About the Book
Table of Contents
Part IV: The Omnipotence of God in
the affairs of Men
The Omnipotence of God in Our World
AS WE ENTER
into a study of what Scripture has to say about the omnipotence
of God in the affairs of our own world, we begin to find that
the statements become more specific as they are more personal.
1 of 14
The largest aggregates of men with
which the Bible deals are world empires: the Babylonian,
Persian, Greek, and Roman. We descend then to the nations which
constitute them, including in a category by themselves, Israel.
Over these nations are kings, and a surprising number
of individual kings are singled out and statements made concerning
them which sometimes seem to rob them even of moral responsibility
for their actions. Whenever one reads such passages, the tendency
is to explain away the text. But my experience has been that
a much more profitable method of studying Scripture is to assume
that the text really means what it says ‹ and then to search
more deeply for a resolution of the problems which arise by referring
to the rest of Scripture.
Under these kings were governors
and generals and their armies. And finally, we descend
to ordinary folk. Within this largest of all classes there
are the saved and the unsaved. Scripture has a
surprising number of things to say about the omnipotence of God
in the lives of the unsaved. Nevertheless, the extent to which
the omnipotence of God rules and overrules in the lives of His
children is even more surprising -- and, for many of us perhaps,
unexpected. We might assume it in our triumphs, for this seems
obviously to His glory. But I venture to suggest that the Word
of God has some pointed things to say also about His overruling
even of our failures. This aspect of the problem is a subject
of the last chapter. We turn now to a consideration of what God
has to say about the operation of His will among men without
particular respect to whether they are His children or not. To
help structure the passages which will be referred to, we may
recapitulate what has
been said above by setting it in the form of a genealogical tree,
as shown in the diagram that follows.
One point is highly important to
this Paper. Scripture, I think, makes it abundantly clear that
God has what may be called a Master Plan, the broad outlines
of which are revealed in the Bible even to the extent of showing
the future in a general way so that, for all the disagreements
between us in our interpretations of prophecy, we nevertheless
share the comfort of a firm belief that this Master Plan will
be perfectly fulfilled and, when so fulfilled, will call forth
our united praise. The Christian unity which we strive to achieve
now we shall one day undoubtedly enjoy when we say with great
rejoicing, "He hath done all things well" (Mark 7:37).
There are surely many incidents
in the lives of individuals and nations which are not directly
related to this Master Plan. It would be foolish to attempt to
illustrate this by referring to some inconsequential detail of
a man's life (for example, that he chose to wear a gray tie one
morning instead of a brown one), because such inconsequentialities
sometimes turn out to be the hinges upon which the doors of destiny
swing. But wherever an event or a decision is related (as God
sees things) to the Master Plan, at those points He rules or
overrules as required.
those passages which concern the chart above, reference should
be made to an aspect of the subject that tends to be overlooked.
An important part of our world is the realm of Nature. The reign
of God in this realm is the subject of another Doorway Paper
("Nature as Part of the Kingdom of God," Part II in
Man in Adam and in Christ, vol.3), in which evidence is
presented to support the view that this realm is actually an
essential part of the kingdom of God.
Empires and Nations
Certainly the dominion of the Lord
Jesus Christ in Nature was dramatically illustrated in the New
Testament when the disciples discovered that even the winds and
the waves obeyed Him instantly (Matthew 8:27). There are many
intimations of His lordship, as for example the fig tree which
withered at His command (Matthew 21:20); the water which became
wine (John 2:3ff.); and the wild beasts which shared His wilderness
watch without molesting Him (Mark 1:13). We are assured that
no sparrow is forgotten. In the Old Testament a raven was commanded
to feed Elijah; a great fish was commanded to save Jonah; and
a dumb ass was commanded to rebuke Balaam. The Psalms are full
of passages which reflect what must surely be described as the
"worship" which Nature affords to her Creator.
The Christian, especially in the
first days of wonder in a new experience, becomes very much aware
that this is his Father's world. It seems as though God rules
in Nature: with man, alien as he now is to this kingdom, He overrules.
Even in His own children, who by re-creation have been reinstated
within this kingdom, He must still often overrule, for our acceptance
of His dominion over our lives is by no means complete.
