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MATTER OF SCOPE
THE RELIGION OF RESPECT
THE COVENANT OF GLORY
THE WORSHIP OF GOD
THE MASTERY IN ANY MATTER OF THE MESSIAH, JESUS CHRIST
GRADATION, INTERVENTION, OBLITERATION AND JUDGMENT
Aspects of the Glory of the God of All
Grace Ch. 5*1
which has been substantially extended, is added an an Appendix, being intimately related.
This Chapter specialises on the topics noted in the title, especially on the divine provision for the spread of the Gospel, and the indications in the Bible of the expansibility of His love, in the midst of real freedom, that He as Creator, in His foreknowledge, ensures. He does not dismiss liberty; for love (and God is love, I John 4:7-10, so that nothing contrary in ultimate kind has being within Him) does not dismiss an essence of His creation in rescuing it; but rather He keeps the essence of liberty for man by His own wisdom, in its integrity. As wounded as man is, God is wiser than man's wound is deep, and has provided from the start for the reality of the recovery offered.
This Chapter deals at some length with I Peter 3 and Greek terms which become relevant. God's word is shown to be applicable and extensive, but not subject to laceration: His word will stand. His sacrificial anguish was optional, a work of love, and triumphant, both in spirit and in body: but as in the resurrection, so in the text, His words stands in perfect harmony with each other, as in disharmony with sin linked with outstanding provision for it. God has left nothing out. Familiarity may breed contempt, but being unfamiliar with the God so long shown, proclaimed, presented, confirmed in both Bible and Christ, becomes contemptible to the point of a judgment to come, where for many, knowledge has been disregarded, and truth rejected, the pardon patronised and salvation overlooked: even everlasting shame (Daniel 12). God is not only to be respected (the basis of respect for others - but not necessarily their opinions!), but in all reality, worshipped for Who He is, What He has Done, and Why He has done it. Let us then pursue all these matters.
THE LUSTRE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
Christ said: "I am ... the truth."
Paul spoke in terms of Him and His New Covenant, as "the glory that excels" (II Corinthians 3:10-13),
and God giving the "light of the glory of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ Jesus," (II Cor. 4:6).
Even the glory of the bud is excelled by the glory of the bloom, which is Christ crucified, yes rather risen (Romans 8:34), in whom dwells all the fulness of the godhead in bodily form (Colossians 2:9).
What information, then comes from this Jesus Christ ? It is what nations have sought, philosophers have prized, cynics have strenuously avoided, those glorying in their own wisdom have not seen, fools have funneled to figments, the frenzies have blurred in emotion, the rationalists have lost in their self-importance, sinners have lost in their abnegation to their sin, and saints have found where it is appointed to man to find it, namely where it MAY be found (Isaiah 55), when sought. You may seek for a lost key where it may NOT be found (for example in your trouser pockets or shirt, and fail. If however you look on the shelf in the spare room where you placed it, there your searching is met with the reward of finding it. You must always look where the thing MAY BE FOUND.
In Christ you find the way, the life and the truth. You find where to go, how to live, and all you need to know about origins, destinies, the difference, divergences, convergences, the whole bright vision of reality and the code for comfort, the road for mission and the essence of divine commission for man (cf. Matthew 28). In Him, we will again find, the Logos Uncreated, Incorruptible, Inestimable, beyond all cavil, intent in all comprehension and resolution, master of life, giver of eternity - though not to what faints at the Gospel or feints at its entry. There is a way, and He is it.
In fact, before we proceed, let us look at some of the essential verses in the Bible on
THE WAY, THE FAR AWAY AND DRAWING NEAR TO GOD
We shall trace the way through 15 Bible verses, and find its end,
a good place to begin your walk!
If you look at Job 10:8, we find that God has made man "an intricate unity."
Modern micro-biological work shows just some of the marvels of intricacy
in man's body-building program, an architectural schedule
set in babes and adults, like a signature on an artist's work.
He is no less in mind and spirit, and when
these realities are butchered, or bossed or defective,
great is the tragedy and spoilage which man
For a building, there is a plan for the purpose.
For a car - there is the layout for directed motion.
For a person, there is a spirit for imagination and selection, where the plan of God is one path, the other,
the path of error. There is a way of truth, and one of death.
THE FIFTEEN EDUCATIVE AND INSTRUCTIVE VERSES TO THE POINT
1) Proverbs 16:25 (with 16:31)
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." Thus "the silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness," the Creator's way.
2) Psalm 119:104
"I hate every false way."
3) Psalm 119:30...Hence,
"I have chosen Your precepts."
4) Psalm 107:7
"He led them forth by the right way..."
5) Psalm 119:1
"Blessed are the undefiled in the way ..."
6) Proverbs 3:17 Of divine wisdom, it is said,
"Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace."
7) Proverbs 4:26
"Ponder the paths of your feet and let all your ways be established."
8) Proverbs 8:20 Divine wisdom, once more, says this:
"I lead in the way of righteousness in the midst of the paths of peace."
9) Proverbs 14:12
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."
10) Isaiah 35:8
"A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness."
11) Proverbs 16:2:
"All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirits."
Now this is a condensed kind of oxymoron. How could you physically "weigh" a spirit ? You couldn't, for matter is but a garb for it, for a real-time world. So it means that God considers the depths, the superficialities, longings, drives, desires, imaginations and purposes, programs and evaluations of a man in his spirit. The Lord ponders well to what it all comes, both TO and FROM, and where it is going!. This verse also gives a slight tangent to weighing metals, where there is slight weight, light weight and great weight or significance!
12) Isaiah 53:6
"All we have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
Who are the "us" ? It is as in v. 5, those who are actually 'healed' by His stripes, a
transference guilt with plenipotentiary power to pardon.
13) Jeremiah 10:23
"I know that the way of man is not in himself. It is not in man who walks, to direct his steps."
When you are on the moon, it may be well to keep in contact Houston, Texas or other control centre, equipped with knowledge and at 'rest'. When you are on earth, it is best to keep in close contact with the God who made you, not as a god, but as a child before Him, to be established, to know how to communicate with Him, and find His will, wit and wisdom, and to grow up in Christ (Ephesians 4:15, 2:19-22).
14) Ezekiel 18:25
"Yet you say, The way of the LORD is not equal.
Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair,
and your ways which are not fair."
Here, God offers HIS way (Hebrews 8:7-13), which is to 'forget' the sins of the sinner when at last he turns to the Lord and follows righteousness (because of the pardon-presenting sacrifice that came to be eternally fixed in the Messiah - Hebrews 9:12ff.). In love, He seeks total and genuine repentance and restoration, indeed, regeneration (Titus 2-3), and does not press charges on those who come in His appointed Messiah Jesus Christ (Romans 8:31-35). As in Romans 8:30, you SHOW you are one of His elect or chosen ones, when you are so redeemed!
15) Ezekiel 18:31-32
Instead of this, (Jeremiah 18:30), "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, everyone according to his ways," we have this: "Repent and turn from our transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin." Then comes the good end of the quest:
"Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed,
and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.
for why should you die, O house of Israel ?
For I have no pleasure in the death of the one who dies,"
says the Lord God. Therefore turn and live!"
THE PATH TO DESTINY
Let us trace the way to where it goes. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you," says James 4:4.
Don't vex your spirit with entry into
things too high for you (Psalm 131:1):
you are not God and pretension in ACT or BELIEF that you are,
merely blows you away like chaff before the wind,
perhaps striving for dignity, but not really finding any,
being rather left in the intense draughts and the lightness
that chaff without its seed, constitutes (Psalm 1).
Ignoring God, or making up new mental substitutes,
or making yourself a stand-in,
like some sort of emergency teacher, is not merely insulting to your Maker,
but since you are the made, to your own nature.
Hence do not philosophise into light-weight follies,
but as James points out, ACT.
To imagine has its place; but as a guide for this intricate unity called man,
it is worse than useless: it is utterly
irresponsible. Hence do not do it!
Whether in the path of collision with God, or variance as with Jonah,
or backsliding as with Peter, or
prostration as with Elijah, or
erosion as with Jonah,
return to the way and follow Him,
for there is
abundance of life (John 10).
There is a way that is right, and Christ is it (John 14:6).
Omission here, in the end, brings this world past remission,
to its eventual end (Revelation 20, II Peter 3).
As to that for it, it is better than endless shame
for the passionate rebels
as for the neglectful among mankind (Daniel 12:1ff.),
who do not even open the eyes (Matthew 13:15).
"Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is no other,"
the Lord cries in Isaiah 45:22. Can you hear ? Then answer. Can you see ? Then follow.
Do you follow ? then be faithful.
Let us reflect.
N. B. Dealing with some of the above topics is the oral sermon
May 12, 2013
which may be consulted for further coverage of the 15 texts and themes.
THE MASTERY IN ANY MATTER OF THE MESSIAH, JESUS CHRIST :
OBLITERATION AND JUDGMENT
In the beginning, there was information, as information science Professor Werner Gitt appears justly fond of relishing. There was far more; but not less. There was the active mind of God in whom it lay in profundity, and there was the grand heart of God, for whom it was servant; but it was there.
There was not just its abstract existence, since code involves intelligence and syntax verbal athletics, and semantics imaginative conception, conception thought, thought thinking (results do not come from no-causes or mist or ideational agistment or other flirtations with fancy - cf. Jesus Christ, Defaced, Unfazed ...Ch. 4. There was information that God had, and it knew no bounds, for His greatness has no bounds, for if there were any, it would be God that put them there, as a constraint, compulsion and impulsion, so showing the first 'God' to be merely an invented stepping stone to the actual Creator-Redeemer.
God saw fit, having life, to give it. It is not something man may invent, Because our type of life, as mankind, involves the capacity, innate, for fellowship with God (hence the amazing imaginative capacities of the human mind, both to follow reality and to divorce contentiously from it, and even in repentance, through the mercy of God, to be brought back to it, through a vast act of mercy on the part of God in the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, sent from His eternal abode in heaven to achieve this), it comes from God only.
Use of it is for man. Abuse of it is open to man. Misuse of it is normative for misshapen man, since at the first, he absconded with his powers, as if to compete with God. The competition is folly, the result is inglorious, and the love of God is still victorious because of this same Jesus Christ. Not satisfied with noting error, or seeking an abstract from of some thought to make things nicer, He came and did it. You see precisely this in prophecy in Ezekiel 34, with the divine emotions that go with it! I WILL COME AND DO IT MYSELF! (Ezekiel 34:11ff.). Thus we read:
"For thus says the Lord God, 'Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.
As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep,
so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them..."
Hosea 13:14 adds more in prophecy from that time, many centuries before Christ actually came (at the date predicted by Daniel cf. The Christian Prescription Ch. 2). God the Lord Himself would be a RANSOM for death and a deliverance from destruction, indeed the destruction of destruction for those who follow His redemption, bearing what He blasted, that is, the judgment due to man that pardon might be free WHERE RECEIVED, WHERE IT MAY BE FOUND, in this same Jesus Christ.
It is time now to consider what He said. In Matthew 23:37 and Luke 19:42ff., Christ is seen to weep. He appears to be suffering within, the same sort of desolation that is coming as a judgment on Jerusalem, because of affinity for its welfare and the lack of other means to deliver it. WHY ? God in Him (II Corinthians 5:17ff.), was on mission to provide pardon, mercy, a new life free from the cardinal miscarriage of rebellion, distortion of truth, lassitude in life, folly in heart, and hence readiness for judgment on all the actions that proceed from the heart. He was, Christ the formatted-as-man Saviour, about to die for their sins, and indeed on behalf of the sins of the whole world (I John 2:1-2), though this not as a forcing, but a granting, and there, it is the heart which receives, and nothing deceives with God.
Weep! He might weep. Not only had He in hand the way to deliverance, but He was actually making the supreme, total, all efficacious payment to ACHIEVE their deliverance, not only on earth, but in heaven, and they were instead so carried away by traditions (as in Mark 77ff.), trade-mark self-trust, blindness to their intensely pathological spiritual condition (Matthew 13:15ff.,) that they were going to murder the Truth (though His Spirit rose at once, and His formatted body, was reclaimed from death and rose after the predicted three days). Instead of taking what He offered, they would offer His body to death. True, that would enable the sacrifice to be made by unpriestly hands (though many of the religious leaders called for it, almost hypnotically, it seems - Matthew 27:19-20, Luke 23:21-23), and wicked human initiative (Acts 2:22-25). But it was scarcely the RECEPTION of the redemption so gained.
Hence Israel THE NATION (the apostles were Jewish!) has suffered an anaemia of truth, and has become like the unbelieving Gentile nations which have specialised to this day in persecuting here (even Australia toying with further anti-Semitism for this tiny fragment still left to them, from the Palestine homeland once promised, but mostly given to Jordan as a gift in the early 1920s).
It seems different from them, the surrounding peoples in their clamours, contentions and assaults. Indeed, it is, because of its heritage, the promises and the past, not to mention its destiny of recovery as foretold in Hosea and Ezekiel 36-39 and Isaiah 59, 66, Micah 7 and so forth, and already partly fulfilled (cf. SMR Ch. 9). The nations see Israel, unremoved despite their best efforts, this predicted race which, though rebellions as a STATE, is back as predicted.
They peck at it. Hitler made a big peck, in his large, mausoleum mouth and swallowed over six million of them. Foolishly because needlessly, Israel suffers to this day, though they have made their tiny portion of the Palestine granted, a marvel of technology, academic brilliance, food and flower production and defence. In no great time, they will be brought back to the Lord (Zechariah 12-14), their contribution to His crucifixion having been predicted centuries before it happened, and their return, further off again, this also seen in the prophet noted. Great will be the losses for this intransigence of the nations (Micah 7), and one laments for them, but bully-boy tactics with God is like a boisterous rooster, chasing the hens, not realising that a fox is just one foot away from him.
What then ? If Israel asked for it, what of the Gentiles who now have the USA being 'defined' by its President Obama as NOT a Christian nation, while he exalts the Christ-slaying Moslem movement as in Egypt, at Cairo, and elsewhere.
THEY have the case of Israel to ponder, and do not now listen! (cf. Romans 11:20-23 - and, as far as aggressors against it are concerned, they do not heed what God is going to do for it - Romans 11:25ff., 15, Isaiah 51:23).
Let then us all, Jew or Gentile, listen to what Christ has to say and relish His reality.
