Audacity of Autonomy
Many individuals will quickly make statements like “that’s not fair” when we discuss God’s freedom and wrath. Are we really going to say it’s not fair that God is God? We have made theologies that allow us to demand grace and claim salvation under our conditions, but that’s not how the gospel nor God works. God does as he pleases and distributes mercy and justice as he pleases. It is just as audacious now as it was in the garden of Eden to suppose that we can know better than God and make the rules. Mercy cannot be demanded, God is not obligated to extend mercy to anybody or everybody, and God is always fair in his actions. It is a dangerous game to charge God with not being “fair”. At the end of the day, what would be fair is the damnation of us all for sinning and sinning against an infinitely holy God.
Regardless, we have entered into a time where theology has become a means of anthropologic reflection more than understanding theology proper. In our day and age, we have created theologies that begin with anthropology (the study of man), and we have even allowed philosophical ideologies, such as humanism, to determine anthropology. We have forgotten the truth that God determines anthropology and anthropology does not determine who God is. What do I mean? I mean, our culture has a tendency of determining what we believe about humanity first and then letting it dictate what we believe about God. Basically, we create God in our image(s). The opposite should be true, God determine truth about humanity and as a friend recently put it, “It doesn’t matter what you think about God” because at the end of the day, God is who he is and you will face that one day. This can also quickly move into the importance of theology, which I touched on awhile back here.
In Romans 9, regardless of your hermeneutics on the soteriological nature of the chapter, we see the picture of God’s complete freedom to do that which he so desires. He is not bound by us in any shape or form, he is God. We are not. More fascinating is the reality that Paul makes this so clear in Romans 9 through rhetorical questions (that are still being raised today), yet we continuously talk back to God. Who are we to talk back and question God? When we question God sometimes the answer to the question truly is; Because he is God and we are not. As I have grown in my own walk, I have found that, naturally, the flesh fights against this. “Why did God do this or that?” Because he is sovereign, and yet man demands explanation from God. Man wants to put God on trial. God did *insert some event from the Old Testament*,how could he do that? Because he is God. That is the answer, and Paul puts it like this; what kind of pot talks back to the potter? How silly would it be if the musician’s notes argued with him about how they were arranged or played? How silly would it be if a painting objected to the stroke of the painter’s brush? This type of argumentation has come not only from the unbeliever, but from believers as well. God is not on trial, we are, and the misconception of reversed roles causes a lot of issues. It is quite audacious to question God, because it assumes that you know better, or that you could do it better, or that you could play God. Are you really going to claim moral high ground over the very source of morality? How absurd.
To shift gears in a slightly different direction; The church and culture has elevated God’s love over his holiness and wrath. We presume the riches of his love, which are blessings found in Christ, and turn the gospel on its head. God is love, but God is also just and holy. God’s love is holy, morally pure, and that includes his love for his Son. So, where do you stand when you reject the Son whom the Father loves? We have also made a caricature out of God’s love with statements such as, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner” when continuously, in the scriptures, God’s anger burns against those who are wicked. Did God love the sinners? Yes, by sending his Son. Is God good? Yes, he gives you mercies each day through the very breath in your lungs to the provision of food. God’s holy love cannot be misunderstood for our simplistic idea of emotional affection, but we need to recognize when the scriptures say unbelievers are enemies of God, it means it. If God does not hate sin, then he does not love, and we all know this when we seek justice for friends or family. Is God love? Yes. And how has God showed his love for sinners? By sending his Son. But dare we not presume the riches of his mercies and grace nor attempt to demand them. God distributes mercy, as he desires.
I put up a quote this morning from A.W. Pink, “It is sad to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which to apologize.” I have actually seen a lot of Christians talking about this around the internet lately, that is, the wrath of God. I actually posted up another quotation earlier this week from Pink regarding this subject, “A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to his love and tenderness, because God is holy, he hates all sin; and because he hates all sin, his anger burns against the sinner: Psalm 7:11.”
It has been discussed from both perspectives. The biblical perspective, which states that God’s wrath brings him glory as much as his love, and the non-biblical perspective, which says God’s wrath is (essentially) tyrannical. For the individuals who try to distinguish “the God of the Old Testament” from Jesus, you are sadly mistaken that the immutable God changes for the sake of your comfort. Now, if you believe Jesus is fully divine then there must be a recognition of Jesus’ activities, which are in harmony with the Father, even in the Old Testament. Jesus was as much present in the Old Testament as the New Testament. Not only that, but we know that Jesus comes with a sword when it comes time for justice. His justice, and wrath, are calls for glory as much as his love. Without justice, how can there be love? We should not be ashamed of God’s wrath, because every part of God and his actions are holy, and morally upright. Stop letting people put God on trial for his actions and stand on the truth of the Bible; God is God, we are not, and we are in no position to question or talk back to God. God raised up pharaoh, hardened his heart, plagued Egypt, and destroyed pharaoh, why? For his glory. God’s glory is preeminent, why? Because he’s worthyof it. Why does God act unto his glory, because he is worthy of it, because he is God. He is worthy.
The application of all this is quite simple. Firstly, we need to know who God actually is. That is it. It is simple. Stop projecting your personality, feelings, ideologies, politics, traditions, etc onto God. At the end of the day, your projections are misrepresenting a holy God, and I would be concerned about that. This also includes Jesus. Jesus is God, the eternal Son. He does not disagree with the Father’s actions in the Old Testament, he does not disagree with biblical marriage, destroying of enemies, nor God’s wrath. Why? Because he is the Eternal Son of God. Secondly, we cannot elevate one attribute of God over another. Oftentimes, we do more damage by not only elevating an attribute, but we put it up against others. God is love. But God is holy. We need to pursue the biblical balance of who God is. All of this talk about God’s wrath, does not negate his mercy for those who are moved to repentance. Lastly, recognize God’s freedom, and moral uprightness, and trust it. Much peace comes from this reality. Even when our initial reaction is shock, we can trust that God is doing good. At the end of all things, I’ll continue to beat this simple drum: God is God. We are not.