The Triumph Of Love

by Vladimir Gelesnoff

An intelligent conception and unclouded view of the consummation which Scripture sets before us as the goal of faith and hope is contingent on a clear grasp of the Divine purpose and intention. Man's distinctive prerogative is the power to purpose and achieve. Men and nations rise in the scale of life in proportion to developed purpose and power of achievement. The humblest human life is inspired and moved by some purpose. God works according to a predetermined purpose which has been in operation in the past, is in operation at present, and will continue to be in operation until accomplished. The tangled web of complex processes serves His purpose. The whole natural order is but the body and organ of a spiritual order which it exists in order to serve. The present state of things, viewed apart from the controlling purpose, seems aimless and baffling, creates perplexities, engenders doubts. Through preoccupation with the agencies at work we are apt to miss the purpose and misunderstand the nature and function of the agency itself. Herein is a prolific source of failure in both doctrine and practice. The sons of Israel did not ground themselves in Jehovah's promise and were in consequence unnerved by the test. The sorrows of the desert, divorced from their objective point, seemed devoid of meaning, and so intolerable as to make a return to Egypt a desideratum. Theological activity has been characterized by attempts to analyze, systematize and unify processes rather than by sustained effort to grasp the underlying purpose; and the prevailing views of human destiny and one-sided conceptions of God are the sequel.

The paramount question is, Have we a declaration of God's purpose? If such a declaration exists, we may unhesitatingly take our stand thereon, and venture our all on it, assured that no statement relative to methods can modify or contradict the purpose to which God has pledged Himself. However little understood, much misunderstood, or seemingly inappropriate, the means employed exist to fulfil and further the purpose, not to render it abortive.

As a preliminary to a study of the purpose of God it will greatly aid us to bear in mind the truth of the solidarity of humanity. By this we mean the coherence and oneness of the race in nature, relations, or interests. Humankind is a unit. In creating Adam, God created all of his posterity. All were in Adam, and no further creative act was needed. Romans 5:12-21 (to which a separate paper will be devoted) teaches that our sin and our death are not individual facts, they do not originate with ourselves but are wholly prior to ourselves. Sin and death are not individual but race facts. All humanity has sinned, and sins and dies as one man. If we call this act or condition a fall, then humanity fell or is fallen as one man. That one is Adam. In Adam all fell, all sin, all die. There is a transgression or a fall of which we may say, if not that the fall of one has been the fall of all, yet certainly the fall of all is as the fall of one. One common spiritual and moral catastrophe involves us all. Sin is in actual operations certainly not an individual but a collective thing; it is in us as one man in our solidarity as a race. The truth is simply this, that our sin in its origin and universality is not ours but Adam's, Man's, Humanity's sin, and we are only recipients and participants of it. On no other ground except the recognition of humanity as a unit could it be affirmed, and arguments founded on the affirmation, that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek while as yet in the loins of his ancestor (Heb.7:8-10).

On the face of things, the outstanding feature in Colossians 1:15-20 is that the Divine purpose was formed in Christ, and effected through Him. The expression "Son of his love" enhances the fact of love being the atmosphere in which the

purpose first saw the light. In keeping with the remote past to which we are carried back, the statements relating to the purpose are in the past tense. The Son is seen as the Firstborn of all Creation, a title whose meaning is explained in the verse immediately following. "For in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible." The point in question is not the creation of the heavens and the earth, but the creation of all things in them, viz., the intelligences in both spheres, those of the heavenly or invisible realm being mentioned according to rank, "thrones, dominions, principalities, powers". All these were created through Him, unto Him, and consist in Him. It is further affirmed, "it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fullness dwell; and through him to reconcile all things unto Himself (having made peace through the blood of His cross); through him, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens". The same "all things" that were created—the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers in the heavens, and the creatures upon the earth--were to be reconciled on the basis of peace effected through the blood of His cross.