God so LOVED the world that He gave His most precious eternal Word, His fellow, companion, living expression as man in the format of Jesus Christ, did the work needed, and not coming to judge the world, but instead, that it might be saved, He enunciated what leads to condemnation in view of this amazing mercy. It is almost difficult to avoid this mercy with such a source, a scope and a mission. But it is still possible. How can you do this, if exclusion from truth, from the way, from light, from life eternal is your wish ? THIS, He says (John 3:19) is the condemnation, that light has come into the world (as specified ijn John 1-3, in terms of the word made flesh, in whom "was life and the life was the light of man," (John 1:4).
Here then was more information, more than this, more opportunity, a direct passage, like the Chunnel from the island of Britain to the matrix of Europe, to a site desired (though the relevance of the illustration is beginning now to change somewhat!). Here was life itself, pardon, peace, protection and power, and it was slain.
Many are the nations in Europe for example, which have in much or little, with or without confusion, embraced Christ in singular fashion; but this is passing like noon as darkness produces its daily ensemble. This however is not a daily occurrence, but revival apart, a sullen slippage into the channel of death.
Whether, again, for Jew or for Gentile, the case remains the same: the GOSPEL of mercy and peace and pardon is still available, but the times of the signs are propelling themselves unalterably into our midst (cf. SMR Ch. 8, Answers to Questions Ch. 5). It was spoken by the Lord, and now as always when He does that, history follows. There are no exceptions or exemptions. The ONLY exemption is Christ crucified, yes rather risen as in Romans 8, and it remains true and simple (Romans 10:9): "If you confess with your mouth, the Lord Jesus (not a reconstruction, which is mere idolatry), and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead (not a vision, but the body as buried - I Cor. 15:1ff., Luke 24), "you will be saved."
IF you believe that, then as in Ephesians 1:19, you will realise that the power that raised Christ from the dead is available for His mission for us, and so act. Faith is the foundation of action! as James points out so rightly.
Tendering for Termination
What then ? The INFORMATION of the Gospel has been bruited abroad for twin MILLENIA. It was not the day of the millenium which mattered, but the sheer hypocrisy of man in failing for SUCH a period to SUCH a Gospel, with SUCH flirtations and pulses by many and by much, but with real faith by many others, though these are the fewer (Matthew 7:15ff.); and still complaining while he reaped what he passionately continued to sow: rebellion against God, and so against reality and against peace, pardon and truth. So did he incline to wars of philosophy, religion, political persuasions, with multiplied seductions, lies, deceits, invasions, ill-will to this day. Even the maturely settled are beginning to realise the intractability of the problems of truth-denial (as predicted for the state of this world, Matthew 24:22).
As to the result of this information, action, redemption, there are certain principles. Hear it and reject it and you will BE rejected (John 3:19). The result in that case is categorical, unequivocal and unless repented of where the Gospel is made known, fatal. God did ALL THIS. To short-circuit the love, ALL YOU have to make sure of, is this, that with informed preference, you make this known in the intimacy of your own soul, the derision of your tongue, or its simple rejection or entire disregard of your spirit. You may want to exchange the snowy water of truth for the cracked cisterns of man. If so, then ...
"THIS IS THE CONDEMNATION, THAT THE LIGHT HAS COME INTO THE WORLD,
AND MEN LOVED DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT,
BECAUSE THEIR DEEDS WERE EVIL."
If however you do not hear and know, then as in John 15:22ff., it is found that it is ONLY because they DID hear and see the things that God-as-man, Jesus Christ had done and STILL did not believe, that sin became their champion and death their destiny, apart from God, in everlasting shame (cf. John 8:21ff.). God is no respecter of persons, not unjust, not variable, and it was the whole world He did NOT come to judge, but to save.
This Colossians 1:19ff., with I Timothy 2 and Ezekiel 33, in various ways, jointly declares with dynamic, power and passion which it is a privilege to hear, a wonder to know*1. Reject this testimony from John 3 and these, if you will, but it is mere rebellion. It is clear, succinct and universal, the scope and skill of the love of God.
This does not in the least alter, but rather makes the more poignant, as in John 3:19, the statement in view of the amazing love of God there sketched, about HOW anyone can STILL be lost: it is if you reject Him. However if you have NOT heard and seen these things (or in the equivalent as God shall please, in foreknowledge as in Romans 8:29ff., II Timothy 1:8ff.), then that is the principle, as in John 15. Not enough is this for final condemnation; though it is plenty for WORTHINESS for a severance for sin in eternal condemnation. That is where love intervenes, as so often in tragedy.
As in Romans 1-2, the whole world is found guilty before God. As in Romans 5, man is fallen from early in his invention, creation, and a rescue of utter breadth is needed by divine love, to be on offer (as in Colossians 1:19ff., John 3, Romans 5:16-18), with a grace which excels even that in the Old Testament (II Corinthians 3). It is given. To escape salvation: you have to prefer darkness to this light, and SO not take the offer. Here is obliteration of communion, rejection of heritage made available, the final step in any gradation. NO! is registered, whatever be any contribution of thought and perspective, delusion from rejecting truth (s in II Thessalonians 2:10) or anything else. If the final word, as the first word found in foreknowledge is NO, so it will be. Freedom, which to man in the image of God is given, does not require an ignorant or impotent God, but one informed of all, so that nothing in time distorts, disturbs or deletes the reality. Indeed, once it is known in foreknowledge, it is charged into predestination (as in Romans 8:30ff.).
Love and Liberty
Freedom cannot be except by God, who with no need, provides a spirit to which options and perspectives of folly were first made available, at the flick of a freedom move! Foreknowledge makes it sure what is the result of this freedom in any given case; predestination ensures no errors, as found it is made sure. In history, a person may feel the pull of freedom, despite the pollution of that glorious faculty (I Corinthians 2:14), and may indeed taste of the powers of the age to come (Hebrews 6); and the result is no distortion, but the guarantee of probity, or realism: this is indeed YOU. Anyone troubled and wanting the Lord, has only to ask, and if you ask in faith, your soul is saved and there is no cause for concern. NOT asking as if God had NOT so loved, so sent, so saved, so offered, as if Christ had NOT so wept and so spoken, is merely showing rejection, despite the testimony of the Ages*2.
This brings us to the first gradation in application of the Gospel. There is no security in NOT hearing, but divine and ultimate rejection requires more than this before the judgment, not only for what is basically deserved, but applied when the opportunity for pardon, is brought and bounced off. Logically, the merciful wonder precedes the judgmental tragedy.
God does not have this announced love and desire, for all things whether in heaven or on earth, for ALL to be reconciled to Himself (Colossians 1:19ff.), in order to fail for technical reasons*1. Love is not unwise but filled with understanding, such as no man but Christ, incarnate God, ever had or could have had
He INVENTED man, history and cause and effect as it is in our realm. He desired it to be and so made it, as in Colossians 1. Yet, just as Christ preached to the departed spirits (as shown in I Peter 3:18-31 cf. Aspects of the Glory of the God of All Grace Ch. 5), so is it not to be contradicted that ALL are given EQUAL scope for salvation, in foreknowledge initially, as He counsels and knows us before we are so much as born, before time as we have it, even existed - Ephesians 1:4: before the Fall, or any other intimation of history.
It is as the apostle declares it, IN Christ they are chosen.
It is in His inestimable passion of love, precision of truth,
wonder of liberty, excellence of power, intensity of peace, wisdom beyond all ages that they are found in Him.
It is BY Christ they are duly saved; and
it is FOR Christ, those who are His, delighting in the LOGOS,
the eternal WORD of God, the manifestation expression of His very Being,
that they serve (cf. Revelation 22:3-17).
This unchangeable word RELEVANT to salvation ? Why, it is IN and through Him that this salvation has come to history, to mankind in the expression of the supernal God (Titus 2-3). There is no lapse in His authority, no change in His purity of passion and compassion, no riot of unrealism; for in Him, IS the truth.
INFORMED PREFERENCE by anyone, for darkness against this, against Him, who is the Light of the world, since THAT light is the ONLY way out, on and to blessed eternity, and therefore in line with sin's dark result: this is the pith of the frankness of it all. THIS is the condemnation, in view of the saving actions of God, that you SO PREFER, despite all done, won and on offer! (John 3:19). This is what He says, and as always, this is what He does.
Rejoice therefore if you look to come, letting the pit of repentance be prelude to lifting up to the eyes to His salvation, who IS the Lord (Isaiah 45:22). For those who incline to any other name, their own or that of what they create, or that of anyone else, these need to know this: Refusal is the most obvious method of ruin (Proverbs 8:35-36). If there be any who has not heard, then even for ignorance, there is an answer: God has His own foreknowledge of all, before sin or time or the creation itself, ever was. NOTHING gets in the way of Him who IS the way (Ephesians 1:11); and in Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:9). No circumstance denies Him, nor can any system prevent Him.
Accordingly, in rejection, there is only the practical answer, getting not only what you deserve in any case because of generic and actual sin, except for mercy, but what you prefer to heaven itself, His domain, from which He came and to which He has gone (Acts 3:19ff.), from which He will come to judge (Acts 17:30ff., Psalm 2, 110, Revelation 19, II Thessalonians 1); and in Him is found the very face of God! (II Corinthians 4:6, Hebrews 1). You can have it your way if you wish; and this is the way of error, as so many passages in the Bible constantly affirm and re-affirm, and have done for thousands of years.
That is the option where the optics have persisted - from the first, and to the last - in being closed down (Matthew 15:13ff.).
CLOSELY ASSOCIATED WITH THIS CHAPTER, IS CH. 5 OF ASPECTS OF THE GLORY OF THE GOD OF ALL GRACE, AND SINCE MUCH OF IT IS NEWLY ADDED, THIS IS ADDED AS AN APPENDIX BELOW.
ASPECTS OF THE GLORY OF THE GOD OF ALL GRACE,
THE LOVE OF GOD IN THE EPISTLES OF PETER
ON EARTH AND AT THE BRINK OF HELL
I Peter 3, II Peter 3 in the Domain of John 15 and Colossians 1
I PETER 3
In a previous volume*1 , the matter of I Peter 3:15-22 and the preaching of Christ to the spirits in prison has been examined.
On this occasion, the topic is reopened for one reason: a further aspect has been opened, and it seems necessary to deal with this, in order to complete the coverage of the topic.
One interpretation of this passage is as follows: Christ, having been sent into the scene of suffering, the just for the unjust, having died, being raised by the Spirit, is to be recognised as having done something else by the Spirit, that is, way back 'sometime', actually in the days of Noah, He went in this manner to preach to disobedient spirits. These are now in prison as a result of that disobedience.
To say that this is a forced interpretation seems only fair.
Let us look at the context. It is a vast sweep in terms of suffering for what is unjust, and doing this patiently. In this, Christ is held up as an example, and a fortiori, someone who not only was afflicted with injustice in the form of suffering, but in fact BORE willingly the results of the just penalties of others, in this way excelling the simpler case, of being wrongly accused or penalised. It seemed GOOD to Him so to suffer, by plan and intention (Acts 2:23), this being the determinate plan and intention of the Trinity, of whom Christ is one. Why did it seem so good ? His was a willingness for suffering in tune with His vast delighted to come to save by this means (Psalm 40, Micah 7:19ff.), even those who would be found, and were indeed known to be His in the infinite knowledge of His divine mind, and accordingly predestined (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29ff.).
That this is no mere intellectual or abstract exercise is made apparent, in the teaching of Peter from the Lord, in this, that in II Peter 3:9, we learn that for God a thousand years in the presentation of the Gospel can be conceived as a day. While He can act at once, He may choose to wait. Why ? In this case, it is in order that MORE souls may be won, MORE testimony may be given (cf. Revelation 6:9ff.), so that the entirety of history could be exposed and its blessed inmates extradited in His own way. He is not willing that any should perish: this is not the disposition of His heart, however much love in its restraint, does not dictate. He would not have it so that any would perish. That is the orientation in view in I Peter, as in I Timothy 2.
It is this Jesus, this Christ, this Messiah, this example, this unique exhibit of the love and patience and determination of God who is here exposed to view, who suffered in this exalted and unique manner, who died in this vicarious mode, with the purpose of bringing those to be His to God, and in this, He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit. Such is I Peter 3 in thrust, at this point, some of the background being added in the next Epistle.
This being the vignette, the perspective, the coverage of the matter, we then learn more about this same Jesus in this same context, both overall in the epistles of Peter and in this locus. How does I Peter 3 then proceed ?
It is, we read, BY THE SPIRIT, in whom we have just learned in I Peter 3, He was made alive, that He WENT and preached. To whom did He in this series of events, this collation of concepts, considerations and actions, this perspective and plan: to whom did He go and preach ? It was to a group about to be designated. How is this done ? Like this: 'He went and preached to the spirits in prison.'
Now the first thing one might naturally understand in this, is one: He did NOT go and preach to spirits NOT in prison, for they are specifically, in this chronologically tight discourse, said to be spirits in prison. If I said that I went and preached to people in prison, once disobedient at the time of the Twin Tower disaster, would ANYONE imagine that I meant that I preached to them prior to that disaster, and really meant to convey that I had done this then, and not now that events have been brought in context, up to date! Would I mean that I went to speak to them way back in the day of their failure, long before now!
Would I be referring to this long past day and to their imprisonment as a result of it ? Or would I be preaching if they could not hear me! concerning an event which had this later result of imprisonment ? True it is the eternal Deity as Christ, who is in view, so that He could, but it is the sudden disjunction from context which is frankly inadmissible. It is unwarranted by textual evidence and contrary to the temporal flow in the text at this point. Sequence : Christ suffered ONCE; it was for SINS; that was some years before the writing of I Peter; His purpose in suffering was to provide, as the JUST ONE, as Peter called Him, for the UNJUST. This in turn was to enable Him to bring us to God. In this procedure, He was put to death, not merely suffered - so we proceed in time - but even, as the next temporal step, made alive through the power of the Spirit (cf. Romans 1:4). It was, we next find in this temporarily developing presentation, that He went BY that self-same Spirit and preached to the spirits in prison.
Can we then manufacture the concept that Christ had in fact been preaching to 'spirits in prison' BEFORE all this, before this sequence and basis and background, just prominently displayed, concerning Himself@
I think not, for I am then SPECIFICALLY stating who were the objects of my preaching: spirits in prison. I am not speaking of talking to another set, those not in prison, before their landing there, but those who have landed there for a reason which I would then go on to state: these were at some time disobedient when told of their folly. In this way, my meaning is clear, to whom I preached and there location is clear, prison, as is the reason for their being there, disobedience.
In this, I add nothing to the text in concept or in word. Indeed, I move with the text in its mounting power of application of the enduring patience of the love which suffered not in vain.
