Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Awesome Restraint of God - Part Four the Restraint of Grace

At this time I would like us to consider the Fourth Restraint in the series, Grace.

God has placed what I call an umbrella of Grace upon all of mankind. In referring to those days of the end when God would unseal the words of prophecy in the Book of Daniel we find an interesting statement that bears quoting. Daniel 12:10 says:

"Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand."

In this passage of Scripture we have a contrast between the wicked and the wise. We are told the wicked shall do wickedly as opposed to the wise who would understand (ie. the words of the prophecy). It also states that the wicked would not understand. I see two reasons for this lack of wisdom or illumination: First I believe that a person cannot understand spiritual truth unless he is allowed to do so by the Holy Spirit. Much in the same way that a Christian is not allowed to go on past elementary truths of scripture into the richer and deeper fullness of God's truth unless he is permitted to do so by God.

"...And this we will do if God permits (Heb. 6:3).

This point is underscored in I Corinthians 2:13,14:

"These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

It's safe for us to assume, then, that the wicked man will not be able to understand any sort of spiritual truth without the Holy Spirit's illumination.

The second reason the wicked will not understand is that which concerns the Restraint of Grace. The Bible tells us that the Spirit of God would not strive with man forever (Genesis 6:3), and that the day would come in which a man would not be able to change his ways in the face of Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:6-11 but especially look at verse 11). [For clarity I quote the whole passage.]

"Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”"

Although Jesus is the epitome of compassion He will not endure the hardness of sin forever. Romans chapter 1:24,26,28 all state that a time would come when unbelievers would become so hardened by the darkness that encases their hearts that God would "give them up" or "give them over," (ie. to the darkness), to be of a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting. What this is saying, in effect, is that all of mankind is shrouded by God's umbrella of Grace up until that time comes when they are completely unwilling to receive the precious truth that is able to save their souls. When they reject Jesus out and out, after prolonged exposure to His truth, then the umbrella of grace is lifted from them and their consciences become seared with a hot iron. They become more wicked in their ways.

The Restraint of Grace then is the staying power of God to keep the wicked from becoming so hardened that they are not able to be saved. Once its lifted then they are unhindered of acting sinfully against God. They have cast off restraint.

"Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint..." (Proverbs 29:18 NKJV). The KJV says "where there is no vision, the people perish..."

With that in mind consider this passage:

"For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Rom. 11:25).

Blindness in part has indeed happened to the Jewish people because they have so hardened their hearts against God. As you all are aware, multitudes of Jews accepted Christ at His first advent and multitudes did not. I am not sure that God purposely blinded them but that Paul is just stating a general truth that many, not all, of the Jews are blinded and many will be until the second advent of Christ. This blindness is not because the Lord has not spoken to them, they have Moses and the prophets who all spoke of the Lord Jesus, they also had Jesus Himself, in Person, yet many still did not believe. Sin, power struggles, and peer pressure, coupled with the unwillingness of many to believe they are wrong goes a great distance toward adding a layer of hardness or blindness to an individual. Jesus bids all who will to come to Him, that includes the Jew, He is not holding the back, they hold themselves back.

Pauls dissertation in Romans,

Rom. 9:18-33,
Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”

To Paul, this argument is rehetorical and nonsensical. God does not force any one by His will to come to Him, He never has. He elects for salvation those who respond positively to His call. We are not robots. We have free choice to love Him or Hate Him.

"But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?"

The obvious answer is yes. But God does not act in that way, He does not make one person for honor and one for dishonor. Although there are times we may think He does, in reality, our faithfulness to God is what brings the favor of the revelation of God's will into our lives. That faithfulness exalts a person in God's eyes. Again the question, “Why have you made me like this?” is nonsensical. He honors the one who comes to Him and uses the one who does not as a utility to bring others into the fold. You will have to bear with me to get the fuller meaning.

"What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,"

Notice here Paul says, God endured with much longsuffering the vessles of wrath? They were not always vessles of wrath, but after much longsuffering they became vessles of wrath. Read on.

"and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?"

Here He uses the positive responders as vessles of mercy that portray the riches of His glory.

"What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone."

Do you see Paul's point? Salvation has always been for all people. It has always been first by faith. Israel did the works of the law for works sake. They should have been doing them because of faith. The Jews were responsible for taking God's mercy to all people but, for the most part, they kept God to themselves. Listen to this, I call it the O.T. Great Commission:

And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him” (Gen. 18:17-19).

What had God spoken to Abraham? That through him the nations of the world would be blessed! (Gen 12:3b) "And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

They built up this institution of salvation coming through works. For centuries and centuries they held to this works salvation with disregard to the teachings of faith. This in itself, was very sinful. Remember before there was law there was faith. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. That was many centuries before the Mosic Law was written.

From their own prophets mouth:

As it is written:

“ Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

Do you see the word believes?

My whole point is that we harden our own hearts by disregarding the word of God. God hardened Pharaohs heart because he disregarded the word of God, and that word came directly from the mouth of Moses. Pharaoh could have said, "yes, I will listen to your God" but He was caught up in the power struggle that only hardens a heart, not softens. Therefore,in Pauls words, He became a vessle of God's wrath. God used Him as an example of His wrath against sin and those who do not listen to Him. His fate was the anihilation of his armies in the Red Sea, an example to us today of the end result in rejecting God.

God allowed the hardening of the hearts of many Jews because they made their choice to disregard the Messiah. But many did not, their positive response results in a seat, by faith, for them in heaven.

At the right time the tribulation will begin and God will once again focus His attention on Israel as He gives them a second opportunity to listen to Him and accept the Messiah, Jesus as Lord.

God Bless