Sunday, February 13, 2011

"IF GOD BE FOR US, WHO CAN BE AGAINST US"


“...If God be For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?”
(Romans 8:31)

This part of the verse in Romans 8:31 crosses my mind more frequently, I suppose, than most other Scriptures. It is a pleasant theme for meditation. From whence this loving kindness commenced, is a surprising and pleasant source of meditation.

In my youth, I, and every one I knew put great emphasis upon John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave” (and we erroneously thought this meant “offered”) “His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in” (and we thought this meant “upon,” or “about”) Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

We did not err in believing that upon faith in Christ, the believer had received a life that would thereafter last forever. We still believe that, and the text so teaches. We did not, for a long time, understand that anything that was “given” of necessity was something “received;” and anything that is “offered” to someone could be either “accepted” or “rejected.”

It takes very little reflection upon John 3:16 to see what a massive difference there is in what it teaches and what we foolishly believed. In fact, it was even years later before the word “world” in the text took on another meaning as to the object of God’s delightful care. But when we found, and reflected upon 1 John 5:19, “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness,” and are exhorted to “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” and read the Savior’s intercession to His Father in John 17: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given” (and we used to add in our thought process that the next word was “to,” when it isn’t there!) “Me; for they are Thine, and all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them.”

When these texts came into harmony, John 3:16 smoothly fit with the Biblical doctrine of unconditional election for the first time; and John 3:16 was understood consistently with the finished work of Christ in His atonement, for “My Sheep,” of whom He said, “I lay down my life.” Hence the “world” in John 3:16 was much more narrow than the “whole world” in 1 John 5:19 cited above.

There is, obviously, a difference between things that have a commencement in time and last “for ever,” or “everlasting;” and things that do not have a commencement at all, and yet exists.

We have no problem believing that God is “eternal.” The very first introduction of things “eternal” was in Deuteronomy 33:27, and refers to God. “The eternal God is thy refuge.”

Did God have a beginning?

Of course not. He is “eternal.”

Is God alive?

Of course He is. Even before God is introduced as “eternal,” He is introduced as “the living God.” Deuteronomy 5:26, “For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?”

While John 3:16 played an important part in our growing comprehension of God’s ever lasting love to the world of His elect people, or His body, the church; John 3:15 came first in order and we had, for some unknown reason, overlooked it. It reads, “That whosoever believeth in” (not, “about” or “upon”) “Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Why did we not notice that?

Perhaps because we are creatures of time, and with such creatures of time we automatically expect everything pertaining to us to have commenced in time. Or, maybe, in the kind Providence of God, it was needful for our conceptual development of our salvation. Be that as it may, the text teaches that believers, not only will not perish, but the actual spiritual life they have is eternal – just as their God is eternal. They may justly conclude that since life begets life of like kind, then such that are born of God are given a different type of life than they have by their earthly birth - which is natural life – an eternal life, as their spiritual Sire is eternal. We surely need not urge upon the reader that this life by which they are begotten into the kingdom of God has always existed, hidden in Christ in God from eternity.

“If God be for us, who can be against us,” and hence we find the spring of that everlasting life is in eternity, and is in an eternal living union with Christ. And thus, it puts our spiritual existence IN Christ from the foundation of the world, or ever the world was. If He loved us before our development, before our earthly existence, when we were but in seed-substance in Him, then “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” - Romans 8:33.

If it is the eternal, living God that justifies us, then “who can be against us?”

It is Christ that died!

How did the apostle argue our case before us?

“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

What a potent argument is that!

It was the eternal, living God that offered (yes, in this case, “offered”) His own Son for us all.

If He would do such a thing as this, then what might we expect further from Him?

We would notice that text says, “How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.”

He does not consider one as “us” outside of Christ.

How amazing is that concept “in Christ”!

Equally amazing is that concept “with Him”! And when the two concepts are considered together how overwhelming is this knot doubled tied! Thus, we gained the concept that the eternal choice of God of His own elect was settled in the personal union they had with Christ from before the foundation of the world. Now raises that question afresh: “How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

Can one expect anything good from Him except they first be IN Him?

And if that is so, can they receive anything without Him?

Those two most interesting words constantly dangle and tease the understanding of the heart of a child born of God. It is with determination our minds will not settle on any such foolish thought that God chose His people in the fallen corruption of cursed flesh. That had a beginning long after the Scripture settle the commencement of divine election IN Christ – from eternity, no less!

Can we wrap our puny little minds around what all we have IN Him?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places IN Christ:” - Ephesian 1:3.

And the continuing verse gives to us the “timely” so to speak, of this enormous treasure-trove of riches: “According as He hath chosen us IN Him before the foundation of the world” – or from eternity.

Listening to objectors, I wonder if these eternally blessed individuals lay dead, lifeless, in the loins of the eternal Christ; or were they “alive” while hid away in seed-substance IN Him?

I’m now an aged man, but I yet recall my biology lessons at Miller County High School in Colquitt, Georgia under the “Hoosier” teacher, Mr. Davis: Reproductive cells of both male and female must be “living cells” to produce offspring!” As a youngster, life was a mystery, and this lesson was highly entertaining then. I never forgot it. Now, an old man – a believer in eternal vital union of Christ with His body, the Church, the mystery is yet pronounced, but there is some light which language can convey. That “eternal God” is “eternal life;” and the believer’s “life is in His Son.”

“Whosoever hath the Son hath LIFE.” And His life is eternal; hence “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Ah, how I wish I could drive that truth home as profoundly as I see it. The ramifications are staggering!

That eternal life was always the believer’s even while undeveloped IN Christ’s seed in eternity; and that living eternal life is the very source of their birth in the spirit in regenerating grace; - the “incorruptible seed, the word of God, that liveth and abideth forever.”

