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Our Involvement in the Origin of Sin

Editor’s Note:  This is the continuation of the previous blog post.

Why couldn’t each of us have had the opportunity to make up his or her own mind? Some optimists say that a baby born has as much choice as Adam.  Suppose that were true.  It wouldn’t matter much.  A baby still wouldn’t have a chance.  The problem is still there.  Everything is against it.  It is surrounded by sinful people.  This unity of the human race was intended for good — the fact that we are all in it together.  Let us suppose now that Adam had kept the so called “covenant of works” and had resisted Satan, then you and I wouldn’t have had to undergo the test.  We would have been born incapable to sin.  If that was the case, no one would protest and say “I want to decide this for myself.  I want to have the chance of failure.” In spite of Adam’s fall we have many advantages because Adam is our father.  Suppose if one of us had to start from scratch and say “I don’t want to receive anything from my forefathers.”  If we did we would be living in caves and wearing furs — if we were fortunate enough to kill an animal.  Even if we lived a long life we wouldn’t ever be able to begin to invent anything, electricity and the like.  No one generation would live long enough on the earth to accomplish an invention.  That is in spite of all of the sin in the world.  God intended that the unanimity of the human race would be the source of endless good.  Satan took advantage of this wonderful society.  Hence the sins of the fathers must be upon the children.  Years ago if the well in your back yard was contaminated you would ask your neighbor if you could take some water from his well.  Each well had an individual source.  If the city water supply’s contaminated I couldn’t go next door and use their faucet for some good water, because it all comes from the same source.

Here is a wonderful thing.  God always has the last word.  He did in the case of Cain and Abel, and again with Eve — faith handed down.  When God said, “In pain and sorrow shall you bring forth children,” he was speaking a fact, rather than a curse.  It is by means of motherhood that a Savior came.  The angels all fell individually and they stayed fallen — no Jesus could come because they had no children and because there is no family.

Christ could have come into the world and still no one would be saved.  God has to change a heart.  We have to be born twice, and here is an amazing thing:  God can choose whomever he wants.  He doesn’t blindfold himself and pick us at random.  He works along family lines.

The form of baptism [in the Christian Reformed Church] isn’t inspired but it is inspiring.  “Although our children do not understand these things, we may not therefore exclude them from baptism, since they are without their knowledge partakers of the condemnation in Adam, and so again are received unto grace in Christ; as God speaks unto Abraham, the father of all believers, and therefore also to us and our children, saying; ‘I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their their generation for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.’ ” (Gen. 17:7)

Lest someone say, “Oh, that is the Old Testament dispensation,” it is also in the New Testament where Peter says in Acts 2:39, “For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto Him.”

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Origin of Sin

All of us take it that God made this universe perfect.  “Behold it is very good.”  God must be incapable of making  anything imperfect.  Here is the problem – Why didn’t God leave well enough alone?  None of us would go so far as to say, “Why did God make sin?” And yet we say, “Why did God let it happen?”  We say, “God allowed it.”  Whether he commanded, or planned it, it is not just a theological thing; we must think over this meaning.  It involves our will.  If it isn’t our responsibility we can say, “Well, we can’t help it.  God is responsible.”  That is why we have to answer this question to see if God is responsible or not.  When we say “Why didn’t God leave well enough alone,” we think that Adam was apparently perfect, but he wasn’t.  For example, a pediatrician would say about one of the babies in the nursery, “This baby is perfect,” and not one of the parents would say, “I hope this child stays this way.”  This is a relative thing.  They wouldn’t want that baby to stay a perfect 2 months old, but would want it to become a perfect 4 month old, etc.

Adam was spiritually a child.  If you will permit an illustration:  Our high school and local colleges recently had their examinations, and they aren’t particularly pleasant for the student or for the teacher.  It means a lot of extra work for both the teacher and pupil.  Why do it then?  It is by means of these tests and examinations that they grow and learn more — so it is by means of the possibility of failure that Adam would grow and become a man.  I think every one of us feels that a person who has resisted temptation is a better man thereafter.  I don’t know whether one can logically speak of more perfection, but Adam would have become more perfect if he succeeded in this temptation.  If he had not sinned he would have been confirmed in holiness.  Even the least thought of evil would not have entered his mind, just as the Lord Jesus while he was here on earth – like the angels, who are finite creatures, are incapable of the least sin, they would have worked out their claim to heaven, eternal salvation.

