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God’s Justice & Love (A guest-post by David Gooding)

Friday, January 26th, 2018

“‘What is the answer to evil?’ asks the psalmist.

Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. (Ps 98:8–9)

  Don’t you want there to be a judgment? Who wants the evil of the world to go unchecked for ever? The unconverted man with any moral sense would want a judgment; even if he doesn’t believe in it and thinks it is ‘whistling in the dark’ and comforting yourself with fairy tales. But he would hope it is true that evil will not go on for ever, and there is going to be a judgment.

[God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)

  Picture the scene with the help of the imagery. ‘The Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool’ (Dan 7:9). Over against this fearful, hideous beast, put the triumph of rationality and wisdom. The books are opened—a perfect record; the thrones are set—perfect justice. The ultimate triumph of rationality, wisdom and justice. Incidentally, notice that it is not one throne, but thrones. We shall come to that again.

  Praise God in your heart that the vision is true and let us preach it unashamedly. It is gospel for our world; let us hold up our heads before the atheist and the humanist. Precisely at this point they have no gospel to preach. The humanist declares that his interest is in humanity. He has got rid of God with all his tyranny and he is on man’s side.

  Let’s take him to visit Auschwitz. Here is a row of cells and the occupants are scheduled to be gassed next Thursday. What shall we say to them?

  When they see us and think we bring hope they ask, ‘What are you doing for us? We want justice.’

  I will say, ‘You will not get justice in this world. You will be gassed, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. But there is hope; this life is not the end. The sense of right and wrong that you have in your heart is not your own imagination. Our Creator put it there; it is not put there to mock you. There is to be a judgment where earth’s wrongs will be put right. For you, there is forgiveness of all your sins right now, if you will have it. The marvellous assurance from the judge himself is that, if you trust him, you will never come into judgment, but will pass from death to life.’

  And what will the humanist say to them? These people want justice, and he is interested in humanity; he has got rid of God in order to improve the lot of humanity. But he will have to say, ‘I am sorry, you are not going to get justice in this life. You are going to be gassed on Thursday, and since there is no God, no life to come and no judgment, you are never going to get justice.’ The prisoners will say, ‘Do you mean that all my hope in justice has been a mocking delusion?’

‘Yes,’ says the humanist.

  And it is not just Hitler’s victims in the gas chambers. Who shall count the multi-millions that have died unjustly in this world? God has an answer to it, our sense of right and wrong is not put there to mock us. It comes from our Creator God and there is going to be a judgment where earth’s wrongs will be put right. The resurrection of Christ is the final assurance of the fact.

Perhaps some of you are saying, ‘You denounce one tyrant and his excessive power; but you seem to substitute one tyrant for another tyrant who happens to have a bit more power, namely almighty God.’

Is that so? The final answer in the great struggle of life is simply who has the greatest power. The beast destroyed other people; now God destroys him. What’s the difference? They both destroy. You wouldn’t say anything so silly, would you? God has anticipated this objection. ‘With the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man’ (Dan 7:13). We know exactly who that person is. It was precisely with reference to that text that our Lord claimed to be the Son of Man. To his judges in the priestly court, he said,

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son . . . And he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. (John 5:22, 27)

Our Lord is qualified to be judge because he is the Son of Man. The amazing grace of almighty God, he shall judge nobody. It will not be a question of God Almighty, in his position of God Almighty, just crushing his creatures; God himself has decreed that the judgment of man shall be done by a man, a perfect man who isn’t obsessed with power. As he looked over his beloved mother city of Jerusalem and saw the sufferings that must descend upon that city he (the judge in that final day) broke down and wept over it.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Matt 23:37)

  The judgment of mankind will be in the hand of that sinless, compassionate, perfect, ideal Son of Man.

It is not a question of who has the greatest power, but who has the greatest love 

  Nobody—not even the devil himself—has ever thought that he could attain greater power than God Almighty. The ultimate question is, who loves man the best? Judgment shall be given to the Son of Man. Not only because it shall be judgment by peer (man judged by man), but because of his worthiness to judge.

I would remind you of that well-loved vision of Revelation 5, where the hosts of heaven proclaim the Lamb worthy to take the book and open the seals. With that the preparations for the judgment of mankind begin. Why is he worthy to do it? It is not only because he is the Son of Man, but because he himself was slain. There shall be no voice raised at this judgment to say it is unfair and he is unqualified. They shall be shown Calvary and how the wild beasts tore him there, with their enmity and jealousy, their envy and spite, their power politics, both religious and civil. Invested with the very power of God, why did he put up with it?

