Meditations "on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam" - God's Glorious Plan
In my previous meditation in this series I began examining the reasons, from the perspective of Scripture, that "the testimony of creation, as overwhelming and magnificent as it is, has not proven sufficient to bring people to God," asking, "Why has creation not proven a testimony sufficient to elicit praise for God from all mankind?" I chose to focus on what I consider to be the two over-arching reasons - the glory of God, and the sin of mankind - and began with the more obvious of the two - the sin of man.
Within a day or two of publishing those thoughts this question was posed by a friend of mine on Facebook: "How would you answer a seeker's question: Why didn't God make humans perfect to start with?" My first thought, of course, was "He did". But it seemed fairly obvious that was not really what he was getting at. Rather what he seemed to be asking was the bigger question, "Why did God make man capable of sin?" Hoping to avoid trying to answer an age old question in the space of a Facebook comment, I waited for others to respond, hoping someone else would take on the task. There were several other answers, but none were, at least in my opinion, even remotely satisfactory. I'm not impressed with the "free will" argument, variations of which being the most common explanation he received.
Let me explain briefly why I find this explanation insufficient. Though I agree that man has volition, and is free to do whatever He wants and is capable of, I do not believe that this is the driving force behind God's decision to make man as He did. Scripture never attributes God's motives for creation to His interest in the free will of man. Rather, the testimony of Scripture is that God does whatever He does for His name's sake and His glory, and that it is His purposes which concern Him, and His purposes which stand. Yes, God created us volitional beings (He is a volitional being - though He is not free to sin - nor is He capable of it. That's what it is to be holy), beings able to base their actions upon what their minds and hearts value. But beyond that, He made us beings with minds and hearts capable of valuing Him: seeing and savoring His beauty, marveling at His wisdom and infinitude, glorying in the depth of His love. In short, He made us beings to witness and experience His glory, and be recipients of His love. He made us to enjoy Him. The opportunity for sin did not make man freer to enjoy God (if that were the case, we must be "free" to sin in Heaven as well), quite the contrary. Would Adam have loved God less or been less happy if the Garden had no forbidden fruit and no serpent? So why then, did God take the sinless man and place Him in such a situation? This is, I think more to the point of my friend's question. It is also exactly to the point of what I had planned for today's meditation.
I answered my friend, again hoping to avoid a lengthy response, this way: "I'll give you the short version of a much longer answer: So He could die for us." It wasn't long before I received his response, which was, in so many words: "What's the long answer?" And so he received the preview of today's thoughts. God had a lot more of His divine character to display when He created this world than his divine power and eternal nature...
Certainly God, the Alpha and the Omega, knew the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10), and what He meant to accomplish in this creation. He had a special plan, to display Himself in a way never seen before - as a self-sacrificing redeemer - by redeeming His enemies. He'd created other beings who'd rebelled (angels who became demons), yet, for reasons that are not clear, He did not redeem them, and they await the Day of Judgment. Clearly why God would do such things and create a world in which to suffer agony and die is difficult to understand. God's thoughts are much higher than ours. Scripture does, however, make it plain that what God does here on earth is done to display His glory, both to us and to the heavenly host – angels, demons, principalities, powers...:
“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him' – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit...”1 Cor. 2:6-10
“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord...Eph. 3:8-11(And if you continue reading through the remainder of the third chapter of Ephesians, you will be filled with awe at the plan God had from eternity to fill a people with His fullness, to show them the height and depth of His great love which is in Christ Jesus!)
And my point in all this, is that God's plan is older than time and intended to reveal an aspect of His character which He had previously never revealed to His created beings. They've seen Him as holy, holy, holy, and omnipotent, and any number of other beautiful things, but they'd never seen His perfect justice meted out on His enemies, nor had they ever dreamed of, let alone witnessed, the depth of His love. Who could have known that God would be willing to die to justify undeserving enemies? Who could have understood His long-suffering toward those who hate him? Who could have known that He could be both just, and the justifier of the ungodly? Who could have known the lengths to which He was willing to go to draw a people into His love:
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (Jn. 17:24-25)?'
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:29-30).So, you see, God has a great plan to further reveal His glory, but it is also a great plan to draw a people for Himself into that glory. The love He and the Son have for each other is so great that the Father has chosen to bring more creatures into it. He wants many more sons, self-sacrificing sons, in the image of His only begotten One. Adam was created good, but He was not Christ-like. Redeemed mankind will obtain a glory of which Adam would never have dreamed. The state of Redeemed man is far more glorious than that of Adam, and so truly it is only in Christ that he is perfect (complete). It is only in Christ that mankind's purpose is fulfilled. It is only in the Cross of Christ that God's perfect love and perfect justice are exhibited for all creation to witness. What a mighty and glorious God we serve!