Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Changed from glory to glory" (IV-b): Should we blame God for our shortcomings?

"For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such
things are in his mind."
(Job 23:14)
Before we advance to the next main topic of this series which concerns about our role in the process (i.e. sanctification), I would first want to clarify an important matter in relation to what has been laid down in the previous entries, especially the last one. (Originally, there were two misconceptions that I wanted to discuss in this paper, but I ended up treating only one because the second objection is essentially in connection to the central topic of our next treatment).

The Objection

In my previous installment for this series, I have proven from Scripture that it is wholly God's gift, by the inner working of His Spirit in us, that we desire and do that which pleases Him. This is clear in Paul's words: "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Php. 2:13); and again, "For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" (1 Cor. 4:7); and again, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me" (1 Cor. 15:10).

Yet, however God-glorifying and truly humbling to the soul this truth is, it is also prone to perversion like many other Christian doctrines. Some people, due to their ignorance of Scripture, object: "If it is God's gift that we desire and do His will, then our sinning is evidently a consequence of God's withholding that gift from us. Therefore, when we do well - God receives the praise, but He should also receive the blame for our shortcomings."

Our Reply

The proper response to objections of this kind is to show the utter falleness of mankind and God's sovereignty in dispensing His mercy to whomever He wills. True, God has created man with a free determination of will with regards to both good and evil, but man's freedom to live rightly was lost in him when he sinned. Consider the following verses:
 "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Gen. 6:5)
"See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes." (Ec. 7:29)
"This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead." (Ec. 9:3)
"For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one'." (Rom. 3:9-12) 
So it is man's own fault that he is now enslaved by "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2) and is utterly incapable of loving God and desiring to walk in His righteousness (Jer. 13:23). With this in mind, it should be clear that every good quality that we have which pertains to holiness (e.g., faith, love of God, strong will for obedience, perseverance, etc) are all God's gift since we don't have in us the natural capacity to produce them. For "which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (Jn. 3:6). But it is argued that anyone denied with any of these gifts can justly blame God for his sinning or shortcomings. Is that so?

Consider this illustration:

Suppose you and a friend of yours owe me P10 million each. In order for both of you to keep up with my regular collection of payback, and because I'm a good guy, I have also provided each of you a business to run for yourselves so both of you can earn sufficient money to pay me. Unfortunately, after a week, you ended up financially drained and bankrupt due to deliberate over-spending and gambling. The same thing happened to your friend. Now there's no way you and your friend can pay your debts, and I'm about ready to sue both of you.

First question: Is it against justice if I will pursue sending you to prison due to your inability to pay the money you owe me? Obviously not. Why? Because in the first place, it wasn't my fault that you lost the capacity to pay! In fact, I myself have provided the means by which you can earn money in order to pay me, though it was never a money-lender's obligation to do so. It was you who wasted your resources, and according to law you deserve to be punished!

Now suppose I'm gonna give your friend (who is in the same financially bankrupt condition as yours) a special favor. I will absolve his debts so he would no longer be liable to prison, and in addition to that, will make him heir to my billion-peso-worth of properties and real estate. Meanwhile, on the other hand, you will remain financially bankrupt, unable to pay your debts, and with a lawsuit filed against you.

My next question is this: Is it against justice if I do this? Is it unlawful for me to have material favor on whomever I like? Absolutely not! Why? Because common-sense tells us that I have every right to do whatever I wanna do with my own things, and I'm not bound to give anyone anything materially, especially those who have offended me!

Another question: Can you ever justly blame me of your own financial bankruptcy merely on account of my refusal to give you the same favor I gave your friend? Plain common-sense will tells us again: Absolutely not!  Again, it wasn't my fault that you were on that miserable condition; it was all yours! You cannot blame me for refusing to give you the same compassion I had on your friend. I don't owe you anything!

My point here, and I hope you're seeing it clearly already, is that God is not indebted to anyone in any way (Rom. 11:33-36). It is we who owe God our existence, and for that reason we are forever bound to glorify Him in all things. This is our eternal duty. Back in creation, God has given man all the means he would need to fulfill that duty. Man was endowed with all capability of will to live rightly. He had freedom. Yet man dissipated this gift by disobeying God and ended up entangling himself under the tyranny of Sin (Ec. 7:29; Eph. 2:1-3). Hence, in the final analysis, God cannot in any way be blamed on account of man's sinfulness since it was man's own fault that he lost his moral liberty.

Now God has every right to dispense His gifts on whomever He wants to give it according to His good pleasure. "For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy" (Rom. 9:15-16; cf. Dan. 4:35). God is absolutely just and His sovereignty is unrestricted when it comes to His giving the gift of faith, repentance, holiness, etc. to whomever He wills (Mat. 20:15).

Therefore, in the case of those who believed the Gospel and are striving to live according to God's law out of love for their Savior, boasting is excluded because it is "God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (1 Cor. 3:7; cf. 1 Cor. 4:7). In sinning, however, everyone must acknowledge their full accountability.

Lastly, if there's anyone who still wishes to pry against this biblical truth, putting forth questions like:"Why [then] does [God] still find fault? For who can resist his will" (Rom. 9:19), let the apostle St. Paul himself rebuke them: "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?" (Rom. 9:20-21).

In my next installment, I will center around our role as Christians in our sanctification in holiness. God bless and stay tuned!

To God be the glory! Amen!

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