Just finished reading John Piper’s The Justification of God: An Exegetical & Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23. It was excellent but not for the faint of heart. His study pays close attention to the Greek text, the Old Testament background, and the New Testament cultural mileu. His central thesis – worked out more popularly in his books like Desiring God – is that God’s chief end is the exaltation of His character and Name in all the universe. Even as the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, this too is God’s chief end – exalting His Name in all the universe. And His determination to exalt His Name in all the earth is good news for His people.
Some quotations from Piper:
“Therefore these prophetic writings… impress upon the careful reader of the Old Testament that all God’s saving deeds spring ultimately from his loyalty to his own name…. the righteousness of God consists most basically in God’s unswerving commitment to preserve the honor of his name and display his glory. Thus if God ever abandoned this commitment and no longer sought in all things the magnifying of his own glory, then there indeed would be unrighteousness with God.
“…the righteousness of man in relation to God is (reflecting God’s righteousness) to love the honor of God’s name, to esteem above all things God’s glory (especially as it has been mercifully experienced in his saving deeds), and, finally, to do only those things which accord with this love and esteem. Thus human actions may be described as righteous not because they conform to an ‘ideal ethical norm’ (like impartial distributive justice, though this may often be righteous), but rather because they are fitting expressions of man’s complete allegiance to maintain the honor of God’s name and display his glory.” (p. 119)
“Thus God’s glory and his name consist fundamentally in his propensity to show mercy and his sovereign freedom in its distribution. Or, to put it more precisely still, it is the glory of God and his essential nature mainly to dispense mercy (but also wrath, Ex 34:7) on whomever he pleases apart from any constraint originating outside his own will. This is the essence of what it means to be God.” (p. 121)
“For God to condone or ignore the dishonor heaped upon him by the sins of men would be tantamout to giving credence to the value judgment men have made in esteeming God more lowly than his creation. It is not so much that he would be saying sins do not matter or justice does not matter; more basically, he would be saying that he does not matter. But for God thus to deny the infinite value of his glory, to act persistently as if the disgrace of his holy name were a matter of indifference to him–this is the heart of unrighteousness. Thus if God is to be righteous he must repair the dishonor done to his name by the sins of those whom he blesses. He must magnify the divine glory man thought to deny him.” (148)
4 The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.
“How then do the wicked serve the good? As persecutors serve the martyrs; as a file or hammer, gold; as a mill, wheat; as ovens, the baking of bread: those are consumed, so that these may be baked. How, I say, do the wicked serve the good? As chaff in the furnace of the goldsmith serves gold…. Therefore the wicked should not boast or extol themselves when they send tribulations to the good. For while they are persecuting the good in their bodies, they are killing themselves in their hearts.”
Caesarius of Arles (c. 468-542)
In Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol II: Genesis 12-50, p. 148.
This last week our catechism questions centered on the universal sinfulness of humanity. As David declares, “God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. Every one of them has turned aside; they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one” (Ps 53:2-3). David’s assessment is sobering, is it not? But his assessment agrees with that of Paul – by nature we are children of wrath (Eph 2:3). So is there no hope?
Well no – at least there is no hope from the human level. If salvation depends upon us as human beings, then we are lost. There is no way that we can be acceptable in the sight of God – for we have sinned against God and, what’s more,we want to sin against God. There are none who understand or seek God.
So what then? What is our only hope? Our only hope is if God Himself should come and rescue us. And this God promised to do: “I looked, but there was no one to help, and I wondered that there was no one to uphold; therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; and My own fury, it sustained Me” (Is 63:5). This, my friends, is the message of the Gospel: what we could not do because of our sinful nature, God did in sending His own Son to rescue and redeem us. Praise to the Lord!
And what our catechism question this week reminds us is this: this action was the fulfillment of God’s plan in all eternity. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world; love us while we were yet sinners; saved us apart from any merit on our own part – for we had and have none. So all glory goes to God alone.
Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
“[G]race…is not given according to any merits, but is the cause of all good merits…”
Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, NPNF, V:499.
John Calvin in his commentary on Genesis 6 defends the position that the “sons of God” are the descendants of Seth. Here he responds to a potential objection and illustrates the way in which Scripture speaks both of eternal election and external calling:
“Should any one object, that they who had shamefully departed from the faith, and the obedience which God required, were unworthy to be accounted the sons of God; the answer is easy, that the honour is not ascribed to them, but to the grace of God, which had hiterto been conspicuous in their families. For when Scripture speaks of the sons of God, sometimes it has respect to eternal election, which extends only to the lawful heirs; sometimes to external vocation [calling], according to which many wolves are within the fold; and though, in fact, they are strangers, yet they obtain the name of sons, until the Lord shall disown them.”