“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.”
In our last study we looked at God’s Plan for Reconciliation. Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God and joined with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit in determining and designing an eternal plan “before time began.” We see God’s Plan revealed through God’s Word.
Overcoming the World
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
In just one brief statement, Jesus Christ summarized God’s eternal plan. We are considering this amazing statement in four stages. So far, we have seen that God has spoken and that we have peace in Christ.
Tribulation In The World
The third stage of God’s eternal plan is dealing with “tribulation” in the world. The Greek word translated tribulation is θλιψιν and means “persecution, pressure, affliction, distress.” It comes from θλίβω which means to “rub together, press together, constrict, compress, afflict.” The word “world” is κόσμῳ (kosmo), which was understood in ancient Greek writings to include the order of the universe, the earth and the human inhabitants of the earth.
God told Adam that he would die if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In addition to death, God revealed other types of “tribulation” that Adam, Eve and their descendants would struggle with during their lifetime.
“To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:16-19
Sorrow, pain, desire, curses, toil, thorns, thistles, sweat, death. Adam and Eve and their descendants experienced all of that and much more until they died and their bodies returned to dust. Tribulation, stress, distress, affliction, persecution. That’s what Adam and Eve faced every day of their lives. They suffered great sorrow when their son Cain murdered their son Abel. God sent Cain away from his mother and father, but He gave Adam and Eve another son to carry the seed of reconciliation forward (Genesis 5:3-8). One of the most powerful statements in the Bible is Genesis 5:5 – “So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.” God said Adam would die and Adam did die. Tribulation and death are our future as well.
Adam and Eve were not the only ones who would suffer because of their sin. Within several generations from our first parents the wickedness of the human race was so great on the earth that “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). God also suffered sorrow and was grieved in His heart by the actions of humanity (Genesis 6:6). God said these words – “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them” (Genesis 6:7). Was it God’s eternal plan to destroy the human race, both man and beast, creeping things and the birds of the air? No, it wasn’t. God’s eternal plan was to reconcile man to Himself. In Genesis 6 we see how the wickedness of the human race affected God. That was part of God’s journey with His creation. God’s plan is reconciliation and He demonstrated it by once again revealing His love, grace and mercy – “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).
The words translated “grace” are used hundreds of times in the Bible. Even though we see God’s grace in creation and in how he dealt with Adam’s sin in the garden, Genesis 6:8 is the first time we see the word “grace” used in the Bible.
The Hebrew word translated “grace” in Genesis 6:8 is חֵן (chen – from חָנַן chanan). The noun means “favor, acceptance” and the verb means “show favor, mercy, pity.” Dr. William Wilson explained the usage of the word this way – “denotes a free and spontaneous willingness to bestow good on him that is destitute of it, either in a way of kindness חָסַד, or in a way of compassion … The word excludes all idea of merit or desert in the object of free favour” (Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, William Wilson, MacDonald Publishing Co., 1975).
Grace and Mercy
The world God saw in Genesis 6 was certainly not deserving of favor, mercy or pity because “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” God felt deep sorrow and was grieved, but His eternal plan was to reconcile mankind to Himself. God demonstrated grace and mercy to one man, Noah. God demonstrated His grace toward humanity after Cain killed Abel by giving Adam and Even another son, Seth, through which the Seed would be born. Noah was from the lineage of Seth.
“Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained.” Genesis 8:1-2
God began again with the human race to effect reconciliation. The Lord expanded His covenant with man through animal sacrifice (Genesis 8:20-22), the sanctity of life, the penalty for murder, and the sign of the covenant (Genesis 9:1-17). God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” So, how did the family of man respond to God’s grace?
“Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:1-4
They rebelled against God. God’s eternal plan was reconciliation, so how did He respond to their rebellion?
“But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” Genesis 11:5-9
God confused the languages of people and they scattered across the earth according to their family and language (Genesis 10 lists the early families and the locations where they scattered). What was next in God’s eternal plan of reconciliation? He chose a man named Abram who was of the lineage of Noah and Shem.
“Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3
Abram, who later became Abraham, was the man God chose to complete His eternal plan of reconciliation. Abraham and his wife Sarah had a son named Isaac who would carry the seed forward (Genesis 21:12). Isaac’s son Jacob was later named Israel and had 12 sons. One of them was named Judah and it was from his lineage that God would bring the promised Seed of the woman to reconcile the world. Jesus Christ is the promised Reconciler, the Redeemer, of the world – “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals … You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:5, 9-10)
The Sufferings of Christ
What happened in the thousands of years between Abraham, Judah, David and Jesus Christ at the end of time? Tribulation, trouble, persecution, struggle, sorrow, grief, pain, and death. God has suffered with His creation. He has known sorrow and grief. He has suffered the pain of rejection. God the Son came to earth to “save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11), but the people to whom Jesus came rejected Him and He suffered and died a horrible death on the Cross paying the penalty for their sins and our sins. Isaiah the prophet wrote that Messiah would be “despised and rejected by men,” would be a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, would be smitten by God and afflicted, would be “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:1-6) That was God’s eternal plan for reconciliation. It was the Father’s will and the Son obeyed.
Jesus said that in this world we “will have tribulation.” He told His disciples that the world hates them because they hated Him. Jesus said the world would persecute them because they persecuted Him (John 15:18-25). The Apostle Paul told Timothy that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). The Apostle Peter told Christians that though they had “been grieved by various trials” and their faith “tested by fire,” they could “rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” knowing they would receive the end of their faith – “the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9). James wrote to believers that they should “count it all joy” when they fell into various trials, knowing that the testing of their faith produced patience. James also wrote that the believer who endured testing would “receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:2-12).
Christians, of all people, should not be surprised that we live in a world of pain, sorrow and death. God said that it would be that way and it is. Jesus said we would have tribulation in this world and we do. Even as we know that to be true, we also need to remember that God is always with us. He also feels pain and sorrow and experienced the death of His Son. He has traveled every step of man’s journey from Adam to the present and will continue to journey with His people throughout eternity. God will never leave us.
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you … And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:6, 8
“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses,so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you … Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:5, 9
“… and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”