Why Doesn’t God Follow His Own Laws?!

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Why Doesn’t God Follow His Own Laws?!

James R. Aist

“But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

Many people want to believe that what the Bible says about God is true, but they will do so only insofar as it conforms to their pre-conceived notions and/or they are willing to accept it as being true. Consequently, they believe in a god that is, at least to some extent, created in their own image. One major stumbling block for many such folks is the fact that God doesn’t always follow the laws that He commands us to follow. For example, in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), God has commanded us to not murder or steal, but He killed all the firstborn children in the land of Egypt (Exodus 13:15) and struck dead a Christian married couple (Acts 5:1-10), and, in effect, He stole the land from the inhabitants of the promised land and gave it to His chosen people, the Israelites (Leviticus 20:24)! So, they reckon, God is breaking His own laws and is, therefore, not the perfect moral being He claims to be. This leads them to the conclusion that such a god is a scofflaw, and therefore not worthy of reverence and obedience, much less worship.

But, there is a fatal flaw in that way of thinking about the God of the Bible. God’s laws were given to mankind for mankind to follow, not necessarily for God to follow. The God of the Bible is the supreme judge of what is right and what is wrong. There is no authority above God to whom one can appeal in order to lodge a valid accusation against God. Moreover, there is no need of someone to judge God, because all of His ways and thoughts are perfect. The psalmist stated it succinctly for us: “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). God is not subject to the laws He has given for mankind to follow. Rather, He does whatever He pleases. God’s perfect ways flow from His perfect, moral nature, whereas our imperfect ways flow from our imperfect, sin nature. Moreover, God forbids us to do some things that He does, even in those instances in which we are capable of doing so. For example, Paul states emphatically,”Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to God’s wrath, for it is written: “Vengeance is Mine. I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Judgement, in the sense of condemnation of a person, is another thing that God reserves for Himself. And, we can add the definition of right and wrong to this list. So, you see, God does not follow all of the laws that He laid out for mankind to follow, because He has reserved some functions and actions for Himself alone. He can do that, because He is God and we are not. We would do well to remember that.

The God of the Bible created, and therefore owns, all of creation, including us. He created us for His glory (Isaiah 43:7), in order for us to reflect back to him His glory (click HERE). Therefore, He has every right, even a moral obligation, to reward good and punish evil, as well as to be the sole judge of what good and evil are. And, He does with each human life whatever he pleases, without reproach. We can see this clearly in Romans 9:18, where Paul writes, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and He hardens whom He wills.”

So, whenever we accuse the God of the Bible of wrongdoing, we are deluding ourselves into thinking that we are morally superior to God and are, therefore, qualified to be His judge. But in reality, its the other way around: we will all be judged by God.  So let’s not judge Him because He doesn’t follow all of the laws He has given for us to follow. Rather, let’s make peace with the fact that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). This is the God of the Bible: morally perfect, beyond reproach and judge of all.

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)

Keeping the Sabbath

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Keeping the Sabbath

James R. Aist

“For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” – Jesus

There seems to be some confusion within the modern Christian community concerning the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). We cannot just ignore this commandment, since it is the Fourth of the Ten Commandments, but do we have to follow it, like the Old Testament Jews did? Let’s see if the New Testament provides clear instructions concerning this question.

Jesus’ Teachings

In Matthew 12:8, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” The clear implication here is that whatever Jesus said about the Sabbath is true and allowable for all, regardless of prevailing Jewish tradition. Jesus also said that “…it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12).” It would seem to follow, then, that “doing good” would include enjoying the blessings and favor of God on the Sabbath and giving Him praise and glory for them. And, in Mark 2:27, Jesus declared that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, the Sabbath was given to benefit man, not to rule over him. Thus, healing the sick, tending livestock, and harvesting grain (to use some of the examples used against Jesus to charge him with breaking the Law), as well as doing any “good” thing, such as teaching in the synagogue (Luke 13:10 and Acts 18:4), are allowed on the Sabbath.

