God is “The God of truth,” Isaiah 65:16. The word “truth” here is interesting; it is the Hebrew word “Amen” and indicates certainty. That is what truth is, it is that certainty which comes forth from the mind of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, united in thought and will together.
In the Bible the mind of God is called His counsel.Isaiah 46:9, 10 describes it most beautifully, “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.” Here we have the source of all created reality. Only that which comes from God’s counsel is true and real.
Nevertheless, among those realities preknown and predetermined by the counsel of God not all have the same value, as is reflected in Psalm 147:10, 11. “He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh no pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” There are some things that are good and give pleasure to God for what they are in themselves, as in Jeremiah 9:24, “I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” And then there are some things that are willed by God only because they serve a desired end, like the sin of Jacob’s brothers,Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Such things God has no delight in for what they are; they only serve in His mind as a means of bringing about a desired end.
For us there is an immediate, practical purpose in recognizing this distinction. As image-bearers of God, it is important that we should know and reflect the values of God as the guiding principles of our lives. In fact, this is the beginning of wisdom. Paul explains this in I Corinthians 3:19-23, “For the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their craftiness, and again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.”
In this text, one thing is established first: that is, that the world in itself does not form an object of divine delight. At its best it is “vain.” What God does see in it is only a means for the service of His people, the “ye” of the text, and through them “Christ” and “God” Himself.
Moreover, this latter series in itself becomes important.
“All are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” The people of God are first mentioned as those so favored by God as to receive the service of all things in the world; but they in turn become the means for the service of Christ. And so it is with Him. Christ is first such an object of divine delight that He receives the service of all of God’s people and all of history through them; but He in turn becomes the means for the service and glorification of God. Only there does the series end, for God and His glory is the end of all things. But through it we gain an important insight into the values of the counsel of God.
Last in purpose and therefore first in importance is “God” Himself. The ultimate purpose of all things isHe and the glory of His name, as Romans 11:36 says “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
Sadly, we in the frailty of our human minds are so ready at this point to object, God, would not be so selfish! But really, could it be any other way?
God is the eternal one, as Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” It means that before this world ever was or any creature existed God dwelt alone with Himself in eternity. There was no one else for whom that which He was to do could be done. That which God in eternity determined to do in the bringing forth of this creation was simply an expression of His own good pleasure, a determination within Himself to set forth an expression of His own greatness and glory.
Moreover, it is a Triune God who did this. Father Son, and Holy Spirit live together in eternity in the perfect communion of a divine love (John 17:5) in which they are perfectly dedicated to each. other and to the life which they share in common. It was out of this joy of their common life together that the determination to broaden the expression of this joy through the creation of this world and its inhabitants arose. Here then is the first origin of this creation, the joy which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have within themselves. Could anything be more glorious? more wonderful?
Nor are the Scriptures in any sense apologetic about this truth. In fact, repeatedly when it comes to the fore, they rise up in doxologies of praise and exultation. So we have the beautiful closing refrains of Romans 11:33-36, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” And so again in exulted refrain Paul writes in I Timothy 1:17, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever Amen.” Meanwhile, in Revelation 4:11 we are allowed to hear the song of the elders in glory, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” This is a wonderful truth and true Christianity must have at its beginning the unreserved humility which is ever ready and willing to acknowledge the supremacy of the divine glory and to join in joy in the expression of it.
But there is more. Next in order of divine importance is “Christ” who according to I Corinthians 3:23 “is God’s.” This means that Christ is the chief means by which God gives glory to His name, the chief means by which the Triune Godhead gives expression to the glory of the life which they live together. But at the same time Christ bears special mention, because He is within Himself an object of divine joy and delight.
The fact that Christ is the chief means by which God expresses His glory is clearly set forth in Scripture. This is why Christ is called “The Word” inJohn 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” A word is simply the means by which thoughts are communicated between persons, and Christ is the means by which God communicates His glory to His creatures. Thus, farther on in verse 18 John the Baptist is quoted as saying, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Jesus says much the same thing in Matthew 11:27, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he is to whosoever the Son will reveal him.”