I then do not twist the tale of time, the meaning of phrases, or engage in athletic exercises of imagination, eisegetic additives, as if to say: 'by spirits in prison, I mean spirits not in prison, but those who before being in prison were going to do thing to land them there.' This is, one must say, distortion of what is written. How can it then be said but as extra-textual imagination. It is insertion out of nowhere.
The text now gives ground and further description, concerning the imprisonment and those enduring it. At some time, it says, in the days of Noah, they were disobedient. Now I know concerning this visit to preach - compared with preaching now to those involved at some time in the Twin Tower disaster, who refused to listen to reason at that time, or anything else but their vicious vision - that the inmates receiving it, were at some time, in fact in the days of Noah, disobedient. They did not respond to the truth he offered. The ark*3 was there for many years under construction, and its design and purpose was so clear that it was by DISOBEDIENCE that they did not prepare themselves to enter. Hence the case is covered, and we are better aware of the point: namely, just who are these imprisoned, what is their status, how are they so.
Thus the Christ who in this
admirable and indeed unique manner, suffered not only injustice, but willingly
entered on the plan to bear with it in a systematic, and even sacrificial
manner, as part of a plan of love to redeem (I Peter 1:18, 2:22-25), died, was
killed, was enlivened by the Spirit, and by that self-same Spirit preached to
spirits in prison.
JOHN 15 with I Peter 3
It was not enough to suffer injustice, He must suffer it vicariously.
It is not enough to preach to those in the contemporary world; He goes to preach to those more obviously in prison, than are the spirits of those whose liberty not least, He died to redeem, and to whom He came on this earth, declaring,
"If I had not come
and spoken to them, they would have no sin,
The question of damnation is in view, and without His actually coming and speaking to them, indeed arriving and doing "among them the works which no one else did", then "they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father."
Such, explicitly, is the love and justice, fairness and goodness and grace of the living God, that the condemnation which is final and absolute would not have come, their status would not have been negated for this final resolution of result, without this actual confrontation. "If I had not come ...", He declared. THIS IS HIS OWN DIVINE DECLARATION. It is well to receive it; such is the passion of the love of God! Such is His discriminating care, and not less is His work, so that none has ground for accusing Him of cruelty, whose mercy neither dictates to man, nor allows him to seduce spirituality into his own purposes. Authority is final; the relevant knowledge is HIS OWN, foreknowledge not of works but of people, and the tests are not dulled, but perfect in composure.
It has been declared before, and one must declare it again: NO ONE, but no one will go to hell except over the dead body of Christ. This is a form of envisagement to help anyone to see how great is the love of God, how foolish its rejection, how committed is the Christ. ONLY by going beyond the sacrificial, curse-bearing glory of Jesus Christ, only thus can you, if you will, escape the deliverance and salvation and mercy and grace and friendship of Christ. HE for His part has done ALL! God is not delighted to damn but to save; and while exclusion can occur, since love is never tyrannical, the weeping of Luke 19:42ff. shows how loth He is for it to be, though in the purity of His principles and nature, no other way will He suffer it.
We do not need to imagine that it must occur in this mode, as in John 15, face to face with the God who is no respecter of persons as He Himself declares; but the ESSENCE of it, the PRINCIPLE of it will certainly be fulfilled. Justice will not finally remove to hell what is not to God's own satisfaction as summarily and actually and fairly treated to opportunity, in whatever form He makes it equivalent, to receive Him. He is not limited, to be sure, to a particular mode; but He limits Himself to this degree of authenticity in the fairness and genuineness of His offer for EACH, before ANY may be damned. It is all known before the world was; but its nature and quality is as real as history, as certain as truth, and as wonderful as love without impurity of any kind and justice of the most exquisite and laboured proportions.
The Jew is not above humanity. The first century AD is not above the dates. The fairness of God is for all time and His justice does not waver at any time.
THEREFORE the movement to go and preach to the spirits in prison, as specifically STATED in I Peter 3:18ff., is in full and complete agreement with His other words and principles. He is not willing to leave things with some here, some there, in this way and that, all tumbled about in incomparable fashion. He is just, and would have all to be reconciled to Himself, as He explicitly states, yes whether they be in heaven or on earth. The desire is universal, fundamental, coextensive with His own thrust and movement. It is sated with nothing less. To imagine differently is to contradict Christ.
THIS is explicitly the nature of the case, and His going to hell so to preach, so that 'He descended into hell', the familiar words, are fulfilled rather than a vain addition, is precisely in accord with it, though here the term 'hell' is used, whereas in Paul it refers to departed spirits simpliciter. It is not required, that He should so move on and out to these departed spirits, by thought. But it is by love.
It could be caused to eventuate differently by Himself, who is perfectly free; but in principle, this is the stress on the topic. It not only fits, but fits perfectly with this enormous stress on the unreserved character of the love of God in the Bible.
Certainly, when to His satisfaction, the rejection of Himself is final and seen to be so, in all His depth, the result is rejection of the renegade, since love does not force, and justice does not move. If someone is unwilling to have God's own divine mercy remove the guilt of His sin through the sacrificial offering of Christ, then love does not seek its own, and that is the finish (John 3:19). This however is the purity of that love (Colossians 1:19ff.), and this is the declaration of it (John 15), and here is the application of it in our present text of I Peter, with its corollary in II Peter 3:9, the non-willingness of God that any should perish. If there IS a way, He finds it; even to the point of giving all, but not changing which would only move from truth and so condemn all to their duly deserved destiny. .
The desire of the God of all pity, then, for man (I Timothy 2) is that they be not bound in spirit but liberated (as in Isaiah 61, from which Christ took words and applied them to Himself, and as in John 8:34-36, concerning the nature of sin as constituting and providing a prison for its servitors).
NEVER in the Bible are flesh and blood people referred to as SPIRITS in prison; prisoners of sin, certainly, and they have spirits, of course; but the designation of people in sin as 'spirits in prison;' this is not found, since the bodily part is not so readily deregistered. Certainly, no preachment to persons in flesh referred to as 'spirits in prison' is conceivable. If however it be those 'now' in prison, it is neither what is written nor in the sequential series of it, nor does it amplify the example, to refer to an instance of former action, while it does to make the divine circuit to move to the last peak of judgment in the alps of history, and show His scope of desire by visiting even these!
If He was absent for three days, it is not that His Spirit, which He had commended into His Father's hands, was inactive; it was not that He was inert after His horror borne, but alight with the love still, released from the squalid sin of the redemption, now ONCE made as Peter here indicates, and so the journey to such a visitation as this, entwining in its scope all lesser cases, is indeed in the very centre of the piece as presented of this patient and insistent, unswerving example of Christ.
Hence, it appears that Christ not only did the dying and the exhibited the sacrificial splendour in His wiling work of patient endurance, held up in its nature as example, but did even more. In this chronological sequence of ground and action - of suffering, firstly, of doing so as the just for the unjust, secondly, and of doing so ONCE, categorically, with the purpose in this ensemble of action, of bringing us to God - He was not only made to endure such griefs, but was put to death. That is the next thing stated in the text here. After this, in the sweep of sovereignly determinate but beautifully voluntary events on His part, He is made alive in the Spirit. So far we have an ensemble of six elements, and then HE WENT. To do what ? To preach. To whom ? To spirits in prison. What are these ? They are those disobedient in the time of Noah, that is how they are such.