We often speak of paradise as a picture of heaven, but that is just what it is; a picture.  Heaven would have been a step ahead.  They would have gained glory.  That is what God arranged.  Adam and Even were completely capable of that.  They could have said to Satan, “Get thee behind me,” as Christ had done.  Let us not blame God for what he is not responsible.

That is all good and nice, but you are just talking, “Might have been.”  “Why didn’t God make it so that they couldn’t have sinned?”  If God had done that there would not have been free choice, and man would have been merely a puppet in God’s hands.  The very fact that man did not do what God wanted him to do shows how free and independent he was.  Otherwise God would be like a ventriloquist.  An English writer says that sin or failure in the garden of Eden is the risk God ran in order that God could make a creature like himself, self reliant.  The problem of free will as over against predestination comes in here, and the answer is that man is free.  The Bible says that deliberately, lest some people escape their responsibility.  The fact is that there isn’t a soul here that doesn’t act deliberately.

It is true that God knew that man would disobey, and allow me to say, that God planned it that way, but God planned beyond that too, that out of this tragedy would come something better.  The Chicago fire long ago was a blessing because it was through this that better and stronger buildings were built, etc.  Out of the fall came a saved saint, which is an advantage.  If the first Adam hadn’t fallen, Jesus would have never come.  We wouldn’t know anything about the wonderful attributes of Jesus.  We wouldn’t know that we are on a higher level then Adam and Even were in Paradise.  We have eternal life in our hearts.

 

Different Degrees of Glory

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of the Lord.      Matthew 25:21

Sometimes people ask how it will be possible to be perfect in heaven and still keep growing in knowledge and in likeness to our Lord.  Well, Jesus was perfect from the moment that He was born, and yet the Bible says that He grew not only in stature but in wisdom.

Similarly, when we reach heaven we will be perfect.  But every “day” in heaven we will also keep on growing and learning, and heaven will never become dull because that growth will have no limits.

This means too that there will not be monotonous uniformity in the hereafter.  Just as there are differences among us here on earth, so there will be differences among the citizens of heaven.

It is a strange fact that, while most people are eager to outdo the other person here upon earth and are rarely satisfied with present accomplishments and attainments, many Christians are quite content with the thought that they’ll get into glory, by grace, and are quite unconcerned as to what their station there will be.

Perhaps they are unconsciously thinking of the parable of the laborers who received the same wage at the end of the day despite the fact that some worked many more hours than others.  But this parable only intends to teach us that whether we are young or old upon conversion or young or old when we die we shall all be perfect and completely happy in heaven.  But the parable of the pounds is designed to tell us that our stations in glory will vary tremendously, and they are being determined right now by our degree of faithfulness here upon earth.  Why should anybody be satisfied with barely getting in?

Heaven

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.       Revelation 21:1

What is it that will make heaven such a marvelous state to be in?  Sometimes we think it is the lovely surroundings — the sights and sounds, the company of our loved ones, and the absence of sickness and even fatigue.  Others say that it is the privilege of being forever in the presence of God.  But as far as we are concerned the “best” part is that we shall be perfect.  If we were to be thrust into the joys of heaven right now we would be no more capable of enjoying its pleasures than a child at a symphony or a dog in an art gallery.  And the reason why we shall be perfect is that finally, for the first, we shall enjoy full communion with the Lord whose presence completely transforms.  In the beautiful third chapter of First John the beloved disciple says that we shall be like God for we shall see Him as He is.  Just as the moon in its full phase is big, bright, and beautiful because it is looking full into the face of the sun, we shall be like God by reflecting His perfection.

