Wednesday, June 8, 2011

God's Holiness, Man's Sinfulness

In recent eschatological debates, three things stand out, the common denominator being an anthropocentric worldview. These are interpretating Scripture by humanistic standards rather than by God’s perfect standards, and consequent failures to recognise the severity of sin and the absolute holiness of God. I address these below.

1)      God’s Standard, not man’s.

Yes, there will be people spending eternity in hell: universalism (everyone will be saved) was condemned as heresy by the Council of Constantinople (533). Case Closed. Is this topic emotive? Yes; in fact, the idea of “A Christian who is indifferent to Christ saving them from hell” is rather oxymoronic.

However, human emotions are not God’s standards. If you believe what you like about God and reject what you dislike about God, are you actually believing God or yourself? As Isaiah 55:9 states “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts”. We must with meek docility embrace whatever God reveals about Himself in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16); nothing more, nothing less (1 Corinthians 4:6). God’s standard of justice is what the Bible states God’s standard of justice is: not what we would like it to be. Thankfully, the standards and thoughts of an infinitly wise God are infinitely higher than ours.

'Disliked' Bible verses such as Psalm 11:5, Proverbs 16:4 or Isaiah 45:7 are to be believed, not suppressed. The Bible stresses the creator-creation distinction from Genesis 1:1: humans are utterly dependant on our Sovereign, self-sufficient, creator God for our very existence; we are commanded to submit to His decrees and commands, and are never permitted to question Him or Scripture. Man is accountable to omnipotent God: God is not accountable to sinful man. “No one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:35)

In Romans 9:22, Paul reminds objectors to double predestination of this: “On the contrary, Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” I am stressing the biblical axiom to “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Romans 3:4). We are not permitted to answer back to God, “He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth” (Daniel 4:35). A personal dislike for a doctrine is irrelevant as God is God and we are His creations. In Ephesians 1, Paul does not emotionally object to predestination: he praises God for it and rejoices in it! We are commanded to believe God as He reveals Himself through Scripture, not according to our fallible emotions and standards, regardless of the topic of discussion, in this instance hell.

2)      The Severity of Sin and the Holiness of God

Consequential to faliure to submit to God's standards is faluire to recongise the severity of sin and the holiness of God. After the fall, God revealed as decreed before creation that He would send His Son to willingly save His people (2 Timothy 1:9). But briefly suppose a different scenario. Suppose that after the fall, God said “I said eating from the tree would be punished by everlasting death. You ate from the tree, therefore you will have everlasting death” (Genesis 2:17). If God did not decree to provide a way of salvation, on what ground could anyone call God unfair? None - hell is what our sins justly deserve (Romans 6:23).

We cannot belittle sin; we must recognise it as cosmic treason that deserves eternal punishment by an eternally holy God. God does not owe mankind anything; if something intrinsic to man obligated Christ to die on the cross, there would be no gospel of grace. That hell is what man deserves since the fall on account of personal performance is what universalism ignores: it ignores the severity of sin “If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3) and destroys the holiness of God “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD” (Isaiah 6:3). God caanot pardon any sinner without receiving due satisfaction through the penalty for sin being fully paid, as a Holy and Righteous God cannot overlook sin, but must justly react against it. (Exodus 23:7, Numbers 14:18, 1 John 1:5).

Universalists have it around the wrong way; A holy God sending people to hell is not unjust, but for a holy God NOT to punish sin with everlasting death would be unjust! As “All His ways are just” (Deuteronomy 32:4), a just and holy God must punish every sinner as they deseve; we are either justified by faith on the ground of Christ's perfect righteousness, or condemned for unbelief and sin on the ground of our utter unrighteousness.

3)      Sola Christus

On Sola Christus (English: Christ Alone) universalism stands diametrically opposed to the gospel. Firstly on a practical level, if everyone goes to heaven regardless of whether or not they believe Christ and Him crucified, then evangelism is a complete waste of time.

Attacking the crux of the gospel, if everyone is saved regardless of whether or not they believe Christ and Him crucified, then there would be more than one way to be saved, contracting Acts 4:12. If there is more than one way to be saved, then Christ died for no reason as salvation could be attained outside of Christ, contradicting Galatians 2:21 (c.f. 1:8-9). The Bible says that salvation is by God's grace alone wherein he declares us righteous only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, received by faith alone. (John 14:6, Ephesians 1:7, 2:8-9).

