Some Things God Does Not Know
In numerous statements the Bible proclaims God’s omniscience—He knows all things (Rom. 11:33–34; 1 John 3:20b; et al.) In spite of these plain averments, the Bible also reveals some things God does not know. This claim does not imply any weakness in God; any such limitations are entirely self-imposed. Consider some things God does not know:
• A sinless responsible human being. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3: 23; cf. 1 John 1:8). (Note: “all have sinned,” not “all have inherited Adam’s sin.”)
• A sinner whom God does not love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; et al.). God loves even the most sinful and debauched, and He wants them to be saved.
• A sinner for whom Christ did not die. Christ Jesus “gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6; cf. 1 John 2:2; Isa. 53:6; et al.). John Calvin, not Jesus Christ, invented the doctrine of the “limited atonement.” All sinners have an equal opportunity of salvation through Christ.
• Anyone who will be saved outside of Christ. “And in none other [than Christ, DM] is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved” (Acts 4:12; cf. Eph. 1:3; Col. 1:14; 1 John 5:11; et al.). Jesus said; “Iam the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John14:6).
• Anyone who is “in” Christ without being baptized. “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3). “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Gal. 3: 27). To claim to be “in” Christ without having been Scripturally baptized is to claim to know more than God knows.
• Anyone’s entering Heaven without being saved on earth. Jesus said to unbelievers in His time, “I go away, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sin: whither I go, ye cannot come” (John 8:21). He also said, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…” (Rev. 14:13). Several centuries after the New Testament was completed, uninspired men invented the doctrine of purgatory, the doctrine of a “second chance.”
• Any responsible person who will escape the Judgment. “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). All will keep this appointment (Heb. 9:27).
Blessings of Pandemic
911 scarred us. And scared us. But patriotism, national unity, and church attendance all increased. Our great adversity brought tragic loss of life and financial instability, but blessings also arrived. Now, as then, some proclaim that “God brought this pandemic on us because of our worldliness and wickedness as a society. This is God’s judgment,” they declare. Without an inspired prophet of God to clarify this, though, how could anyone boldly make such an announcement? God works in history — “the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind” (Dan. 5:21) — it is true. But He also gives humans free will. God is sovereign, but in sovereignty He allows humans to make choices. God through providence interacts with His creation, but He also declares “time and chance overtake them all” (Eccles. 9:11), so He does not pull the strings on all earthly occurrences. “God wanted COVID-19 to plague us to get our attention.” Perhaps.
Again, without a modern, inspired prophet declaring this as God’s purpose, we cannot say this with certainty. God allows us to suffer many things. He can use these as He wills. But in a universe of “time and chance” (Eccles. 9:11), He can also let things run their course. Trust the Lord, pray to God, and shine His light in time (regardless what we endure). He will walk with us now (Heb. 13:5,6), and, if we are faithful, we will someday “walk with” Him “in white” (Rev. 3:4; 2:10). Nothing we endure can force us from God (1 Cor. 10:13). And He can use pandemic to bless us. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2,3). We would rather posses ease and tranquility, and these have their place in benefitting us. “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 2)
One of the reasons God wants us to pray for our national leaders/authorities is, “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:2b-4
Tranquility can enhance our ability to spread God’s word of salvation! But trials also have their place, and we are enduring some of that at this time. Blessings of adversity What benefits can the faithful find in pandemic? Consider a few:
• It can build greater spiritual “endurance” (James 1:2,3) in us. “And let endurance have its perfect result” (James 1:4) — strengthening us spiritually to be more like Jesus. • It can give us greater appreciation of worship assemblies. Having been apart so long, and we don’t know how much longer it will persist, coming back together will be a glad reunion that will make us more appreciative of time together in worship and study.
• It can help us realize more fully that “the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away” (James 1:11). Relative to most people around the globe, we are financially wealthy. Comparing our homes and diets to theirs is actually no comparison. We can tend to take our material blessings for granted. Suffering can realign our priorities. May we learn spiritual focus, including good stewardship of financial blessings, through our current circumstances.
• It can help us slow down. We Americans tend to busy ourselves into oblivion, participating in every activity under the sun from dawn to dusk. Business is a mark of prestige in our culture. COVID-19 forced us to slow down. God required a weekly Sabbath for ancient Israel. We crave more activity than that, almost afraid of missing out on something. While God gave us no such requirement in the New Testament, slowing down rests our minds, bodies, and spirits — things we all need for mental, physical, and spiritual health. Hopefully this forced break will break some of our NASCAR habits, helping us focus more on family, character, and faith.
• It can help us realize the important place our spiritual family has in our lives. Not being able to see one another face to face builds a longing to share the same physical space again. God created humans as social beings, and spiritual family is vital to growing faith. Individual responsibility is essential (James 1:19-27). But as disciples, God has incorporated us into His body with one another: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22). This grows dearer due to our physical separation. May we stay in contact with one another in the interim!
