man’s need for salvation is presupposed. There would be no need for election if man were not fallen. But all are fallen, and if God only gave justice no one would be saved.

God is not being unfair, but He is being unequal. We must be careful to not claim that God is not being merciful or gracious enough because He does not choose to show it to all equally. This implies God is not doing what He should (obligated to) do (that would be sinful). God is not obligated to be merciful. Merciful is not an obligation. It is unwarranted.  It is purely God’s voluntary choice. Considering what God’s mercy cost Him, who could possibly object to how, or to whom, He extends it?

Human Desire or EffortIt does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort [exertion], but on God’s mercy. The Calvinist view is that this statement contradicts the Arminian view (depends on man’s choice, which God has foreknowledge of).

A final question: is God capable of hatred and hardening a sinner’s heart?

Hated & Hardened – Hatred (“Jacob I hated“), as it is used, here does not mean malice. It means absence of divine favor. God gives mercy to Jacob, but He withholds it from Esau. Withhold does not mean that God predestines people to sin (predestined to be damned). God intrudes and ensures salvation of the elect, but He does not ensure the damnation of the reprobate. He just does not step in to prevent it. Hardened (Pharaoh) means the same. God is not directly causing Pharaoh to sin. He merely withdraws His restraint and lets Pharaoh to do what Pharaoh wants to do anyway (evil).

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Disciplined With Justice

Jeremiah 46:28 – “Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – God is gracious to us, even when we are disciplined. The ungodly around us (“nations”) He may completely destroy because of their refusal to accept His Son. But we are His children. He will correct us when necessary.

My Advice – Accept the Lord’s discipline, whenever it comes, as a privilege of being a child of God.

Anger for A Moment, Favor for A Lifetime

Psalms 30:5For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – Anger and weeping seem to go on forever, when we are in the midst of them. But when we look back from the vantage point of heaven, we will see just how brief they were and we will not remember the pain or the sorrow.

My Advice – You are favored by God because you are saved. Accept correction from Him when it comes. It lasts only for the moment but His favor carries into eternity. Look past your tears to the joy that will undoubtedly come.

Less Than Deserved

Ezra 9:13, 15 – “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our guilt is great, and yet, our God, You have punished us less than our sins have deserved. O Lord, God of Israel, You are righteous!” (NIV 1978)

My Musing – How can He be righteous if He punishes us less than our sins deserve? Because the price paid by Christ on Calvary made mercy and justice compatible.

My Advice – Never forget that the price Jesus paid on the cross made God’s mercy and grace possible. The price tag was high and our appreciation needs to reflect the cost.