In the affairs
of empires and of nations, there are times when this overruling
can be discerned and is reluctantly admitted even by pagan historians.
World War II was punctuated by circumstances which were so strange
and unexpected and so greatly to the advantage of those who were
defending human freedom that it has been difficult for even the
most agnostic of writers to evade the unwanted conviction that,
here at least, Providence (for they do not like to speak of God
personally) was at work.
Certainly Scripture makes it clear
that in the rise and fall of the great world empires of antiquity,
God had a direct hand. One of the most striking and self-contradictory
characteristics of those who built these empires was the combination
of complete ruthlessness
coupled with a strange
sense of ultimate dependence upon God. Possibly their own despotism
made it easier for them to conceive of an even higher Despotism
than their own.
Not unnaturally this revelation
attaches itself more particularly to the first world empire and
to the last, as though to indicate the pattern. The first world
empire was the Babylonian, and its best-known monarch was Nebuchadnezzar.
He has left us abundant evidence of the fact that his power was
absolute in his own eyes; and yet in Daniel 4: 17,24-26 he was
warned in no uncertain terms:
This matter is by the decree of the
watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones [the Trinity?]:
to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth
in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and
setteth up over it the basest of men. . . .
This is the interpretation, O king,
and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my
lord the king:
That they shall drive thee from
men . . . till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom
of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will. . . .
Thy kingdom shall be sure unto
thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.
And so again
in Daniel 5:21: "And he was driven from the sons of men
. . . till he knew that the Most High God ruled in the kingdom
of men, and that He appointeth over it whomsoever He will."
It is not certain exactly what sickness overcame the emperor,
but two things are quite clear from Scripture in connection with
it. The first is that as soon as Nebuchadnezzar attributed entirely
to himself the great achievements associated with his name, then
God reduced him to something less than a man so that he "ate
straw like an ox." The second is that when in some strange
way, in his demented condition, he came to realize that there
was really only one Lord in the universe, then he was at once
restored to his former position of authority and he had no hesitation
whatsoever in acknowledging this circumstance. Scripture reveals
that the Lord was overruling these men, and strange to say, they
were sometimes quite aware of it. It was a kind of Divine Right
All of which is in perfect harmony
with the fact that the final world empire will appear at a time
when God shall have "put into the hearts [of the nations]
to fulfill His will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto
the beast until the words of God shall be fulfilled" (Revelation
17:17). From beginning to end, in the major aspects of world
history God is clearly omnipotent. Ultimately, of course, "all
the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord:
and all kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee. For
the kingdom is the Lord's, and He is governor among the nations"
22:27,28). For God dictates
the rise and fall of nations; as Job put it (12:23): "He
increaseth the nations and destroyeth them; He enlargeth the
nations and straighteneth them again." And so likewise in
Psalm 47:6-8: "Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises
unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth:
sing ye praises with understanding. God reigneth over the heathen:
God sitteth on the throne of His holiness." It is indeed
a cause for praise!
Now, over these nations are kings
who, to some extent, determine the fortunes and the character
of the nations they rule, just as the significance and the character
of the Jewish nation will ultimately be determined by their appointed
Lord and King. At this level God begins to be even more explicit
in His revelation. For example, "The king's heart is in
the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water [i.e., in an irrigated
garden]: He turneth it whithersoever He will" (Proverbs
21:1). This is, of course, in harmony with Psalm 75:6,7, "For
promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor
from the south. But God is judge: He putteth down one, and setteth
up another." Likewise in Daniel 2:20,21: "Daniel answered
and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom
and might are His: and He changeth the times and the seasons:
He removeth kings, and setteth up kings."
Many are the specific examples
of God's overruling in the histories of individual kings. The
obvious example which springs immediately to mind is that of
"Pharaoh," the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The graphic picture
of vacillation and cowardice, of resolution and decision, on
the part of the king is so clearly drawn. We are given an insight
into the thoughts of a man moved upon by forces far greater than
himself, and who is apparently quite unaware of this overruling.
He would have let the children of Israel go, would have been
glad to see the last of them, after each exhibition of power
on Moses' part. But as the miracles became increasingly amazing,
he found his heart strengthened even when he was most fearful
of the consequences of refusal!