  If you were out walking and a mosquito landed upon you and stung you, you wouldn’t think twice what you would do to it. But to think that a little bit of clay six foot tall should turn round and do insult to God and crucify his Son—why didn’t God smudge out the planet? Because that’s not God! Before the blessed Son of God should mount the throne in judgment, he was first lifted up on the cross of Calvary. He is worthy to execute judgment because he was slain so that men might go free and be redeemed.

  And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’ (Rev 5:9–10)

  God is determined not just to destroy creation—he will not thus yield to defeat. Christ is going to make something of it and he will yet make something of human beings. By his redemption not only to forgive them, but to turn them into a kingdom of priests to live and serve God for his eternal pleasure . . .  The answer to the destructive power of the unregenerate Gentile political system is not only that God shall have a judgment; and not only shall the Son, the Messiah, be the judge; but dominion shall be given to the saints.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel: Civil Servant & Saint. (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 41-43. [Italics original.] Read the entire work here.

Unparalleled Love

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

In ordinary speech, “love” is commonly used in ways that run far afield from its actual meaning. These erroneous usages range from the banal (“I love burritos”) to the self-centered (“Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”) Yet the true meaning of love entails sacrifice: giving, not receiving; focusing on others, not one’s self. The greatest exemplar of love is the Lord Jesus Christ, who demonstrates the reality of the Bible’s teaching that God is love. Christ reveals love in its variegated splendor by showing its generosity, loyalty, and purity.

A Giving Lover

 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13

The great love of the Lord is seen in the unlimited knowledge of God that He offers to those who seek Him. He gives His commandments, thereby revealing the divine will (Jn. 15:12, 15.) “In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and He is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), who manifested God the Father by His every action and word (Jn. 1:14; 5:17-21; 14:9.) Knowing His will offers one entrance into a relationship with the living God (1 Jn. 1:1-7.) He gives this eternal life to those who receive Him as their Lord and Savior (Jn. 1:12.) Most of all He demonstrated the riches of God’s grace when He died for the world – paying the sacrificial redemption price when we were still His enemies (Jn. 3:14-18; Rom. 5:8-11.) When one receives the Lord Jesus by faith, the benefits of His death on the cross are put to their account. Thereafter, they enjoy a living relationship with God, and have full forgiveness and justification through Christ’s shed blood. They also have the Holy Spirit residing within them to sanctify them – that is, they receive new power to live for the Lord’s pleasure, resisting sin and living righteously (Heb. 10:16-18.)

A Loyal Lover

A man of too many friends comes to ruin[i], But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24, NASB

The second word for “friend” in this verse carries the sense of “lover.”[ii] It is a strong word and is elsewhere used to describe Abraham as “the friend of God.” It also depicts the friendship-love of David and Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:1, 3.) Unlike the latter who ultimately died on Mt. Gilboa with his father Saul, the Lord Jesus remains faithful, and will never leave His beloved friends (Heb. 13:5.) As one author explains:

“Ultimately, however, even the closest of friends may back away when trouble comes. ‘All the brothers of a poor man hate him; How much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone’ (Prov. 19:7). At such times, only Christ will refuse to abandon us (Matt. 28:18–20; Heb. 13:5–6). Thankfully, Jesus delights to call us not only servants, but His friends (John 15:13–15)!”[iii]

Fallen people do not deserve His love, but in grace, He loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20.) C.H. Spurgeon expressed this beautiful truth in his own inimitable way:

“But our Lord Jesus never can forsake those whom once he loves, because he can discover nothing in us worse than he knew, for he knew all about us beforehand. He saw our leprosy, and yet he loved us; he knew our deceitfulness and unbelief, and yet he did press us to his bosom; he knew what poor fools we were, and yet he said he would never leave us nor forsake us. He knew that we should rebel against him and despise his counsel often times; he knew that even when we loved him our love would be cold and languid; but he loved for his own sake. Surely, then, he will stick closer than a brother.”[iv]

One of his contemporaries added:

“There is no sympathy, no love, no gentleness, no tenderness, no patience, like Christ’s! Oh how sweet, how encouraging, to know that Jesus sympathetically enters into my afflictions—my temptations—my sorrows—my joys. May this truth endear Him to our souls! May it constrain us to unveil our whole heart to Him, in the fullest confidence of the closest, most sacred, and precious friendship. May it urge us to do those things always which are most pleasing in His sight. Beloved, never forget—let these words linger upon your ear, as the echoes of music that never die—in all your sorrows, in all your trials, in all your needs, in all your assaults, in all your conscious wanderings, in life, in death, and at the day of judgment—you possess a friend that sticks closer than a brother! That friend is Jesus!”[v]

During his last illness, John Owen meditated upon this great aspect of the Lord’s love: “Christ is our best friend and ere long will be our only friend.  I pray God with all my heart that I may be weary of everything else but converse and communion with Him.”