Paul’s Teachings

In Colossians 2:14-21, Paul wrote: “He blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us and contrary to us, and He took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed authorities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore let no one judge you regarding food, or drink, or in respect of a holy day or new moon or Sabbath days. These are shadows of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone cheat you of your reward by delighting in false humility and the worship of angels, dwelling on those things which he has not seen, vainly arrogant due to his unspiritual mind,  and not supporting the head, from which the entire body, nourished and knit together by joints and sinews, grows as God gives the increase. Therefore, if you died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you subject yourself to legalistic rules?  “Do not touch! Do not taste! Do not handle!” These all are to perish with use and are aligned with the commandments and doctrines of men (Italics mine).” Read carefully and you will see three key and telling points made here: 1) Jesus nailed to the cross the traditional, Jewish requirements re. the Sabbath; 2) the traditional, Jewish requirements re. the Sabbath were mere shadows of things to come, so they perished after they had served their purpose among the Old Testament Jews (i.e., when Jesus, who is the substance of these requirements, appeared); and 3) the Sabbath requirements are no longer in effect for those who are in Christ Jesus, including both Jews and Gentiles; they have expired.

Conclusions

So, are we required to follow the practices of the Old Testament Jews concerning the Sabbath? The biblical answer is, emphatically, “No!” [For the record, this is why the New Testament church felt free to change the “worship day” of the Christian church from Saturday to Sunday (Acts 20:7)]. But, does this mean that we should ignore the Sabbath entirely? I don’t think so. God established the seventh day as a day of rest for mankind (Exodus 20:9-10 and 23:12), and as such, a weekly Sabbath would certainly serve us well, in accord with Mark 2:27, and it would be exercising wisdom. Moreover, the Judaic and Christian practice of gathering for worship on the day of rest is a way of obeying Hebrews 10:25 which says, “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching.” So, let us remember the Sabbath by observing a weekly day of much-needed rest and by assembling together regularly to give God all the glory that is due Him. As Christians, these two practices should be our custom.

(To read more of my biblically based articles, click HERE.)

Why Did God Create Us?

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Why Did God Create Us?

James R. Aist

 “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” – The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647)

Jesus is the perfect image and likeness of God the Father, reflecting His glory back to Him perfectly (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15). Jesus, however, was not created, having been with the Father, and one with the Father, for all eternity past (John 1: 1-2). God’s creative acts began with the angels, who shouted for joy when the earth was created (Job 38:4-7). Angels, like God, are spirit beings, and they surround the throne of God, constantly worshipping Him and proclaiming His glory (Revelation 5:11-2 and 7:11-12). Next, God created the heavens and the earth and everything in it (Genesis 1-2). This was the first ever creation of material, physical objects, including living, biological beings, with mankind being uniquely created in the image and likeness of God.

From this biblical, historical background, we can now consider the important question of why God created mankind. After all, He already had Jesus and the angels reflecting His glory back to Him. The rest of His physical, material creation was already reflecting His glory (Psalm 19:1). Wasn’t that enough, or is The Westminster Shorter Catechism correct in saying that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever”?

The Genesis account of the creation of mankind only tells us that God decided to create mankind; it doesn’t tell us why. What was God’s motive in creating mankind? In other words, what was His end game? To answer that question, we have to search the Scriptures more thoroughly. The first thing that comes to mind is that, until God created mankind, there was none in all of the created, physical universe capable of knowing God and reflecting His glory intentionally. This fact suggests that, perhaps, God created mankind because He wanted a created, physical being who would reflect His glory like no other can: not the angels, because they are spiritual, not physical, beings; and not the rest of creation, because these inanimate objects and living things are not capable of knowing God and reflecting His glory intentionally. Can it be that God created mankind to reflect His glory back to Him in such a new and unique way? Let’s open the Bible and find out:

Created for His glory

Isaiah 43:7 — “…even everyone who is called by My name…I have created him for My glory

Ephesians 1:12 – “…that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, should live for the praise of His glory.”