This is clearly what lies behind
the comment of Paul when he observes in Romans 9:17, "For
the Scripture reveals with respect to Pharaoh, Even for this
very purpose have I 'made thee so,' that I might show My power
in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the
earth." So in Exodus 10:20: "But the Lord hardened
Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel
go." And Exodus 8:10: "That thou [Pharaoh] mayest know
that there is none like unto the Lord our God." Pharaoh
was a pawn
in the hand of an omnipotent
God. The fairness, or otherwise, of God's action in the light
of Pharaoh's unhappy end we must deal with later on, for undoubtedly
the Lord punished him for doing His will! But suffice it to say
that this man was entirely in the hands of God and was, as it
were, "driven" to do what he did by a higher power
whom he, nevertheless, constantly refused to acknowledge. It
is curious how frequently the Egyptians were used to fulfill
the purposes of God with respect to Israel in a punitive role.
When Rehoboam forsook the law of the Lord and all Israel with
him, the Lord threatened them with punishment through the Egyptians
under Shishak. The people were moved with fear and humbled themselves,
and accordingly, God tempered the punishment He had prepared
for them. In 2 Chronicles 12:7-9 it is written:
And when the Lord saw that they
humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying,
They have humbled themselves, therefore I will not destroy them,
but I will grant them some deliverance; and My wrath shall not
be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.
Nevertheless they shall be his
servants; that they may know My service, and the service of the
kingdoms of the countries.
So Shishak king of Egypt came up
against Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of the house of
the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house, he took all:
he carried away also the shields of gold which Solomon had made.
It was the hand
of Shishak, according to history, that despoiled the Temple,
but it was in fact the hand of the Lord, according to biblical
revelation: Shishak was merely serving the Lord, though he knew
not the Lord whom he served.
Later on, we find another emperor,
Cyrus, who never acknowledged God and yet found himself called
upon to fulfill His will. "Is there a God beside Me?. .
. Who saith of Cyrus, He is My shepherd, and shall perform
all My pleasure. . . " (Isaiah 44:8,28). And the Word of
the Lord continues (Isaiah 45:1,5,6):
Thus saith the Lord to His anointed,
to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before
him. . . .
I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside
Me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me:
That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west,
that there is none beside Me. I am the Lord, and there is none
else. [emphasis mine]
the emphasized words: for Cyrus was not a worshipper of the true
God. He was a pagan and honoured the gods as convenience required
wherever he happened to be. Yet for all this, Cyrus acknowledged
subsequently that he owed his dominion to the Lord God and had
received a charge to build the Temple in Jerusalem
36:23). He did not know God in a personal way, and therefore
he was merely a servant in the hands of an overruling Lord
who by him "performed His pleasure."
Years before this, one of Israel's
godliest kings, Josiah -- after he had performed many
great things for the Lord -- engaged upon a venture which was
not at all according to the Lord's will. The circumstances surrounding
this incident are illuminating. In 2 Chronicles 35:20-24 it is
After all this, when Josiah
had prepared the Temple, Necho King of Egypt came up to fight
against Charchemish by Euphrates: and Josiah went out against
But he sent ambassadors to him,
saying, What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah? I come
not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I
have war: for God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from
meddling with God, who is with me, that He destroy thee not.
Nevertheless Josiah would not turn
his face from him, but disguised himself, that he might fight
with him, and hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the
mouth of God, and came to fight in the valley of Megiddo.
And the archers shot at king Josiah.
. . . His servants therefore took him, . . . and brought him
to Jerusalem, and he died.
So ended Josiah,
in spite of the warning of an Egyptian king who clearly in this
was acting as a servant of God.
A few years later, Nebuchadnezzar
was likewise an instrument in the furtherance of God's purposes.
"And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar
the king of Babylon, My servant [see Jeremiah 25:9 and 43:10]:
and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.
And all the nations shall serve him and his son, (and his son's
son,) until the very time of his land come; and then many nations
and great kings shall serve themselves of him" (Jeremiah
27:6,7). This passage reveals much. It also shows who disposes
events and therefore declares who alone can predict the future.
God's omnipotence is behind prophecy, not merely His foresight.
He, like the Lord Jesus, claims this predictive power as proof
of His control of history: "Remember the former things of
old: for I am God, and there is none else: I am God, and there
is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from
ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel
shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isaiah 46:9,10).
