The Big "Why"?
There are numerous questions in this world that seem to be beyond our understanding. Particularly with matters pertaining to the spiritual realm, we might answer many pressing questions by saying that they are a "mystery". I do not want to appear so presumptuous to say that I can adequately provide an answer to the hard questions in life such as "why did these terrible things happen to me?", "Why is there such suffering in the world?" and the like. Pat answers for such questions usually only raise more questions. As a matter of fact, the most common explanations for problems in humanity which frequently point to the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden, the existence of Satan, and original sin, raise one of the most perplexing questions of them all. We might call it the mother of all questions. I sometimes call it the "Big Why" The situation is this:
If an omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing) God created a perfect human race in Eden, and He knew that Adam and Eve were going to sin, why did He let it all happen in the first place?
It is not enough to say that God gave Adam and Eve freewill in hope that they would make the right decision. Being omniscient, He certainly knew what the outcome would be long before the situation ever took place. Nor is it adequate to say that the serpent (the devil) was an unforeseen factor who messed up God's plans. God knew the devil was there, knew of his intent, and could have easily remedied that situation without any effort. Why then did this all happen? If God could have prevented it, why did he allow such a tragedy? We bemoan the effects of the Fall and the entrance of sin and death into God's creation, yet we are in ignorance how a loving and all-powerful God could have permitted this to happen. We are either left with the possibilities that God was ignorant of the outcome of the scenario in Eden, He was indifferent to the ensuing plight, or He was too weak and impotent to do anything about it. Many people picture God's plan of redemption through Jesus Christ as God's solution to the problem of sin, but that still doesn't answer why he let things get so messed up to begin with. If the purpose of the coming of Christ was to "straighten things out again", than we would certainly have to conclude that God is going about this in a very round-about fashion. Is Jesus really just trying to remedy the situation that the devil created some 6,000 years ago? That would mean that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection was merely "Plan B", trying to get the human race back on track, the way God originally made it. That view will not suffice either. If, however, we examine the way the Bible presents the issue, we may see that God's intention in creating the human race and the fruit of God's plan of redemption is very different from what we have previously thought.
When God had created the heavens and earth, he decided to place make mankind and place him in the Garden of Eden. The Bible says that the first man was fashioned out of the dust of the earth. That first man was named "Adam" which has as a root word in the Hebrew "Adamah" meaning "ground" or "dirt". This has great significance since the ancients believed that proper name denoted the essence or identity of that named. Since the first man was designated "Adam", God demonstrated that this creation was inherently bound to the earthly domain. The human race was, at it's very essence, earthly. When Adam transgressed, God cursed the serpent and warned him about his impending doom at the advent of the seed of the woman; (ie. the Christ, Gen 3:15). God told the woman that she would have greater pains in childbirth, and that Adam would have to toil all of his days. It is interesting to note that God did not curse Adam at this event. If we look carefully at Gen 3:17, we see that God cursed the earth as a reaction to Adam's transgression. That which is from the earth is under a curse. The whole adamic race suffers the consequences, only inasmuch that it is part of that creation. God declared that from the dust man was created to the dust he would return. (Genesis 3:17) The Bible is very clear that these events, as they happened, were all perfectly within the providential plan of God. God was not caught by surprise. He did not wring His hands and say "Oh my, what will I do now!". Romans 8:20 declares that "creation was subjected to futility, not by it's own will, but by the will of the one who subjected it (God)". Although this action on God's part does not make sense to many, if we are careful to let the Bible speak on this issue, we will see exactly why God cursed the earth, and how this fit in with God's intention of achieving something far greater than what many of us might have expected from God.
If we follow the ensuing events after the fall, we see many examples of how God had offered constant reminders of His curse upon the earth. Adam and Eve's children, for example, Cain and Abel, brought sacrifices before the Lord. Cain, we are told "worked the soil", so he brought the first-fruits of the harvest. Abel brought some portions of the flocks that he kept. God looked with favor upon Abel's offering, and He rejected Cain's. I used to wonder how it was that God seemed so partial to Abel. Was it that God really liked veal, and didn't like veggies? Not likely. What is being expressed is that God is not satisfied or appeased with our labors to please Him. Our creation is flawed since it is bound to the earth. Cain is the quintessential "man of the ground", trying to get God's favor by his own efforts. When God addressed Cain's resentment, He succinctly told Cain that "sin was crouching at the door (of his heart)" and that he must "master it". It is as true now as it was then, the "earth-man" cannot master the sin in his heart. Cain ended up succumbing to the resentment and killed his own brother. Today "earth-men", those of the original creation, still are led and controlled by their passions and whims. To many, this seems to present a hopeless situation. If that was the end of the story, it certainly would be hopeless. Fortunately, God had a plan that He was unfolding for the universe to behold.
