God’s power, knowledge, and presence in our world are awesome, but we especially need his great love for sinners.
Arthur A. Eggert
The Lord declares that he is unique. Unlike other gods, which are the creation of the human mind, he exists independently of time and space, energy and matter. He, therefore, demands the first and dominant place in the lives of those who call him their God.
Our Lord’s awesome attributes
He told this to the Israelites in dramatic fashion at Mount Sinai: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:3-6). In other words, he is intolerant of disloyalty and infidelity because such things contradict his very essence (Deuteronomy 4:24). People are to credit neither themselves, luck, randomness, nor some other supernatural being for what happens, lest they deceive themselves.
The Lord claims the right to such loyalty because he can do what others cannot. He is holy (Leviticus 19:1,2), that is, his actions are completely separated from anything evil and dedicated to his purpose. His purpose is his will. Being omnipotent, his will always prevails. If he wills to dispose of the unrepentant, it happens (1 Samuel 2:25). When he wills to save mankind, his plan is carried out (Isaiah 53:10). We can trust the Lord to be faithful (2 Timothy 2:13) to his will because he is always the same at every point in time. He cannot change.
One might think that such revelations are not particularly comforting. Yet they are, because the Lord is not arbitrary. He judges everything by his will, without partiality, and therefore he is just (Revelation 15:3). Because he needs nothing, he cannot be bribed or influenced by his creatures. In fact, if we were perfect, we could go about our lives in full confidence that the Lord would vindicate our causes and reward us for our exemplary behavior.
But here is the problem: We are not perfect. If we are honest with ourselves, the perfect justice of the almighty Lord should destroy us for our failure to conform to his will as he demands. The Lord’s awesome attributes, therefore, seem to imply our eternal doom. Who can rescue us out of his hand? We indeed seem to be without hope. Our God is too big, too vast, too awesome for us to hope he will give us any consideration except his displeasure.
Our Lord’s boundless love
There is, however, more to the story. There is also the Lord’s boundless love for mankind; in fact, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). We are not talking here of romantic love, puppy love, sexual love, tough love, parental love, platonic love, or love of blueberry ripple ice cream. As revealed in the Scriptures, this love is a selfless love that has only the welfare of its recipient as its purpose (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). It is the incredible size of this love in comparison to the decrepit creature man that makes it so incredible. Why would the Lord love something in the vast universe so apparently insignificant as mankind? We have no rational answer, so we are left to marvel.
We are saved because the Lord puts his love into action through his mercy. He reaches out to those who have violated his will and rebelled against his rule and therefore have no reason to expect anything from him but punishment (Psalm 145:9). He has compassion on us as a father has compassion on his children (Psalm 103:13). Because he is merciful, the Lord devised a plan of salvation for vile sinners whom, according to his justice, he should have immediately annihilated or consigned to eternal punishment. When sinners seek forgiveness, they flee to the Lord as a God who is absolutely merciful (Ephesians 2:4,5).
It is precisely in his mercy that we see the true bigness of God. To save us, he, the all-everything Being, sent his Son to set aside his power as God almighty and take on the nature of a man. He did that so he could take our place under God’s absolute justice and earn for us the salvation that humanity had lost in Adam’s fall. The incarnation, perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ transcends what we can imagine or reconcile with human logic. If we do not contemplate the enormity of the Lord, then we do not see the seriousness of sins and the magnitude of his actions for our salvation.
His love is much bigger than we can imagine. The bigness of God, as described in the Bible, is difficult for sinful people to handle. If they truly consider it, they will fear for their eternal future, as Martin Luther did when he chose to became a monk in order to appease God. They will see no way to deal with God on their own terms, and they will follow one of two courses. Either like Luther, they will search the Scriptures that reveal the Lord’s mercy, or they will reduce God to a god to a size they can handle. Since they cannot deal with God on his own terms, they will shrink him so they can deal with God on their terms. In the latter case, they will limit all the attributes of their god and seek to establish a quid pro quo (something for something) relationship with it. They will offer penance, self-improvement, or rigid obedience to rules, all acts which they themselves devise and hope will placate their god. Sadly, many will call their god “the Lord” in the hope that he will accept their phony worship as a payment for the gift of salvation that he gives freely.
So how big is your God? If he is really the Lord, he is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, filling all time, absolutely just, absolutely merciful and forgiving for Jesus’ sake, and incredibly patient with sinful fools. He is far beyond awesome and amazing.
On our own, we could not serve such a God: “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God” (Joshua 24:19). But God’s plan included a way for us to honor, serve, and obey him. Yes, our sin-soaked reason would run from him or deny the nature of his being. Yet, through the vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, our hearts have been changed from sinful self-centeredness so that we have become children of and believers in this God of unlimited bigness.
This is the last article in a three-part series on the nature of God.
Dr. Arthur Eggert is a member at Peace, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.
Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Author: Arthur A. Eggert
Volume 104, Number 3
Issue: March 2017
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us