A Pure Lover

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27

The Lord Jesus showed true love by giving Himself to die for His bride, the Church. He purchased her from her bondage to sin’s chains (Acts 20:28) in order to purify her and present her unblemished and spotless to Himself. As Moule says: “What a standard for the man’s conjugal love, in point of elevation, holiness, and self-sacrifice!”[vi] At the consummation of her nuptials, the bride will be arrayed in fine, white linen – suitably arrayed to spend eternity with the “glorious bridegroom of our hearts.”[vii] He wants to cleanse[viii] sinners, so that He can make them beautiful and have them live before His face for eternity. The beautiful life is the one lived in the sunshine of His presence. As a 19th century commentator wrote:

“The love of Jesus for his church, at once the motive and the measure and model of the husband’s love for his wife, is the precious doctrine of our Scripture…In the exercise of that love for his church, Christ gave himself for her that he might set her apart for himself in holiness, having cleansed her with the washing of water by (in connection with) the word, that he might present her to himself all glorious ‘within’ (Psalm 45:13), having no spot, no wrinkle, nor any such thing, but that she might be holy and unblemished. So has his love moved him to prepare his bride for the purity and blessedness of his heavenly home. In every stage of progress in this cleansing and adornment, how profound has been his interest; how wise his agencies; how full of love and sympathy his watchful heart; and how sublime will be his joy in the final consummation—a glorious church, of stainless purity, of ineffable beauty and glory—all due to the love of her great Redeemer!—Let us not omit to note the ravishing view of this adornment of his bride which the revelator John has put (Rev. 19:7, 8): ‘The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife hath made herself ready; and to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.’ “[ix]

The believer has a loyal lover who gave Himself in unparalleled grace and will not cease working on His beloved until she stands gloriously complete before Him.

NOTES:

[i] Many reliable translations follow this understanding of the Hebrew verb (e.g. JND, ASV, ESV, NET, etc.), as do the KJVmg. & NKJVmg.

[ii]ʾahab likewise describes the deep love that friends can have for each other. This is not sexual in nature, but attests to the deep abiding love that only God can provide. This is the love that Saul has for David (1 Sam. 16:21) and that David shares with Jonathan (18:1, 3). This can be called a familial or brotherly love.”

William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 425.

a friend] Heb. a lover. It is a stronger word than that translated ‘friends’ in the first clause of the verse; and is used of Abraham when he is called, ‘the friend of God’ (2 Chron. 20:7; Is. 41:8; comp. 1 Sam. 18:1; 2 Sam. 1:26). See 17:17. Here again is a proverb which only reaches its goal in Him, who says to His disciples, ‘I have called you friends.’ John 15:15.” T. T. Perowne, The Proverbs with Introduction and Notes, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1899), 127 [boldface original.]

[iii] John A. Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary. (Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2006), 408.

[iv] C. H. Spurgeon, “A Faithful Friend,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 3. Originally preached on March 8, 1857. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1857), 109.

[v] Octavius Winslow, Christ’s Sympathy To Weary Pilgrims, quoted on the blog: http://octaviuswinslow.org/2010/04/01/what-a-friend-what-a-savior/ Accessed on April 1, 2010.

[vi] H. C. G. Moule, The Epistle to the Ephesians, with Introduction and Notes, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1891), 140.

[vii] C.H. Spurgeon, Hymn: “Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands.”

[viii] E.Y. Mullins defines “sanctify” in Eph. 5:26 thus: “‘Sanctify’ means to set apart to God’s service, or to purify by moral and spiritual cleansing. Here probably the word carries both meanings, since both the beginning and the outcome of the sanctifying process are given, and since also it is described in its ceremonial meaning as well as in the sense of a moral and spiritual process.” Studies in Ephesians (Nashville, TN: The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1935), 125.

[ix] Henry Cowles, The Shorter Epistles; Viz: Of Paul to the Galatians; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians; Thessalonians; Timothy; Titus and Philemon; Also, of James, Peter, and Jude (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1879), 105.