The God-Centered Perspective (2)
January 26, 1997 / No. 2820
If you listened to our broadcast last week you will remember that we asked the question: Do you read the Bible biblically?
The Bible is not simply a loose collection of doctrines, commands, history, and promises thrown together any old way. Nor are we to come to the Bible and provide our own system of organization. But the Bible itself has a central theme, a unifying principle, around which all the other truths, doctrines, history, promises, and commands of the Bible are to be taken. And there is only one theme of the Bible: the glory of God.
The Bible is a God-centered book.
That only makes sense if it is God’s Word, and if God is the great and glorious God who He says that He is in the Bible. And He is! Then the only theme fitting for the Bible can be God and His glory, that glory as it is accomplished through all things.
This is what the Bible says of itself. For instance, in Isaiah 48 where God, speaking of His faithfulness, says in verse 11: “For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it (that is, be faithful): … and I will not give my glory unto another.” God is jealous for His glory. And the Bible is preeminently a book which brings to us the glory of God. Again, Psalm 115:1: “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.”
Not our glory, but God’s glory. That is the theme of the Bible.
Once again in the passage which we looked at last week, Romans 11:36: “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
I want to return to that particular passage and speak a little more of some of the profound and wonderful things that are spoken in those words. Let us look at that verse once again.
We saw last week that this verse is a doxology of praise and a concluding doxology. Really, it is the capstone of all that the apostle Paul has said up to this point. It all leads him to one point: the glory of God.
Paul says, first of all, all things of God. That means that God is the origin of all things. Romans 11:36: “For of him … are all things.” In His wisdom God planned them. In His wisdom God ordained them from all eternity. If we look again at the previous verses, especially verse 33, we see that the apostle Paul looks at the entire gospel and stands back and sees it all as the manifestation of the wisdom of God. In verse 33 he says: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Do you see what he is saying? He is saying this: “As I look at the gospel, as I look at the Bible, as I look at all the revealed truths of God written in the Bible – the truths of God, the truths of sin, the truths of salvation – when I look at all of that work of God revealed in the Bible and I stand back, I put my hand on my head and say: ‘O the depth of the wisdom of God!'”
The origin of everything is in God. God planned it, God conceived it. All things are of God in the planning according to His divine wisdom. And not only are they of God in the planning, but they are of God in the sovereign purpose. That is, not only did God plan all this, this salvation, the creation of the world, the redemption of His church in Jesus Christ and the salvation of that church, but God purposed in Himself to do it. It would do no good, of course, for God simply to plan. But it was also of Him that He purposed to perform all His good pleasure – as we read in Isaiah 46, where God says, “I will certainly do all my good pleasure, my counsel.” God planned it in wisdom and God also purposed to perform it. If we go back to chapter 9 of the book of Romans and look at the verses 17 and 18 we see that that passage speaks of Pharaoh who was king of Egypt. There God says, “I raised him up in order that I might show my glory.” God planned that Pharaoh would live. God raised Pharaoh up and God was determined, in Pharaoh’s hardness, to show His power over him. All things, therefore, are of God. Everything that comes to pass is rooted in God’s perfect plan and purpose. Nothing escapes that plan or purpose. “For all things are of Him!”
Now you say to me, “How can that be?”
The Word of God answers that in Romans 9:19, 20. You say, “Well, if everything is of Him, and also perhaps you are saying (and we are) that rebellion and unbelief are also of Him, that this, too, is somehow attributed to His wisdom and plan, then how in the world can God call me into judgment? If all things are of God, if God has planned them in His wisdom and God has purposed to bring these things to pass, and if that includes all things, then how can God hold me responsible for that which I do? How can He call a sinner into judgment?”
If you look at Romans 9:19, 20, you will see that the apostle Paul not only anticipates that question, but he answers it. And he does not debate that objection. We read: “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” The apostle Paul says, “Be quiet. Put your hand on your mouth. Put your face to the earth. You are man and He is God. God is God and you are a man. And you must never forget that. All things are of God.”