It is more than difficult to see how
one would imagine that this next item would not be part of the preceding,
extending their relevant application to His exemplary and definitive work, and
showing the nature of it in one progressive whole. If the case had been
otherwise, it would have been exceedingly simple to have said:
"made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He had gone and preached to the spirits disobedient in the days of Noah, but now in prison."
This clear course (and the word of God is clear to the one who understands: there is nothing intrinsically obtuse or contused about it - Proverbs 8:8), however, was not followed. Some such words as these would have shown that the thing was being changed, that we were no more moving from the series of events in Christ's work of salvation, crucifixion and bodily resurrection, and the reason in His expansive love for these things, in such a horror as dying even afflicted in spirit, the Just for the unjust. We would then be helped to realise the sudden change in the sweep and sequence of the context, and to know we were to about-face and go back in time to a much earlier event, rather than consider the movement of His raising, His reason, and His application even more broadly of these fresh and focussed events, current in the day of Peter.
In such a case, not the one in the text, no longer would there a sequence showing cumulatively and progressively, step by step, what Christ did that is so applicable and admirable in this context. Instead, it would show that the preaching had occurred at some other time, and that the spirits in prison, were not in fact the objects of His preachment following the achievement of salvation, but rather those envisaged as still about to suffer this result because they did not listen when He did preach, long ago. There would be a time-warp, a sequence severance and a thrust removal, of the longsuffering (as in II Peter 3:9), and the long continuance in the long day of covering ALL, as His love did, so that preaching could even be a further result of the achievement of redemption, of there being this newly achieved grand theme to stress.
It might not be easy to justify such a sudden change; but it would be clear.
It was, however, not done. The clarificatory words for the sudden change in the milieu of the context, do not occur. The time-disjunction words are not given. They therefore must not be added in mind or thought or text (Proverbs 30:6). This is the way the word of God is to be treated. Think what you will, but let it say what it will: neither more nor less. Be sensitive to theme, follow context, watch the developments, keep to the point. In fact, the spirits in prison lived at a time which provides us with an illustration of this self-same Gospel which is the theme: the ark was like symbol of Christ, into whom entering, one is saved.
All that was past; NOW we have entered into the Gospel era, and its reasons and its results, and one of these is this, that in the amplitude of Christ's love and sacrifice, risen through the work of the Spirit, He has gone further in this th rust: He has preached to spirits definably not now living in this world, as this is Bible not Plato, but under the rigor of judgment. They are departed spirits. Such is His love as in John 3, Colossians 1, and such the scope of it, and His vast determination to reach ALL things, whether on earth or in heaven, as HE tells us through Paul, that here we find an expression of this passion, and a thrust onward to the wonder of the Christ who is still available to one as to all, none exempted from His desire, none forced contrary to their preference for darkness, as foreknown.
Instead, in textual reality, we find the people to whom He, having been made alive through the Spirit, went through that same Spirit to preach. We learn that they are spirits in prison, that this is His congregation when He went.
This consummates the matter, in
this, that not only are those of this, His time on this earth, reached in this
exemplary fashion, but those of former time by that self-same Spirit are
reached by His action, swelling like a tide, roaring like massive ocean
breakers, into environs of horror, if by any means any might be confronted as
were those noted in John 15, by the glory of His works and words, now unleashed
on this earth and applicable to all for all time.
HOLINESS AND HISTORY
The Delicious Divine Dissatisfaction with a Slack Job
In Matthew 11:21 we find this testimony also concerning the love of God to the lost, seeking in incandescent sincerity and mercy. IF, the people of Tyre had had these great works of Christ done in them, then they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. Since God WOULD HAVE ALL, and says so repeatedly, and is SUBJECT TO NOTHING in His own power, His desires fundamental past all dalliance, but being loving will FORCE NONE (but rather weeps for the terminally recalcitrant as noted), then here is an indication which cannot be simply dismissed. It is that as these WOULD have so repented, and the case is one of comparison of opportunity in the light of divine importunity, they may indeed include many who will receive this same salvation from this same unknown Gospel (as it may have been indeed, to them). Indicated are all who WOULD have repented with such passion as to suggest sackcloth and ashes.
Is it an imagined case ? No: it is as sure as a laboratory. IF, said Christ filled with all the riches of knowledge, those people of Tyre HAD faced what the people of Jerusalem then met in Himself, in the first century A.D. as we would now call it, then it is a fact that so considerable would have been the repentance that it would amount to a city repenting in sackcloth and ashes. There then is the practical example of the matter: there is not mere hypothesis about this. It is what would have happened, and since this is what is desired, and leads on to salvation, the salvation of many in this way cannot be excluded. This links with the exposition of I Peter 3, where Christ presented the preaching to the spirits in prison, there because of their disobedience; just as many not in prison, but simply in sin, were in no better state than to expect damnation. So did the glorious circuit of Christ extend, mounting in presence, leading on in Peter, to the Ark illustration, suggestive of its all time applicability.
Not only is this so, but in Matthew 11:23, we learn that, parallel to the Tyre case, if THESE people in Sodom had been exposed to the works and words of Christ (as those in His contemporary Jerusalem were), they would have remained as a city TO THIS DAY! That is just the parallel to what is being brought to the attention of the about-to-be-destroyed Jerusalem in the 6th century B.C., through Jeremiah: LISTEN and be led by God and the devastation to come, WILL NOT COME! (Jeremiah 17:17-25). However, in Jerusalem then, as in many a city and nation now, the opportunity is lambasted, or mocked, or paraded in pomp as a misfit, or tainted, or taunted, while folly is vaunted till modern history moves as a clown forgetting he is now out in the real world, or a drunkard, no longer shielded by the walls of the pub.
History depends heavily on this basic attitudinal, belief relationship with the Lord, and all its wealth and poverty moves into recess compared with this basic provision. History illustrates sin's penalties, and wisdom's truth; but unbelief is prone to kill, both itself and others; and this is makes history prone to worse and worse outcomes. Mockery of masterful grace and kindness itself can do much to advance judgment, and this world is now entranced, inebriated with its little ways of deceit and sullen unbelief, and intoxicated idols made of individuals, imperial nations, philosophies and other follies that its path is like a tourist route, where many go, only to find the execution of glory, when the dream fails, and truth looms like a mountain and the mighty deep.
In other words, not only is there a finale for destiny in terms of the Christ and His Gospel, and nothing less (though all are worthy of condemnation in any case, the question being one of the insertion of salvation), but history would be altered if all at once always had known the Gospel and seen its power as in the day of Christ Messiahship on earth. The Gospel then is the final test, the ultimate revelation, the final prelude to judgment, and it is the love of God which propelled Christ to earth, for God SO loved, which propels His salvation WHEREVER it may lodge. As Paul says in Acts 17:30, in speaking of times past, "these times of ignorance God overlooked," but judgment comes. Overlooked ? He did not overlook their participants, for God so loved the WORLD (John 3) and would have reconciled to Himself both those in heaven and on earth, wherever the lodging.
The 'heaven and earth' is merely in turn part of the "ALL THINGS" which He desires reconciled as in Colossians 1:19ff.. NOTHING is exempted from this desire: NOTHING is precisely what is left when you say "ALL THINGS". ALL mankind has fallen, has sinned, is without hope or ground or merit to escape, before the God of glory whose magnificence is turned to nothing or to mere fantasy. ALL are the object of this STATED and unequivocal desire of God. The departed spirits, their time overlooked, since the Gospel work, though foretold, was not yet, are not overlooked, but the recipients of the proclamation of the Gospel. Is there then a case that all who are the elect will infallibly hear the Gospel on this earth ?