• It is increasing our outreach. We currently reach more people with the gospel than we had before. Having 200+ screens viewing our live-streamed worship assemblies is common right now. Previously, we came nowhere close to that. The numbers for this will go down when we can physically assemble, but unbelievers and disciples needing restoring are also watching. Pray for a harvest! Periodically, God allows His people to face adversity. This is not the first time for you or me; if time continues, it will not be the last. The faithful trust God through both hardship and prosperity, strengthened in His gracious word and promises, realizing that the end of our lives in this physical world brings us everlasting peace and comfort in His unfiltered presence. What a glorious, unending day that will be! Find daily purpose and strength in Him, and, whatever trials may come, we can rejoice in the Lord!
STANDING FAST IN THE FAITH
To say that the world in which we live is divided religiously is certainly an understatement. Any seeker of religion will have no problem finding a church or doctrine which suits his own tastes. Just like the local buffet restaurant, many selections are available, but all honest persons yearning for the truth must question this present arrangement. Is it God's will that people be divided over the most crucial of subjects? The Philippian jailer asked the question, “What must I do to be saved?” That question is still being asked today, but unfortunately Bible answers are not being given. False doctrines relative to the plan of salvation abound and the Lord's church must equip itself to fight these errors tooth and nail.
The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 16:13, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit ye like men, be strong.” Every word in this powerful verse rings out with the concept of war and spiritual conflict. Paul, in essence, was calling the church at Corinth to arms. The New Testament church today must also heed this militant call to war. The line of demarcation has been drawn and the enemy has been identified, but the fact of the matter is that many pulpits throughout the land have imposed a self-restricting ban on doctrinal preaching for fear of offending the masses (2 Tim. 4:1-4). Weak elderships are retreating instead of preparing the flock for a protracted confrontation with the wicked adversary of God's people -- none other than Satan. Peter describes him “as a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) of whom Paul said “we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:11). The church has an obligation before God and man to stand for the truth by which we shall gain the ultimate victory.
Concerning the doctrine of Christ, that is, the inspired teaching of the New Testament (Acts 2:42; Titus 1:9), we should uncompromisingly promote and defend it. The beloved John wrote so forcefully in 2 John 9, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son.” Keep in mind that John was known as the apostle of love and wrote much on the subject in his epistles. It is therefore not unloving or unkind to expose false teaching and those who propagate it! In fact, it is the most loving thing any faithful Christian can do for his fellow man. There is a current trend in the religious world and also in the church to tone down this blessed doctrine. The preaching which characterized the first century church was plain, bold and loving. The Gospel which filled the streets of Jerusalem and caused men to be “pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37) is the same Gospel that will save men today (Rom. 1:16).
Considering the fact that we have the responsibility to stand for and defend the Gospel, there is an inevitable conclusion that will be drawn. When the doctrine of Christ is presented as it should be, then conflict is to be expected. Darkness hates light (John 3:20). In the same sense, error does not like to be exposed by the light of truth. If the church never faces any attack from the world, particularly the denominational world, then that is a good sign that we are not standing as firmly as we should. Whatever happened to the kind of preaching and Christian living that caused the church to grow in the first century? This was a time when God's people loved God and man more than their own lives (Acts 20:24). They unhesitatingly drew the “sword of the Spirit” and met in battle the foes of the Gospel of Christ.
The church of the 21st century must return to the divine pattern of evangelism in order to be pleasing to God. We must be convinced the only answers that are sufficient in matters of religious doctrine are Bible answers! Will we not hearken unto the commands of the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10) and faithfully execute our mission so that souls may be won back from the devil's grip and that God may be glorified? May each and every member of the body of Christ heed the personal admonition to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3).
Our Cares and God's Care
A verse that we all should commit to memory and upon which we should ever rely is the following: "casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you" (1 Peter 5:7). When we learn to trust this promise, it will bring us great consolation and courage.
There was great anxiety among the brethren to whom Peter wrote because of persecution. They were being "put to grief in manifold trials," and their faith was being "proved by fire" (1: 6–7). There was a "fiery trial" among them (4:12). Peter gave numerous indications that these brethren were undergoing great sufferings for the Lord. Opposition and persecution brought great anxiety to their hearts. Peter told them how to deal with these anxieties.
The "anxiety" of this passage refers to those things about which we worry and about which we are unsettled or undecided. It reminds us of Paul's familiar exhortation: "In nothing be anxious . . ." (Phi. 4:6). The Lord made a lengthy statement on this subject in the Sermon on the Mount:
Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on…. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Mat. 6:25–34).
If there is a difference in the exhortations of the Lord, of Paul, and of Peter, perhaps it is this: The Lord and Paul urge us not to be anxious in the first place. Peter tells us what to do when we nonetheless become anxious and worried.