The importance which this gives to Christ in the economy of time is beyond estimation.
Creation itself, of course, is an expression of the divine glory, Psalm 19:1, 2, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.” [See Romans 1:20.] Thus it is that the creation could only come into existence through Christ, and so it did, John 1:3, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” [See also Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2.] And it follows, of course, that only those who know Christ and are in rapport with Him are ever able to receive the message of glory of which creation is the expression.
But Christ’s expression goes far beyond this. As John 1:14 puts it, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld this, glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.” And what glory! Not a glory of physical expression, but spiritual, as in I John 4:9, 10, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Who but God could conceive of such an expression of ultimate glory? and who but a sinner can understand how great it really is?
And thus it is that in Himself Christ stands in history as an object of divine joy and pleasure. So much is this so that once and again the heavens themselves would not be silent, but broke forth saying, Matthew 3:17and Matthew 17:5, “This is my beloved Son, in whom, I am well pleased; hear ye him.” Paul grasps this beauty of Christ in a wonderful way when he exclaims in Colossians 1:15-19, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature . . . And he is before all things, and by him all things consist: And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.”
And then there are those called “ye” in I Corinthians 3:23. Particularly they were the members of the church at Corinth to whom the epistle was written, but they stand as representative of the church of all ages.
These, too, are set forth in Scripture as so many means to the expression of God’s glory. The Lord says so much in Isaiah 43:20, “This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” This after all is the proper function of man, he is the image bearer of God (Genesis 1:26) whose place is to reflect the spiritual virtue of his Maker. Thus God’s word to His people Israel was, Leviticus 20:26, “And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.”
The wonder is that these people should stand in the counsel of God as objects of pleasure and delight much in the way. Christ does. This is not true of all men, for we are told in Psalm 11:5, “The wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.” And, in fact, the people of God are no better than these as they appear in time, Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Nevertheless, the same Scriptures say, Psalm 149:4, “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” In fact, when Balaam and Balak stood looking down upon the oft carnal and rebellious Israel, pleading for a curse to be placed upon them, this answer was placed in Balaam’s mouth, Numbers 23:19-21, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent . . . He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel.”
Behind this there is but one explanation, divine election. God already in eternity chose a people and gave them to Christ to be His peculiar possession and to share in His glory forever. Thus Christ explained His own mission in John 6:38, 39, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that’sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose. nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” Paul explains it all most beautifully in Ephesians 1:3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” The beauty and joy which man has for God is only that which is in belonging to Jesus. Our glory is only in Him.
But it has an amazing result, as I Corinthians 3:21 puts it, “For all things are yours.” Or II Corinthians 4:15 puts it more completely, “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.” It is simply the same thought as in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
It is certainly an amazing wonder. Here we are in our smallness, members of the church of God saved by grace alone; and God tells us that all things that happen, even the great and mighty things of this world, are for our sakes. This is precisely the emphasis of Paul in I Corinthians 3, as he enlarges upon it in I Cor. 3:22, “Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.”
And all Scripture bears this out. It includes: the courses of nature, Isaiah 43:2, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee”; the nations of this world, Isaiah 43:3, “I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.”; even the great and mighty rulers of this world, Isaiah 45:1-4, “Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus . . . For Jacob, my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” Even though this world itself has become repulsive to God in its sin and is reserved unto final judgment (II Peter 3:7), God endures it with longsuffering because He would not have one of His elect to go lost (II Peter 3:9).
And included here also is the vast world of persistent unbelievers, the world of reprobation. In themselves they are no worse than what the elect are by nature; all are totally depraved, Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” But there is a difference. The elect are those who are drawn by grace into a living union with God in Christ (Psalm 65:4; John 6:44) while the reprobate remain adamantly attached to the ways of rebellion and sin. The former, therefore, are covered by the atoning righteousness of Christ, but the reprobate remain responsible for their wickedness unto the end. And why does God endure them? All we can say is what Paul says in Romans 9:22, 23, “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.” Once again it is for His own glory in Christ and for the sake of His people, His chosen.
It is an awesome truth before which one can only stand in humble fear, and worship.