Tuesday, December 1, 2009

None Righteous, The Existence of Evil, Part 3

Job 34:1-10 Then Elihu answered and said: (2) "Hear my words, you wise men, and give ear to me, you who know; (3) for the ear tests words as the palate tastes food. (4) Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good. (5) For Job has said, 'I am in the right, and God has taken away my right; (6) in spite of my right I am counted a liar; my wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.' (7) What man is like Job, who drinks up scoffing like water, (8)who travels in company with evildoers and walks with wicked men? (9) For he has said, 'It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God.' (10) "Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding: far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.

In this series, we confronted the atheist’s accusations of the Almighty as amoral. They sense sin within themselves & desire to try God in order to deliver themselves from judgment. But as typified in the natural man, they judge imbued with unrighteousness themselves; like the Pharisees, this precludes their ability to make the “right judgment” Jesus calls on unbelievers to make concerning Him (John 7:24). Part 1 largely used logic & the obvious demonstrations of evil perpetrated by mankind down through the ages to try to turn the would be indicter away from unhealthy, unrighteous exospection towards wholesome introspection. Jesus’ injunction in Matt. 7:1-5 was directed towards just such a person- the one so preoccupied judging another that he fails in his first duty to fully judge himself. Then we covered the importance that we too, as believers, should be wary, lest we also fall into the abyss of pretentious judgment in the course of dealing with the unbeliever. We too have been unbelieving towards Christ at some point, & in in the interest of the full disclosure & humility that we are pressing the unbeliever towards, should confess (at least to ourselves & God) whatever measure that our faith is currently lacking. Honesty should spur us towards examining whatever extent we have in common with the man that paradoxically stated “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Know this- any failure to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” & “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22) is a failure of faith; be assured of that. As Paul says:

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

Understand that initially in the epistle, Paul lays down the fundamentals of man’s universal depravity, & Christ’s respondent work towards the justification of the elect. So this statement, in context, is primarily discussing the basic faith in Christ’s justification, but know too that the initial immature faith that gives cause for belief in the confessor’s salvation, that seed of faith which is wholly formed in his heart by the Holy Spirit, is also then further caused to grow, by His Spirit indwelling us in the very midst of our suffering, towards sanctification (1 Cor. 3:7).

But then by the 14th chapter, Paul is done laying the foundational concepts of being justified by that little initial seed of faith, & is in the midst of pressing us onward towards sanctification- the consequence of a mature faith:

Romans 14:22-23 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. (23) But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-5 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. (4) Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. (5) This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering.

Paul opens his 2nd Thessalonian epistle the same way he opened his 1st- with recognition of the Thessalonians’ mature faith that is evidenced by their measure of sanctification. Their increasing love is counted as a result of their growing faith. So the cause of both justification & sanctification are found to be grounded in faith. But this faith does not grow in a spiritual vacuum; it comes at the cost of suffering. Clearly intertwined amongst the opening benedictions of both epistles is evidence of suffering; we see there the paradoxical convergence of pain & prosperity.

So the Thessalonians were commended for treasuring the sweet aroma & beauty of the rose of faithfulness to Christ enough to eagerly endure the attendant entangling thorns of suffering. Job likewise was faithful enough for a time, but as introspection found nothing, these thoughts of himself as blameless turned to an exospection of God’s ultimate goodness in allowing his trial. At first, his faith was such that he knew that God was omnipotent over the sudden downturn of events in his life & believed in God’s righteous purpose despite not understanding why he was suffering. But the additional pressure of defending himself against his three friends’ unrelenting & unevidenced accusations squeezed his sin to the surface. Inordinate pride in his measure of “blamelessness” caused him to become indignant with the suffering & fall into the abyss of self-righteousness. Instead of humbly walking in the knowledge that, regardless of whatever measure of sanctification his faith had led him towards, in the end God alone is righteous, his faith revealed itself as stunted by haughty pride when it buckled under the strain of suffering. Ironic, for his growth in sanctification had caused pride in himself & therein to lose sight of the very essence of his prosperous growth- God’s unjustified justification of him. David states & Paul reiterates “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one”, so if Job was justified in God’s sight it was not due to inherent goodness. He was no different than us- called by God to accept a justification that comes “by grace… through faith… (that is) the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9; also Rom. 4, Hebrews 11 for the concept). But Job did boast in his own righteousness, indignantly accusing God of wrongdoing in allowing his undue suffering. In the course of suffering, we should pray & examine ourselves to discover any evident evil in our life, but the lesson of Job is that sometimes no direct cause will be found. At such times, a faith that is based on the inherent goodness of God, being part & parcel of a mature faith, will still not shrink back from praising Him. Job found no just cause for the evil that God had allowed to overtake his life, so he consequently attributed the injustice of undeserved punishment to God’s nature. His faith was rightly formed upon an omnipotent & omniscient God, but he lacked faith in God’s omnirighteousness, the concept that all that God does is good, all of the time. More on this in part 4.

Ironically, his friends were the overtly guilty ones, as they brought continuing baseless accusations against Job’s general integrity.

The book of Job has many things to teach us, but understand this lesson foremost- no matter the measure of sweet smelling sanctification we attain to, we should never forget our humble beginnings as a rotting, rancid corpse justified & raised into newness of life only by the unwarranted grace of God (lest we begin to stink again).

No comments: