by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 5 Study # 6 June 10, 2008 Lincolnton, N.C.
(410)Thesis:The permission of God to the wicked automatically means the righteous suffer, but it does not automatically mean that He has cast us off.
Introduction:It may well be that the suffering of the believer remains the most problematic issue of our experience. No one seems to have any "problems" with God when everything is running along smoothly and no injustices are being experienced. Nor does anyone have any particular problem with being treated better than they "deserve". No, the "problems" arise when there are difficulties and they get worse when we think we are being treated worse than we "deserve".
Because Paul was completely invested in being an apostle of the Servant King, addressing any thought, way of thinking, or attitude that could sidetrack the loyalties of the Servant King's servants was high on his list of important things. Given that commitment and the reality that "suffering" and, particularly, "suffering injustice", seems to be one of the greatest "problems" of human loyalty, it is no surprise that Paul appealed to Psalm 44:22 in his letter to the Romans at the point of 8:36.
This evening we are going to see if we can follow Paul's argument so that we may understand the commitment of God to those who trust in Him.
I. The Things "At Issue".
A. The most crucial issue from the human point of view: human loyalty.
1. There is no escape from the fact that God has tied the human experience of Life to the issue of the human attitude toward God.
a. Eternal Life and Eternal Death are the most crucial issues for human beings.
b. God has made the experience of Life and Death to hang upon one thing: human faith in Divine Goodness.
1) There are key specifics involved (this is not a "grand thesis" of divine goodness that ignores the reality of the details).
a) Saying "God is good" does not save anyone.
b) God has made the litmus test "confessing with the mouth a true confidence of the heart" about the way that the goodness of God addressed the conflict of Divine Justice and human rebellion: Jesus Christ as the Substitute in atonement.
2) At every point of divine proclamation, human "faith" determines whether, or not, the "Life" involved in the situation addressed by the proclamation is the experience of the human being involved: Hebrews 11:6.
2. There is no escape from the fact that every word of God has been spoken to men for their sake to address their loyalty issues.
B. The most crucial issue from the human loyalty point of view: divine loyalty.
1. It is a total waste of time to attempt to get human beings to be "loyal" ("believing") to a disloyal Deity.
a. Perfect human beings without any predisposition to sin were led into sin by the allegation of a disloyal Deity.
b. Imperfect human beings are kept at a distance from God by the continual pounding of the "God is disloyal" theme -- and the root of the theme is the way people are treated in God's universe...the godly suffer and the wicked get their way.
2. The only way human beings are ever going to be "loyal" is by the establishment of true confidence in their hearts that God has their best interests at heart in such a way as to absolutely make sure that they receive His Life.
C. The most critical issue in the human loyalty/divine loyalty realm is the degree to which one's present experience is given precedence over the historically validated (past experience) words of God.
1. This is the reason for the centrality of the Cross.
a. It addressed the "Justice" issue in a "real solution" way.
b. It addresses the "Love" issue in a tacitly indisputable form.
2. This is also the reason for all of the rest of the words of God.
a. Men are extremely short-sighted and temporally focused so that they lose sight of the greater issues when in the midst of the "daylies".
b. The words of God not only continually call upon men to lift up their eyes (to look over their present in a long-sighted way), but they continually call upon men to immerse themselves in those very words (to provide the necessary focus).
II. Paul's Use of Psalm 44.
A. He used it because it is a frank admission that God regularly subjects His people to experiences that most people would say are "unloving".
1. The experiences are arising out of "unloving" others.
2. God's willingness to allow those "unloving others" to so seriously attack His own seems to be an "unloving" act.
B. He used it because its own setting is one in which there is no identifiable "fault" in the people of God (Note 44:17).
1. It is one thing to say that God regularly subjects His people to "death experiences" when they have been unbelieving and unruly.
2. It is altogether another thing to say that God regularly subjects His people to those experiences in spite of their loyalty to Him.
C. He used it because it forces a key issue to the fore: what is the testimony of experience?
1. If we can say that God's gracious condescension toward us is a demonstration of His "love" and loyalty, why can we not say that God's subjection of us to serious pain is a demonstration of His "hatred" and willingness to abandon us?
2. The Bible teaches us that God, in His displeasure, often subjects His people to profound pain when they are being disloyal.
3. The Bible also teaches us that the more loyal we are to God, the greater the possibilities of our being subjected to unjust treatment at the hands of the wicked.
4. So, loyal, or not, we suffer a great deal of pain.
5. So, what is the testimony of experience?
a. Experience means absolutely nothing apart from divine revelation.
1) By "means", I "mean" that it leads to a correct understanding.
2) There is nothing that can be legitimately concluded in a fallen world apart from God's evaluation of it and His revelation of that evaluation.
b. Experience, then, is a sub-set of understanding that must be kept under the testimony of God.
c. As a sub-set, it functions as a validation of that testimony.
D. He used it because we have to answer another question: what is the point of experience?
1. Experience is the realm of "Life" and "Death" (without experience these are meaningless issues).
2. But the realms of "Life" and "Death" are determinative by one factor: the presence or absence of the "Life Giver".
a. Secondary aspects of experience are extremely "secondary" -- i.e., they do not, and can not, actually determine the real impact of the experience.
b. The presence/absence of the "Life Giver" makes experience what it is.
3. And the very fact that we have a "problem" with our experience means only one thing: we have some progress to make in our participation in the Love of God.
a. It is only unloving people who have any problem at all with that to which they are subjected in the over-arching oversight of God.
b. Loving people assume the fulfillment of Romans 8:28 at some point and do not stew about whether God is being loyal to them, or not.