No, for some who WOULD have come to Christ IF they had heard the Gospel, and this IN HIS opinion is so, then there are those to whom the defined love of God extends. He would have these and will not be baulked by circumstances, these under His control. His overlooking times is not overlooking people. Thus here we have both a FACT (they would have thoroughly repented) and a PRINCIPLE, that HE WOULD HAVE ALL reconciled. Let us not take lightly what God says!
Let us follow this on. What verb is used for His 'preaching' to the spirits in prison, in I Peter 3. It is one in Greek khrussw, indicative of an announcement or proclamation (as in Isaiah 52:7). It is used in Matthew 11:1 and Romans 10:25. In the one case, it concerns Christ's preaching and in the other the question, How shall they believe without a preacher ?
In the former (11:1), it is used of Christ's personal going to "PREACH AND TO TEACH IN THEIR CITIES." Indeed, the denominative from that very word in English, preaching (what is preached), in Greek, khrugma, is used as the store and stock of the Gospel. It is found, for example, in Matthew 12:41. There is an initial proclamation. It is found in Titus 1:3, the teaching committed to Paul. This is the New Testament norm, since this is the mature content of preaching the Gospel, the whole point of the emphasis in terms of content in focus. Verb or denominative, this is the nature of the term used concerning Christ. If it is Christ, THIS is the content, His Person, work and wonder, His salvation and the burden of it, gloriously now delivered to man. If the concern is not specifically Christ, then that is the point; but here, it is!
It is this action which Christ took in addressing the departed spirits in prison. This was the evangelical thrust of the proclamatory terms, so used in the New Testament notably with this point in view, even at a high point of dissertation on the part of Paul, the apostle. Christ flings the khrugma to the spirits in their prison, in that he preaches, apparently as a life-line is thrown to those in the sea of tragedy, exuberant in His circuit of application by the very same Spirit which raised Him from the dead. Alive, He who was foretold in generations past, His work to be the pith of preaching to those to come (as in Psalm 22 as it ends), extended His wing to those ignorant in the past, however wicked, for none is good enough to escape hell, without the Lord of Escapes, the Messiah.
These elements in view, let us further consider the case, in review.
In I Peter 3, Christ's progress is thus seen not into regress into history, for the whole thrust is unique action and its reason and results; but in terms consistent, moving into an even broader circuit of this domain and another, which could not be cut off, because it was once only, that He died. Quite to the contrary, just as He died ONCE, and did the work ONCE, and rose once, so the APPLICATION is vast and numerous, not limited any more than Colossians 1:19ff. would have it, to this or that age or realm. Here, then, in this respect, even to those condemned for disobedience in former times, even when as with Jerusalem on this earth, there case beyond it might seem hopeless: to these He went, the surge of the application remorseless: even to those in that plight, so great was His enduring determination out of love and duty, He went.
He came. He acted in time uniquely. He provided. He did it for a reason. In terms of that same reason, He did not stop in this point of the sequence, but proceeded to the very realm of the departed, to proclaim what He had done, to apply what He had achieved, to show that the Almighty is no respecter of persons, to find the findable, in prison but not yet finally consigned, not in purgatory but in waiting till His arrest of judgment of all time, should be made known, and their finale in destiny should thus come, before the Great Day of Judgment should reveal all.
It is true that this could be part of an example, if it meant that He even preached in earlier times, seeking deliverance of those who would in fact be condemned and reside in a spiritual prison, and that this had been part, if you will, of His past repertoire; but this would rupture sequence, distort thrust of positive salvation, cut the path of triumph (theirs was a cut case of drowning), ignore the contextual concentration, bring in a new element not even hinted at in the text, and constitute a novelty for those who insert. Indeed, , the movement would be so sudden a disruption of the progressive sequence of time*2 and it would require such a violation of the statement concerning the nature of those to whom He preached, 'spirits in prison', if you like the nature of His congregation to be indicated, as to seem more than artificial. It would be a rather spectacular eisegesis.
We are progressing in our resumé of relevant action on the part of the Redeemer, everything clear-cut and straightforward, and are asked then by those who so interpret this passage, to believe that suddenly it changes without warning, without even the simple word 'now' being added, which would have at least distinguished the congregation in question from the description just given of them, and then proceeds to mention the time when this was done, when they were not spirits in prison!
Indeed, it even proceeds to add 'some time', as if this is not to the basic point in any case. It is not when they sinned that is the point, though it is noted, it is that He WENT to them to seek for them what might be, in the same Spirit which raised Him to life. Whom ? The spirits in prison, that is whom.
Thus the threefold violation involved in the idea that He ONCE went and preached to those NOT then in prison, but now in it - of the description of His congregation in a chronologically progressive text, the forward thrust in time sustained so far in it, the failure to use a simple term to remove the current applicability of the description of the congregation - is not to be desired. It is to add to the setting, sentence and scene, and ignore what is NOT added.
We conclude therefore that Christ in the time before His return to earth, by the Spirit which raised Him from the dead, descended into hell as the apostles' creed puts it, moving as it were heaven and earth to unearth or detach ANYONE ANYWHERE who could be delivered, not bound by circumstance, but circumventing particulars, moved as love does, to the extremities of His domains with the flush of resurrection power and proof, if by any means anyone anywhere might be won.
Not satisfied with the exposure in time, in His love, though abundantly satisfied with the ONCE FOR ALL character of the redemption there obtained, He shows how applicable are His words of John 15, that if they had not heard His words they would have no sin - others are not ignored. Former history is not despised. It is invested, it is summoned, the challenge is put in the broadest environment, and the surge will go on, whether in heaven or on earth, wherever; for the love of God is rich and full, pure and wonderful, He delights in mercy, and in Christ, has wept for the lost.
Does this mean a second chance, as the terminology has it ? Not at all. There is NO chance for ANYONE. It is foreknown and predestined. It is the application of predestination in a currency of the contemporary - foreknown itself of course - in such a passion of presentation as befits the urgency and the wonder of the love which impelled Him, so ardently expressed in Matthew 23:37ff., and Luke 19:42ff.. It fits to a wonder with Colossians 1:19ff., where it PLEASED THE FATHER firstly, that in Christ should all the FULNESS of Godhead dwell, secondly, that He thus come, should as deity in human form bring and thrust forward peace, by this, His blood on the cross.
Next in Colossians 1, and thirdly, this forward thrust was made applicable, also according to this same good pleasure of the Father, not only to things on earth, but in heaven; and the purpose, fourthly, was that all things might be reconciled. The 'all things' term is all inclusive. There is no stay to His love, no blemish in its purity, no selfishness of preference, as by one prejudiced. HE would have ALL things whether in heaven or on earth reconciled to Himself.
What I Peter 3 here says, and what Colossians 1 declare are of one mould, of one passion, and the language, if not subjected to eisegesis, coheres. I Peter 4 continues, indeed, the consideration of suffering through the example of the incarnate, living Christ. It is its height and depth, exemplary, sufficient, amazing, which is the sustained topic, the incarnation and its resident actions the focus, the movement as outlined, the grandeur not limited; for He is not willing that ANY should perish as II Peter 3:9 continues to declare. He is as practical as the cross, as enveloping in His desire as heaven and earth, and no frontier can dispel His dynamic, nor any time limit His fashioning hand, nor any event disclose a different mien, a lapse, a relative lack of interest; for the contrary is the case both in principle and in practice as indisputably stated, and as here exemplified.
