Monday, November 25, 2013

Big Authority Shifts (6) Place on Earth

God needed a place on earth. Sin and the fall had given Satan a place in heaven, but God was shut out of the earth. To restore the earth back to his people, he needed a place on earth where he could operate.

God could not act on earth, unless a humans with authority on earth invited him, so he needed loyal people and a place to work.

  1. God needed some people on earth to give him authority to act.
  2. He needs a place free from evil, where he would be free to work.
  3. He needs people to carry the Holy Spirit into the world.
The Abraham/Moses consortium provided God with a place on earth from which he could work. Abraham brought a burial cave at Hebron, which gave God a toehold on earth. When the people Israel called out to God, he was able to lead them into the land of Canaan and make a covenant with them.

The covenant with Israel marked a big shift of authority on earth. In return for rescuing them from slavery in Egypt, the children of Israel agreed to submit to God’s authority. This was a big change. Under the covenant with Adam and Eve, humans had absolute authority on earth. They could kick God out of the world, if they chose. The covenant with Moses offered similar blessings, but human authority was significantly constrained. Under the covenant with Moses, the Israelites could no longer reject God’s authority and push him out. If they rebelled against him, they could be ejected from the land, instead of God.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess (Deut 30:17-18).
This shift in authority was a huge step forward in God’s strategy. He now had a place and a people. His people could give him permission to work in the world. They could give him authority to deal to the empires that attacked them. God had a place on earth where he had authority and his will could be done. It would be a beachhead from which he could launch his redeeming salvation to the world.
Christians supporting the modern nation of Israel often do not get this. They see Israel has a permanent homeland (place) for the Jewish people. That is the wrong way round. God gave the land to the Jewish people forever, so he would have a permanent place on earth. Modern Israel is a secular militaristic nation. Religious Jews have rejected Jesus, which cuts them off from the Holy Spirit. A few Christians have established small places in Israel that are open to the Spirit, but generally is not a place where God has authority.

Establishing the children of Israel in the land of Canaan was an important authority shift. For the first time in history, he had authority to operate freely in one piece of the earth. He also gained a group of loyal people to release his power on earth and carry the Holy Spirit into the world. With land and a people, he could start doing some serious work on earth. His goal was to expand from Canaan out into the rest of the earth.

God had to work for 2000 years to get a place of authority on earth. The covenant with Israel gave him a land to work in and a people to work through. This was not perfect, because his people would not always obey him, but it was a great start.

God no longer needs one place on earth, because the blood of Jesus means that he Holy Spirit can dwell in the heart of everyone who believes in Jesus, so he now has a million places all over the world. He does not need one piece of land as his place any more. Since the cross, Now Satan has lost his place in heaven, so God is now well ahead in the game.

God intended Israel to be a light to the nations. If they submitted to his authority and covenant, they would receive great blessing. The surrounding nations would see the blessing, and choose to submit to God’s authority, so they could share in the same blessing. As they nations freely submitted, God authority on earth would expand. Unfortunately, Israel rejected God’s authority and chased after the ways of the nations. The surrounding nations saw Israel under a curse, so they wanted to have nothing to do with its God.


Unknown said...

The Gospel Depends on a God Who Does Not Depend on You
People have sometimes thought that God created human beings because he was lonely and needed fellowship with other persons. If this were true, it would certainly mean that God is not completely independent of creation. It would mean that God would need to create persons in order to be completely happy or completely fulfilled in his personal existence.

— Wayne Grudem

Grudem’s observation offers a penetrating look into how many Christians think about God. But is this what Scripture teaches? What implications would such a view have for worship? And how would such a view affect our salvation?

We must begin by asking if God needs us to exist or to be fulfilled and happy. The God of the Bible is one who does not need us at all. In theological language, this is the doctrine of divine aseity, literally meaning “from-himself-ness.” God is a-se. He exists independent of the world, as one who is self-sufficient and self-existent. In his book The Doctrine of God (see pp. 603-608), John Frame helpfully outlines seven characteristics of aseity.

As Lord, God owns all things. God is “possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:19). Indeed, the “earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1).
Everything possessed by creatures comes from God. The Lord made heaven and earth and every good and perfect gift is from his hand (Gen. 1-2, Exod. 20:11, Neh. 9:6, Ps. 146:5-6; Ja. 1:17).
When we give something back to God, we give him only what he has first given to us. We are God’s stewards and will be held accountable for whether or not we have used what he has given to us for his glory (Luke 12:42; 16:1-8). Since the church belongs to God, pastors will be held accountable for their pastoral care (Titus 1:7).
When we give something back to God, he is not obligated to recompense us. When we do what we were told to do, we, as unworthy servants, have only done our duty (Luke 17:10).
God owes nothing to any creature. Notice how God answers Job: “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11). Or consider Paul who writes, “‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen” (Rom. 11:35-36).
God has no needs. Psalm 50 is powerful in this regard: “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it” (Ps. 50:10-12).
God is by nature a se. As Paul says to the Athenian philosophers in the Areopagus, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24-25).

Unknown said...

Implications for Our Worship

Now that we have seen that aseity is affirmed in Scripture, what implications does it have for the God we worship? What implications does it have for our salvation?

In Psalm 50 and Isaiah 40 we learn that God is not like the pagan gods of the surrounding nations. These gods are fashioned by man (Isa. 40:19-20). Using much satire, Isaiah explains that the same wood used by man to keep himself warm and cook his food by fire he also uses to form a god so that he can bow down to it in worship, praying “Save me; you are my god” (Isa. 44:15-17). This is not a God who saves but a God you must save. “In this way," Frame writes, "the Lord mocks worship in which the god is dependent on the worshiper, in which the worshiper meets the god’s needs” (Doctrine of God, 606).

In contrast, Paul describes the Lord in Acts 17:24-30 not as a creature but as the Creator. Paul is emphatic: God is not worshiped by us “as if he needed anything.” True, biblical worship is due to God not because he needs us, but because we need him. As Frame observes, it is the case that God is worshiped by men’s hands, “but the hands are raised in praise and thanksgiving, not to supply the needs of God” (Doctrine of God, 606). Consider the words of the 24 elders who fall down before the throne of God, worshiping him, casting their crowns before him saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

If God is not independent of us, he is not worthy, qualified, or able to save us let alone to receive worship and praise. If God is not a se, then he is weak and pathetic. He may be a God like us, but he is not a God better than us. He may be a God in our world, but he is not a God distinct from our world. And all of this relates to the gospel for, as Michael Horton says, “If God were not free from creation, we might pray for him, but not to him” (The Christian Faith, 235). It is precisely because God is free from creation that he is able to enter into creation in order to save lost sinners (Eph. 1:7-8).

There are two dangers that need to be avoided in this discussion. First, one could conclude that we do not matter to God if he does not need us. Second, one could also conclude that God is not relational if he is independent of us. But both of these conclusions would be wrong. While God does not need us and is in no way obligated to enter into a relationship with us, he created us in his image and made us to have fellowship with him (Gen. 1-2). We matter because God determined that we would be meaningful.

Even when sin ruined and destroyed our fellowship and access to him (Gen. 3), he voluntarily entered into a saving covenant relationship with us, though he was in no way obligated to save us. He has every right to condemn us for all eternity (Matt. 25:41). “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5). The gospel depends on a God who does not depend on you. What this means for us, as believers, is nothing short of amazing: While God does not need us, he has given us the privilege of serving him. We would not have it any other way.