Divine Sovereignty and God’s Will

The Sovereignty of God

What is meant when we speak of the sovereignty of God? First of all we mean that God has supremacy of authority or rule. There is no authority above Him. God is the supreme authority in all Heaven and Earth. In this study we shall seek to learn the extent of God’s sovereignty, the exercise of God’s sovereignty, and how God’s sovereignty and man’s will relate.

The Absolute Sovereignty of God

There is one thing we must be assured of: God is absolutely sovereign. There is no authority above Him. “There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Rom 13:1) (KJV) God is the ultimate authority and the source of all other authority.

God’s sovereignty is over all of Creation. There is neither one thing nor one person that is not under His authority. Whether it is the weather or the heart of one who is a powerful person, God is the authority over all of them. “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.” (1 Chron 29:11-13) (KJV) “The LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.” (Ps 47:2) (KJV) “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” (Prov 21:1) (KJV)
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isa 45:7) (KJV) “The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him. The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.” (Nah 1:3-8) (KJV)

God’s sovereignty is also one that cannot be thwarted. He used the prophets to say: “He is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.” (Job 23:13) (KJV) “Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” (Isa 43:13) (KJV) “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isa 46:9-11) (KJV) “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and

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he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan 4:35) (KJV)

God’s sovereignty is not an arbitrary rule in this world, but a ruling that is according to the good pleasure of His loving and holy nature: “Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” (Ps 115:3) (KJV) “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.” (Ps 135:6) (KJV) Paul the apostle also spoke of “him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Eph 1:11) (KJV) While God works His will in this world, He does it in a manner that is pleasing to His loving and holy character. In all things, however, God is the King of kings and Lord of lords. “In his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” (1 Tim 6:15-16) (KJV)

Divine Sovereignty and Providence

The doctrine of Divine sovereignty is a great comfort to those who understand that God’s sovereignty is always linked with His providential care for His people. What is providence? Providence speaks of God’s foresight, forethought, and plan to care for His people. Paul stated that, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28) (KJV) It is only logical to understand that the sovereignty of God is the only way by which He could providentially cause all things to work together for our good.

Solomon spoke of God’s sovereign providence when he said, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” (Prov 16:9) (KJV) As we live our lives we make plans, but our plans are often not wise. Thankfully, God cares for His children and, in sovereign love, directs our lives so that we benefit from His great love instead of destroying ourselves. David stated, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” (Ps 37:23,24) (KJV) What a blessing it is to know that God is not only watching over our lives, but is actively involved in holding us up in spite of our often falling.

Divine providence often leads us through paths that we don’t understand. Life is often difficult, dark, and perplexing. In the midst of this we must understand that God’s providence is still real. The Psalmist understood this when he said, “Thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.” (Ps 66:10-12) (KJV) Sometimes God, in His providence, sends us through hard trials that we might be purified and made holy. At other times we are caused to suffer grief and heartache at the hands of other people. It is often as though we are deluged with trouble, or burned in the flame. Life is often extremely difficult. In these dark times we are often tempted to think that God has forsaken us. He has not. He is still caring for us, and, in the end, will bring us through our trials having made us better and happier servants of His. In spite of this wonderful assurance, we often think that we must immediately understand all that is happening to us. May God help us to remember the wise statement

of Solomon, “Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?” (Prov 20:24) (KJV) We simply cannot see into the mind of God. We must trust Him as David did when He said, “I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” (Ps 57:2) (KJV)

There is no doubt that Joseph understood the providence of God. It is only because of Joseph’s faith in God’s providential care that he could forgive and comfort his brothers who had sinned against him. After the death of Jacob, his father, Joseph’s brothers came declaring that Jacob had left word for Joseph to forgive his brothers. Joseph’s reply was, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.” (Gen 50:19-21) (KJV) One can only do that if they have faith in the overruling sovereignty of God and His providence. What a great help it would be to all of us if we would but repent of bitterness and resentment and embrace the fact that God is at work in our lives even when times are the most difficult.

Divine Sovereignty and Sin

As we study this great truth we find ourselves questioning the issue of sin. Did God create sin? Does God condone sin? After all, it seems that He uses sin to further His purposes. Joseph told his brothers that God used their sin to accomplish good.

The first thing we must notice is that God by no means condones or creates sin. The scriptures declare that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”( 1 John 1:5) (KJV) The God of all creation is righteous with no sin about Him. The Psalmist stated, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness.” (Ps 45:7) (KJV) God despises sin. Not only is this so, but God does not condone sin in any fashion. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” (James 1:13) (KJV) God does not in any manner create, encourage, or condone sin.

What do we do, then, with statements such as the following? “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isa 45:7) (KJV) “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6) (KJV) One important thing to keep in mind is the fact that there is more than one sort of evil. There is moral and ethical evil, and then there is evil which is nothing more than the difficulties and tragedies of life. When the prophets spoke of evil coming from the hand of God, they were saying that He controls the world and that the good or the bad happenings are in His control. Remember that Nahum said, “The LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” (Nah 1:3) (KJV) Whether it is an earthquake, or a hurricane, God is in control. Yes, these things are evils in the sense that they are horrifying events. Insurance companies still call these “acts of God.” The reason that they do so is because they know that the occurrences of natural catastrophes are beyond human control. They are, however, in the control of God. “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?” (Lam 3:37,38) (KJV) Everything that occurs in this world does so because of the decree of God. Destruction and its attending heartache are no exceptions.

Now we are faced with another question. How does God not approve of evil, nor create sin if all things happen because of His command? This question is a valid question that certainly needs to be addressed. This writer is convinced that evil occurs because God allows it to happen. God’s decree does not necessarily demand His active participation in a deed. God simply commanded/ordained that sin and evil be allowed to occur since men could make such a choice for their lives. In so doing, God would still retain control over the world and men would have a great deal of choice in their lives. In other words, God did not decree that Adam sin without Adam’s choosing to sin. Neither did God encourage and condone Adam’s sin. Rather, God decreed that Adam would have the choice between sinning and doing rightly. Knowing that Adam would choose to sin, God ordained that Adam would be allowed to do so.

As we consider this decree of God to allow sin but not approve of it, let us notice an instance where it did indeed happen in life. The man is Balaam. He is a prophet of sorts. He is called by a wicked king, Balak, to curse the children of Israel. There’s a lucrative offer made to Balaam if he will only come and pronounce a curse from God on Israel. God’s command to Balaam is, “don’t go.” (See Num 23:12) Balak’s men return with another lucrative offer. Balaam seems to desire to go, even though he declares that he can only do what God tells him to do and can only speak what God tells him to speak. In fact, this time, Balaam even gets permission from God to go. (See Num 23:20) There is a problem, though. The will of God had already been expressed to Balaam. God did not desire for Balaam to go. God had revealed His will. Now, however, God is allowing/permitting Balaam to go to Balak, although it is not the desire of God that Balaam do so. As we read further in the chapter we find that God stops Balaam on the road and shows Balaam his error. Although Balaam is still allowed to go, we find that God only allowed it and did not endorse Balaam’s going to Balak. Balaam sinned by going, yet God permitted that sin. I believe that this shows us the fact that God’s command concerning sin is not His directly being involved in sin, but His permitting men to make their own foolish choices in life.

Another instance in which this can be seen is in the fact that God wills/desires that all men be saved; yet not all are saved. Consider the following verses: “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4) (KJV) “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) (KJV) God desires the salvation of all. All are not saved, however. In fact, some are spoken of as being ordained to destruction. “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4) (KJV) “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”( 1 Peter 2:7,8) (KJV) “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” (Prov 16:4) (KJV) Most serious Bible believers hold to the truth that God does indeed desire that all be saved and sincerely offers the Gospel to mankind. Yet the Bible teaches that there are some who are ordained to judgment and condemnation. How? Why? They are ordained of God to condemnation

because God knew that they would refuse to honor God. While God reveals His hatred for sin and His desire that all be saved from sin, He forces no one to be saved. This being so, God permits men to choose sin and continue in it to their destruction.

Finally, we should consider the sovereignty of God in relation to the sin of other people and its effects upon us. Many times people ask, “Why does God permit (fill in the blank with any specific tragedy)? At other times it is asked, “Why does God do things such as this?” One Jewish rabbi wrote a book about bad things happening to “good people.” All of these questions miss the true issue. The issue is not whether bad things happen (they do). It is not about God doing the bad things (He doesn’t). It is not altogether about God permitting those things (although He does). The real issue is that all of us are sinners, not good people.

