Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mathetes 9 - What took God so long?

This is a continuation of my series on Mathetes letter to Diognetus. If you are unfamiliar with Mathetes or his letter to Diognetus, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.

If you believe the Biblical chronology, as I do, then you might ask yourself, "Why did it take God four thousand years to decide to come and save us?" What took God so long? Mathetes answers this question.
 "As long then as the former time endured, He permitted us to be borne along by unruly impulses, being drawn away by the desire of pleasure and various lusts. This was not that He at all delighted in our sins, but that He simply endured them; nor that He approved the time of working iniquity which then was, but that He sought to form a mind conscious of righteousness, so that being convinced in that time of our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it should now, through the kindness of God, be vouchsafed to us; and having made it manifest that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the kingdom of God, we might through the power of God be made able." (Mathetes 9)
God was not inattentive to the sins that preceded our salvation, but He had a larger plan in mind. More than the punishing of individual sins, He had a plan to bring salvation to all men. God permitted and endured the sins of past generation in order that He might accomplish His plan for all of mankind; God ignored our sins and focused instead on His plan of salvation.

Specifically there were two things that God had to do first before offering salvation to all. First, He had to instill in us a since of righteousness so that we might know the sinfulness of sin. Without this sense of righteousness we would never know we were doing anything wrong and that we needed salvation from our sins. Paul tells us that the Law came, "so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful." (Romans 7:13)

Secondly, we needed to realize for ourselves that, through our own works, we could never achieve our own salvation. We needed to realize that we need a savior. Paul again, speaking of the Law, says that it, "has become our tutor to lead us to Christ." (Galatians 3:24) The Law was sent to convince us that we could never be good enough to achieve eternal life. We need a savior to forgive us, cleanse us from our sins, and to make us fit for heaven.

It was when these two things had been fully achieved that God came to our rescue.
"But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal." (Mathetes 9)
With the coming of Jesus, God renewed in our mind the revelation of His love for us. Regardless of how we previously had perceived God to be, we now understood Him to be loving, kind, and approachable. What greater love could God have shown us then to send His only Son, His holy and righteous one, to atone for the sins of wicked and ungrateful men? What mankind could not do for themselves, God chose to do for us.
"For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!" (Mathetes 9)
By the coming of one righteous man, the man Jesus, we have been freed from our sins and reunited with God. Oh what a plan! Oh how deep is the wisdom and knowledge of God! Not only has He become our savior but so much more. He has become our all-in-all.
"Having therefore convinced us in the former time that our nature was unable to attain to life, and having now revealed the Saviour who is able to save even those things which it was [formerly] impossible to save, by both these facts He desired to lead us to trust in His kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counsellor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honour, Glory, Power, and Life, so that we should not be anxious concerning clothing and food." (Mathetes 9)
Oh what a God we serve!

David Robison

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