This edition of our study was delayed. In our last lesson we asked, “If God be for us, who can be against us? It is really meant as a rhetorical question because there is no other answer other than no one. No one can resist God. He who created all things and orders even the minute functions of the universe is supreme over everything. That does not mean that people and spiritual entities (Satan is an obvious example) do not try act against us, but their efforts are doomed to failure, no matter how successful they might seem at first, no matter how difficult our trials and tribulations might seem. But before we get into the second half of the 18th chapter, The Heart Of The Gospel, we need to do our regular housekeeping function. If you are new to this study, you can find all of the previous lessons using the Knowing God category link. There are also study materials for the book available at william.meisheid.com.
Right after the events in London I wrote an article which included a prayer inspired by a famous chant from the main character in the science fiction novel Dune. Since some of you will not have read that posting I will repeat the prayer here, because I believe it is appropriate to the question of “who can be against us,” especially in relation to the fear that opposition to the gospel can generate. The devil and his fellow-travelers are not playing tiddlywinks.
I will not fear
For fear diminishes my soul.
Though I walk through the valley of death
I will not fear.
Though all the forces of evil array against me
I will not fear.
Though my life is forfeit and my body destroyed
I will not fear.
For the peace that passes understanding comforts me.
The joy that is unspeakable consumes my soul.
The fire of the Spirit of the Living God resides within me.
Grace beyond measure is my birthright.
For I know that my Redeemer lives
And absolutely know that I will see him on the last day.
Nothing in all of creation can change my eternal destiny.
So Christian, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees
And you will mount up with wings as eagles.
You will run and not be weary; walk, and not be faint
For your God is the Lord, and your Savior is Christ Jesus.
Mankind’s primary fear is death, including nonbeing and the death of self. Secondary to that fear is the pain and suffering associated with living in a fallen world driven by the evil that operates within the limits set by the providence of God. Lastly there is the overriding concern of judgment. While death is inevitable and pain and suffering is endemic to the human condition the authors of Hebrews and Revelation make it very clear we will all be also be judged.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment… Hebrews 9:27
I also saw all the dead people standing in front of that throne. Every one of them was there, no matter who they had once been. Revelation 20:12a
In the second half of this chapter Packer points out how looking from the vantage point of propitiation, the entirty of the Bible comes into perspective and then proceeds to touch on five key matters illuminated by that truth.
1. The driving force in the life of Jesus. Packer suggest reading the Gospel of Mark straight through. From that exercise four things about Jesus will become clear.
1) Jesus is a man of action. Jesus did not wait for the lost to come to him, but went out and engaged the wandering sheep of the house of Israel, teaching, preaching, healing, and proclaiming the kingdom.
2) Jesus knew himself to be the Son of God. The closer his disciples came to him the more they had to deal with his divinity, the more they came to see him as their savior and God.
3) He knew he was to die to fulfill his messianic mission. He predicted his death and considered it the purpose for which he came. His blood was to be the covenantal ransom.
4) He considered his approaching sacrificial death a fearful ordeal. One way of coming to grips with the immensity of his sacrifice is to examine how difficult it was for him to face it. If nothing else this should give you an idea of the absolute depravity of sin and how fundamentally God abhors it. The follow on of course is our complete inability to deal with it by our own efforts.
2. The destiny of those who reject God. To put it simply, we reap what we sow. There is no way to form an adequate understanding of hell, except that it exists and encompasses the pain and grief Jesus experienced on the cross, including that soul-wrenching sense of loss (My God; my God; why have you forsaken me?).
3. God’s gift of peace. In discussing the nature of peace, Packer makes an interesting observation: right words do not guarantee right thoughts. God’s peace is not a mere inner tranquility or a sense of happiness or any of the other myriad emotionally centered things people claim it to be. It is instead power, power to live out our Christian life despite our failings and weaknesses. It is also, and this is primary, peace with God. It is as Packer notes, the state of God being for us, instead of against us. It is a new relationship with God, harkening back to the original purpose of our creation.
4. The dimensions of God’s love. We like the Ephesians have a problem grasping the full extent of God’s love. It is inexpressively great, yet we try to express its greatness. When we grasp the full dimension of God’s love we are able to see the cross and Christ’s sacrifice as its centerpiece, freely given, freely received.
5. The meaning of God’s glory. God’s glory is centered in the act of redemption. Calvary exposes its heart, becoming a rising hymn to the Lamb who was slain.
The heart of the Gospel is the heart of sacrifice, the act of propitiation in which the unfathomable love of God gives worth to the worthless, freedom to the bound, and life to the dead. Are you counted among the recipients? If not, open your heart and be counted and enter into the state of having no fear, being able to say, I fear not, for God is for me; who can be against me?