by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 1 Study # 8 March 14, 2006 Lincolnton, N.C.
(204)Thesis:Is the love of God for me real?
Introduction:When all is said and done, there is only one "problem" between God and man: the attitude of aggressive opposition. If an attitude of delighted cooperation existed on both sides of the relational reality, there would be no problem. God's "problem" with man is that He sees him as an adversary who is determined to attempt to set up a "counter-creation" with himself at the wheel; and man's "problem" with God is that he sees Him as an autocrat Who is simply over-committed to having His own way. But, man has an even greater problem with God: He is omnipotent. This obviously means that He is going to win in any "battle" with man. This, rather than making man aware that his most profitable course of action is to "sue for peace", actually causes man's rage and opposition to increase. Man's bottom line attitude is this: "Give me liberty or give me death. I'd rather go to Hell than have to serve a Big Bully."
Paul clearly understood this. But, he also clearly understood the underlying problem: the real reasons for the conflict. On the one hand, he clearly understood the antagonism of man because he is actually guilty of the very thing of which he accuses God -- man wants to be the autocrat who gets to enforce his will upon all others. And, on the other hand, he clearly understood the implications of the on-going conflict: God's love for man. Think about it: what reason would an omnipotent "bully" have for putting up with the pathetic rage of a "pinhead"? Man's problem is three-fold: first, regardless of whether he is right or wrong in his perception of God as a bully, he is going to lose; second, there is a huge flaw in his perception of God as a bully when that's all he really wants to be himself (there's something seriously wrong with wanting to be what you find so hateful in someone else); and third, there is no rational reason for God to put up with the wickedness man dishes out in his rage and manipulations to get his way if He is, in fact, a "bully".
So, this evening we are going to take a thoughtful look into the way Paul attempted to address man in respect to his problem of being at odds with God.
I. His Argument.
A. His first fact: "Christ died".
1. For many men, this fact only proves one thing: Christ was not the person He claimed to be.
a. No one with any understanding at all can possibly hold onto the "God is a Bully" thesis and acknowledge that the Son of God (the Perfect Demonstration of the true essence of the Father) was willing to refrain from using His available power to deliver Himself from His adversaries. [Even the most stupid of men can easily come to this decision; thus, the worshippers of intelligence believed the Gospel to be foolishness.]
b. No one with any understanding at all cannot grasp the fact that there are two "options" in dealing with the fact that Christ died.
1) That He was not the person He claimed to be was only one option.
2) There is another option: Man's perception of God as a "bully" could be wrong.
2. But for Paul, this fact proves one thing: Man's perception of God is wrong.
a. His conclusion rested upon one historically indisputable fact: the exercise of the omnipotence of God in raising Jesus from the dead clearly means that the death of Jesus was not occasioned by the absence of the power to deliver Him.
b. His conclusion is far more rational and reasonable than that of those who say that Jesus was not the person He claimed to be because the resurrection was established in real time history as fact.
1) It is true that many deny the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but there is a serious question as to why.
a) Is it possible that the evidence for it is genuinely flawed? It is possible that there were actually more people in Judea who saw Jesus after his resurrection than there were who had ever seen Caesar -- yet none in Judea doubted Caesar's "reality".
b) Is it likely that the denial is simply driven by man's refusal to admit that he might be wrong in his perception of God?
2) It is also true that, relationally, those who believed in the resurrected Jesus were far easier to "relate to" than were those who rejected it: this is a powerful argument for "truth" in a relational universe.
B. His second fact: Christ's death was "time bound".
1. The death of Christ was tied, intime, to the on-going weakness of man.
a. The "weakness" thesis is a thesis of man's essential lack of normalcy.
1) The word translated "helpless" is the typical word for a person whose physical condition has been seriously compromised by either outer aggression by a bacterium, a virus, or a structurally debilitating accident or an inner flaw in the genetics of the body that has left it abnormal.
2) No serious person can deny that there is something seriously abnormal about many, if not all, men.
b. The "on-going" reality of the weakness of man raises the spectre of some kind of "agenda" that includes a certain tolerance of man in his weakness.
c. The "weakness" thesis is heightened by the parallel term: ungodly.
1) Christ's death was "for" the "ungodly".
a) That "weak" and "ungodly" are both addressing the condition of man shows that man's "weakness" involves his "ungodliness".
b) That man rather consistently sees God as a "bully" clearly establishes his "ungodliness" and reveals the essence of his "weakness".
2) This statement signals an intention on God's part to rectify the ungodliness rather than to destroy those guilty of it: this pretty much demolishes the "bully" thesis.
2. The death of Christ was tied, intime, to the on-going plan of God (a plan that eliminates the "bully" thesis).
a. The death of Christ was "in due time".
b. This forces a conclusion: God is not out to simply enforce a selfish agenda; He could easily do that by destroying instead of tolerating.
1) At some point, all men are going to have to deal with the fact that their perception of God as a "bully" is seriously challenged not only by the death of Christ to make a correction possible for sinners, but also by the fact of their on-going, daily history.
2) There is no rational explanation for a "bully" to tolerate opposition.
C. His third fact: Christ's death was "for" the ungodly.
1. The word here means "a substitution designed to bring benefit".
2. "Bullies" do not seek the benefit of others; nor do they go out of their way to keep from pounding their adversaries.