All of us are sinners who do not deserve good from God. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) (KJV) All of us are under the judgment of God. “We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Rom 3:19) (KJV) “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…. and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Eph 2:1,3b) (KJV) We were destined to face the wrath of God. We do not deserve the good that happens to us. Now, those of us who are saved do indeed have hope and assurance that things are well between us and God. On the other hand, we are still in a world that is sinful. “The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Rom 8:20-23) (KJV) All of creation is subject to futility, emptiness, and sorrow. Rape, murder, torture, war crimes, domestic violence, wrecks caused by drunken drivers, cancer, heart disease, and all other ills of this world are the result of Adam’s sin. All of creation is filled with the turmoil that came into the world because of man’s sin. Man chose to sin. God didn’t make that choice for him; man made the choice for himself. Man knew that trouble, pain, and death would be the result of sin, yet he sins even today. Thankfully, there is the promise of a future deliverance from all sorrow. One day Jesus Himself shall return to this Earth and change the whole world into a place of peace and righteousness. “We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13) (KJV)

Concluding Remarks

It is very difficult to address every question and objection to a truth that is as great as this. There is no way to righteously overlook, or treat lightly, the pain, sorrow, and suffering of people in this life. I do trust, however, that the glorious truth that God is in control will cause someone to look upward and place their confidence in Him, knowing that He alone holds the future in His hands. Most objections to this truth are emotional objections. That being so, we would do well to consider the wise words of a man who lived a life of depression, yet chose to trust in the sovereignty of God:

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God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy and shall break In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err And scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.

God Moves In A Mysterious Way William Cowper

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The Marks Of True Conversion

Marks Of True Conversion

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” (John 2:23–25)

There were many people who believed during Jesus’ ministry, and on this particular day many believed because they saw His miracles; yet Jesus did not commit Himself to them. That is, though they believed Him, He did not believe them. Bearing this in mind, we must recognize that there is such a thing as a false conversion.

Jesus said, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21–23) While many people love to quote, “Judge not,” from the first verse of this chapter, Jesus explicitly states that there are some whom He will reject in the judgment because they professed Him while not being truly converted.

James also taught about false conversions saying, Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19–20There is a faith that is not a real faith. There is a faith that is a dead faith. There is a faith that does not save. It is the faith of devils! Certainly we should beware of this and search ourselves to be sure that we are truly converted.

We can even read that Jesus warned that Satan was busy making false converts. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:24–30) “Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:36–43Immature tares, we are told, look just like wheat. It is only when the crop nears maturity that it is evident that tares are present. Some have even called tares, “bastard wheat.” That is very interesting considering the fact that we are told of some who are “bastards and not sons.” (Hebrews 12:8) 

This is a very sobering reality, and it is one that must be taken seriously. Can you imagine hearing Christ tell you, “Depart from me, I never knew you?” This is why we should all examine ourselves to be sure that we are saved. None of us needs to be so cocksure that we never take God’s words of warning seriously.

With these things before us, we can see that there is such a thing as a false conversion; but what are the marks of true conversion? This is what we will now seek to determine from the Scripture.

Jesus began His ministry by preaching And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15

As we study this text, we find three important things:

  1. We are to repent. What is repentance? But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.” (Matthew 21:28–29Repentance literally means, a change of mind. Notice that the young man who repented did exactly that. When we change our minds, our behavior also changes. After the young man repented, he obeyed his father’s command. The apostle Paul said that it was a profitable thing that he preacher “ repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21When we change our minds about our sins and our heart toward God, we will then trust Christ. We also find that true repentance not only brings us to faith and salvation, but it also results in a changed life. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:9–11
  2. Believe the gospel. What is the gospel? Mark said that Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom. We find that the gospel is the good news that God rules (Isaiah 52:7), and this is what Paul stated that this is the gospel (Romans 10:14-17), and we must believe it. What is meant by it being good news that God rules as king? It simply means that God is fulfilling the promise to redeem His people by His promised king (Genesis 3:15), forgiving us of our sins and making us His children and citizens of His kingdom through the death of Christ for our sins and His resurrection from the dead as conqueror of sin and Satan (Colossians 1:13-14;1 Corinthians 15:1-4;Romans 4:25;Romans 6:9-10).
  3. Believe the gospel. This good news of which I just spoke is what we are to believe. What is meant by believing the gospel? It simply means that we put our trust in the God who gives us good news and promises us eternal life through Jesus Christ. In fact, faith and trust are used as meaning the same thing in Ephesians 1:11-14. In what are you trusting? Faith is trusting in God and not in ourselves and our goodness. Paul said, Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:4–5) Faith is when we stop trusting in anything other than God and His goodness, willingness, and power to save our souls.

The next thing that we need to notice is that the gospel message gives glory to God. Paul spoke the Romans saying, What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:1–3God has determined to save men so that His name will be honored (Ephesians 2:8-10;1 John 2:12), and the gospel is called “the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” (1 Timothy 1:11). The gospel is the good news that God is glorious and will glory and exalt Himself by freely forgiving and saving all who trust in Him. Notice that the gospel is not about the man who preaches, nor is it primarily about the person who is being saved: the gospel is about God’s greatness. When God saves a person, He will give that person a love for God (See 1 John 5:1), and that person will learn to exalt and honor God above all. In fact, that is the gospel promise: And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6And this happens when we trust Christ: Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:22–23

Not only do we love God after we are saved, but we see that we will love the brethren. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (1 John 3:14We are told that we are indwelt by the Spirit of God when we are saved, and that He will lead us to love God and love others: the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5Love for others is a mark of true conversion. Sadly, many cult leaders or cult like leaders tell their followers that they are converted and then lead them to be hateful toward their family members who are either unconverted or who refuse to follow this particular leader. We must realize that this sort of divisiveness is not of God: Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8One who is truly converted will love his family members enough to want to see them converted also instead of turning against them. Love is a mark of true conversion.

As we saw when we spoke of repentance, a changed life is a mark of conversion. In fact, that is what conversion is, a change: it is a change of heart, life, and eternal destination. John said, This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5–7) “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 John 2:4–6) When God saves a sinner, He rescues him from the condemnation of sin as well as from the power of sin. The old sinful habits will be exchanged for holiness. In conversion, the old man has died and we are new creatures in Christ: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17Remember, however, that Jesus stated that those who do not do the will of God do not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21-29). When a person is converted, they are truly and forever changed.

There are three important things to take from this:

  1. If you do not bear the marks of true conversion, you need to closely check yourself to see why. Have you truly trusted Christ? 
  2. If you are struggling with confusion, yet know you have trusted Christ, take comfort in the signs of God’s grace that are present in your heart and life.
  3. If you find that you have not been truly converted, repent and believe the gospel!

Of Legalism And Holiness

Of Legalism And Holiness

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24–25) 

As it is obvious from the title, this article is about legalism and holiness. It seems that these two terms are often viewed as being synonymous, yet they are vastly different. There are many people today who are legalists who think that they are holy, and there are many holy people who are called legalists by others. Can one be a legalist and be unholy? Can a person be holy and not be a legalist? What in the world is legalism anyway? And what is holiness? 

We must begin by defining the terms. Legalism– The belief that salvation demands or depends upon total obedience to the letter of the law. Examples of legalism include an excessive concern for minute details of the law coupled with a neglect of its fundamental concerns, and a preoccupation with human legal traditions.1 To this we can add that legalism is often seen in the effort to establish our sanctification by external fleshly means rather than by living in the grace of God by faith. Holiness- The quality of God that sets him utterly apart from his world, especially in terms of his purity and sanctity. The holiness of God is also manifested in the persons and work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Believers are called upon to become like God in his holiness.2 I believe that it is obvious to even the most casual of readers that holiness and legalism are different things, although they have one similarity in common, which is an adherence to certain standards that are found in God’s Word. The difference is what is the great thing, and that is the motivation behind the rule keeping and standard following. Why does a person do what he does? Does he do it to be saved? Does he do it to earn brownie points with God so that God will hear his prayers and count him holy? Does he do the things he does to honor God and yield his flesh, mind, and heart to Him?

Our text above comes from the book of Galatians, and I want us to spend most of our time in Galatians as we consider this issue.

In chapters one and two of Galatians, Paul takes a very strong stand against legalism. There were those who were preaching a so-called gospel that was anything but good news. It was not revealed by God, not given by God, and was accursed of God. The Spirit of God is so vehemently opposed to the idea that a person can work for salvation or add works to faith for salvation that He pronounces a curse against anyone, even angels, who would preach such a perverted gospel! Paul then tells us about rebuking Peter for acting hypocritically and refusing to fellowship with Gentile believers because they were not circumcised. In a strong blast against legalism, Paul said that he was trusting Christ alone to be saved and to live the Christian life. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:20–21) 

Chapters three and four present the believers as being heirs of God in Christ and partakers of the Abrahamic blessing and covenant. Paul stands strongly against the idea that one’s salvation is completed by fleshly works, reminds them that the law brings a curse, and the none of us have obeyed the law or will fully obey the law. Instead, the good news is that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law and counts us righteous by faith alone. Because of this we are God’s children and heirs according to the promise.