But more, all things are also through God. That means that God actually brings them to pass. All things are of God in that He planned and purposed them. He decreed them. But also all things are through Him, that is, by His power they are performed and executed. You see, the deist has little problem with the general statement that there is a divine plan for all things. A deist is one who says that he believes in God and that God created all things, but then God withdrew Himself and let things happen according to their own way. So, they have little problem with the statement that there is a divine plan somewhere out there. There is a good, loving, benevolent intention up there. What will be, after all, will be. But when you say from the Scriptures: “All things are not only planned of God, but all things are through Him. God not only plans but He brings to pass, by His power, all things” -that becomes offensive to man. Nevertheless that is the word of God.
The apostle Paul says in the book of Romans, “The God whom I worship, the God whom I see revealed in the Scriptures, is the God who, in wisdom, purposed and in His mighty power performed His will and good pleasure in earth, in the sky, and in the sea.” Again in Romans 9 we read: “For this purpose have I (God) raised thee (Pharaoh) up, that I might show my power in thee. I raised Pharaoh up. I did not simply plan him. I brought him into being. And I did so to show My power, that My name might be declared in all the earth.” All things are through God. By His power He upholds and directs.
The Scriptures tell us in Colossians 1:17 concerning the Lord Jesus Christ this: “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” All things consist by Jesus Christ. All things are held together by Jesus Christ. All things are in the hand of Jesus Christ and are moved by Jesus Christ.
We read in Hebrews 1:2, 3 of Jesus Christ, that He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and that He upholds all things by the Word of His power. Through God are all things. All things not only are planned of God, but all things are also through God in their executing, their accomplishing, and their upholding.
But more. All things are also unto God. For we read: “Of God (that is, of God in the planning), and through God (that is, through God in the executing and bringing to pass), but also unto God are all things, unto God as being the goal of revealing the glory of God.”
Let us look at the apostle Paul again in Romans. Having seen the sweeping panorama of God’s salvation, looking over the landscape of all of God’s revealed works in creation and redemption, what does the apostle Paul do? He cries out: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Or, in Ephesians 3, he says, “I bow my knee to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” All things are unto Him in praise. Paul praises God for the infinite wisdom and almighty power displayed in His works. The apostle Paul cries out, “My God, how wonderful Thou art. Thy majesty, how bright!” All things are unto Him in praise.
All things, then, become unto God in devoted service. If you read the book of Romans you will notice that in chapter 12:1 we have these words: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” There is a connection there with the last verse of chapter 11. There Paul says, All things are of God in planning; all things are through God in executing; all things lead unto the glory of God. And then he says, Alright, therefore, if that is in your heart as a believer, if this light of the great and glorious God has broken upon your soul, then you will present your body, your entire life, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service.
You will say: With such a God as my God, with such a Savior as my Savior, what can I do but abandon myself unto Him? The reaction to the greatness and sovereignty of God, that God, namely, who rules over all things, the reaction to the truth that all things are of Him and through Him and unto Him must never be, “Well, I guess I can’t do anything about it. I’ll just go and relax and be carried along by the tide of indifference. It is mere fatalism.” Oh, no! No, not that response. The response is this: The whole being of a child of God is lifted up out of his chair. His soul soars before this truth. Consciously and deliberately we give all that we are unto God in all of our faculties – our body, our mind, our soul – to serve such a God.
That is the Reformed faith. When we say, “The Reformed Witness Hour,” we mean that we read and understand the Scriptures as one, united, complete message, centered in the glory of God. We say that it is not a book primarily about man at all. Its subject is God: who He is and the beauty of His being, His attributes and His works, His grand and glorious ways. And to know Him is life eternal. We say that the theme of the Bible is not even human salvation. Oh, yes, the Bible teaches us the glorious way of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Is that true for you today? How wonderful! But when the Bible teaches us of that salvation, it teaches it as a work of God in which God’s glory is revealed. It is God who says, “I will give My glory to none other.” And when we come before that Word of God, what can we do but cry out: “Be still and know that He is God.” In every part of Scripture God is seen as glorifying Himself. He glorifies Himself in creation in six twenty-four hour days, and in redemption through Jesus Christ. He glorifies Himself in judgment and in mercy. He exalts His Son. He creates a people, a church, to worship Him. He saves believers by His mighty power and grace. He saves His church even to the end, in order that all praise might be unto His name.