So likewise in John 13:19: "Now I tell you before it come,
that when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am He."
Nebuchadnezzar had become great
"because of God," and not "because of Nebuchadnezzar."
This fact Belshazzar learned to his shame, for "the God
in whose hands" were all his ways he had not glorified (Daniel
5:23); and it spelled calamity.
the case of Ahitophel, we find another example of how God overruled
a man's intentions. This example is a striking one (though not
an exceptional one) in that Ahitophel had good intentions. In
2 Samuel 17:14 it is written, "For the Lord had appointed
to defeat the good counsel of Ahitophel to the intent that the
Lord might bring evil upon Absalom." It is hard when we
read such passages to resist the temptation to anticipate some
of the conclusions which follow later and to begin making comments
on the strangeness of God's actions at times! But here we must
again be content with pointing out for the present how a man
is overruled that God's purposes might stand, even when the intentions
overruled were intrinsically good.
In the "natural" goodness of his heart, Pilate would
have let Jesus go. And it would have been difficult at that instant
to do anything but commend his determination. But it would have
been wrong from God's point of view -- the only point of view
that could count. And so Jesus replied, "Thou couldest have
no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above"
(John 19:11). Pilate thought he had power (verse 10), and so
he did! But it was borrowed from God, who could alone sustain
it. That is why Peter says quite simply, "Fear God. Honour
the king" (1 Peter 2:17). Do you know who was king when
Peter penned these instructions? The date of his epistle is somewhere
about A.D. 60, and from A.D. 37 to 68 Nero was emperor in Rome!
It is doubtful if there has ever existed such an inhuman beast
(Adolf Hitler not excepted) -- and yet Peter is still required
to pen these words, "Fear God. Honour the king." We
cannot, must not, divorce these two commands. They stand or fall
together by all that has already been declared from the Word
of God. God appoints kings.
It is the plain statement of the
Scriptures that "all are His servants" (Psalm 119:91).
The inclusiveness of this would be hard to understand if, to
be a servant, it was also necessary to be a friend. However,
this is by no means the case; it is sometimes necessary for the
Lord to use His enemies to fulfill His purposes. Thus in the
early days of the church, when its numbers were few and its resources,
humanly speaking, were very small, one might have thought that
God would arrange for a Constantine to be emperor in Rome. On
the contrary, He saw fit to appoint as emperor men who were almost
completely corrupt and who persecuted the church unceasingly.
Similarly, when Israel first entered
the Promised Land, they were opposed at once by powerful enemies
whom the Lord could easily have removed beforehand, but had not
done so. These enemies are used to serve God's purposes in two
quite specific ways,
as will be seen by reference
to Deuteronomy 7:22 and Judges 2:22. We should not be surprised
therefore, in our personal experience, to find when we have been
clearly led to a new undertaking that there is opposition where
we might least have expected it in the circumstances. Since the
opposition may very well be indirectly of the Lord, we should
try to discern what the Lord (not the enemy) is after!
In 2 Samuel 7:14 men of the world
are referred to as "the rod" of God: in Isaiah 7:20
the king of Assyria is God's "hired razor"; in Jeremiah
47:6,7 Pharaoh is termed the "sword of the Lord"; in
Isaiah 10:26 the Assyrian is spoken of as the "scourge of
God." By such agencies are the saints perfected, for "whom
the Lord loveth, He scourgeth" (Hebrews 12:6).
David says, "Arise, O Lord, . .
. deliver my soul from the wicked which is Thy sword:
from men which are Thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world
which have their portion in this life. . . ." (Psalm 17:13,14).
When David speaks of the comfort of God's "rod" and
"staff," he may have had in mind, as we have customarily
supposed, the protective devices which a shepherd carries: but
he may also have been discerning enough to see that the chastening
of the Lord is proof of His care for us. Indeed the Hebrew word
paqadh, has the dual meaning of "visiting, caring
for" and "punishing." Asaph says in Psalm 76:10,
"Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder
of wrath shalt Thou restrain." That is to say, God does
not permit the hostility of men to go beyond the point where
the outcome of it will cease to be any longer to His praise.
Such "vessels of wrath" are also termed "vessels
of dishonour," possibly because their work is one which
they, being sinful, take delight in. As such, their just dessert
is destruction (Romans 9:21,22).