NOTES for Appendix from Ch. 5
See The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch. 4, at the heading, "Spirits in Prison."
See for example:
Great Execrations ... Greater Grace Ch. 3 (and Paul), 7 and 9,
The Glow ... Ch. 4,
Beauty of Holiness Ch. 2 (John 3:16);
Christ's Ineffable Peace ... Ch. 2,
The Christian Pilgrimage ... Ch. 3,
The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4.
Not only are there the elements in the progressive sequence in time, already noted, but the text, having noted that the congregation to which Christ went in this same Spirit and preached, the spirits in prison were there for a reason, their disobedience in a former time, and applying their refusal to enter the ark to our need to enter another 'ark', that of this same Christ, proceeds in the chronological sequences. It does this by noting that the good conscience in Christ THROUGH HIS RESURRECTION, which is the declared essence of baptism, is that of Him who "has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God".
It completes the chronology of this glorious international and multi-dominion circuit of Christ the Saviour, by adding that angels and powers are in this, made subject to Him.
To interfere with this entire sweep of majesty, from its lowliness to its lordliness, would seem a proposition not to be entertained, in deference to the criteria of the text. It cannot readily bear any such treatment, violating its conditions, flow and mode of description.
Resumption of Notes for Ch. 7 of Logos Uncreated ...
A Marvellous Mystery to Relish, and that with good reason
A wonderful thing is this, that there is no mystery in the disposition of the Lord to love. As in John 3, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2:1ff., Ezekiel 33:11, I John 4, there is an exclusion of what is not love as an integral, final and total characterisation of God. He IS love, so that nothing contrary is to be found impelling, compelling, constraining, inclining or directing Him. If in the end, some align themselves with unmitigated horror, so that what is to be loved is permanently (Isaiah 57:15-17) seared, even their souls, inoperably scarred as in Hebrews 6, then the thing, the lost thing that is left is by its own preference outcast, as foreknown, from the operable domain of divine love. It becomes odious in nature, not by preference divine, for God loved us while we were yet sinners and His incarnate and eternal word died on our behalf (Romans 5, Acts 20:28) and would have ALL to be reconciled to Him, to come to a knowledge of the truth, to be saved. What HE would have, He STATES; what some gain in devolution and dismissal of the divine, their essential liberty secures. It is s sad security that they thus grasp; but it is a free rendition.
Rendered incompetent as fallen from this wonder as first given man in the creation (John 1:3), yet liberty is not irrelevant in mankind, for God knew before the fall of man, before our time, before creation, and He knew His own where His love reached, even before sin rendered comparable purities relevant, since sin had not then reached; indeed it was in His own total knowledge, not kept from Him, who were His and whom His love reached; and so He secured it. That was, as it is, the grand security! (II Timothy 1:9-12). In addition to His vast outpouring of love, there is the special purpose He has for each one saved. Love is like that, the love of God.
The nature of God as revealed, must be delivered from dalliance, however popular, with mysterious inventions of theologians or others, in terms of His love, just as from those of Arminians, in terms of man's autonomy. He knows, He loves, He discerns, He draws, He has secured His own, having desired ALL as He states, and these freely, not in verbal abuse of the term, but in reality and so these are His. So does freedom, as in the creation in His own image, prosper; and divine sovereignty, which has SUCH a love as this by divine statement, fulfil itself to the uttermost in perfection. How sadly limps this world in condign disasters, cumulative consequences, cultures and kings, philosophies and confusions abounding, as souls jarring, whole bodies of persons perish! Yet His word has gone forth as in Psalm 68:11, by His command as in Matthew 28:18ff.. How unlovely are the results of consolidated unbelief that glories in its darkness, as those blind that love to speak of sight! (cf. for example, SMR Ch. 3, and in contrast Ch. 5).
The mystery is not how He does NOT love enough, for this is the express point of John 3, that He does love to the uttermost, and that the target of it is the whole world, moreover that He did not even include in His coming, the desire to condemn it, but rather came to exclude this very thing, on the stated terms of His granted passage for escape. It IS selective, but in the STATED manner, that while He did not come to condemn the world, YET there is a condemnation, and it is for a ground, and it does have a principle, and that principle is explicitly stated, in the very context of the thrust of divine love, in John 3. It is to be found in John 3:19.
It is that the light has come into the world (cf. John 8:12, 9:5), that of the Saviour on whom John has at length dwelt, defining the light thus in John 1, and men have preferred darkness to this light. Instead of marring these divine statements, one must admire them. Instead of constructing theologies in precise contradiction of this point, as some do, leaving open what God has closed, and mysterious what He has utterly clarified: it is better, with delight and relish to accept the magnitude and quality of the love of the Sovereign! It is the failure to perceive this dramatic divine exclusion of responsibility or vulnerability to any thought that might accuse Him of not having DONE enough to SHOW His love, its extent and portent, that so often mars the testimony, blighting the Apologetics and maiming the wonder of it.
There IS a mystery about this love of God, to be sure; but it is not its dismissal in the brilliant quality and extent stated; it lies rather in the nature of its presence. This is not an intellectual difficulty, but a ground for pondering for the soul, for the spirit of man. How COULD God SO love such unloveliness! How wonderful, what a psychic thrill this has provided, what an attestation is discover in this, what ground for exultation and exaltation of the Lord is this that we find ...
The mystery, then, is how He can love such fallen creatures as mankind has become, at all! He does not have to love. There is no compulsion on God. It is His business entirely whether He will exclude by law and leave it at that; or not. It is ONLY because He has TOLD us, that we find His merciful nature. He states it in His verified word (cf. *4 in Ch. 6 above), and shows it in His open actions before man, having predicted them so that all might know with the same openness, that what was to be, and so ordered, duly happened with precision. So it was, though it was a price beyond measure that He came to pay, in this fulfilment: yet this as in else, He was faithful. As He is to the end, it was from the beginning. His very name is faithful (Revelation 19).
It is so with God, always so.
In His omniscience, He has not been taken by surprise at developments. He STILL proceeded to create, despite the unloveliness of what He would love despite the insidious and invidious self-devaluation, the depreciation and desolation in the fall of man, through man's abuse of liberty. This too He foreknew, having already chosen in Christ His own. This choosing is not from a changing God (Psalm 102, Malachi 3:6, James 1), as if He were a creature dependent on constituents within or without. The Eternal God chose His own WITH that same love in action, which Christ as the express image of the Father, exhibited in weeping and lamenting for a fallen Jerusalem, an ancient city which insisted to the last on avoiding the unimaginably magnificent mercy, secured in lofty wonder at vast cost.
Indeed, as He prepared to pay on the cross, He wept for what not only the immediate present, but for coming generations would avoid the reprieve, fail to repent of the exclusion zone of its follies, and face horror which He was stretching His hand, indeed both of His hands and feet, to meet! (Matthew 23:37ff., Luke 19:42ff.).
That is the mystery, the sheer profundity of His love, its purity, its therapeutic passion, its yearning and its longing. We see something of this in much of parenting in many kinds of creation, and in some love of friends that becomes sacrificial in spirit; but in God Himself it is alpha and omega, the centre and the outskirts, the elemental and the quintessential. It is a beautiful mystery, to stir the heart, ennoble the thoughts, invite love in response and delight the mind.