GOD'S TRUE INTENTION
When God created mankind in the Garden, we are told that God intended to created beings in His "own image and likeness". Many of us have assumed that Adam was the pinnacle of that expression. The perfect man; sinless, righteous, fully what God desired. Adam was indeed a perfect man, but He could never be the true likeness of God. Why? Because the essence of man was still of the earth. Even before the earth was cursed and Adam was without sin, he was still a mere creature of dust. We are told from the some of the earliest Christian writers that God created Adam in the image or semblance of God, yet the "likeness" of God (Greek Homousias- essence, nature, substance) cannot be bestowed upon a mere created being. The reason is that the essence or nature of God is His divine nature. God can't just whip it up and drop it on any creature. Only God has God's nature or essence! In order to achieve His ultimate intention, at the predetermined time, God brought forth His Son Jesus, who He had chosen from eons before He even created Eden. We are told by the writer of Hebrews that Jesus Christ is the "exact representation" (Greek Homousias) of the Father. He has God's essence and nature because he is begotten of God. He is God in the flesh. Christ therefore, is the fullness of Deity in bodily form, bearing His exact image and likeness. That brings us to our place in this divine drama. Jesus, when He had come forth, made stated clearly to the fact that he was "God's only-begotten Son." He was the only person on the planet who was actually part of God's family and possessed God's nature or substance. One day He somberly told his disciples "a seed, unless it falls to the ground and dies, remains but one seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:24) What he was saying was that the seed (God's divine nature dwelling in Him) was here to replicated and be reproduced many times over. Jesus' purpose on this earth was, through His death, to redeem mankind, and somehow generate a whole new species that possessed the divine nature or essence! God never intended Adam to perpetuate a world full of "earth-men" who would never have any hope in sharing God's nature. Adam's life and transgression was merely a mean to God's end. Nor was Christ's mission to merely procure forgiveness for mankind. The mission was much greater than that. Christ came to regenerate us, the Adamic race, into a legion of "sons" or "children of God" that was of a new race. We are destined to be co-heirs with Christ, adopted by God and partakers in his nature. Up to this point, we have all been lacking that aspect of God's "likeness". The church from the very beginning recognized this very fact. The Epistle of Barnabas (written 100 A.D.) testifies that this is part of the message that the apostles preached. He says
For man is earth in a suffering state, for the formation of Adam was from the face of the earth...Since, therefore, having renewed us by the remission of sins, He has made us after another pattern, it is His purpose that we should possess the souls of children, insomuch as He has created us anew by His Spirit. For the Scripture speaks concerning us, while He speaks to the Son, "Let us make man after our image and likeness"...In respect to us, He has accomplished a second fashioning in these last days." (Ante-Nicene Fathers I:140)
Clement of Alexandria (d. 220 A.D.) was even more specific in his classical work The Instructor II:XII (ibid. vol. 2, 237)
For the view I take is this, God made man out of dust, and regenerated him by water, and made him grow by His Spirit, and trained him by His Word to adoption and salvation; directing him by sacred precepts, in order that, transforming earth-born man into heavenly being by His advent, He might fulfill to the utmost utterance "Let us make man in our own image and likeness "
Irenaeus (ca. 180 A.D.) says that man, "a created and organized being, is rendered after the image and likeness of God" through Christ. He details how Adam was not made perfect with respect to his nature or essence, possessing only a human, albeit sinless nature. We, on the other hand, are "born-again" and bestowed with a divine nature akin to that of Almighty God when we submit ourselves to Christ. (Ante-Nicene Fathers, I: 521)
This amazing truth is recognized by many great Christian scholars today. The late C.S. Lewis, in his classic "Mere Christianity" said " God became man to turn creatures into sons; not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man."
We cannot ignore this amazing truth. It is critical to understanding the "Big Why". When we come to Christ, we are not merely restored to the position of Adam. Far from it. God's plan from before the foundation of the world was to bring us into His family and multiply the number of those with His nature. We are now "born of God." That which is born of flesh is flesh. That which is born of Spirit is Spirit. Jesus said regarding John the Baptist that he was the greatest of those born of women, but the least in the Kingdom (of heaven) is greater than he. How can this be? Because all of those in the Kingdom are not "born of woman". They are "born of God"! This is the whole purpose of Christ's mission. It is the reason for the existence of the church. This is why everything since the Fall has happened. When we come to Christ, we not only receive the free gift of salvation, but we are completely justified in God's sight, seated in heavenly realms, adopted into God's family, and declared holy and blameless in His sight.
THE BIG DAY COMING
Many people will still have problem with this. Why does it have to be like this? Isn't there an easier way? The answer is no! Although it may not seem easy to us from our lowly perspective, this is the method that will ultimately prove to be the greatest and grandest triumph of God. Picture this. God has a day in the future picked out. He's told the angels about it. They are all abuzz. At a future date, God is going to display his workmanship to all of the principalities and powers. The Bible says that the angels "long to look into these things". When that Day happens, God will roll back the veil, and every angel, every demon, will see you and I, originally created as pathetic lumps of slime and mud, crowned with power and authority, possessing the same essence and Divine nature and God Himself. The angels will fall down, aghast at the brightness of the revelation. The demons will be having a conniption saying "you can't do that! You can't do that! These are mortals that are transgressors, sinners and rebellious! You have to condemn them like you have condemned us!" God will answer "They stand here because of my MERCY. I myself have satisfied justice on their part." The whining little imps will be in torment. Mercy? What's that? How can He do that? Had the devil understood what the result of Christ's death on Calvary would be, he would have never incited anyone to have Christ crucified (see 1 Corinthians 2:8). The Bible says in Ephesians chapter 2 that, even though we were once alienated by God because of our sin, He has saved us, and raised us to this glorious position so that:
In the coming ages he might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. (v. 7)
We are destined to be God's display of how merciful and kind God really is. The angels will finally see what mercy is. God took the most hopeless of all creation. Man. Mortal. Proud. Insolent. The only creature on earth that regularly rebelled against it's Creator's will. And the Lord has redeemed this race, purified, sanctified, justified, and adopted into His very own family. If that doesn't give you the shivers just thinking about it. The Bible says that all of creation is waiting for this revelation of the sons of God. (See Romans 8:21!) Creation will be freed from it's tendency to decay when it happens. The says regarding this:
"What is man that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man that you should care? For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor." ( Hebrews 2:7)
Few people realize the tremendous gain we have from what Christ actually on did on Calvary. He restored us to perfect righteousness, made us irreproachable and without guilt before Him. We are fully acceptable to Him, made us as adopted children of God, co-heirs with Christ, as well as a myriad of other things. Christ has become the first-born among many brethren. This has become the great demonstration of God's mercy, love, and wisdom to the entire universe. It is not God's "plan B". We are told that we were predestined to this salvation before the foundation of the world! Our sonship is a most incredible thing. The apostle John echoes this in his epistle when he exults:
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us
that we should be called children of God!
(I John 3:1)
Indeed, we can see that this was all God's intention from before all of history. He has begotten an entire family, comprised of untold millions, all dependent upon His mercy, and awed by His graciousness. The blood-bought church is God's greatest accomplishment. It is the object that he will show his unfailing kindness to, for all the inhabitants of both heaven and earth to see. Christ's sacrificial death on Calvary has conquered both the devil and our earthly, adamic nature.
Perhaps many will think that we are just splitting doctrinal hairs. Perhaps one might suggest that the fact of our adoption as sons and children of God has no practical "here and now" application for today. Personally speaking, I feel nothing could be farther from the truth. To know that we are fully accepted by God in Christ. To know that in Christ dwelt the fullness of the Godhead, and we have been given fullness in him (Col. 2:9,10) is largely beyond our comprehension. To understand these things is to come in to a new and revolutionary walk with Christ. We can see God's providential and Sovereign hand in everything. We can see the "great power towards us who believe" (Eph 1:18-19). In the religious circles of mainline Christianity, many have come to accept that being a Christian is merely trying to follow Christ's example. Even in evangelical churches, although we may talk a lot about receiving forgiveness, many have not seen the reality of what God does with our spiritual man when we came to believe. God's purpose in Christ was far more than just restoring us to the position of Adam, that is, merely in fellowship with Him. That is far from the truth. The fact of the matter is that in Christ, we currently hold a position far exceeding that of Adam, and it will be gloriously revealed at the resurrection, when we shine like stars before the entire universe. Today, God sees us as inherently different than the ordinary human. Paul says that we ourselves cannot judge anyone after the flesh, because in Christ, we become new creations (II Cor. 5:17) Interestingly enough, demons, too, have some idea of the great power of God resident within us (and shudder). Will we ourselves come to the same conclusion? Will we accept the calling that God has for us, and walk in that ideal position that God has placed us in? Why not? Perhaps that is the real mystery. It could very well be that, in knowledge of what our merciful and loving Father has done for us, the real mother of all questions may be, "why haven't we unreservedly given ourselves over for whatever God has purposed for us? In light of what the Bbile says about our position in Christ, this may be the only "Big Why". The answer to this last question only we each as individuals can answer for ourselves.