Subsequently we have to consider
how God can punish men in authority for their wickedness and,
at the same time, use them as they are and make them serve His
own ends. God is no man's debtor. The same Lord who borrowed
Peter's boat for a while, as He addressed the throng that pressed
upon Him, afterward repaid him with a draught far beyond the
carrying capacity of his little craft! And it will be found that
God is also careful to repay the unsaved who serve His purposes
even when their motives are entirely selfish. Nebuchadnezzar
was used by the Lord to punish the wickedness of Tyre; but so
impoverished was the city that the king gained little or nothing
from the spoils of war. Ezekiel put it this way (29:18-20):
Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king
of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus.
. . Yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyrus,
for the service that he had served against
Therefore thus saith the Lord God:
Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king
of Babylon: and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil,
and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army.
I have given him the land of Egypt
for his labour wherewith he served against it, because they wrought
for Me, saith the Lord God.
constituted of people over whom kings usually appoint lesser
authorities. Paul deals at some length in one passage with the
matter of the attitude we should hold toward them. He writes
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers; for there
is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained
of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth what
God hath ordained" (Romans 13:1,2).
Paul then adds the rather strange
comment (verse 3) that rulers are not a terror to good works,
but to evil. This observation comes unexpectedly, since one tends
to assume that it is only good people who have cause to fear
the kind of ruler Paul had in mind. But actually Paul is saying
that a good man has no need to fear evil rulers no matter how
wicked they are, provided that he fears God more. When he says,
"Do that which is good and verily thou shalt have praise
of the same" (verse 3), I do not think he means that we
should expect praise of the ruler, but that we may be assured
of the praise of God.
The fact is that we ought to be
subject because wickedness exists everywhere and must, therefore,
be restrained, and such authorities are appointed specifically
to do this as God sees fit. Since they are His agents in this
capacity, to refuse them is to refuse God Himself.
It means, in effect, that always
we must look past the immediate agent to the Presence whose hand
is being revealed. When we begin to learn to do this, we may
carry with us unconsciously that other-worldliness which so challenges
the world about us. This is one aspect of walking in the Spirit.
But we must distinguish between attitudes which are prompted
by the fear of man instead of the fear of God. Who fears the
Lord need have no other fear.
And so Paul writes to Titus (3:1),
"Put them in mind to be subject to the principalities and
powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work."
We cannot really excuse ourselves with the plea, "Well,
the whole government is rotten anyhow!" It could perhaps
never be as rotten again over so long a period as it was under
Nero and his predecessors in the days of the early church.
Probably that is one reason why God called Nero to "serve"
at such a time -- for He was revealing His will at that time
with respect to
we today can never claim that our age exempts us because
of its wickedness and corruption.
I think there is a distinction
which must be made between "respect" and "honour."
Paul closes this little section of Romans 13 by saying (verse
7), "Render to all therefore their dues; . . . fear to whom
fear; honour to whom honour." As I understand it, respect
is based upon proper acknowledgment of the dignity of an office:
honour is something based upon the worthiness of a man who holds
the office. A wicked judge or an unfaithful bishop, provided
they are both duly constituted, must be respected as judge or
bishop, but one need not necessarily honour either of them as
men. Both Paul and the Lord Himself respected a reprobate high
priest because he was high priest. In fact, God was still pleased
to speak by revelation through one of these unworthy officials
So much, then, for those in authority
over us, for those who for one reason or another have the power
to coerce us. In spite of persecutions, of restrictions upon
liberty, of the multitude of ways in which evil men have brought
tribulation to the saints, such men are still servants of God,
however much they may suppose themselves to be free and however
much we may suppose them to be the servants of Satan. All things
still work together for good to them who love God. I believe
we shall find in eternity that God's omnipotence is of such a
kind that the most wicked deeds of man will prove to be the source
of the greatest glory for God -- the supreme example being the
crucifixion of the Son of God. Where there is no suffering, there
is no glory.