This affirmation immeasurably dilates the magnitude of our Savior's work as regards both potency and extent. Whereas our selfishness has limited it to an insignificantly small portion of humankind, the apostle extends it to all creatures in the regions visible and invisible. Nor is this the only passage. Heb.2:9 is even more to the point. "But we behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the sufferings of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste death for every man." *An ancient reading has "except God" instead of "grace of God". [*Chooris Theou instead of chariti Theou. "...that he should taste death for all except God." The insertion "man", which is not in the original, tends to color the text with popular theology.] This reading establishes a parallel with 1 Cor.15:27. Both passages comment an the same verse and words of Psalm 8, "all things in subjection under his feet," and both make a notable exception. In Corinthians Paul asserts that the subjection of all things admits of one evident exception. Hebrews does the same, only with reference to the sacrifice of Christ. The Father is excepted from subjection to the Son and from dependence on His sacrificial death. But whether the reading "except" be received or not, the force and substance of the passage is not affected thereby. The word "man" is wanting in the original, which simply reads "he tasted death for all". "All" is defined by "except God", according to one reading, and "he left nothing that is not subject to him," according to the other.

Eph.1:3-6 adds to our knowledge of the purpose of God gained in Colossians the further fact that humanity was chosen in Christ before the disruption of the world, foreordained unto sonship by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. The burden of this marvelous passage is foreordination. The salient points connected with it are as follows:



"in love"
Time "before the disruption of the world"
Sphere "in Christ"
Impartation "freely"
Goal "Sonship through Jesus Christ"
Aim "to the praise of the glory of his grace

The starting point is love, the climaxing point unearned sonship conferred by grace. Extinction and never-ending torment have no place in this purpose. The eternal, almighty, all wise, all sufficient Being has no reason, no motive, no capacity to purpose ill. Influenced by His infinite perfections, inspired by perfect love, He could only decide on a course of action consistent with Himself. There are things which even God cannot do. He can do nothing contrary to His own nature; His actions are bound by His character.

The argument that never-ending torment and extinction may serve ends unknown to us is a poor makeshift. The creation of which man is the manifest head and end exists from and for Intelligence, Reason; and what has been revealed about it has been revealed for finite minds; the revelation therefore must be in substance, if not in measure accessible to our finite intelligence and reason. Partial and perfect knowledge of God are one in quality if not in quantity. All the elements of the perfect are latent in the partial. Therefore what is repugnant to the principles of partial knowledge must be even more so to the principles of perfect knowledge. God's ways are untraceable, the principles governing them are traceable; the working out of His purpose, involving as it does an inconceivable multiplicity of agencies, may be incomprehensible, the purpose itself is not so.

God is love conveys a conception which transcends our mental capacity while thoroughly adapted to it. Partial and full-orbed comprehension of God's love differ in degree but not in kind. What is true of the lesser is true of the greater, and vice versa. Punishment as a means is consistent with love as an abstract principle; it is likewise consistent with Divine love and occupies a prominent place in the Divine Economy of self-unveilment. But punishment as an end is incongruous with human love, inchoate and imperfect as it is, and utterly incompatible with the Divine. This induction rests on three self-evident axioms: God is light, God is love, God is greater than man. This is solid ground, for what God does must necessarily be interpreted by what He is, since in all His works He remains true to Himself.

The Bible asserts that God is just and merciful. But we never read God is justice or God is mercy. This fact is not without deep significance. It tells us that justice, mercy, and other Divine attributes mentioned in Scripture, are temporary activities of Divine love called into exercise by the presence of sin. Justice is Love protecting itself from association with unrighteousness; mercy is Love treating leniently the guilty and disobedient. The declaration "God is Light" is the key to a true understanding of the interrelation of the Divine attributes and their dependence on Love. The spectrum is produced by the light of the sun passing through a triangular glass prism and falling on a screen. The component colors, being unequally refracted, are spread out in a band displaying the seven rainbow colors. As refracted solar light appears as seven separate colors, Divine Love during the period of sin's existence is seen as a series of componing attributes. And just as the colors of the spectrum are but parts of the solar light, so the many Divine attributes are parts of Love.