Chapter five of Galatians is where the rubber meets the road for Christian living. It is there that we see the issues of legalism and holiness in stark contrast. There are those who seek to be holy by fleshly effort. They think that there are things that they do which will cause God to love them more, to hear their prayers, and to bring blessing upon their lives and families. They are seeking to earn the blessings of God which only come by grace. This is a form of legalism regarding sanctification. (As an aside, it should be noted that it has much in common with the paganism that treats God as one who has needs and will repay us as we help Him out. It also has much in common with the modern paganism of the prosperity gospel, which speaks of doing certain things in order to move or manipulate God to bring health and wealth to us.) When Paul calls on us to walk in love and walk in the Spirit instead of walking in the flesh, he is fighting against two extremes: one is that of yielding to unbridled lust and sin in the name of freedom and the other is that of trying to please God by fleshly efforts. Both of these have the same results: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19–21) It cannot be said too strongly that legalism will often lead to immorality, because legalism is living in the flesh. This is why we are told to walk in the Spirit and live the life of one whose flesh has been crucified and continues to be mortified.

As we look at the issue of walking in the Spirit, however, we do see that there are standards of holiness mentioned to us. We are to measure our lives by what we need to get rid of (Galatians 5:19-21) and by what we add, which is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who live in the Spirit have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires and are commanded to walk in the Spirit. This means that we are to follow the leadership of the Spirit in the Word of God and trust in the power of the Spirit of God to enable us to glorify God in our bodies. These standards of holiness are to be evident in our lives. They are not optional. They are essential to Christian living. Paul stated that those who lack those things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). 

While these standards do not earn our salvation, they are things that we should use as a measure of our sanctification. I need to be sure that I am growing in godly love, possessing and spreading joy in the Holy Ghost, learning to suffer long in adverse circumstances, growing in kindness and gentleness, controlling myself both in the passions of anger and fleshly desires, and ever yielding myself to God. As we read and study God’s Word, we find that these things will show up in the things we wear, the places we go, the things we do, and the words we speak. 

With this in mind, we must recognize that there are some of us whose standards may be what appears to be more strict concerning certain things such as clothing, music, various media involvements, and perhaps other things. A person can have standards that are more strict that yours, and you can disagree with them on those things, and yet that person may not be a legalist. If they are seeking to walk in the Spirit, and they are convinced that these things are part of walking in the Spirit and helpful in submitting the flesh to God, then they are more likely holding to these standards as an issue of holiness rather than legalism. In such a case, it would be very uncharitable to label such a person a legalist. In fact, in our day when folks seem so prone to saying, “Judge not!” it is very judgmental to declare a person is trying to earn their salvation or earn the blessing of God when they are simply trying to yield themselves to God and walk in the Spirit. It is crucial that we understand this.

Finally, Paul uses chapter six of Galatians to call the saints to live out their faith in Christ by showing mercy and kindness to sinning brethren, to sow to the Spirit, and to not give up in their walk with God. He assures them that who faithfully serve God will reap the good results of sowing to the Spirit in God’s time. As he concludes, Paul warns against those whose legalism was real, who took pleasure in appearances, and who tried to lead others to follow them for the sake of appearances alone. He declares that all boasting and glory belongs to God alone, is to be in Christ alone, because of His cross that is the means of our salvation and sanctification. We must recognize that anyone can glory in appearances, whether the legalist who walks in the flesh or the one given to license and walks in the flesh. One glories in the appearance of holiness while the other often glories in yielding the flesh and the appearance of liberty from the legalism under which he or she long lived. Both are sinning by not giving the glory to God. I pray that we will all take the time to soberly meditate on these things, live in the grace of God, and show one another the meekness that God’s Word commands.

1 Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).

2 Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).

The Doctrine of Separation

Separation

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1)

            Our text issues a call, nay, a command to separation. It is based upon the fact that there are things and people that are incompatible one with another. Righteousness cannot fellowship with unrighteousness; light cannot dwell with darkness; believers have no share with unbelievers; and the temple of God has no agreement with idolatry.

            This has been so from the beginning of Creation. God separated time from eternity, matter from nothing, and the heavens from the earth. He went on to divide the light from the darkness, day from night, and the seas from the dry land. After that, God separated the beasts from humans and put a difference between male and female. He also told man that there is a difference between good and evil, warning him of the judgment for committing sin.

            When man sinned, there came death, which is a separation between God and man. Scripture tells us, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:” (1 John 1:5–6) There is also the ultimate separation from God in outer darkness. 

            Cain killed his brother and was separated from his family and from most of humanity. Noah had to separate from the rest of the world in order to board the ark and be safe. Abraham had to separate from worldly Lot. Lot had to separate from wicked Sodom. Israel had to leave Egypt, and also had to live separately from other nations.

            The covenant of circumcision had Israelite males separating themselves from a portion of their flesh, signifying both their faith in God and their separation from sin (See Colossians 2:11).  The circumcised were also to be separated from the uncircumcised.

            The Levitical law and holiness code called for a separation from those who were immoral. Often the separation was due to the execution of the death penalty upon those whose sins were harmful to family and society. We also see that the leper had to live separately from those who were healthy.

            We also find a separation placed between those Jews who were atoned for and worshiped the LORD and those who were not atoned for and did not worship the LORD.

            Numerous times in the Scriptures we find that God commanded Israel to put a difference between the holy and the profane; and He also rebuked and chastened them when they did not do so.

Separated Minds

            It is especially interesting to notice that Israel was to be separated from the unbelieving nations around them even in the things that they ate (See Leviticus 11). Why was this so? God wanted the people to be distinct from the nations around them, even in the normal habits of life. Paul told Timothy that, while the dietary laws have been abolished, the principle of separation still stands and is seen in our willingness to nourish ourselves with the good Word of God while refusing profane words and myths (1 Timothy 4:1-7). Just as we are taught to not be led by the counsel of the ungodly (Psalm 1), we should always recognize the need to be separated from the influence of the world upon our thought lives. 

            Too often we have thought of separation as merely a separation from doing sin, but we must recognize that God wants us to have purity of thought also. Our transformation comes from the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2), and that began when we were born again (Colossians 3:10). We are taught to surrender our minds to the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), and to become fools in worldly wisdom that we might gain godly wisdom (1 Corinthians 3:18). Lot, sadly, failed to do this and troubled his mind greatly with the things that he saw and heard in Sodom (2 Peter 2:7). Lot’s failure in this respect let him to compromise and a testimony that was so weakened that he could not help many in his own family. 

            Israel’s dietary laws separated them in their nutrition and eating habits so that they were not like the nations around them; and that pointed to our need to nourish ourselves only with that which is good. Many things that we eat today are enjoyable yet unhealthy. Whether they are filled with sugar, feed inflammation, too fattening, or simply devoid of nutritional benefit, much of today’s food is harmful to us. Just as we must beware of our nutritional intake so that we can be healthy, so we must be very careful of the things we see and hear, because they will greatly impact our minds and holiness. Our music, our reading, our conversations, and our television viewing all have effects on our minds; and they will feed either holiness of worldliness in us. We must be a separated people, feeding ourselves only on that which is good.

Separating From Doctrinal Error

            Doctrinal error is a very pervasive thing, steadily working like leaven and spreading its corrupting influence throughout the body of Christ (Galatians 5:9). Paul told Timothy it is like gangrene, spreading, decaying, and destroying (2 Timothy 2:15-17). It is for this cause that we must separate ourselves from grave doctrinal errors.

            Paul warned the Romans to take notice of those whose teaching contradicted the doctrines of the gospel and holiness (Romans 16:17-18) and to turn aside from them, because those people would be servants of their flesh rather than followers of Jesus. Peter warned that there would be false teachers whose teachings would tempt and mislead others to walk away from Christ (2 Peter 2:1-22). It is partly considering this that Peter teaches us to be holy (2 Peter 3:11,14).

            John also battled false doctrine, and those who were teaching falsehoods about Jesus. Mainly they said that Jesus had not come in the flesh, and their teaching then affected the morals of the people they influenced. John said, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 John 10–11) John is teaching that we should not give material, spiritual, or moral support to the purveyors of false doctrine, because one becomes a partner in their error by so doing. Separation is essential for the health, prosperity, and survival of the churches.

            The failure to separate from those teaching and embracing false doctrine has wreaked havoc among churches over the last one hundred sixty years. Whether it was the accepting of Darwin’s evolutionary theory, the denial of the Deity of Jesus Christ, the rejection of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scriptures, the introduction of corrupted Bible versions, the denial of the virgin conception and birth of Jesus Christ, or the rejection of the reality of miracles, it is painfully obvious that the state of Christianity in Europe and in the United States of America has suffered greatly because of this. Furthermore, we now see the prevalence of prosperity theology that is merely greed masquerading as spirituality, using God as a genie to get what we want; and this is heretical, but people are embracing the slick looking, smooth speaking men who present the therapeutic pep talks that make folks feel better. Ultimately, these things affect worship and morality, and bring great harm. We must separate ourselves from grave doctrinal error.

