Friday, February 26, 2010

Cross posting: The End of a Thing Determines its Beginning

The following is a combination of two posts I did for another blog, which is where I do most of my musings and book logs.

The phrase that heads this current post seems counter-intuitive in our present age. How can something's end determine its beginning, see as how the beginning precedes it in time? It is such temporally determined thinking that prevents us from considering how it is that God works in the world, how it is that He makes good what is evil, how it is that we must see all things now are, though they have not yet been brought to pass in history.

From all eternity, in order to glorify Himself to the uttermost, God did determine to choose unto Himself an elect people to give unto His Son, with whom the mutual agreement was made to unite this people unto the Son, in an immaculate display of God's perfection. As God is both merciful and just, as He is both gracious and wrathful, He decided it most pleasing to choose some upon whom His love He would place and some upon whom His wrath He would place, not according to any condition foreseen in these objects, but because of His own desire to magnify Himself did the God of Heaven make unto Himself objects of mercy and objects of wrath. Here is the first decree, the last to be revealed in history--for we do not yet see all who it shall be that God has confirmed as His people, or denied as rebellious.

Given that God did choose to elect unto Himself a people to Love by His grace and mercy and a people to Hate by His justice and wrath, God did determine to apply the benefits of His Son, by the Holy Spirit's power, upon those who He would make unto Himself in love. The righteousness, holiness, goodness, long-suffering, peacefulness, and all the other communicable attributes of God He did decree to apply to the elect in Christ according to His electing love for them. To those whom He had determined to reprobate God withheld the merits of Christ by union with Him, instead passing them over in their unloved state. Here we see in history the calling out of God's people through regeneration, whereby they are delivered from the curse of sin and raised unto life, which they now live for God until He shall bring history to its end.

Given that God did decree to apply the benefits of Christ to the elect, and to deny them unto the reprobate, it was necessary to determine how it would come about that Christ's benefits would be applied to the elect. This salvation was to be according to the Law, which God decreed should be that standard according to which all men should be subject, and according to which they would be reconciled to God through the incarnation, obedient life, substitutionary death, and life-giving resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ. The apparatus of God's salvation is seen in history in the life and work of Jesus Christ, the Messiah of the elect, prophesied from the earliest ages and revealed at the appointed time.

Given that God did decree to bring about the salvation of the elect through the incarnation and work of the Son in history, it was necessary for Him to determine how it would be that men should come under the penalty of wrath and the need for redemption. Therefore God decreed that all men should fall under the penalty of lawbreaking in their federal representative, Adam. By this Fall the whole of Creation would be separated from the love of God and be subject to the effects of God's wrath, including the curse upon the earth, and upon the subsequent generations of men propagated by natural generation. The means of bringing all men under the need of redemption was accomplished in history in the disobedience of Adam in the Garden of Eden, wherein he did take the forbidden fruit to the dishonor of God's commandment to him.

Given that God did decree to bring about the Fall of men in order that the means of salvation in Christ might be provided, and the merits of Christ be applied to those whom God had chosen to elect in Him for His own glory, God did decree to create the world and all that is it in, including the federal head Adam in whom all humanity consists under the law and according to natural generation. The Creation of the world was the first act of history, and the last intention of God necessary to bring about His utmost glory.

The consistency of logical progression of God's thought is the perfect reverse reflection of their temporal accomplishment. Understanding the character of God's thought as such, we are called to consider our own lives and every event in them as determined by the ends for which God is doing all things--His own glory, and the brining to maturation all those elect who are the image of Christ, Who is the image of God, who has manifest His glory in just this way, and no other.

When, therefore, there is evil, let us praise the name of the Lord and work according to His express commands. When, therefore, there is good, let us praise the name of the Lord and work according to His express commands. When, therefore, there is doubt concerning what is our destiny upon this earth, let us praise the name of the Lord and look into His perfect Law and find all that we are in Christ, and all that we shall do in His name and by His power for the restoration of all things to the great glory of our God, Father, Savior, King.

I'm going to add a followup to the last post. There, I concluded that:

"The consistency of logical progression of God's thought is the perfect reverse reflection of their temporal accomplishment. Understanding the character of God's thought as such, we are called to consider our own lives and every event in them as determined by the ends for which God is doing all things--His own glory, and the bringing to maturation all those elect who are the image of Christ, Who is the image of God, who has manifest His glory in just this way, and no other."

I'm sure a few of you read the previous post, blanched at its abstract character, and pulled away thinking, "but what has such considerations of 'logical' order have to do with how I live in the world?"