While only in seed substance, they were then blessed with every spiritual blessing IN Christ. Day by day after that eternal life is conveyed to them bringing them forth into the kingdom of God each page of divine Providence makes manifest those blessings they own for being IN Him. How often I have struggled to know the will of God for me in this, or that, or another; yet my faith rests in the understanding that when my eyes close in sleep at the end of each day, God’s absolute will was done for that assigned or appointed day and every blessing in both nature and grace that was mine was experienced according to His faithful promise. Some blessings I might in nature not see as such; and even murmur under a distressing load; but in its own time, I am made to bless the Lord for even that which at the time was uncomfortable to my flesh. I am fully aware that the greatest trials in my pilgrimage have also been my greatest blessings, and I would not to this day exchange them for the pleasures of Egypt.

I illustrate just one. The sharp sound of my wife’s angry voice rings yet in my mind, as on an occasion when the car she was driving had roared loudly only a half a block from our house in Gordon, Georgia, and I asked her: “Did you turn the engine off?” “Here are the keys,” she snapped. Little did I know that God in His sovereign Providence tore that car down and stopped us from driving it to church that week-end. And that week-end, attempts were made on our lives for preaching divine unconditional election. Had we been in our car that night, the mob would likely have recognized us in the dark. The following morning, there was nothing wrong with the car, and that loud roaring never returned.

When I was told later by Primitive Baptists (heretics who preach "conditional time salvation") that God “does not have anything to do with things in this time world,” there was no way they could ever convince me of that agnosticism.

I knew better by experience, and that burned deeply into my consciousness. In truth, if I was not a believer in absoluteness of predestination the day before, by Monday morning I was a full-blown absoluter! And still unwaveringly so!

While those events were in nature, yet the application and comfort from God’s over-shadowing care I count as one of those “spiritual blessings” giving me IN Christ and appointed for me that early as one of my experiences and blessings in time. Unlike Agnostics, I am fully persuaded that Paul meant exactly what he wrote when he said, “And we know all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” I wouldn’t have it otherwise! Many of those “all things” are the “spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” And I imagine each reader of this, however so small in the kingdom of God, can find myriads of such blessings day by day in their own sojourn.

“How shall He not WITH Him freely give us all things?” –WITH Him. Yes, that word, too, is just as profound. When the truth of divine election in Christ removed the idea that God chose His people prospectively in Adam, the golden chain of free grace begin to be unearthed – link by link. Too many scriptures refer to the “elect” of God, the “chosen” in Christ Jesus, “the called” according to His purpose, His “sheep” for whom He laid down His life, etc., to even doubt the truthfulness of this ancient and despised “Gillite” doctrine – as it was then called. And once established in our faith, an interesting concomitant viewpoint arose. If the children of God were IN Christ, either Federally or representatively, as Gill thought, or actually in seed-substance, as Beebe, Dudley, Trott and Johnson taught, or both, then there can be no argument against the elect being with Christ when and wheresoever He ever was. There is no escape to that precious conclusion. Granted, they were not yet developed as existing persons no more than they played games under the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Paradise while mother Eve knocked some fruit to the ground, but in whatsoever sense they can be said to have been chosen IN Christ, in that same sense they have always been with Christ.

We may then ask, are there Scriptures that sustain that conclusion, or at least refer to it?

I think so. The apostle raises a question in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?” And here he clinches his argument, saying, “Therefore we are buried WITH Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.”

Hence, being IN and WITH Him, we were actually, and/or federally baptized in water – as Jerry Mourer said, “In Jordan!” Paul extends his argument even further noticing, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified WITH Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”

This unity, or oneness of His people in and with Him gives to them a very special and important relationship that none outside of Him can ever have. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs WITH Christ.” – Romans 8: 16-17.

Obviously if anyone is one with another in so intimate a union, if one is an heir, so is the other. And I know of no other ground for this “old man” of the flesh to be an heir, since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” It is the “new man,” or “new creature” and its union with the “old man” that gives rise to the adoption as heirs in the heavenly family by any member of the Adamic family!

I had thought for years that the scripture above spoke only of baptism in water, never considering it as the baptism by virtue of union with and in Christ. But Paul did not drop the subject never to use his arguments here again. In his own defense against some who questioned his apostleship, he again visits that argument, and writes: “For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.” - II Corinthians 13:4; and in Colossians 2:20 he says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

There seems to me to be two senses of divine quickening mentioned in the New Testament. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing,” referring to the quickening of one to spiritual life or generation in God’s kingdom. But in order for the Soul of Christ to re-enter his “dead body” in His resurrection, there was a need for that dead body, which saw no corruption, to be “quickened” to life again in order to be raised up from the dead. And, it seems that Ephesians 2:5 might very well be such, and if so, Paul again relates his unity in that profound event, saying, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath (He) quickened us together WITH Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised US together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus;”

“For we are His workmanship created IN Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” - Ephesians 2:10

What shall we say to these things?

Who shall lay a charge against one of God’s elect?

Is it not true they are said to have the circumcision of Christ?

“Ye are complete IN Him, which is the Head of all principalities and power: IN whom also ye are circumcised WITH the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: (which circumcision was on the eighth day after His birth) BURIED WITH HIM in baptism, wherein also ye are RISEN with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He QUICKENED TOGETHER WITH HIM, having forgiven you all trespasses.”

With the apostle, we have come to understand that we are “dead, and our life is hid WITH Christ in God,” so that truly it is a faithful saying, “for if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him,” – II Timothy 2:11.

The greatest of all blessings one is blessed with in heavenly places IN Christ, is that eternal unity with the precious Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, and have all the riches of His grace bestowed upon one that is IN Him and WITH Him in His Headship of His body, the Church.

By Stanley Phillips

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