Ephesians 3:21 – “…to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.”

Declare His Glory

Isaiah 43:21 – “This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise.”

1 Chronicles 16:24 –Declare His glory among the nations”

Psalm 29:2 – “Give to the Lord the glory of His name

Psalm 96:3 – “Proclaim His glory among the nations”

Philippians 2:11 – “…every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Exhibit His glory

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Micah 6:8 – “what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?”

As you can see from these Scriptures, we can conclude that God did, in fact, create mankind to declare with our mouths and exhibit with our actions, His glory. And, in doing so, we reflect His glory back to Him in a unique way that pleases Him.

Having this understanding of why God created mankind, we can now contemplate a very important implication of this understanding: namely, that our universal and supreme purpose for existing – our God given destiny — is to glorify God as only we can. The Bible says, “…whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) and “…that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever” (1 Peter 4:11). All of our good works – e.g., praise, worship, obedience, generosity, compassion, mercy, praying, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, making disciples – have one thing in common: they all ultimately reflect and magnify God’s glory. The Bible says that God has prepared – in advance – work for each one of us to do, and that, in doing these things, we are fulfilling the purpose for which God created us (Ephesians 2:10). And, it is within the work that God has prepared for each of us that we can find God’s specific calling to serve and glorify Him in particular ways while we are in the world, such as apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healings, helps, governments, and various tongues (1 Corinthians 12:28).

But, what about the unbelievers; does God have a supreme purpose for their existence too? It is my assumption that it was God’s original purpose in creating mankind that He would receive praise and glory from all of them, not just His elect. But, because sin entered the world through Adam’s disobedience, only the chosen ones, those whom He saves, actually give Him praise and glory. The others give praise and glory to anyone or anything except God. And, in doing so, they have, sadly, missed their supreme purpose for existing. Paul even went so far as to strongly imply that God’s purpose for creating unbelievers is to make known the riches of His glory in the abundant mercy extended to those He will save, His elect (Romans 9:22-23).

Finally, when Jesus comes again to renew all things, only His elect will remain on the earth to rule and reign with Him there for eternity. And so, God will accomplish His original purpose, His end game, in creating mankind, as all of His elect will joyfully give to God all the praise and glory due him, forever. “God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” (Psalm 115:3).

(To read other biblical teachings on my website, click HERE.)

Why Do Christians Do Good Works?

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Why Do Christians Do Good Works?

James R. Aist

Why do we do good works after we are saved? There is a correct answer to this question, and there is an answer that is unequivocally incorrect. It is important for us to know the incorrect answer, so that we can avoid falling into a dangerous heresy.

Let’s consider the correct answer. God created us to reflect and magnify His own glory (Isaiah 43:7 and 21; Ephesians 1:12). All of our good works – e.g., acts of praise, worship, obedience, generosity, compassion, mercy, sharing the Gospel of Christ, making disciples – have one thing in common: they all ultimately reflect and magnify God’s glory. The Bible says that God has prepared – in advance – work for each one of us to do, and that, in doing these things, we are fulfilling the purpose for which God created us (Ephesians 2:10).

But, it is all too easy for us to fall into the mindset that, in doing good works, we are repaying Jesus for what he did for us. After all, shouldn’t our gratitude for Jesus saving us motivate us to do good works in response? That seems logical, doesn’t it? But, that cannot be the reason we do good works, and here’s why: we are saved by grace… it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). And, if it is a gift of God, then there is nothing for us to repay; gifts are free. In the same way that we cannot do good works to earn salvation (Ephesians 2:9; 2 Timothy 1:9), so also we cannot do good works to repay Jesus for the gift of salvation after we receive it; both would be a form of the “salvation by works” heresy. When Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, our debt was canceled, not mortgaged! No, we do good works because that is what God saved us to do: the work that he prepared in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10).

If there is a debt, it is only a debt of gratitude, not of good works.

(To read more of my articles on Biblical Teachings, click HERE.)