A perfectly valid question. Consider the fact that if you are one of God's elect, there is no moment in the history of your life, beginning to end, when God has not considered you in light of His loving purposes. That means that every circumstance, every sin, every success or failure: every single aspect of your existence is characterized by the love of God. Each sin, for example, brings not condemnation, but the opportunity for greater illumination and subsequent obedience. "Are we not then to lament our sins?" May it never be! That all things work to our good does not entail that all things we experience are praiseworthy! The breaking of God's law is indeed a lamentable offense, yet because the elect has been accepted in Christ from eternity, his standing before God is as a son, and not as an enemy. What father would give a snake when the son asked for an egg? God conditions us by degrees into His very likeness, the express image of God that is Christ Jesus. Thus, every destination has its journey, and every step of that journey is characterized by the direction determined by that destination. God is the governor, guide, and goad--how could we, his sons and daughters, come out otherwise than He desires, if we are indeed His children?

I often hear Christians complaining of how great is their sin, how manifestly difficult it is for them to master, and how wonderful it will be when we are free from sin in heaven. While all of these considerations are true in one sense, they are profoundly misleading in another. Has not our sin been placed upon an even greater Savior? Has not our flesh been crucified, and our life that we now live, lived in the power of God Himself, the Holy Spirit? Has not the power of sin and death been buried with Christ in His death, in order that we may walk unencumbered by the sins that so easily beset us? We children of God, every one of us, struggle in our sin to the extent that we fail to understand our identity--we are not our own individual self, but we are the complex identity of Christ-in-us-and-we-in-Him. The commandments to be of one mind so often given in relation to our brothers and sisters in Christ is because we are first of all made of one mind with Christ Himself. We have the mind of Christ - 1 Cor. 2:16.

A further corollary consideration to our being identified completely with Christ is that we must know what it means to be Christ upon the earth. If Christ is our Head, and we His Body, then the sense of the analogy would indicate that the Head will use the Body to accomplish His will in the earth. But what standard has been given, or what orders been issued, that we may know not only who we are, but what we are to be about? Jesus Christ came to be about the will of His Father, and while we are not privy to the same tasks in every respect (which of us would profess to propitiate the wrath of God for the elect!?!?), we nonetheless are given in Christ a model of our true humanity. Christ fulfilled the Law by following the Law in every respect. Love God. Love your neighbor. Two very simple commands within which are contained the limitless directives for Christians in every age and in every circumstance. Yet there are those who claim that the Bible does not speak to every consideration. God has indeed been silent on a great many truths, but those are expressly concerning Himself and His particular reasons for what He does. What we must choose in each choice is profoundly determined by Scripture in every aspect. Even legitimate matters of Christian liberty are characterized by the requirements of the first word: they must be Christian; they must glorify God as Christ glorified God in every way.

But further, who can be so foolish as to think that the Eternal God of Heaven would leave us groping for direction in those affairs that bear the most direct impact upon what we shall learn and how we shall live!? I am speaking of our decisions about how to educate our children. I am speaking about our decisions about how to use our money. I am speaking about our decisions about how best to use our "free time." The modern Church has so circumscribed the Law of God, if it has not thrown it out entire, that it cannot be said to be about much of anything concerning the Kingdom of God Almighty. We not only fail in knowing who we are, but in knowing how who we are impacts how we live, and not by some generalized platitudinous clichés tossed from our pulpits and in our parishes (where they still exist!). What use is the "power" of the "Gospel" when we know not what or how such "power" is to be used or what "good news" is to be spoken? What does it mean to "press the Kingdom" into our lives, really? How exactly is it that "seeing and savoring the beauty of Christ," works itself out, day to day?

The most basic implication is that we must know God's Law, Christ's Law, and find out how to apply it where we are now. For example, it is not enough that one should avoid lying to one's neighbor in order to fulfill the commandment against bearing false witness. One must also do all in one's power to protect the good name of one's neighbor. Do you gossip? Do you criticize on the basis of preference rather than principle? Do you not only wish no ill, but also wish the best for those around you? And no, the best doesn't always entail avoiding confrontation and being polite, for the best is to be free from sin and to honor God. If you see a brother sinning, we are to point him to God's Word for encouragement to repent, even as we must be prepared, with soft hearts, to accept the rebuke of a brother when confronted upon our sin - Hebrews 3:12-13.

But you will fail if you forsake the fact that your righteousness is not accomplished by your obedience to the Law, but rather, your obedience to the Law is accomplished because Christ's righteousness has been applied to your account! The end of the thing determines its beginning. You obey because you have been bought, you were not bought because you obey. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, "Dogs bark because they are dogs, not because they bark." It is in the nature of the Christian to grow in obedience, because his life is Christ's life within, living out God's particular purpose for that individual life in the grand drama of His glory. If you aren't doing Christianity well, go think about what it means to be in Christ. Perhaps God will illuminate your mind to the knowledge of His Son, and thereby call you forth as son or daughter of the living God.