4)      Dealing with some final objections:

a)      How can a loving God send people to hell? That question wrongly makes God’s attribute of love (wrongly using man’s, not God’s definition of love) superior to all His other attributes. God’s justice means salvation is impossible apart from Christ. If God’s is not just, His standards and love are arbitrary. Also, who do Psalm 5:5, 11:5; Romans 9:13, Ephesians 1:4-5 say are and are not the objects of God’s love? Be careful not to reject common grace though (Matthew 5:43-48).

b)      How could God punish men eternally for sins committed during a finite time on earth? That question wrongly presupposes that sinners will cease sinning upon entering hell. The opposite is true: those in hell will continue to sin for eternity (Pr. 1:24-31, Rev. 9:20-21, 16:9-11). Regardless, as no person is eternally perfect or Divine (Heb. 2:17, 4:15), payment for their earthly sins is impossible anyway.

c)       (1) God will accomplish all his purpose (2) He decreed to save everyone. Therefore won’t everyone be saved? If premises (1) and (2) are both correct, then the conclusion is true; otherwise God fails. However, while premise 1 is true of God's decree (Isaiah 46:9-11, Job 23:13, Psalm 135:6), premise 2 is false of God's decree (Proverbs 16:4, Romans 9:22). However, we must be careful not to confuse God's decreetive will (What God ordains) with His preceptive will (what God commands). God by precept desires the repentance of all people in the later sense (the obedience of his creation).
d)      Do those who never hear the gospel go to hell? Yes, No one is saved outside of Christ (John 14:6). If those who never hear the gospel are saved, then evangelism is the worst thing a Christian could do. They are condemned ‘without excuse’ on account of their sins (Romans 2:14-15) and for rejecting ‘God’s eternal power and divine nature’ clearly revealed to them in creation (Romans 1:18-20). They are condemned for their sins and unbelief.

5)      Conclusion:

The historic doctrine of hell is true: not universalism. If there are not literal people who will literally spend eternity in a literal hell, then there cannot literal people who will literally spend eternity in a literal heaven either. (Daniel 12:2, Matthew 25:46). Anyone whose name is not written in the book will be in hell “forever and ever” (Rev. 20:11-15). This is God’s justice, by His perfect standard! We cannot neglect the wretched character of man, or any attribute of God.

(C) J. Williams, 2011.

7 comments:

  1. Very nice, thanks bro! Keep up the good work.

    Have you read this short piece (http://limerickreformed.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=286:rob-bell-gods-love-a-evangelicalism&catid=15:miscellaneous&Itemid=34) by David Engelsma? IMO it shows the weakness of the opposition of most Evangelicals and Reformed to universalism.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would like to invite you to read a special gift from the wilderness of cyberspace Rev 12:6... Not one child of God will be put in a hell fire no matter what their sins. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer 7:31, Jer 19:5 and I prove it by the word of God at http://minigoodtale.wordpress.com. The true Gospel (Gospel means Good Tale) now delivered Rev 12:5, 13 sets us free to love. Before you judge this gather all the evidence first Pro 18:13.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello Val,
    You are taking verses out of context here. The two verses in Jeremiah you referenced do not mean that God did not know that the Israelites would sacrifice their children. It never entered God’s mind to COMMAND THEM TO SACRIFICE THEM (i.e. child sacrificing, being contrary to God’s nature, would have always been evil in the eyes of the Lord). That my interpretation is correct is shown by the word "nor" after the word command Jer. 7:31; therefore it follows that the thing that did not come into God's mind is what is before the word ‘now’: It did not into God's mind to command them to sacrifice their children: It never crossed God’s mind to approve of child sacrificing.

    It seems that you deny the existence of hell, which is heresy, as God would be unjust IF HE DID NOT send those outside of Christ to hell.

    One of your problems is in your presupposition. You correctly say that "Not one child of God will be put in a hell". However who are "children of God"? This you have wrong.

    John 1:12 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name"

    The children of God ARE those who BELIEVE in His name.

    John 11:52 "and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad"

    The children of God are those who BELIEVE in God worldwide.

    Romans 8:16 "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God"

    The children of God are those who have the Holy Spirit. Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is why we BELIEVE.

    Romans 9:8 "That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants"

    This verse explicitly states that the children of the flesh are NOT children of God. Unbelievers are NOT children of God.

    1 John 3:1 "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him"

    The Children of God are hated by those who are no the world. (the world are those who are not children of God).

    1 John 3:10 "By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother"

    Every person fits into ONE of two categories: they are a child of God or a child of the devil. Believers are children of God, unbelievers are children of the devil.

    1 John 5:10 "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him"

    The children of God are those who BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, evidenced by loving God and keeping His commandments.

    In Conclusion, every person without exception are NOT children of God. ONLY those who BELIEVE in Christ are children of God, the rest are children of the devil, and will go to hell as they are of their father the devil. Every Child of God will be saved, but only those who believe are children of God.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice piece! God bless you J. Williams.

      Delete
  5. Brilliant! This will be very helpful in dialoguing with my non-Reformed friends.

    Thankyou!

    ReplyDelete