by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 5 Study # 1 May 6, 2008 Lincolnton, N.C.
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
1901 ASV Translation:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
I. The "God Is For Us" Thesis.
A. Behind God's "for us" attitude stands His resolute and absolute "wisdom" by which He approaches all of His activities.
B. This is a problem for man in that he often does not understand atall how the wisdom of God sees the issues of his life.
1. If man thinks that what God calls "Life" is "Death", how encouraged will he be to think that God is undefeatable?
a. At the roots of the issue is the values dominion over any particular matters of body, soul, or spirit. All men have experienced the kind of "trade off" that exists when one aspect of his being suffers for the gain of another aspect. For instance, the body complains when subjected to rigorous labor, but the spirit rejoices in the accomplishment. The soul screams in terror when faced with significant danger, but the spirit exults in the glory heaped upon it for its "courage". These are particulars in the dance between the various parts of man. But beneath all of them, there is a "final" matter that, basically, jettisons the "negatives" involved because the objective has been achieved. Even in the death of Jesus, there was an elevation of a "final" value over all others. The point is this: if a person does not hold to that "final" value, he simply cannot define "Life" by it.
b. Therefore, the issue is, ultimately, always going to be one: what will the final state of affairs be in respect to the final value embraced?
c. This makes the "final value" issue the issue. And, when its all said and done, the totality of biblical revelation is summed up in one word: joy. This implies that, in the final state of affairs every aspect of man's being will be in such a perfect state of equilibrium as to maximize joy across the board and to eliminate grief altogether.
2. If man thinks that God's "methods" of "Life" are the methods of Death, how encouraged will he be to think that God cannot be defeated?
a. This issue is where the vast majority of problems occurs. Few reject "joy" as a final value, but masses of masses reject a host of the "methods" to joy. The reason for this seems to be twofold: first, a lack of willingness to "hope" that exists because of a lack of willingness to be "put off" in terms of the final joy; and second, a refusal to accept God's declarations that "this path of present pain" is actually going to come to the joy you seek.
b. And beneath the unbelief is something more sinister: a demand that the future be the present -- i.e., the unwillingness to hope that is more than mere unwillingness; it is a hardened insistence.
3. If man thinks that he sees certain "principles of Life" being contradicted and defeated, how encouraged will he be to be told that God is undefeatable?
a. At what point of experience does what man understands God's words to mean become a dangerous "mind game"? How many times can a man be told that there is "joy in fellowship with God" and his experience is of a joylessness that is not broken by prayer, meditation on the Word, fellowship with other "Christians", or any other of the "disciplines" of the Christian life? The tragedy of hucksterism is that people can invariably be told that if they are not experiencing the "joy" it is their fault.
b. The one thing, above all others, that push these questions is "the problem of evil", not as it affects others, but as it affects the individual him/herself. In the biblical picture of man, he stands at the center of his own universe as "god" and does not believe that there can be "Life" if he gives up that place. Therefore, to "suffer" is to experience "Death" because the suffering proves that he is not at the center of his universe -- someone else has more control over his circumstances than he does.