But what does
the Word of God reveal regarding ordinary mortals, like you and
me, whose individual importance would seem to be so small? Well,
if we begin with one of the earliest books of the Bible, we find
Job saying, "Man that is born of woman is of few days, and
full of trouble. . . . Thou hast appointed his bounds that
he cannot pass. Turn from him, that he may rest till he shall
accomplish as an hireling his day" (14:1,5,6). As a hireling:
his very existence is spent upon borrowed time. He makes great
plans and dreams great dreams, and his energies are bent apparently
at will as he struggles for the goal. Indeed, "there are
many plans in a man's heart; yet the counsel of the Lord, that
shall stand" (Proverbs 19:21). As the same wise man elsewhere
observed and was instructed to write for us, "A man's heart
deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps" (Proverbs
16:9). Yea, the very preparations of the heart in man and the
very "response" are from the Lord (Proverbs 16:1).
And we ask in
amazement, Who then
is free? What can these things mean? Nor is it the first time
it has been asked, How can God find fault when a man's actions
are predetermined and he cannot do otherwise? (Romans 9:19).
We turn elsewhere, supposing that
perhaps in these proverbs Solomon was exaggerating, only to find
Jeremiah saying, "O Lord, I know that the way of a man is
not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps"
(Jeremiah 10:23). And so Solomon is found saying again, "Man's
goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own
way?" (Proverb 20:24).
There are times when we are conscious
of this strange compulsion, and involuntarily we exclaim, "I
really don't know why I did it -- or what got into me."
It is the universal testimony of men in times of great crisis
that their actions often seem to spring, as it were, from sources
deeper than themselves. Sometimes they say, with Luther, "I
can do no other, so help me God!" This "restraint"
upon the course of our lives makes it impossible to say truthfully,
"If I had my life to live over again I would do differently."
This is almost certainly false, because it is not ultimately
left with man to direct his own steps when the decision to be
made is vital.
Now, in the ordinary plans and
business of the day Jeremiah reminds us (Lamentations 3:37),
"Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord
did not command it?" It is just this habit of thought, based
entirely upon the assumption that our actions are determined
by our own wills and that we can therefore plan with considerable
certainty, that is condemned in the New Testament: "Go to
now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city,
and continue there a year, and buy and sell and get gain; whereas
ye know not what shall be on the morrow. . . . For that ye ought
rather to say, If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or
that" (James 4:13-15).
So He who in many ways has so ordered
His purposes as to take into consideration our usefulness in
furthering them, nevertheless can declare forthrightly, "Yea,
before the day was, I am He; and there is none that can deliver
out of My hand; I will work, and who shall hinder?" (Isaiah
Even a glance at the passages which
are tabulated in chapter 4 will reveal clearly that both believers
and the unbelieving are completely in the hands of God the moment
God finds it necessary to overrule their actions. Of course,
we find ourselves faced with the question of election -- and
there are not a few to whom this aspect of theology seems cold
and harsh and entirely contrary to the Christian spirit in its
emphasis. But we must let the Word of God decide the issue for
us, if possible.
In these last few paragraphs we have begun to tread
on delicate ground. It is not difficult to believe that God has
overruled kings and princes in a general kind of way; this seems
remote and impersonal. But as we pass down the scale, it almost
seems as though Scripture becomes increasingly "fatalistic"
in its philosophy. Two problems arise out of this which put us
on the defensive. The first is the sense of injustice
which we feel very deeply when we are told that God has overruled
us to such an extent that we seem to be mere automatons. If God
so overrules our actions, in what sense can we ever be held morally
responsible? Paul stated this very explicitly -- perhaps quoting
someone who had disputed with him: "How in the world can
God find fault with us when He never allows us to do anything
except what He wants us to do?" Or, to put it in the words
of the Authorized Version, "Why doth He yet find fault,
for who hath resisted His will?" (Romans 9:19).
Now, the problem raised here is
not merely punishing men for evil deeds, but also rewarding them
for good. If men are not to be punished for evil deeds, can they
be rewarded for good ones? Undoubtedly God does punish and does
reward and, therefore, men are presumably morally accountable.
What exactly is the nature of this moral accountability? How
is it to be squared with the clear statements of Scripture about
the omnipotence of God in the affairs of men? The Bible has a
full and satisfying answer to this problem, and we shall explore
it in chapter 5. In the next chapter, however, we shall see how
God overruled in the history of Israel.
In the meantime, we have advanced
the tabulation of passages so that it may be set down as follows:
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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