In the last part of our series, I referred to the importance of going back to the beginning to understand how God saves people. It seemed to me that how God saves people would be consistent with His nature and character. The question, then, became whether God’s nature and character were consistent.
God’s Nature and Character
One of the best things a new Christian can do is immerse themselves in God’s Word. That’s where we learn who He is and what He’s like.
When I first began reading through the Bible as an atheist, I was looking for evidence that would disprove what a scientist had claimed about the Bible being a reliable historical document. After discovering that the Bible is in fact reliable, and then trusting in Christ for eternal life, I read the Bible looking for insight to how to live this new life God had given me.
I learned that God is Other. He’s not like us. We are human beings and there are lots of us – billions in fact. God is the Supreme Being and there’s just one of Him. Yes, God is Triune (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), but He is One Supreme Being.
The Old Testament portion of the Bible says it like this:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! Deuteronomy 6:4
The New Testament portion of the Bible says it like this:
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5
God, in Three Persons, is one Supreme Being. There is no other like Him.
One of the things we learn about God in the Bible is that He is consistent. We can rely on Him to do what He says He will do. He is consistent in both His nature and His character.
For I am the Lord, I do not change. Malachi 3:6
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8
The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations. Psalm 33:11
God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Numbers 23:19
Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will have no end. Psalm 102:25-27
Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. Psalm 90:2
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. Isaiah 40:28
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last;
Besides Me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them. Isaiah 44:6-7
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. Revelation 22:13
Whether we look at the beginning or the end, God is there. He is from “everlasting to everlasting,” God.
Next question. What kind of everlasting God is He?
We know from what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians Christians that God did many things for us:
- He blessed us (1:3)
- He chose us (1:4)
- He predestined us to adoption as sons (1:5)
- He accepted us (1:6)
- He redeemed us (1:7)
- He forgave us (1:7)
- He made known to us the mystery of His will (1:9)
- He plans to gather us together in Christ in the future (1:10)
- He gave us an inheritance (1:11)
- He sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise (1:13)
My question is – why? Why did God do all of that? What’s His motivation? What is it about God that would cause Him to do so much for people who are under His wrath (John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 2:5; 5:9; 9:22; Ephesians 2:3)?
We can look to the writings of Moses and Paul for some answers to that question.
- God is merciful
- God is gracious
- God is longsuffering
- God abounds in goodness and truth
- God forgives iniquity, transgression and sin
- God is glorious
- God saves according to the good pleasure of His will
- God is rich in grace
- God is powerful to save
- God is higher than everything that exists
- God is rich in mercy
- God is great in love
- God made dead people alive
- God raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
- God will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus in the ages to come
We learn from the Bible that God is the only Being who can save and we learn that He saves according to the “pleasure of His will.” We see from the beginning of Scripture to the end of Scripture that God is the same and does not change. He has always saved according to His grace and great love. At a moment when God had every right to destroy the entire human race, He had grace on one man (Noah – Genesis 6:8) and saved the race from utter destruction. The fact that anyone is alive today is because of God’s amazing grace.
Grace is what saves us. Paul made that clear: “by grace you have been saved.” What about love? Love is God’s motivation. Paul also made that clear as well: “because of His great love with which He loved us.” We see that in the Old and New Testaments.
It’s interesting as we read through the Bible that we see God saved Noah because of grace: “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” The Bible says many things about Noah, but one thing it doesn’t tell us is that God loved Noah. Does that mean God didn’t love Noah? Not at all, but it does demonstrate that God saved the human race through Noah by grace and because of His good pleasure.
When Moses asked God to “Please, show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18), God said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Exodus 33:19). God mentioned four things in response to Moses’ request to see God’s glory:
- I will make all My goodness pass before you
- I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you
- I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious
- I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion
Goodness? Check. Name of the Lord? Check. Gracious? Check. Compassion? Check. Love? Not mentioned. That doesn’t mean God didn’t love the people of Israel. It just means He didn’t mention it at that time. There are other times when God mentioned His love for Israel.
When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. Hosea 11:1
We know that God loved Israel. Love motivated God then and now.
God also mentioned Israel loving Him:
For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. Exodus 20:5-6
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 10:12
God showed mercy to people who loved Him and kept His commandments. God required Israel to fear Him, walk in all His ways, love Him and serve Him with all their heart and soul. As we read the history of Israel, we know that didn’t go well. Israel often did not fear God. They often did not walk in His ways. They often did not love Him. They often did not serve Him with all their heart and soul. What did Israel do when God sent His only begotten Son to Israel? They killed Him. What happened to Israel? The Romans destroyed the nation, including the Holy City and Second Temple. God “dwelt” with His people on earth inside the Temple’s holiest place. The Romans ransacked that inner chamber and destroyed the building. That was almost two millennia ago and there’s still no Temple in Jerusalem. Does that mean God doesn’t love the Jewish people?
That is not what it means. God does not change. He said He loved Israel and He still does. Prophecies in both the Old and New Testament show us that God will once again restore Israel to a favored position in the world. The question is why would He do that after all the bad things Israel did to Him?
Read Romans 11 and you’ll see that God has future plans for Israel that are based on His “grace.” Jesus will return and save them by His grace:
And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins. Romans 11:26-27
God will show great “mercy” to Israel one day and His motivation will be because “they are beloved for the sake of the fathers” (Romans 11:28). Love is the motivation, but grace is how God demonstrates His love.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:4-9
God does not change. He has always saved by grace through faith. It’s always been His gift. It’s never been by works. Why? Because people would boast. And there it is – the rub. What does God want from us?
Paul made this clear from the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians. Everything God had done for them – His blessings, His choosing them before the foundation of the world, His predestining them to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of His will – was for this purpose: “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:6).
Remember Moses’ question to God? “Please, show me Your glory.” God responded to Moses by showing him God’s kindness and mercy and grace and compassion.
The reason salvation is “by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves,” the reason salvation is “the gift of God, not of works,” is so that God receives ALL the glory. Not some of it. Not a piece of it. Not even most of it. God gets ALL the glory, “lest anyone should boast.”
And that brings us to the next part of our study.
Monergism. What is it? How does it compare to Synergism which we’ve already studied? We’ll look at that next time as our special series continues.
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