The antidote for worry is the promise of God's care and concern for His children. The word Peter used for God's "care" refers to His interest and concern and implies both the will and the ability to meet our needs. If God cares for the sparrow and the raven and adorns the expendable grass of the field, does He not much more care for those who are His children (Luke 12:6, 24, 28)? If He knows the very number of the hairs on our heads, He knows and is concerned about all of our far more important needs (Luke 12:7).
The promises of God and His Son that they are ever with us are many. God's promise to Israel in this respect applies to us: I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee. So that with good courage we say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear: What shall man do unto me? (Heb. 13:5–6).
Our Savior promised that He would be with His people as they do His work "always, even unto the end of the world" (Mat. 28:20). Peter's words are an echo of Psalms 55:22: "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee." Therefore, let us fret less and trust and pray more.
WHERE IS GOD IN OUR TROUBLES? Part II
Garland M. Robinson
GOD KNOWS, GOD CARES
Where was God when Job was suffering such horrendous afflictions? The loss of all that he had did not turn Job’s heart away from God. He lost his worldly possessions and his children (Job 1:13-22). Even when he lost his good health (2:7-8), Job still would not turn away from the Lord. His wife even suggested that he curse God and die. But Job would not (Job 2:9- 10). He maintained his integrity.
One of the things that made Job’s suffering so frustrating was that he did not understand why all these things were happening to him. He was completely at a loss. He was in misery and grief. His friends turned against him. His wife did not help. He was all alone. He questioned God and cried out in despair. He just did not understand. But, he still trusted God! He understood that though he did not see the “big picture” of it all, he knew that God did. God rules. God knows. God cares. He didn’t understand, but he trusted that God would handle it. He could not give up on God.
Perhaps Job thought he would understand in the “by and by” but even if he did not, he still trusted God. He is supreme. He is loving. He is perfect. Job lived by the principle, “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).
How would we fare under similar conditions? The point is certain that most people would crash long before they ever reached the brink of Job’s suffering. That was so in Job’s day just as it is so today.
People often ask in the midst of tragedy, “why is this happening to me?” Both good things and bad things happen to all people alike. God maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt. 5:45). None are exempt.
Immense suffering came to Job in spite of the fact that he was a good man. He feared God and hated evil. He was pure in thought and conduct. Yet such calamity came upon him that none could say they’ve had it worse. Those who were once his friends became “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2). Job cried out in despair asking, why was I ever born? Even when I was born, why didn’t I die at birth? Since I did not die at birth, why can’t I die even now?
Job was full of questions for which he cried out for answers. God eventually responded with a barrage of questions that left Job speechless. Where were you, Job, when the foundations of the earth were laid (Job 38:4)? What do you know about the springs of the sea (38:16)? What about the gates of death (38:17) or the breadth of the earth (38:18)? Where is the dwelling place of light and dark (38:19)? God knows these things. God made these things. God controls these things (cf. Heb. 1:3) and millions more. Therefore...
God knows about our suffering, our hardships, our troubles. He cares about us. He does not respond as we might have him to, but he is there just the same. We don’t see the larger scheme of things. We’re not able to see the whole picture. Our job always remains the same, to bear up under the most trying of circumstances. Through our suffering, whether mental, emotional or physical, God will provide.
God provided a lamb for Abraham to sacrifice (Gen. 22:8).
God provided ravens to bring food to Elijah on the banks of the brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:3-6) and when the brook dried up, he was sustained by a widow at Zarephath with a handful of meal and a little oil that never ran out (1 Kings 17:9-16).
God provided a place for Joseph in Egypt when his brothers sold him to a band of Ishmeelites (Gen. 37:28). Can you imagine his despair in a strange land so far from home? Yet it worked out to sparing of the lives of all in his father’s house when the seven years of famine came.
God took care of Daniel when he was thrown into the den of lions (Daniel 6:16-22).
God took care of Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach) and Azariah (Abed-nego) when they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace (Dan. 1:7; 3:8-30).
The Lord cared for Stephen when he was being stoned to death. He saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God observing this despicable deed (Acts 7:55-56). This is the only time you read of Jesus standing in heaven. Every time it’s mentioned, he’s always sitting (Mark 16:19; Acts 2:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).
God cared for the apostle Paul throughout his many travels. He did not always protect him from being harmed (he suffered many things, Acts 9:16; 2 Cor. 11:23-27), but he was with him through it all. Nearing the end of his life, Paul would write, 6“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
hough so many of these events were miraculous does not lessen the fact that God knows and cares for his people. Though the days of miracles are over, God still knows and he still cares. God is there. God will provide. Our undergirding hope must be, God’s will be done! That’s what Jesus prayed (Luke 22:42).
So, don’t despair. Things may not turn out as we would like, but don’t blame God or think he has abandoned us. Praise God. Give him thanks for his tender care, mercy and forgiveness. Be like Paul who said, “I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things [which happened] unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). “If [any man suffer] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:16).