This makes all other conceptions of heaven pale into insignificant “pie in the sky.”  Just think: we will be as superior to our present selves as a butterfly is to a worm, almost as superior as human beings are to dogs.  Imagine what it will be like to have never an evil thought, a temper tantrum, a jealous mood, a dark depression, or even a wisp of temptation.  We shall scarcely know ourselves for the pure wonder of it.  “Can this be I?” will be our waking exclamation when we open our eyes in glory.  Mental telepathy and whatever other wonders God may have in store for us in perfection will be possible only because then we are what we are.

The End of the World

“…The heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.”                  II Peter 3:10

The title of this meditation might more accurately be, The end of the world as we know it, for the Lord will not destroy His once-perfect creation but rather renew or refashion it, just as in the days of Noah He wiped it clean of tis viciousness and gave it a new beginning.  John says, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth.”

It is quite evident from many passages in Scripture that the medium by which God will refurbish or renew the world will be fire.  What this fire will be like we cannot definitely say.  But it is strange that the inspired language which was used by Peter, the unlettered fisherman, two thousand years ago, has an amazingly modern ring to it in this atomic age.  Imagine talking about “elements” in an era that did not know about molecules and atoms!  True, Peter was not consciously referring to the 100 plus elements that we now list on the atomic table, but, as more than one nuclear scientist has pointed out, Peter’s description of the world-dissolution sounds like a newspaper account of the atomic-bomb explosions.  “The elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and then works that are therein shall be burned up.”

This is not to say that the earth will come to an end by some chain reaction as was feared in measure at the time of the early atomic experiments, though it would be poetic justice if God were to let man be the means of his own destruction.  It is enough to know that, terrible as are thermonuclear bombs, more terrible is the certain destruction of all that is unfit for the kingdom of God.

In The Last Days

In the last days…men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, inhuman, slanderers, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding a form of religion but denying the power thereof.     II Timothy 3:1-5

In the letter that Paul wrote his friend Timothy he predicts our days with such exactness that one would think he were reading the newspaper headlines or the titles of this month’s magazine articles.  Every phrase fits our times to a “T”.

There are three features of our times particularly that make one think of this as “the end time.”  Our pursuit of pleasure makes the ancient Romans look like dull drudges by comparison.  Our eating habits make the Epicureans seem like ascetics.  We have spectator sports for every season of the year.  We spend far more on golfing, bowling, boating and travel than for charity.  Our liquor bill wildly exceeds our contributions for missions.

“Ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth” is an apt description of an age in which science is making enormous strides and college is a commonplace, but the knowledge of God is on the decrease and great universities that were founded to teach Christianity now boast atheists on their faculties.

Worse, we live in days of popularity of religion.  Church news is on the front page.  Church membership is at an all-time high.  But church attendance lags far behind, and gospel preaching is an increasing rarity in the mushrooming church buildings burgeoning all over the suburbs.  “A form of godliness without the power.”  Elaborate and highly efficient church organizations without piety.  Ecclesiastical machinery without any spiritual steam.

Eternal Rest

So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God.       Hebrews 4:9

The purpose of Jesus’ first advent may correctly be described as in order to bring rest into the world.  “Our souls are restless,” cried St. Augustine, “until they find their rest in Thee.”  Jesus great invitation to the masses was couched in the words, “Come unto me,…. and I will give you rest.”

In a far fuller sense it may be said that Jesus’ second coming will be in order to initiate perfect and complete rest, of which the Sabbath day at the end of the creation week was just a faint picture.  In both the Old and New Testaments heaven is spoken of as our eternal rest.  The book of Revelation declares that already now those who are at home with the Lord are blessed because “they rest from their labors.”

This does not mean that heaven is a place of idleness.  To the contrary, the saints in glory are described as serving God day and night, indicating the absence of all fatigue and monotony.  But in that delightful busyness they find self-satisfaction, fulfillment, contentment – in a word, rest.  Heaven is the discovery to the full that Christ’s service is easy and His burden is light.

The godless, by contrast, will enter upon a state that can be scribed as eternal restlessness.  “They rest not day nor night” is the doleful description of hell.  Even the little so-called rest that the unbeliever experiences here upon earth (for they are by nature a restless people) will be taken away when the great separation takes place.

Today is supposed to be a day of rest, a sample of heaven according to a well known gospel hymn.  Is it a day of rest for you and your family or a day of rust?