Now, is that the way you read and understand the Bible? How do you read the Bible? Do you assume that the beginning, the middle, and the end of the Bible is all about what man needs, about what man gets, about what man wants? Do you believe that God exists for you? Then you have got it all backwards. No, the Bible is a God-centered book. And man, you, were created to know and to glorify the blessed God. That is life eternal.
Then you will say with the apostle Paul, “To whom be glory for ever. Amen.” You will notice that that is the conclusion of verse 36. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” Oh, what a response. That is not simply mental or academic (in the mind). That is not a grudging response. But that is a joyful response. Paul is not talking as if he has just solved another mathematical problem and looks up with a bored look over his paper and says, “Oh, well, I guess if it is a God-centered book then to God be all the glory. So, I guess that’s that.” Oh, no! He is not talking indifferently. He is not talking abstractly. But he is talking as one whose heart has been opened and who has seen the glory of God. And he is forever changed. He praises the Lord, and he claps his hands and shouts aloud to God and is ready now to spread the fame of God abroad!
Is yours the God-centered perspective? I am not asking you whether you are in this camp or in that camp religiously or theologically. But I am asking you, Has the Bible’s one great note, the Bible’s one blinding and glorious light, has the one truth of all truths broken over your soul and taken you up with shouts of praise: To God, the glory? That will be a revolution. It will be like a Copernican revolution. Do you remember who Copernicus was? No, he is not somebody in the Bible. He was an astronomer. What happened was that Copernicus was the man who challenged the idea that the earth was the center of all things (the center of the solar system). Up to his time everybody said that the earth was the center and everything revolved around the earth. The planets, the sun, all went around the earth. They called that the geocentric view of the universe. But Copernicus said, No, not the earth is the center, but the sun is the center of the solar system. And the planets and the earth go around the sun. Now, Copernicus was labeled as a heretic because the church at that time had said that the earth was the center. They had the geo-centric idea of the universe: earth-centered. Not a heliocentric, or sun-centered universe.
But Copernicus was right. And what a radical concept that was. That meant that one’s whole starting point was somewhere else. Likewise, when you see the glory of God as the center of the Bible, what a revolution that makes for you. You begin to see the whole Bible. When you begin to interpret the Bible in light of this truth: To God the glory. Then you look at the Bible and it all revolves gloriously around that one truth. And every part of your life will be cut loose from that man-centered perspective. The first reaction you will have will not be: Well, what do I get? What happens to me? How do I feel? That is the curse of living under the man-centered solar system – of reading the Bible from a man-centered perspective. But you see God as the center, and God as the one who has the right to do with you in such a way as to realize His own glory.
So you will echo David’s words in Psalm 57:5. David was anointed to be king, but he was being chased as a dog in the hills of Judea by Saul, and many were saying, “God has forgotten David.” But David knew the living God, and in those circumstances he says, “Be Thou exalted, Lord. And let Thy glory be above all the earth.” That was not spoken by a man who was dedicating a temple. That was spoken by a man who was holed up in a cave saying, “The only thing that matters is not David, but that God be glorified.”
Do you live in a man-centered universe? Everything revolves around you, how you are feeling? Are you the center of all things and do you go to the Bible and do you come with that same perspective and say that it has to revolve around you? Oh, no! Of Him, and through Him, and unto Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever! Never lose sight of that. That is truth. That is reality. That is life, for to know God in Jesus Christ is life eternal. What a difference it makes. The Bible opens up to you to show you your God, His works, His glory, His faithfulness, His love. And you are swept up in everlasting life and good.
How do you read and understand your Bible? Do you do it from the God-centered perspective? That is biblical. That is Reformed. That is what we believe in the Reformed Witness Hour. That is right. And that is pleasing to God.
Then, as you turn the pages of your Bible, there will be heard in your own heart this doxology: “O the depth of the wisdom of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! How glorious. For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him the glory for ever. Amen.”
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, cause us to bow before Thee, the glorious God, and in Thy light may we have light and perfect peace and comfort. Amen.