Separating From Schismatics

            While the principle of separating from doctrinal heretics is real, so is the principle of separating from practical heretics. Heresy is primarily schism, which is simply division. Some divisions are doctrinal. Other divisions are practical. Some people have correct doctrines but have poor practices and are fractious, contentious, and disturb the peace and well-being of the body of Christ by their contention or by introducing harmful practices. Paul commanded Titus to warn the divisive person two times and then avoid him or have no fellowship with him (Titus 3:10). Why is this seemingly extreme course commanded? Because the person who will not heed godly warnings about divisive and harmful behavior is corrupted and sinful, and his own heart and behavior condemn him (Titus 3:10-11). It is imperative to note that, while many ironically condemn biblical separation as being judgmental, this passage teaches us that the one being separated from has condemned himself. 

            John, while being considered the apostle of love, shows us that love will separate from those who create divisions. Notice he spoke concerning Diotrephes, a man who decided that he would be the ruler of the local church where he was a member, refused to receive and help God’s men, and excommunicated those who did help God’s men and stated that he would remember Diotrophe’s words and ways. In other words, rather than Diotrephes being the one casting out, he would be rebuked and cast out unless he repented. Not only so, but John commanded the church to follow good, and that those who did not follow good are not of God. (3 John 9-11). This is nothing less than the principle and doctrine of Biblical separation from divisive people being described and put into practice.

            Few people think of the great damage that divisive people cause and fail to realize that separating from them in a godly fashion will do much good. Whether it is immorality as seen in 1 Corinthians chapter five, false doctrine and divisive actions as seen in Galatians (See Galatians 2:11-14;5:9-12), or wagging tongues, anger, unreasonableness, and strife as seen in James, divisive people do much harm. The leaven of sin spreads. Anger festers, builds up, comes to a head, and erupts, causing much damage. Notice James’ statement: “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (James 3:16) We can expect all sorts of sin to flourish in the presence of division and strife, and that is why we must call divisive people to repentance and then separate if they refuse to amend their hearts and ways.

A Warning Against Compromise

            Scripture also teaches us that we must be on our guard against compromise and separate from it when we see it. We are warned that friendship with the world is enmity with God and spiritual adultery (James 4:4). Scripture commands us to love our God supremely, and that love for the world denotes an absence of love for God in our hearts (1 John 2:15-17). We know that the LORD rebuked Jehoshaphat for joining in with wicked Ahab (2 Chronicles 19:1-3). The text heading this article also teaches us that light and darkness, righteousness and wickedness, Christ and Satan have no true fellowship. We cannot stand with our feet in both worlds but must choose between the two.

            Why is compromising a thing to guard against? Compromising is a joining of forces with those who are believing or practicing wrongly, and is a lending of support to them, which makes us partakers of their wrongdoing. Paul warned Timothy against partaking of other men’s sins (1 Timothy 5:22), and we have already seen that John spoke similarly (2 John 10-11). We must beware of compromising and choose to separate, or we will be guilty of aiding and abetting others in their sins.

            While it may not be quite as obvious as in other issues, compromise is ground for separation as well. Notice that compromise makes one a partaker in another’s evil deeds. Just as one who is present with another when a crime is committed is considered an accessory and one who helps is considered an accomplice and both are considered guilty of the crime, so it is with compromise. When we know of ministers and churches who offer fellowship to heretics or compromise with immorality, we must exercise separation from them as guilty of the same spiritual misdeeds. Their compromise demonstrates their sympathies to those sinning and demands our separating from them so that they will not affect us with the leaven of compromise.

Separation Vs. Isolation

            Separation, as we have seen, is a Biblical doctrine and practice. We are often prone to extremes, however, and can sometimes take separation too far and become isolationists. We cannot totally separate ourselves from the presence of sinners, or we would have to leave the world. This is what Paul told the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). Jesus prayed for His people, not that they would be taken out of the world, but that they would be kept from evil (John 17:15). It is easy to stand aloof from others, look down our noses as the Pharisees did, scorn and criticize, and become “holier than thou,” but that is not separation. That is isolationism, and it is contrary to the commands of God, who told us that we should seek to convert our erring brother (See Matthew 18:15-17;James 5:19-20;1 John 5:16). 

            Paul’s directions to the Corinthians concerning the man in an incestuous relationship was that they should separate but not isolate themselves from those in immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). The purpose of separating was two-fold: it was for the purity of the church, so that the leaven on sin would not spread, and it was for the spiritual good of the one being separated from, so that he would come to repentance. It seems to have been successful, because Paul later wrote to them and admonished them to show grace and love in forgiving him (2 Corinthians 2:1-11). With this in mind, we conclude by asserting that the Biblical doctrine and practice of separation is a positive doctrine that seeks the holiness of the church and the repentance of those from whom we separate.

The Love of God

The Love of God

Romans 5:5-8

 

A Love Beyond Comprehension

The love of God is beyond human comprehension, yet is in many ways accessible to us. We will never fully comprehend God’s love, as it passes knowing (Ephesians 3:10); yet we can know its character and enjoy its benefits.

The love of God is so great that John exclaimed, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” (1 John 3:1, AV) John is declaring that God’s love is foreign. It is other worldly. It is not a mere human sort of love. The love of God, that makes us sons of God, can be recognized and known; yet it cannot be fully comprehended.

Why is God’s love so great? It is because God is love (1 John 4:8), and God is eternal. Therefore love is eternal in both duration and character.

Love Is of God

One of the most familiar verses of all Scripture is, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8, AV) Even small children often know, “God is love.” Notice that we are told that love is from God, because God is love. God is the source of love, and He is love.

What this means is that there is no true love apart from God. There can be ungodly and unholy love; but true love is from God. It also means that God defines love. Today the idea is that God is love, and therefore conforms to our ideal of what love is. Since God is eternal and holy, and being love, God defines what love is. He does not conform to our ideal of love, but He tells us what love is, what it does, and how it appears. Others like to say, “Love is love.” Not only is that a tautology and circular reasoning, it is also unrighteous. It is both incorrect and sinful. Let us always remember that God is love.

If you and I are to show love, it is because that we know God. Paul’s desire for the Thessalonians was that “the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12–13, AV) The way of practical holiness is that of love; and it is because the Lord causes us to grow in love. You and I grow in love and show love as God enables us. It is He who teaches us to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9). God is love and is the source of all true love.

Free And Unmerited Love

God’s love is free and unmerited. There is nothing that man has ever done or ever can do to deserve it. Moses told Israel, “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8, AV) God did not love Israel because of what was in Israel. Nor did He love Israel for any reason other than the fact that He chose to love them. God’s love is free and unmerited.

When the LORD wanted to show Israel His free love, He commanded Hosea to take a harlot to be his wife. When Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was unfaithful to him and wound up as a slave on the auction block, the LORD told Hosea, “Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee. For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:1–5, AV) Not only did Hosea freely love Gomer and buy her as a slave, but he also committed to be faithful to her as her husband. The LORD then continues to explain that His love for Israel is similar. God’s love for Israel was not for any good within themselves, but all because of the good that is in God. He said, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4, AV) God promised to love Israel and to forgive them freely, because His love is free and unmerited. Israel was very unfaithful, but God is love.

God’s love to us today is the same: He loves us freely. Paul described us to Titus as being wicked, unloving, hateful, obnoxious, rebellious, and of bad hearts and minds. Then he said, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7, AV) When did God’s saving love come to us? How did God’s saving love come to us? It came while we were yet in our sinful rebellion, and it was in no manner deserved by us; but God freely loves us, and freely saves all who trust Him. We see this again as Paul said, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8, AV) When we were impotent, helpless, unrighteous, irreverent, and unholy, Christ died for us. We were the enemies of God, living in rebellion against Him. We did what we wanted to do, and we followed the world, the flesh, and the devil (Ephesians 2:1-4); yet God loves us so freely that He gave His only begotten Son to be crucified for our sins, so that we can be freely saved. Is it any wonder, then, that John exclaimed that this love is foreign to us? It is a love far beyond human comprehension!

Sacrificial Love

God’s love is not only free and unmerited, but it is sacrificial: it is giving. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, AV) “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16, AV) This is how God loves us, in that He has given His Son; He has laid down His life for us. Even when we were enemies, God gave His Son to die for our sins, that we might be reconciled to God (Romans 5:6-11;2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

When Paul would counter the self-righteous and legalistic doctrine and lifestyle that was troubling the Galatian churches, he argued that Christ’s sacrificial love is what we should trust. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:20–21, AV) As of late I have encountered a group of seemingly well-intended, but unlearned and misguided people whose teaching is that of being saved by God’s power, yet maintaining salvation by our own righteousness. Their idea is that love is something soft and permissive. God’s love is not that at all. God’s love sent Christ to the cross to confirm God’s righteousness (Romans 3:21-28). Sin has to be punished, and God punished the Lord Jesus Christ in our place because He loves us. God’s love is sacrificial, and it is this love that saves us and keeps us. If I can save or keep myself, Christ died a useless death, Paul says. I, for one, thank God for the unspeakable gift of God’s sacrificial love in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 9:15)!

