Gary: In this segment, Understanding the Scriptures, we continue our exploration of the doctrine of salvation, with the focus on the Old Testament Book of Isaiah. Again, along with Dave Hunt, here’s T.A. McMahon.
Tom: If you’re a new listener to the program, in this segment we’ve been…well, it really has to do with doctrine. We want to look at doctrine and understand biblical doctrine as best we can. And we’re looking at the scriptures. We’ve been studying, discussing, wrestling through the Doctrine of Salvation, and, Dave, for the last couple of weeks we’ve addressed Isaiah 53, and we see what God has done for us—His incredible love, and the sacrifice that He made for His glory, but because He loves us.
But I have a question. Why couldn’t God, through His divine love and mercy, just simply forgive humanity?
Dave: Well, Tom, a lot of illustrations we could give, I suppose, but I often use this one. Here is a judge. He’s been presiding over the trial involving a young man, and this young man has been…the evidence has been produced, it’s been weighed by the jury—he’s been found guilty of, let’s say, multiple murders, or whatever…something horrible. And you and I are sitting in the back of the courtroom, but we’re concerned because obviously he’s going to get a very stiff penalty, probably the death penalty—well, let’s say that the law requires the death penalty. But someone leans over and whispers to us, “No, the judge is going to let him off, because this is the judge’s son!”
Well, that’s corruption, and a just judge can’t do that. And so the judge’s heart is tearing in his breast, you know. I mean, in his mind he can go back and think of the times when he tried to reprove his son; he loves his son, and he could remember the rebellion of his son, and so forth. But he loves his son. He wishes it never happened! He wishes somehow he could deliver him from the penalty, but he can’t, because his justice cannot be separated from his love, and love cannot override justice.
And that’s the way it is with God, and I’m not talking about God’s Son. In a sense, Adam was called the son of God. God created us, and He says of Israel in Isaiah 1, “I have brought forth children, and they rebelled against me.” So, God can’t just make a bookkeeping entry in heaven. We can’t be forgiven without the penalty being paid. You can’t even get off of a parking fine, you know, without the fine being paid. And if someone allows that, that’s corruption. It would be condemned in a court of law.
So, the Bible argues this point in Romans 3. Paul raises the question: How can God be just and yet justify sinners? And this is the message of the gospel—that it is only because Christ paid the penalty that God can justly forgive the sinner.
Tom: People who say, “Well, you know, a loving God wouldn’t do this.” Or, “A loving God wouldn’t do that.” But they have a concept of God that really has nothing to do with God. If God is who He claims to be, and what we understand about Him from His Word, He has to be perfectly just. He has to be absolutely loving. So those two absolute qualities have to be reconciled. And how does He reconcile them?
Dave: In His Son, through which the reconciliation is made with mankind. The Bible puts it very beautifully, Psalm 85. It says, “Mercy and Truth have met together…” There’s no real mercy without truth. If the truth hasn’t been laid bare, what are you forgiving the person of? What are you being merciful about? No, you’ve got to know the truth.
And then it says, “Righteousness and peace…” There has to be a righteous basis for peace. Otherwise it isn’t peace. And you remember of Jesus, in John 1, says, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” So grace comes when the truth has laid bare, and the truth is that we’re sinners! The truth is it isn’t God who did this. You can’t blame suffering and sickness and death and sin—rape and murder and pillage and wars—you can’t blame it upon God. Why would a loving God allow that? But it’s man has done that.
And, Tom, I don’t know if you remember, I had an old illustration—I just thought of it now. I haven’t thought of it in many, many years. Here’s a…and you would like it, because you’re a fisherman… A fish is looking out and it sees this man up on the shore with his legs crossed, smoking a cigar or whatever, and he’s got a fishing pole in his hand, and the fish looks up out of the water and says, “Man! That would really be living!”
And so it manages to jump out and wriggles its way up onto a chair somehow, and it’s in the process of trying to pick up a fishing pole and light a cigar, when it’s gasping for breath, and it flops around, falls off the chair, flopping around in the gravel and dirt, and somebody walking by says, “What kind of a loving God would create a fish to suffer like that?”
No, God didn’t create the fish to suffer like that. The problem is the fish got out of what God created it…the beautiful lake or river or ocean in which God created it, the fish rebelled against that and got out and tried to be something else.
God did not bring misery upon man. Man brought it upon himself. But…the difference between the God of the Bible and the god of, say, Karma, Reincarnation, for example, this God loves us so much He became one of us! He became a man. He’s not a sinful man. He’s never ceased to be God, and He’ll never cease to be man—He’s the one and only God/Man, and because of who He is, He came down to where we were. He was hated and persecuted. He lived a perfect, sinless life, and then He took our sins in His own body on the cross, the scripture says, and He paid the penalty that His own infinite justice required for sin, and it’s only because of that, that God can be just. And He can forgive those who believe in Jesus. He offers pardon, but He offers it on the basis of the price having been paid, and if anyone tries to pay, through church membership, good works, and so forth, you are rejecting the gift that God offers! It has to be accepted as a gift by unworthy people who can’t earn it or merit it, and that is the only basis by which God can forgive.
And, Tom, this is so contrary to every religion! It’s so contrary to false Christianity! For example, Catholicism—they say, yes, Christ did die for our sins. He did pay the penalty. He was buried, He rose again, He’s coming again, BUT, they say, in addition to that, we must also suffer for our sins! You know, Vatican II says that very clearly—the Council of Trent: “If anybody says that a repentant sinner, justified by grace, has been forgiven to such an extent he is no longer under an obligation to suffer for his own sins, either here or in purgatory, let him be anathema!”
Most people who go to church, they think that somehow by their works, their ritual that they’re going through, whatever, that they are somehow paying something for their sins. No! Christ paid the penalty, and if we don’t accept that, we try to add to it, we’re rejecting His payment for our sins. Rejecting the gift that God offers.
Tom: So, God did not create us, then create hell for us, and decide that this is where we’re going to spend eternity. This is something—I want to go back to your analogy of the fish—we’re not created for that. We were created to be in a loving relationship with Jesus Christ for eternity!
Dave: Right. I do believe we have the power of choice, Tom. We can’t escape that. The Bible says, “Whosoever will….” And He told Adam and Eve, “Don’t eat of that tree,” but they did it. So, it’s because we have the power of choice, and we chose, instead of loving God to love ourselves, to turn away from God. Without the power of choice, we couldn’t even love. That’s why we draw a heart on Valentine’s Day, because it comes from the heart.
A man can point a gun at a woman and say, “You will love me.”
“Oh, I love you! I love you!” But it means nothing. And God doesn’t want robots that He has wired to say, “I love you. I love you.” So, He gave us the power of choice so that we could, from our hearts, choose to love Him, to obey Him, because heaven is a place of love! It’s not that there’s some horrible ogre, God is, and he wants to rob us of all the fun, and his law… You know, the Bible says, “The Law of the Lord is perfect.” The Bible talks about the love of God towards us, because He wants the best for us. But people think they can do…they can choose the best.
So we chose self; we chose sin, because self is sin. It puts me in conflict with you, husband in conflict with his wife, parents in conflict with their children. Self-centeredness. This is what drives us. And we rebelled against God, and we’re in conflict with one another. There’s only one hope. To come back under willing submission to the true God, and that is only possible through Jesus Christ.
So, God didn’t bring it about. We brought it about. But He did everything He could to remedy the situation.
Tom: Dave, you know, I love Revelation:15:3. It says, “And they sing the Song of Moses, the servant of God, and the Song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and marveleous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of Saints!’”
Tom: Just and true. There’s a God we can depend on!