Searching out and exploring this topic may take some time to find the whole counsel of God that we must have. Why do I say that? Because we believers in God know that He is a just God in all things, for He is morally perfect in His being. Otherwise, He is not wholly God, yet the creation of all things, including mankind, testify differently—that He is God.
Some basic truths about God are necessary to begin this search: “God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent. Has He said and shall He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).
“God is spirit, and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
“… the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23b).
“…He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 27b-28a).
Therefore, it is not that God in Spirit moves about in His creation, but His creation moves about in His fullness, which fills all things! But we see that His attributes are in action in all things having to do with the world and mankind. For example, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2b). This was before the world was fully created, the very beginning of it. Then, God’s entry into moral history with the advent of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, therein a major example.
Psalm 90:2 divides the earth’s creation first, then the world: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting You are God.” Of course, in its first creation, the earth was without form and void, as Genesis 1:2 tells us. The world came alive as God began its creation, and the creation of time as well.
Those broad attributes of God, which are always in effect, are found in Psalm 139. He is all-knowing, “omniscient” (Psalm 139:1-6). He is everywhere present, “omnipresent” (Psalm 139:7-12). He is all-powerful, “omnipotent” (Psalm 139:13-18).
Now we come to the point of finding out how God’s justice remains intact for all matters that concern His creation, in particular, mankind. Let’s look at doctrinal issues where it appears that justice is not considered or seems to have been forgotten.
In Calvin’s TULIP acronym, Total Depravity is defined as man being totally without any spiritual content whatsoever. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 tells us. And leading up to that conclusion is a list of rejections of God found in Romans 3:10-18:
“As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit;
The poison of asps is under their lips;
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Sinfulness of man in his actions springs out of his heritage of death from Adam. A man sins because he is a sinner by nature. That’s what he does and why he does it. It says above, “There is none who seeks after God,” yet God says in Jeremiah 29:13, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” How, then, is that “seeking” accomplished? Let’s continue that search.
John wrote in 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” It is an echo of Satan’s temptation of Eve in Genesis 3 and of Christ’s temptation in Matthew 4:4 and following.
Then, in the TULIP acronym, the “U” represents Unconditional Election, as Peter addressed those believers, “To the … elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:1-2). The question that must be answered is how is God’s justice satisfied so that the election can be “unconditional,” which is the point of this article. (A hint: “Be born again?”) This is confirmed by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:10: “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” We will come to this in our search further.
We must look to the attributes of God and their effect upon His actions with mankind. His justice must be satisfied, for otherwise, any claim not justified in Him is automatically a false claim. It is contrary to His nature. That is the meaning of Psalm 9:10b, “Knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
It is mind-boggling to think on how and why God created mankind in His own image but left out the knowledge of good and evil. They acquired that knowledge through their own disobedience, along with death. (Genesis 3 tells what happened.) And why that way? Look at the first four words of the Bible: “In the beginning God…” He was all there was, and He filled all things. Only His morally perfect being existed. There was only good, and no evil existed to challenge that good. Then, He “created the heavens,” including all of the host of heaven, the angels, and Lucifer at the head of that host.
In Ezekiel 28:2 and following, the Lord gives a detailed account of how the highest angel of the host, with all his glory, became proud of himself and rebelled against God. He chose to oppose God with the purpose of taking God’s throne and authority. Note that this one, Lucifer, had the ability to choose to rebel against God. Why did God create him with that freedom of choice and not mankind? Isaiah tells in detail his purpose in his rebellion:
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High'” (Isaiah 14:12-14).
This introduction of evil into existence brings about that principle in physics known as “for every action, there is an equal reaction.” Therefore, it becomes true that when we sin, the just reaction is righteous judgment. It becomes apparent that all confrontations between members of the human race are traceable to that warfare between God and Satan. Consider the account of Job’s testing after the taunting of Satan to God that His greatest creation, made in His own image, would crumble under Satan’s testing. In short, Satan lost; God won! It is to God’s glory that Satan is defeated and will be thrown into the fires of hell for ever and ever.
It is a long story, but in God’s plan, it looks like His desire is to have a large family of adopted sons and daughters who have been redeemed from a Satanic captivity by that one who has opposed God from the very beginning of that evil one’s rebellion in heaven. Had God given Adam and Eve the knowledge of good and evil when they were created, would it have been likely that they would have gone the way of Lucifer and chosen evil without redemption?
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they then received the knowledge of good and evil; that is, they would know when they would do evil works that it was evil. And all mankind after them were to know that also. In James 4:17, it is written, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (I have told this example that when two drivers, one a believer and one a nonbeliever, run a red traffic light, both will look around to see if a traffic cop has seen them.) Again, as James said, “He who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
The passage that seems to be overlooked when Total Depravity of mankind is discussed is this one that brings into the picture how that Total Depravity transcends the gap to become an elected saint. It is Romans 2:13-16, and it gives God the opportunity to show His justice in His dealing with mankind:
“(For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”
It is the knowledge of good and evil which has been ingrained in the consciences of every person born of Adam. This hook, so to speak, in man’s conscience is God’s way to bring man to really know his sin and be drawn to accept Christ to save him. And I am saying that this is the missing link between Total Depravity and Unconditional Election. It is the meaning of what Jesus tells us in John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Follow the account of Saul of Tarsus when he was saved on the road to Damascus, told in Acts 9. Likewise, it was the same manner in yours and my own consciences when you and I were born again in Christ.
And as James 4:17 says above, “he who knows to do good and does it not” is sinning before God. Those who never hear of Christ and His gospel are under this principle or natural rule as well, and God’s justice is served as the person does not do what he knows is right, even in far-off places. Mankind is responsible to God for his actions. But His attributes are also positive always for those who turn to Him in their struggles.
(Part 2 will continue these thoughts.)
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