It may be said that we have erred in referring the pronoun "us" in Eph.1:3-6 to humanity when the tenor of the epistle as a whole restricts it to believers. The use of pronouns in the epistle is explained in ch.3:6,"...that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel whereof I was made a minister". The apostle has in mind the two parties incorporated in the Body--Jews and Gentiles. Hence the word for "body" is sussoma, a joint-body. "We" refers to the apostle and his fellow-Israelites, "ye", to Gentile believers, while "us" refers to both as a collective unity. The interpretation of the pronouns is restricted to believers only in so far as the epistle applies to the present. But at the time the purpose was formed, before sin's entrance, God had in mind humanity as an organic whole. There stands for us and with us the divine forepurpose. He foreordained humanity for sonship through Jesus Christ. The end was, as clear before Him as the beginning and was just as much the concern of the endless love which is Himself. We are no more objects than we were products of chance. Human personality is too great and precious a thing to have been brought into existence through the travail of ages without a definite and predetermined purpose, without a destiny commensurate with its acquired and inherent possibilities and promises. Jesus Christ is the expression of the divine reason, meaning an end of human personality. Whom God foreknew, them He also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son.

The fact that Reconciliation is part of the forepurpose proves to demonstration that evil is not an accident but an indispensable part of the Divine plan. We may trust God for having known what He was about from the beginning and for having entered upon nothing inconsistent with Himself. His foreknowledge or wisdom was not divorced from His love.

The only way from foreordination to destination, from the inception of the purpose to its fruition, is the way of suffering. The many sons of God can be brought into glory only as the One Son, the Prince of their salvation, who was brought by being made perfect through suffering.

We are in the habit of speaking of the existence and trial of suffering and of evil in general as a mystery of which we can have no understanding on the whole, although in part we may recognize the uses to which it is actually put in the discipline of life. But the view presented in the Bible as a whole, and in Paul's epistles in particular, is not merely that, evil existing, we know not why or how, it is turned to account, overruled as we say, and made a means of good ends by a power greater than itself. Rather is it that, in the very nature of it, all real good, natural or spiritual, is won against, is a victory over, an opposite ill. Pleasure, if it is not only a survival of or relief from pain, is at least developed in consciousness by contact with and conquest of it. Virtue is every inch of it not merely won by but the very product or fruit of conflict with and conquest of its opposite. The holiness of our Lord was as much negatively the denial and annulment of its opposite, sin, as it was the affirmation and establishment of itself through a positive union with the spirit and will and life of God. We could not, however we might try, conceive of a spiritual, personal creation developed otherwise than through conditions practically identical with those to which we take the chief exception in the world as it is. Hence the very best terms are selected in which to express the philosophy of pain, temptation, and trial, not merely as existing and as what we have to live in spite of, but as necessary to us and what we have to live by means of. It is a vindication as well as justification of the fact that the divinest act actual or possible in the history of the universe, had to be enacted and expressed in the terms of the most inconceivable humiliation, trial, and suffering. It is an interpretation of the facts and circumstances of our own existence, in which all the most extreme contrasts and contradictions meet and contend, and for which there is no possible explanation but that it is the scene and the condition necessary not only for the testing and proving but for the determining and developing of present character and life.

In the person of Jesus Christ we see the unity of faith with the entire order of things as they are in the world. In Him we see the meaning, purpose, and glorious end of things; the painful but necessary and salutary process of things. God spares us nothing of all that the actuality of the world has to subject us to. There is no real good but personal good, the good of personality, and that, for us at least, there is no personal, spiritual or moral, good that is not the actual conquest and survival of evil. This is the revelation in Jesus Christ with regard to human life and destiny. For our Lord to have been spared the least of all He endured and overcame would have been to abridge by just so much the completeness and perfection of His attainment and exaltation. And it was the truth for Him because it is the truth for us, of whom He is the way, the truth, the life.

In concluding this paper it may be well to notice the relation of the two items of God's forepurpose to one another. Creation concerns the material side of the purpose, Reconciliation the spiritual. Creation brought humanity into existence; Reconciliation has to do with the bringing of humanity into the spiritual relation of sonship, through redemption. Humanity was "in Christ" before it was in Adam. What we were potentially in God's forepurpose, we have become in ourselves through the grace that is in Christ Jesus. This is the force of the expression "in Christ". It tells us that those who have now received the Gospel are already, in spirit, in the realm of God's forepurpose. They are no longer "in flesh" but "in spirit", a new creation beyond the wreck and ruin of the old.

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