Forgiving, Saving, And Life Giving Love

Paul spoke to the Ephesians and reminded them of the depths of their depravity, which is the depravity which is common to us all, and then He said, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Ephesians 2:4–5, AV) God has a great love to us, and it is saving love. God, because of His great love, saves us by His grace!

Hezekiah would speak about how he was near to death and the LORD delivered Him: “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” (Isaiah 38:17, AV) Why was Hezekiah forgiven, delivered from death, and saved? Because God had love to his soul.

Paul exulted in the saving love of God by telling Timothy, “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:14–15, AV) The chief of sinners was saved because of God’s love and grace. Let us remember that the Lord does not change (Malachi 3:6), and that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). This being so, all the redeemed will be saved because of God’s great love; and we shall all give Him glory, saying, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5–6, AV)

The Covenant Love of God

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:33–39) 

Unmerited Covenant Keeping Love

Often people will state that the God of the Old Testament is quite different from the God of the New Testament, and they either are implying that there are two different Gods in the Bible, or they are trying to say that God has somehow changed His character over time. Neither approach is correct. In fact, the idea is that God is somehow more loving in the New Testament than He is in the Old Testament. In this lesson we shall see that God’s covenant love in the Old Testament is the foundation of our Christian confidence in the New Testament testimonies of God’s faithful love to His people.

The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8) 

Why did God love Israel and keep covenant with them? Simply because He loved them. Israel had no redeeming features about them. They were the smallest of all nations. They were also consistently rebellious and disobedient. The only thing that prompted the love of God toward them was the fact that He chose to love them, and that He had chosen Abraham and made a perpetual covenant with him. As we read Ezekiel chapter sixteen we find that the LORD took Israel as though she were an abandoned infant, rescued her, cleaned her up, clothed her, fed her, and then married her when she was grown. In short, God entered into a covenant with Israel though Israel did not deserve it. God’s love, even in the Old Testament, is an unmerited, committed, covenant love.

The love of the LORD to Israel is seen as a forgiving and heart changing love. Israel did not keep covenant with God, though they promised that they would (See Exodus 24:7;Hosea 6:7). Again, a reading of Ezekiel chapter sixteen demonstrates this truth. Despite this, God told Israel that He would change their hearts so that they would obey. “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6) Again we read, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27) Later we see Jesus speaking to Nicodemus about being born again of water and of the Spirit (John 3:1-9), and we can see that He was alluding to this passage, in which God promises to change hearts so that we might obey Him.

When God makes a covenant, He is true to His word, faithful to His promises, and always lives up to what He says He will do. Thus it is that, when Balak would try to get Balaam to curse Israel, Balaam was led of the LORD to say, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) God keeps covenant. Not only so, but we also read Samuel’s words of assurance to fearful Israel, when they realized they had sinned: “For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.” (1 Samuel 12:22) Israel had sinned and failed to keep covenant with God, yet He promised that He would keep covenant with them!

We can continue on in the Old Testament and read how that God promised idolatrous, erring Israel that He would indeed send Babylon against them to destroy the city and humble the nation, yet He would continue to keep covenant with them. “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3) This covenant love is illustrated in Hosea’s covenant keeping love to Gomer (Hosea chapters 1-3), and highlighted by the LORD’s declaration, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4) Although Israel treated God as an unfaithful wife mistreats her husband, yet He chose to love them, forgive them, and continue to keep His promises!

When Jeremiah wept over the desolations of Jerusalem after Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the temple and the city, he could take heart in the fact that the LORD is a covenant keeper. Knowing the promises of God to Israel throughout all generations, Jeremiah stated, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21–23) Again, Malachi speaks for God, saying, “I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) God’s love is an unmerited, faithful, covenant keeping love to those who are His.

God’s Covenant Love As Seen in The New Testament

He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;” (Luke 1:54) “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:68–75)

The New Testament presents the same covenant keeping God to us that the Old Testament does. Our text above shows us that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to Israel. Furthermore Paul tells us, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) Jesus’ work was to fulfill the promises of God to Israel.

God’s covenant promises were not to Israel only, however, because He had promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed in him (Genesis 12:1-3). Thus we read of Simeon saying, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29–32) Jesus came to bring the blessings of Abraham to the Gentiles also. Paul told the Romans, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:8–13) Gentiles are included in Christ’s covenant, and I’m taking the time to wrtie this because I’ve lately read a couple of people who have stated things to the effect that the New Covenant is a future covenant that pertains only to Israel; and another stated that he felt sorry for anyone who thinks that they are part of a blood covenant with God. Jesus, however, when establishing the Lord’s Supper “took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27–28) This covenant love is shed for many for the remission of sins.

We continue and see that it is through Christ’s blood that our sins are forgiven. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7) “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” (Colossians 1:13–14) “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:22–28) “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” (Revelation 1:4–5) Through Christ God is a covenant keeping God, establishing His New Covenant through the blood of the cross of Christ.

These things fulfill the promise of God to make a new covenant with Israel: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:31–37) Jesus stated that this covenant comes through His blood, so that our sins can be forgiven (Matthew 26:28). Paul stated to the Hebrews that this covenant that God makes through Christ is the fulfillment of this promise (Hebrews 8:7-12). It is to be noted that this covenant is not peculiar to Israel, but is to all who are in Christ; because the promise is that “they shall all know me.” (Jeremiah 31:34;Hebrews 8:11).

The important thing about this covenant is the duration of it. God promises, saying, “Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:35–37) This is a promise that God will keep covenant with all who are in covenant with Him. He will not turn away from those who are His! It is with this in mind that we then can begin to see the glories of the eternal security that the believer has in Christ.

Paul told the Romans that our security rests in the fact that Jesus died, arose, ascended to the Father, and makes intercession for us (Romans 8:33-34). He then proceeds to explain that there is not a single thing in all of creation, ourselves included, that can separate us from this covenant keeping love of God that is in Christ. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35–39) I realize that there are those who say that a person can lose his salvation, but this teaches us something that is very different from that. It explains that God keeps covenant with us, and that His unmerited love is a love that never ceases to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:5-2:2), sanctify us (Ephesians 5:25-33), and will ultimately present us before Him holy and without blame in love (Ephesians 1:3-7).

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15) 

The Love of God: Love And Hatred

“The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.” (Psalm 11:4–7)

In this final post on God’s love, we shall briefly consider love and hatred. We must understand that every affection has an opposite that exists along with it. Thus it is that mercy rejoices against judgment, so that wrath and condemnation are counteracted where mercy is received and applied. This is also true with love. One can only love something or someone truly if they hate that which is diametrically opposed to the object of their love. For example, if I truly love my family, I must harbor within my heart a hatred for anything that would harm or destroy my family. This hatred can to a degree coexist in my heart with true love for someone who would seek to destroy my family. While loving them and desiring what is best for them, I must at the same time hold a certain contempt for them as one who would murder my children if they had the opportunity.

We are not accustomed to speaking about such things, because we tend to think that love and hate cannot exist within us at the same time. Let us consider how these things actually work in us, using an example of a murderer from years past. In 1980, Robert Willie and a friend of his killed a young lady named Faith Hathaway and dumped her body in what is now Bogue Chitto State Park, near Franklinton, LA. It was a particularly gruesome crime, and was only part of a crime spree that in which Willie was the main offender. Willie was put to death in the electric chair in 1984. While we all would love to have heard of a man such as Willie getting saved, that evidently did not happen. Willie is reported to have said that he enjoyed the crime, and expressed no remorse at all. We turn from such people in great disgust, do we not? Yes, we love them and desire the best for them. At the same time, that love is rightly countered by a hatred of both the deeds done and of the person. While we are to hold no malice, yet we must rightly condemn such to death (See Genesis 9:6). David himself, a man after God’s own heart, said, “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” (Psalm 139:21–22) These verses were given by inspiration of God, are His Word, and are true and righteous. Again, he said, “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 97:10) Where there is love for something or someone, we will likewise hate that which is the enemy of the object of our love. Thus we see how love and hatred can righteously exist within us at the same time.

If these things are true of men, how much more are they true with God? We know that God is love (1 John 4:8). We also know that the Scripture teaches us that God hates sin. “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Psalm 45:7) “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Hebrews 1:9) God’s love is so great that He gave His Son Jesus to die for our sins. That love is an eternal love for all who trust Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Our text tells us that there are those who are wicked, however. These wicked are not repentant. They do not love God. They love evil. They do not seek God (Psalm 10:4), and their sin is hateful enmity to God (Psalm 36:1-4). We are told that such experience God’s wrath. In fact, as they continue in sin, they treasure up wrath (Romans 2:1-11), making their condemnation worse by the day.

