by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1 November 8, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(174)Thesis:The plans of God must rest upon God's performance because man's is disastrous.
Introduction:For many weeks we have been looking into the question of what Abraham discovered as the original recipient of the promise of God. We have seen that Paul has focused his attention, and ours, upon the "bottom line": righteousness before God. Clearly, God cannot "bless" a man with any provision of "good" unless something is done to free God's actions from the necessities involved in Justice. Justice is not "optional" and refraining from giving man what he deserves is "unjust". It is no accident that Paul strives in 3:25-26 to argue that God was not being "unjust" by not treating men justly in the time before the coming of Jesus; nor is it any accident that 1 Peter 1:20 and Revelation 13:8 tell us that Jesus was "ordained" to be "slain" from the foundation of the world. The Gospel is that God Himself satisfied the true necessities of Justice so that He could be free to treat men as though they did not deserve His wrath. Thus, the question has always been, not whether men have sinned and deserve eternal condemnation, but how those sinners might be treated by God as saints. Paul's answer is that Abraham discovered that a person can be "reckoned" righteous by God on the basis of faith in what God has done, not merely said. It, obviously, begins with what He says; but what He says must come about in history in actual action, or the saying becomes a lie.
This is what is involved in our study this evening: the issue of whether God's words can be turned into lies. In Romans 4:16 Paul addresses the issue of whether God's "promise" can be turned into a lie. His answer is, obviously, "No", but it is important that we understand how that "No" is absolutely true.
I. The Greater Plan Behind the Promise.
A. Paul saw clearly that God has always had a greater plan that just "Israel" in an eternal state of total blessedness.
1. The Plan has always been for Abraham, and his "seed", to "inherit the world".
a. There are echoes here of the Garden of Eden and God's plan for Adam to fill the earth.
b. There are also echoes here of Babel where God forces humanity into a multi-national condition through language issues.
2. The Plan was clearly stated in Genesis 17:4-5.
a. But, the Plan was just as clear about the part "circumcision" was going to play: it was going to be the distinguishing factor for the creation of the nation of Israel.
b. This "covenant of circumcision" was not designed to undercut the Plan; it was only designed to facilitate the Plan by selectively highlighting one nation for the sake of the many.
B. Paul also, however, clearly saw that this Greater Plan had to have an effectivemechanism to impose it upon human history in the light of the rebellion of the Garden.
1. The rebellion in the Garden did three things at once.
a. It generated an "alternative plan" that was completely at odds with God's Plan.
1) This alternative plan was fundamentally a vision of the eternal future in which the "angelic host" would become the "lord host" and humans would become the "ministering host" (a complete revision of the divine plan according to Hebrews 1:14).
2) This alternative plan was also fundamentally a vision of an "overlord kingdom" as opposed to a "servant kingdom".
b. It saddled humanity with not only the alternative vision, but also with an inherent bondage to the pursuit of it.
1) Adam's sin not only transferred the kingdoms of this world to Lucifer, it did something to both him and all of his progeny after him that enforces a bondage to the "overlord" concept of the Kingdom.
2) The "something" is so real and powerful that no offspring of Adam can break its power, no matter what.
c. It put the entire Plan of God at risk.
2. The question became, then, "How can God overturn the now-imposed rebellion and return humanity to blessedness?"
a. This is the question of effective mechanism.
b. The only answer is involved in the question...How can God...?
1) This is Paul's entire point: God must do whatever must be done.
2) In Paul's thinking, man is hopeless as the effective agent of restoration.
II. The Question of "Certainty".
A. Either there is certainty, or Promise is a vacuous myth.
B. The issue of certainty is two-fold.
1. First, it is an issue of "effective mechanism".
a. Paul has already established the claim that if the "mechanism" has to do with men buying into the "vision" of the Servant Kingdom and then "putting their shoulders to that plow" in a "covenant commitment", Promise becomes empty of reality and faith in it is an empty bubble of vain expectation. Men are already slaves of another, competing "vision".
b. Paul has also already established the claim that the "mechanism" is going to begin, for man, with coming back to "faith" upon a foundation of divine commitment (promise).
2. Second, it is an issue of "divine activity".
a. Under everything about "Promise" is the fundamental principle: the One making the promise is obligated to fulfill it.
1) It cannot be a matter of "blame" after "failure": Promise is promise.
2) Thus the "underwriter" is the one making the promise.
b. The "problems" Promise faces...
1) First, there is the matter of the heart: why should anyone "buy into" a servant-Kingdom scenario?
a) Such a "purchase" effectively means never getting to "have my way".
b) Such a "purchase" is impossible for those already wholly committed to the "getting my way" principle of the "overlord kingdom".
2) Second, there is the matter of the mind: how can a servant kingdom ever hope to emerge victorious over an overlord kingdom?
a) The reality of human bondage makes any expectation from that quarter completely hopeless.
b) The reality of divine mystery in not blatantly opposing the activities of the overlord kingdom makes expectation from the "divine" quarter a difficult matter.
c. The "solution" Paul proclaims: Grace.
1) Grace, by definition, is God doing...
2) In order for Grace to be able to do, man must get out of the way.
a) This is the "faith" issue: man does not seek to "accomplish"; rather, he waits for God to "accomplish".
b) This is why God established "faith" -- to get Grace solidly into the picture, and to, thereby, underwrite the certainty of the Promise for all of the seed of Abraham.