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untitledA sculptor sits down on his stool, his sleeves rolled up. He reaches out and lays hold of the clay – cold, passive, and formless. On the wheel, he spins and shapes the clay, fashioning it into that which is before his mind’s eye. He is in total control, the master of his art. He is the lord of the clay, and the product is wholly his.

All human sculptors are but a hazy image, a shadow of God. He is the Prime Sculptor, making the worlds, shaping them into the pattern and use for which He has predetermined them. Scripture confirms what nature teaches. God is Sovereign, performing His absolute will.

This extends not only to lifeless earth or to the animal kingdom, for God is also Sculptor of man. He has a predetermined purpose for him, a purpose as it pleases Him. Now, looking at the wreckage of human history,  it may seem as though God’s purpose has failed. Satan hijacked the man-project, and Adam and Eve were ruined. True enough. But God’s will cannot in the end be thwarted. If it can, we demote God. Shorn of omnipotence, He lives not as the Shaper, but as the shaped.  But God is God!  And “He has done whatever pleased Him.”

Adam and Eve, complicit with the Devil, abused their free will – and we in them. Further, we have as their offspring followed suit. But this did not catch God off-guard. God had already from eternity past determined that man should fall into sin and misery, and even this would fulfill His purpose. “Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world.”

And from before all time, God chose from the clay of mankind a number of men and women as yet unborn and non-existent. He determined to fashion them and not others into vessels on which He would lavish mercy and eternal glory. Then God also sovereignly chose that the rest of mankind should be designed for eternal ruin for their eventual sins. Everlasting life and everlasting death – these the Bible presents to us as the two unseen destinies for which this world is but a brief preparation. Some will go to heaven, while others will be plunged into hell. And why? Because God is the Master Sculptor. He is the Determiner of everything. Or, in short, because God is God. “He hath made all things for himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of judgment.”

This rubs sinful men the wrong way. Paul, anticipating this objection, wrote,

“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles” (Rom. 9:20-24).

We can surely can clench our teeth, shake our fists, and protest all we want. But God is God. He does as it pleases Him. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” “Elect according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will .”

If you chafe at this, you do it at your peril. God’s will is irresistible. You can fault God, but God is faultless.  We all know that does not make us sin; no one does. But you fight God unforced; you walk down the broad path to destruction of your own free will.

But just as the sun softens some materials and hardens others, so God can take this solemn doctrine of predestination and use it to bring about a very different response. The Master is ever at His workbench.  He uses various tools for his purpose. And even this tool, with its seemingly sharp, serrated edges, is at his disposal. Perhaps even now He is humbling you.  Perhaps now He is instilling fear and spiritual anxiety.  Perhaps until now you have never thought of your eternal destiny before, much less the horrifying prospect of hell.  But maybe now you are.  And now you must be saved.

Cry out to God.  Call upon His name.  And lay hold of that only name that He has given among men through which they may be saved, the name of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

662a7aecb7“. . . the return of Christ unto judgment is not an arbitrary addition that can be isolated from his preceding work and viewed by itself.  It is a necessary and indispensable component of that work.  It brings that work to completion and crowns it.  It is the last and highest step in the state of his exaltation.

“Because Christ is the savior of the world, he will someday return as its judge.  The crisis,  or judgment (krisis),  that he precipitated by his first coming he consummates at the second coming.  The Father gave him authority to execute judgment (krisin poeiein) because he is the Son of Man (John 5:27).  Eschatology, therefore, is rooted in Christology and is itself Christology, the teaching of the final, complete triumph of Christ and his kingdom over all his enemies.  In accord with Scripture, we can go back even further.  The Son is not only the mediator of reconciliation (mediator reconciliatonis) on account of sin, but even apart from sin he is the mediator of union (mediator unionis) between God and his creation.  He is not only the exemplary cause (causa exemplaris) but also the final cause (causa finalis) of creation.  In the Son the world  has its foundation and example, and therefore it has in him its goal as well.  It is created through him and for hims as well (Col. 1:16).  Because the creation is his work, it cannot and may not remain the booty of Satan.  The Son is the head, Lord, and heir of all things.  United in the Son, gathered under him as their  head, all creatures return to the Father, the fountain of all good.  The second coming is therefore required by his first coming.  It is implied in the first; in time, by inner necessity, it will proceed from the first; the second coming brings the first coming to its full effect and completion and was therefore comprehended in a single image with the first coming by Old Testament prophecy.”

– Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (4:685).

Altar-of-Sacrifice“And when our iniquity had been fully accomplished, and it had been made perfectly manifest that punishment and death were expected as its recompense, and the season came which God had ordained, when henceforth He should manifest His goodness and power (O the exceeding great kindness and love of God), He hated us not, neither rejected us, nor bore us malice, but was long-suffering and patient, and in pity for us took upon Himself our sins, and Himself parted with His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy for the lawless, the guileless for the evil, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else but His righteousness would have
covered our sins?

“In whom was it possible for us lawless and ungodly men to have been justified, save only in the Son of God?

“O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the unexpected benefits; that the iniquity of many should be concealed in One Righteous Man, and the righteousness of One should justify many that are iniquitous!”

Epistle to Diognetus, 5:2-5 (ca. 150 A.D.)

The God-Man

“Perhaps you wonder, ‘Why are the wicked joyous? why do they live in luxury? why don’t they have to strive like I do?’

“The reason is that they who have not signed up to strive for the crown are not required to undergo the labors of the contest. Those who haven’t gone down to the track don’t smear themselves with oil, nor get covered with dust. Trouble comes only to those on their way to glory. The perfumed spectators prefer to watch, not to join in the struggle, nor to endure the sun, the heat, the dust, and the rain.

“So those who have devoted themselves to pleasures, luxury, robbery, gain or honors are spectators rather than combatants. They have the profit of labor but the not the fruits of virtue. They love their ease. By cunning and wickedness they heap up riches. But they will pay the penalty of their iniquity, though it be late in coming. Their rest will be in hell, yours in paradise. Thus, Job said beautifully that they watch in the tomb (see Job 21:32), for they cannot have the calm of quiet rest that he enjoys who shall rise again.”

-Ambrose of Milan (337-397 A.D.)

light_up_the_dark_by_xdante_stock“Mere nothing is a servant to Omnipotency. He sendeth his mandate or statute of heaven to mere nothing; and darkness, as the sergeant and pursuivant [officer of arms] of God, must send out light, by virtue of a creating mandate.”  – Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661)

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to givethe light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:6).

So, although in God there can be no suffering, and patience has its name apatiendo, from suffering, yet a patient God we not only faithfully believe, but also wholesomely confess. But the patience of God, of what kind and how great it is, His, Whom we say to be impassible, yet not impatient, nay even most patient, in words to unfold this who can be able? Ineffable is therefore that patience, as is His jealousy, as His wrath and whatever there is like to these. For if we conceive of these as they be in us, in Him are there none. We, namely, can feel none of these without molestation: but be it far from us to surmise that the impassible nature of God is liable to any molestation. But like as He is jealous without any darkening of spirit, angry without any perturbation, pitiful without any pain, repents Him without any wrongness in Him to be set right; so is He patient without anything of passion.

-Augustine

 

I recently preached on the words of Christ to His faithful servants on the last day, “Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”  This text, among other things, opens up a window into the joy, the happiness, or what some biblical texts speak of as the “blessedness of God” (Rom. 9:5, 1 Tim. 1:11, 6:15).  It is the joy of the Lord.

imagesGod is the self-sufficient One, who enjoys true happiness in and of Himself.  One Swiss Reformed theologian, Benedict Pictet (1655-1724) said of God, “Who would not call God happy, who is in need of nothing, finds comfort in himself, and possesses all things; is free from all evil and filled with all good?”

When Christ speaks to the believer on the last day and ushers him with open arms into “the joy of the Lord,” He is welcoming that believer into the full participation of God’s happiness – at least as far as a creature can possibly sustain in the narrow limits of his being.  What a grand thought.  God wants to share His joy!

Are you, friend, truly happy?  Can you be happy without the blessed God?  Come to Him, then, through Christ – through whom He lavishly pours out joy “unspeakable and full of glory.”

wolgemutpleydenwurffFor where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth. Those, therefore, who do not partake of Him, are neither nourished into life from the mother’s breasts, nor do they enjoy that most limpid fountain which issues from the body of Christ; but they dig for themselves broken cisterns out of earthly trenches, and drink putrid water out of the mire, fleeing from the faith of the Church lest they be convicted; and rejecting the Spirit, that they may not be instructed.

-Irenaeus of Lyons (d. ca. 202)