The LORD speaks of certain activities as abominations to God (See Leviticus chapters 18-20 as examples.), but He also tells us that there are certain people who are abominations to God (Deuteronomy 22:5;25:16;Proverbs 3:32;6:16;11:20;16:5;17:15). An abomination is that which God finds disgusting, and both loathes and detests. Moses tells us that God’s wrath burns as a fire to the lowest hell because of abominations (Deuteronomy 32:16-22). Finally, we read, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8) “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27)

You may wonder what I am trying to say with all of this, because we know that God is love. These are words of warning to those who have not yet repented of their sins and trusted Christ. God’s love will not be shown to you forever. God’s long-suffering will someday come to an end (2 Peter 3:9). While God loves His people forever, those who do not trust Him will be cast aside as unacceptable. This happens to some in this life (See Romans 1:28-32;Titus 1:16). Finally, there is the day of judgment  in which all who did not trust Christ are told, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:23) We are told of the horrible day of judgment, when all those not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). We have seen that those who work abominations shall not enter the eternal city, New Jerusalem. We also have seen that the unbelieving are cast into the same lake of fire as the abominable. The love of God will not negate the hatred, fury, and wrath of God upon those who persist in sin and refuse to trust Jesus. The day of grace is not forever to those who reject Jesus, because the wrath of God is coming. In that day you will be cast from Him as detestable and hated, because you refused the love of the truth and were not saved.

“God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.” (Psalm 7:11–13)

“The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.” (Psalm 11:4–7) “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.” (Psalm 103:13–18) These verses remind us of the wrath of God upon those who do not trust Christ. They also show us that God’s mercies and love endure forever to those who belong to Him through faith in Christ. Will you sin away your day of grace? Will you reject God’s free offer of salvation? Beware, lest you soon experience God’s hatred and wrath forever, because of rejecting Jesus. Today is the day of salvation!

Judging

“Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:11–12)

One of the most favored verses in the Bible is, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1) This is often used when someone speaks out against sin. Is that what the Bible means? Should we truly use the verse in that manner? Is it a righteous thing for us to use this verse in such a way? Is all judgment wrong, or is there a righteous judgment?

Our text speaks to us about speaking evil of one another. This is more than simply saying bad things, but it is about judgmental speech that passes sentence or declares what a person must suffer for something. It is also a matter of going beyond the bounds of the Word of God in our declarations regarding others and their lives in our judgment. This is very specific in that it declares that God is the lawgiver who has the authority to judge, and that His Word is the rule by which He judges. When we say that a person is sinning or condemned when God has not, we are judging unrighteously, wwhen we criticize folks over things that God does not condemn, we are judging unrighteously, and when we say that God will punish someone in a certain manner that God has not specified in His Word, we are judging unrighteously. Notice that God is the judge and His Word is the authority.

What about Jesus saying that we are not to judge? After all, isn’t that the standard? Let us remember that every verse has a context, both an immediate context and then the context of the whole testimony of Scripture. Let us see the immediate context:“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1–5) What is before us here? Is it not the fact that Jesus was censuring hypocrites who were judging others while they were guilty of worse offenses? This is not a blast against speaking out against sin. This is not a condemnation of all judgment because, if it were, it would be self-contradictory: Jesus would have been judging people for judging, and Jesus is by no means inconsistent or self-contradictory. Jesus was calling out people such as the Pharisees, who condemned others while doing things much worse than that which they condemned in others.

What about standing against sin? Is that forbidden by Christ? Again, if it were, Christ would have contradicted Himself, and He did not do so. What we do find is that Jesus continues throughout Matthew chapter seven and speaks quite firmly against evil. He declares that there are some whose spiritual state is akin to that of hogs and dogs. He continues and declares that there are some who are false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing, corrupt trees that bring forth evil fruit, whose end is to be burned. Jesus goes on to warn that there are people who profess Christ who will be rejected in the day of judgment, despite all of the things they had done in His name. Finally, the chapter ends by Jesus contrasting the one whose life is founded on the Word of God with the one who does not build his life upon the Word. In all of these things, Jesus was standing against sin, warning of sinful people, calling out some folks as spiritual fakes, phonies, and liars, declaring that one’s spiritual fruit tells much, and teaching us that we all must submit to His Word if we are to be accepted in the day of judgment.

What about us? Is judgment forbidden to us in every situation? The short answer is, “no.” Jesus told some one day, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24) Judgment should not be superficial, for sure; but here we see that Jesus declares that there is a righteous judgment. Furthermore, we find that Paul, as he commanded the Corinthian church to excommunicate the immoral church member, stated that he had judged concerning that matter and that the church was to judge the man as well. “For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,” (1 Corinthians 5:3) “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” (1 Corinthians 5:12–13) This judgment is two-fold: it is first a speaking out against sin and condemning the person who is sinning because of his immorality, and it is also a matter of passing the sentence of excommunication upon him, which declared that he was not living as one who professed Christ should live and then expelling him from the fellowship of the body.

“BUT!” Someone exclaims to the one standing against sin or false doctrines, “You’re sinning by judging!” This is something that happens too often, I’m sad to say. This person may be quite sincere in what they are saying, and may truly desire to be a blessing and a help. Sometimes, however, such folks simply despise the fact that their sins and falsehoods are being exposed. The latter has much in common with ungodly Ahab, who accused the godly prophet Elijah of troubling Israel, when it was Ahab himself who was guilty (See 1 Kings 18:17-18). Sometimes folks misuse Jesus’ command “Judge not” in an attempt to cover up, justify, or otherwise continue in their sinful ways. This is by no means acceptable to God because they compound their sin by the misuse and abuse of Scripture.

Another says, “I think I recall that the one who could have cast a stone did not do so.” This is in reference to Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees, and a woman taken in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees were testing Jesus, trying to find fault with Him and accuse Him. They knew that the law commanded that adulterers were to be put to death by stoning. Jesus’ response to them was, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Did Jesus tell them that it was wrong to speak out against adultery? No. Did He tell them that they should never cry out against sin? He definitely did not. Jesus knew that these men were hypocrites who were willing to sacrifice the life of this woman in order to find fault with Jesus. They wanted to take her life. Jesus’ words to them and their response both demonstrate that they were guilty as well as she was. From the oldest to the youngest, they all walked away because they were convicted of their own sins. Jesus did not tell them that they could not speak against sin because they were sinners. Jesus told them that the one who was not equally guilty as the adulterous woman should be the first to cast a stone to execute capital punishment. For someone to use this text to claim that a person cannot speak out against sin and false doctrine is for a person to misuse and abuse the Scriptures.

Finally, we must recognize that much of the “Judge not” philosophy of today is due to folks acting upon emotions rather than logic and the direction of the Word of God. Sometimes it is due to the fact that folks would rather hold on to their opinions than to submit to the Word of God. Regardless, if someone is standing against sin and false doctrine and you insist that they are wrong, saying, “Judge not,” Brother, you don’t sound spiritual but you appear to be foolish and ignorant of God’s Word. Does that sound harshly? It is no time to mince words and dance around the sins of those who resist the Word of God. Please be sure that you are in the number of those whose allegiance is to the truth and not to emotions and opinions.

The Love of God part three

The Love of God part three

The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.” (Psalm 11:4–7)

In this final post on God’s love, we shall briefly consider love and hatred. We must understand that every affection has an opposite that exists along with it. Thus it is that mercy rejoices against judgment, so that wrath and condemnation are counteracted where mercy is received and applied. This is also true with love. One can only love something or someone truly if they hate that which is diametrically opposed to the object of their love. For example, if I truly love my family, I must harbor within my heart a hatred for anything that would harm or destroy my family. This hatred can to a degree coexist in my heart with true love for someone who would seek to destroy my family. While loving them and desiring what is best for them, I must at the same time hold a certain contempt for them as one who would murder my children if they had the opportunity.

We are not accustomed to speaking about such things, because we tend to think that love and hate cannot exist within us at the same time. Let us consider how these things actually work in us, using an example of a murderer from years past. In 1980, Robert Willie and a friend of his killed a young lady named Faith Hathaway and dumped her body in what is now Bogue Chitto State Park, near Franklinton, LA. It was a particularly gruesome crime, and was only part of a crime spree that in which Willie was the main offender. Willie was put to death in the electric chair in 1984. While we all would love to have heard of a man such as Willie getting saved, that evidently did not happen. Willie is reported to have said that he enjoyed the crime, and expressed no remorse at all. We turn from such people in great disgust, do we not? Yes, we love them and desire the best for them. At the same time, that love is rightly countered by a hatred of both the deeds done and of the person. While we are to hold no malice, yet we must rightly condemn such to death (See Genesis 9:6). David himself, a man after God’s own heart, said, “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” (Psalm 139:21–22) These verses were given by inspiration of God, are His Word, and are true and righteous. Again, he said, “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 97:10) Where there is love for something or someone, we will likewise hate that which is the enemy of the object of our love. Thus we see how love and hatred can righteously exist within us at the same time.

If these things are true of men, how much more are they true with God? We know that God is love (1 John 4:8). We also know that the Scripture teaches us that God hates sin. “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Psalm 45:7) “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Hebrews 1:9) God’s love is so great that He gave His Son Jesus to die for our sins. That love is an eternal love for all who trust Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Our text tells us that there are those who are wicked, however. These wicked are not repentant. They do not love God. They love evil. They do not seek God (Psalm 10:4), and their sin is hateful enmity to God (Psalm 36:1-4). We are told that such experience God’s wrath. In fact, as they continue in sin, they treasure up wrath (Romans 2:1-11), making their condemnation worse by the day.

The LORD speaks of certain activities as abominations to God (See Leviticus chapters 18-20 as examples.), but He also tells us that there are certain people who are abominations to God (Deuteronomy 22:5;25:16;Proverbs 3:32;6:16;11:20;16:5;17:15). An abomination is that which God finds disgusting, and both loathes and detests. Moses tells us that God’s wrath burns as a fire to the lowest hell because of abominations (Deuteronomy 32:16-22). Finally, we read, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8) “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27)

You may wonder what I am trying to say with all of this, because we know that God is love. These are words of warning to those who have not yet repented of their sins and trusted Christ. God’s love will not be shown to you forever. God’s long-suffering will someday come to an end (2 Peter 3:9). While God loves His people forever, those who do not trust Him will be cast aside as unacceptable. This happens to some in this life (See Romans 1:28-32;Titus 1:16). Finally, there is the day of judgment in which all who did not trust Christ are told, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:23) We are told of the horrible day of judgment, when all those not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). We have seen that those who work abominations shall not enter the eternal city, New Jerusalem. We also have seen that the unbelieving are cast into the same lake of fire as the abominable. The love of God will not negate the hatred, fury, and wrath of God upon those who persist in sin and refuse to trust Jesus. The day of grace is not forever to those who reject Jesus, because the wrath of God is coming. In that day you will be cast from Him as detestable and hated, because you refused the love of the truth and were not saved.

God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.” (Psalm 7:11–13)

The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.” (Psalm 11:4–7) “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.” (Psalm 103:13–18) These verses remind us of the wrath of God upon those who do not trust Christ. They also show us that God’s mercies and love endure forever to those who belong to Him through faith in Christ. Will you sin away your day of grace? Will you reject God’s free offer of salvation? Beware, lest you soon experience God’s hatred and wrath forever, because of rejecting Jesus. Today is the day of salvation!

The Covenant Love of God

The Covenant Love of God

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:33–39)

Unmerited Covenant Keeping Love

Often people will state that the God of the Old Testament is quite different from the God of the New Testament, and they either are implying that there are two different Gods in the Bible, or they are trying to say that God has somehow changed His character over time. Neither approach is correct. In fact, the idea is that God is somehow more loving in the New Testament than He is in the Old Testament. In this lesson we shall see that God’s covenant love in the Old Testament is the foundation of our Christian confidence in the New Testament testimonies of God’s faithful love to His people.

The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8)

Why did God love Israel and keep covenant with them? Simply because He loved them. Israel had no redeeming features about them. They were the smallest of all nations. They were also consistently rebellious and disobedient. The only thing that prompted the love of God toward them was the fact that He chose to love them, and that He had chosen Abraham and made a perpetual covenant with him. As we read Ezekiel chapter sixteen we find that the LORD took Israel as though she were an abandoned infant, rescued her, cleaned her up, clothed her, fed her, and then married her when she was grown. In short, God entered into a covenant with Israel though Israel did not deserve it. God’s love, even in the Old Testament, is an unmerited, committed, covenant love.

The love of the LORD to Israel is seen as a forgiving and heart changing love. Israel did not keep covenant with God, though they promised that they would (See Exodus 24:7;Hosea 6:7). Again, a reading of Ezekiel chapter sixteen demonstrates this truth. Despite this, God told Israel that He would change their hearts so that they would obey. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6) Again we read, Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27) Later we see Jesus speaking to Nicodemus about being born again of water and of the Spirit (John 3:1-9), and we can see that He was alluding to this passage, in which God promises to change hearts so that we might obey Him.

When God makes a covenant, He is true to His word, faithful to His promises, and always lives up to what He says He will do. Thus it is that, when Balak would try to get Balaam to curse Israel, Balaam was led of the LORD to say, God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) God keeps covenant. Not only so, but we also read Samuel’s words of assurance to fearful Israel, when they realized they had sinned: For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.” (1 Samuel 12:22) Israel had sinned and failed to keep covenant with God, yet He promised that He would keep covenant with them!

We can continue on in the Old Testament and read how that God promised idolatrous, erring Israel that He would indeed send Babylon against them to destroy the city and humble the nation, yet He would continue to keep covenant with them. The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3) This covenant love is illustrated in Hosea’s covenant keeping love to Gomer (Hosea chapters 1-3), and highlighted by the LORD’s declaration, I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4) Although Israel treated God as an unfaithful wife mistreats her husband, yet He chose to love them, forgive them, and continue to keep His promises!

When Jeremiah wept over the desolations of Jerusalem after Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the temple and the city, he could take heart in the fact that the LORD is a covenant keeper. Knowing the promises of God to Israel throughout all generations, Jeremiah stated, This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21–23) Again, Malachi speaks for God, saying, “I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) God’s love is an unmerited, faithful, covenant keeping love to those who are His.

God’s Covenant Love As Seen in The New Testament

He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;” (Luke 1:54) “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:68–75)

The New Testament presents the same covenant keeping God to us that the Old Testament does. Our text above shows us that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to Israel. Furthermore Paul tells us, For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) Jesus’ work was to fulfill the promises of God to Israel.

God’s covenant promises were not to Israel only, however, because He had promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed in him (Genesis 12:1-3). Thus we read of Simeon saying, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29–32) Jesus came to bring the blessings of Abraham to the Gentiles also. Paul told the Romans, Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:8–13) Gentiles are included in Christ’s covenant, and I’m taking the time to wrtie this because I’ve lately read a couple of people who have stated things to the effect that the New Covenant is a future covenant that pertains only to Israel; and another stated that he felt sorry for anyone who thinks that they are part of a blood covenant with God. Jesus, however, when establishing the Lord’s Supper “took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27–28) This covenant love is shed for many for the remission of sins.

We continue and see that it is through Christ’s blood that our sins are forgiven.In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” (Colossians 1:13–14) “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:22–28) “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” (Revelation 1:4–5) Through Christ God is a covenant keeping God, establishing His New Covenant through the blood of the cross of Christ.

These things fulfill the promise of God to make a new covenant with Israel: Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:31–37) Jesus stated that this covenant comes through His blood, so that our sins can be forgiven (Matthew 26:28). Paul stated to the Hebrews that this covenant that God makes through Christ is the fulfillment of this promise (Hebrews 8:7-12). It is to be noted that this covenant is not peculiar to Israel, but is to all who are in Christ; because the promise is that “they shall all know me.(Jeremiah 31:34;Hebrews 8:11).

The important thing about this covenant is the duration of it. God promises, saying, “Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:35–37) This is a promise that God will keep covenant with all who are in covenant with Him. He will not turn away from those who are His! It is with this in mind that we then can begin to see the glories of the eternal security that the believer has in Christ.

Paul told the Romans that our security rests in the fact that Jesus died, arose, ascended to the Father, and makes intercession for us (Romans 8:33-34). He then proceeds to explain that there is not a single thing in all of creation, ourselves included, that can separate us from this covenant keeping love of God that is in Christ. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35–39) I realize that there are those who say that a person can lose his salvation, but this teaches us something that is very different from that. It explains that God keeps covenant with us, and that His unmerited love is a love that never ceases to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:5-2:2), sanctify us (Ephesians 5:25-33), and will ultimately present us before Him holy and without blame in love (Ephesians 1:3-7).

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

The Love of God part one

The Love of God

Romans 5:5-8

A Love Beyond Comprehension

The love of God is beyond human comprehension, yet is in many ways accessible to us. We will never fully comprehend God’s love, as it passes knowing (Ephesians 3:10); yet we can know its character and enjoy its benefits.

            The love of God is so great that John exclaimed, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” (1 John 3:1, AV) John is declaring that God’s love is foreign. It is other worldly. It is not a mere human sort of love. The love of God, that makes us sons of God, can be recognized and known; yet it cannot be fully comprehended. 

            Why is God’s love so great? It is because God is love (1 John 4:8), and God is eternal. Therefore love is eternal in both duration and character. 

Love Is of God

            One of the most familiar verses of all Scripture is, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8, AV) Even small children often know, “God is love.” Notice that we are told that love is from God, because God is love. God is the source of love, and He is love.

            What this means is that there is no true love apart from God. There can be ungodly and unholy love; but true love is from God. It also means that God defines love. Today the idea is that God is love, and therefore conforms to our ideal of what love is. Since God is eternal and holy, and being love, God defines what love is. He does not conform to our ideal of love, but He tells us what love is, what it does, and how it appears. Others like to say, “Love is love.” Not only is that a tautology and circular reasoning, it is also unrighteous. It is both incorrect and sinful. Let us always remember that God is love. 

