Monday, December 15, 2008

To the Praise of His Glory

by Bruce Mills

I taught Romans 5:12 in my Sunday School class yesterday. The text reads, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." Let me just say at the beginning that attempting to explain the complete interpretation of that verse would take far more space that would be reasonable for this blog.

But there was a rather significant question which arose from one of the ladies in the class. Although these were not her exact words, her question generally centered around the following concepts: "Why did God create man and allow him to sin? After all, God could have created man so that he would not or could not sin, so why would He foreordain to allow sin to come into the world?"

That is one of the most significant theological questions anyone can ask, because it focuses on the issue of the origin of sin and evil and why God allowed it to occur. God could have just wiped out Adam and Eve after they fell and started over. So why didn't He? Let me give you the only explanation which makes sense to my feeble, finite mind. These thoughts are not original with me, but they make this very difficult concept as understandable as is possible to the human mind.

We have to begin by considering God’s creation of the angels. Why did God create the angels? To give Him glory. But angels are incapable of fully understanding the character and nature of God. They were created in perfect holiness, so they understand God's attributes of holiness, righteousness, and majesty. But there are certain characteristics of God's nature that they don’t understand, including His grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. And yet those attributes are a part of the nature and character of God.

Why don’t they understand those attributes? Because they were created in holiness which means they have no need for God's forgiveness, grace, mercy, or compassion. Those characteristics only have meaning where there is the guilt feeling of sin, and a holy angel has no such feeling. Perhaps it is for that reason that the holy angels long to look into the gospel of salvation (1 Peter 1:12).

So holy angels were created to praise, glorify, and give honor to God, but they can only do so from a limited perspective because they were holy beings from the beginning. So there was a whole aspect of God’s nature which needed to be glorified, praised, and exalted that holy angels couldn’t understand.

But then the angels sinned and fell. Revelation 12:4 says a third of the angels followed Lucifer in his rebellion against God. And when they did that, they were damned to hell forever and were instantly unredeemable. No fallen angel was ever redeemed. No fallen angel was ever saved. No fallen angel was ever forgiven for that fall. Because angels were not created as procreative beings, but were individually created, they fell individually. And so they were damned forever. There is no possibility of redemption for fallen angels.

So there was a whole dimension of God's character that would never be praised and never be fully glorified unless God created some people who would have the capacity to fall, and then having fallen, could be redeemed. Then flowing out of their redemption would come an understanding of God’s grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.

We Christians understand those concepts because we know how guilty we were and how greatly our sin had offended God, and how great God's grace was in forgiving us of that sin. Where we have trouble in comprehending God's character is with the things the angels understand—God’s holiness, justice, righteousness, and perfection. Because we were born in sin and have never been absolutely holy, righteous, or perfect, we have trouble understanding those attributes. But we understand God's mercy and love. We are amazed by it, but we understand it.

And I think that’s the reason, as best as my feeble mind can understand it, why when Adam sinned God did not say, "That's it; it's over. I'm going to wipe man out and start over." Rather, He said, “Now I will pour out My love and grace and mercy on him by sending My Son to redeem fallen sinners. I want the glory of which I am worthy.”

And if we should ever think God is out of line for wanting that glory, then that shows how little we understand about His worthiness. He deserved the praise from those who would understand His grace.

And that’s why, when having redeemed us, Ephesians 3:10 says He uses the church to teach the angels about His manifold wisdom. Because by observing His actions toward us, they learn things about God’s character which, without us, they would never understand. And if the purpose of creation and heaven and eternity is the eternal praise of God, then it’s fitting that He would allow sin to continue to exist, so that His Son's victory over sin and death might result in glory that would otherwise have never been possible.

Maybe this helps you understand this whole issue a little bit more. So, “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” We all sinned in Adam. But nevertheless, He allowed us to be born in order to call us to redemption so that we could be to the praise of His glory forever.

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