            If you and I are to show love, it is because that we know God. Paul’s desire for the Thessalonians was that “the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12–13, AV) The way of practical holiness is that of love; and it is because the Lord causes us to grow in love. You and I grow in love and show love as God enables us. It is He who teaches us to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9). God is love and is the source of all true love.

Free And Unmerited Love

            God’s love is free and unmerited. There is nothing that man has ever done or ever can do to deserve it. Moses told Israel, “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8, AV) God did not love Israel because of what was in Israel. Nor did He love Israel for any reason other than the fact that He chose to love them. God’s love is free and unmerited.

When the LORD wanted to show Israel His free love, He commanded Hosea to take a harlot to be his wife. When Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was unfaithful to him and wound up as a slave on the auction block, the LORD told Hosea, “Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee. For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:1–5, AV) Not only did Hosea freely love Gomer and buy her as a slave, but he also committed to be faithful to her as her husband. The LORD then continues to explain that His love for Israel is similar. God’s love for Israel was not for any good within themselves, but all because of the good that is in God. He said, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4, AV) God promised to love Israel and to forgive them freely, because His love is free and unmerited. Israel was very unfaithful, but God is love.

God’s love to us today is the same: He loves us freely. Paul described us to Titus as being wicked, unloving, hateful, obnoxious, rebellious, and of bad hearts and minds. Then he said, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7, AV) When did God’s saving love come to us? How did God’s saving love come to us? It came while we were yet in our sinful rebellion, and it was in no manner deserved by us; but God freely loves us, and freely saves all who trust Him. We see this again as Paul said, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8, AV) When we were impotent, helpless, unrighteous, irreverent, and unholy, Christ died for us. We were the enemies of God, living in rebellion against Him. We did what we wanted to do, and we followed the world, the flesh, and the devil (Ephesians 2:1-4); yet God loves us so freely that He gave His only begotten Son to be crucified for our sins, so that we can be freely saved. Is it any wonder, then, that John exclaimed that this love is foreign to us? It is a love far beyond human comprehension! 

Sacrificial Love

            God’s love is not only free and unmerited, but it is sacrificial: it is giving. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, AV) “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16, AV) This is how God loves us, in that He has given His Son; He has laid down His life for us. Even when we were enemies, God gave His Son to die for our sins, that we might be reconciled to God (Romans 5:6-11;2 Corinthians 5:17-21). 

            When Paul would counter the self-righteous and legalistic doctrine and lifestyle that was troubling the Galatian churches, he argued that Christ’s sacrificial love is what we should trust. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:20–21, AV) As of late I have encountered a group of seemingly well-intended, but unlearned and misguided people whose teaching is that of being saved by God’s power, yet maintaining salvation by our own righteousness. Their idea is that love is something soft and permissive. God’s love is not that at all. God’s love sent Christ to the cross to confirm God’s righteousness (Romans 3:21-28). Sin has to be punished, and God punished the Lord Jesus Christ in our place because He loves us. God’s love is sacrificial, and it is this love that saves us and keeps us. If I can save or keep myself, Christ died a useless death, Paul says. I, for one, thank God for the unspeakable gift of God’s sacrificial love in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 9:15)!

Forgiving, Saving, And Life Giving Love

            Paul spoke to the Ephesians and reminded them of the depths of their depravity, which is the depravity which is common to us all, and then He said, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Ephesians 2:4–5, AV) God has a great love to us, and it is saving love. God, because of His great love, saves us by His grace!

            Hezekiah would speak about how he was near to death and the LORD delivered Him: “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” (Isaiah 38:17, AV) Why was Hezekiah forgiven, delivered from death, and saved? Because God had love to his soul.

            Paul exulted in the saving love of God by telling Timothy, “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:14–15, AV) The chief of sinners was saved because of God’s love and grace. Let us remember that the Lord does not change (Malachi 3:6), and that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). This being so, all the redeemed will be saved because of God’s great love; and we shall all give Him glory, saying, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5–6, AV)

1. The Eternality of God

The Eternality of God

1. Eternality of God

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:18–21)

If we are to begin a study of Biblical doctrine, we must begin where the Bible begins, with God. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) Scripture tells us, “of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36) Thus we find that all things have their beginning with God. Paul said that He is before all things (Colossians 1:17).

Not only is God before all things, but He holds all things together; and He does all things to His glory (Romans 11:36;Colossians 1:17). This means that the study of theology and doctrine are imminently practical: they are to be done so that we might learn how to honor God.

Furthermore, the study of theology, or the doctrine of God is life changing. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) By reading, studying, and meditating upon the glorious nature and character of God, we are changed to be like God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

God Is Eternal

Scripture says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) Before there was a beginning, God is. Time is God’s creation as well as space and matter. This means that God is before time and transcends time. Moses said, “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” (Psalm 90:1–2) Not only is God before time, transcending time, but He never will cease to exist. The Psalmist states that His years will not fail (Psalm 102:25-27). We read of Christ, who is God, that His goings forth have been of everlasting (Micah 5:2).

Isaiah quotes God Himself saying, “Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” (Isaiah 43:13) And Isaiah again tells us that God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15). Is it any wonder, then, that God would reveal Himself to Moses as “I AM?” (Exodus 3:13-15). I AM speaks simply and plainly of existence. It is an ever-present tense existence: there has never been a time when God was not, but He lives forever. God does not exist within the confines of time, but transcends time, dwelling in eternity. This is why we read of time having no hold upon Him: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8) He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last (Revelation 1:8;21:6). There is none before Him, nor can there be any after Him.

God’s eternality is to His glory and is one of the infinite number of reasons that we should worship Him. “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 106:48) He who is of eternal existence, having no beginning nor ending, but inexplicably existing by His own power and will, is worthy of eternal praise. This is the very reason for which God made all things: “And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:9–11) This is an infinitely practical thing, so we should seek to worship the eternal God in every way possible, knowing that we shall someday enter into His presence to worship Him forever.

 

The Omnipotence of God

            God is also eternally powerful, according to Paul (Romans 1:18-21), and that stands to reason; because He who exists from eternity to eternity, and created all things would necessarily be omnipotent. God told Abraham that He is “the almighty God” (Genesis 17:1). His proclamation through Isaiah is, “Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” (Isaiah 43:13) He who is eternal has eternal power, and there is no one who can hinder Him from doing what He purposes to do. This is why He asked Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14) And when Gabriel spoke to Mary concerning her conceiving as a virgin and then bearing a child, he said, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

The omnipotence of God is reason for us to trust and obey Him also. He spoke through Moses and said, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.” (Deuteronomy 32:39–40) In the context of this chapter, Moses was commanding Israel to worship God only, rebuking them for straying, prophesying of future ills that will come upon them, and calling upon them to trust and obey Him. Why should we do so? Because the LORD, the great I AM, is all powerful and worthy of our allegiance in every way. This is why Isaiah calls upon us to trust Him as well: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.” (Isaiah 26:3–4) Think of all of the grief that you and I could avoid, if we simply trusted in the LORD. Notice that we are given God’s qualifications for our trust: His strength is everlasting.

As we have already seen, this doctrine is presented to us that we might worship the LORD. David, as he praised God, said, “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.” (Psalm 62:11) Jeremiah exulted in the LORD, confidently trusting in His great redeeming power, saying, “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:” (Jeremiah 32:17) Although things looked bleak, hopeless, and Israel’s sin had brought upon them great judgment, Jeremiah worshiped the LORD God who is omnipotent; and he trusted in God’s power to perform His promises. And when the Lord Jesus returns, the Revelation tells us that there is a great multitude of people, saying, “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” (Revelation 19:6) Oh! Can you imagine this day? What a day that will be indeed, to be with countless saints of all ages, rejoicing in our Savior, who is our almighty King!

Eternal Godhead

When Paul speaks of the eternal Godhead of God, he is speaking to us of the fact that God is eternal in nature; but he is also teaching us that God is exclusively God. We find from the context of Romans 1:18-25 that man sins greatly when he worships anything or anyone other than God; because He is blessed forever, and “over all, God blessed forever.” (Romans 9:5)

Creation exists to show forth the splendor of the one true God’s beauty and majestic glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1–3) Paul stated that the cycle of the seasons, the rain, the planting-harvest cycle, and the fact that we have food to eat all testify to the one true God (Acts 14:15-17). This is also why we read of the creation showing clearly the eternal power and Godhead of God: God created all things to demonstrate that He is glorious, and the He alone is God. This is why Jeremiah worshiped God and called Israel to worship the LORD exclusively: “Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.” (Jeremiah 10:6–7) “But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish. The portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.” (Jeremiah 10:10–16) God did not sit in counsel with other gods, which are but the creation of men’s imaginations, and are actually demonic in nature (1 Corinthians 10:20). Neither did He have assistance in the creation. He is before all things and by Him alone all things consist (Psalm 90:1-2;119:89-91;Colossians 1:15-17;Hebrews 1:1-3) He who exists before time was created, is eternal in nature and will never cease to exist. For this reason, we proclaim with the apostle Paul, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)