© Charles A. Clough 2002
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 3 – The Historical Emergence of the Church
Lesson 191 – Intercession – The Work of God the Son and the Work of God the Holy Spirit
21 Feb 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
In the life of Christ we’ve dealt with the incarnation, we’ve dealt with His life, with revelation, we’ve dealt with His death, we’ve dealt with the resurrection, and we’ve worked with the ascension and session, with Pentecost and we are now working with the division of the church away from the nation of Israel, the split that happened during the book of Acts. This clarifies the dispensation of the church over against the dispensation of the Law, or the dispensation of Israel, whatever you want to call it. What we’ve done to do that is we’ve said this work of God that is different with the church can be discussed many ways, but we’ve chosen to work with the works of the Trinity on behalf of every believer in the Church Age. So we’ve worked backwards; first we dealt with the Holy Spirit, we are working with the Son, and we’re going to go to the Father.
We enumerated these acts of God and the Holy Spirit, we remember His work when we think of the acrostic RIBS, Regeneration, Indwelling, Baptizing, and Sealing, and He gives us a spiritual gift and also the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us. We’re going to get back to that tonight because that starts to set up a feedback thing with the Son. The Lord Jesus Christ, we’ve talked about Him and His work in the sense that He is giving absolute righteousness. He brought into the existence the historical righteousness by His perfect life; that’s imputed and credited to believers. Then we developed the fact that He died and rose again, thereby giving an entrée …, an exit from mortal history to an entrée to immortal history. Then we said the Lord Jesus Christ has His life that is fitted for eternity, the eternal life, and that is given to believers.
Then we said the Lord Jesus Christ is making priestly intercession for us. We talked about that last time, distinguishing the kind of intercession He is doing, that He is not re-offering Himself; there is no such thing as a re-offering of Christ. This was a major issue between Protestantism and Catholicism. The Protestant crosses don’t have Jesus on them; Catholic crosses do have Jesus on them, and those two architectural points are depictions of the difference in doctrine. There is a difference in doctrine there. We’ve worked with the priestly intercession. We went through Zech. 3 and Luke 22 as examples of His priesthood.
What we want to do before we go too much further, I’d like to go back and tie these two together, the intercession work of Jesus and the intercession work of the Holy Spirit. If you look at the diagram on page 79 I’ve tried to relate these. To recall another point by way of background, while we’re working this intercession issue we at the same time don’t get confused about the nature of all these different works—the package of work that the Holy Spirit does is distinct from the pattern of the work of God the Son, which is going to be distinct from the pattern of the work of God the Father. We have to relate the Father, Son and Holy Spirit because it’s the One Triune God. So if you think of this approach, think of the Father first, the Son second, and the Holy Spirit third, exactly reverse to what we’ve been doing, but the model that we’ve used is a simple approach that relies on the words that God has chosen to reveal Himself, by the God who is the speaker, the message which is spoken, so you have the speaker which is analogous to the Father; what He has spoken which is analogous to the Son, the Word, and the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, are the results of what is spoken, the effect of what is spoken. If you think in terms of a speaker, a message, and the result, then these packages of collective works will fit together.
That’s why, by the way, if you see that, that is why the Holy Spirit’s job is to magnify the Son; it’s this work that is the center of attention, the work of God the Son. The reason for that is that’s the content of the message, He is the logos, He is the revelation, He is the word of God, the living word of God. The work of the Father and the Holy Spirit are equally important, but they don’t become the center of attention like the works of the Son do. This is structurally related to the Trinity. The whole idea of the Trinity, this whole revelation of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, that sets the structure up. It’s not arbitrary.
That’s why in certain parts of the Christian church, particularly in the charismatic stream, they tend to want to … and again, because of negligence on the part of orthodoxy of neglecting the work of the Holy Spirit, the charismatics have over-emphasized the attention that should focus upon the Holy Spirit, when in fact the New Testament says the Holy Spirit is given to glorify Himself or to glorify the Second Person? He is given to glorify the Son. That’s why it’s the Son and His work that’s the center of attention. The other reason why the Son is to be the center of attention of the three is because of the Father, of the Son and of the Spirit, it’s only the Son who takes upon Himself the human nature. So He alone of the Trinity, of the personal distinctives in the Trinity, He alone is the point of the incarnation. That’s where God and man together exist.
We said when we talked about the ascension and session, when we got back to dealing with the Son, before we dealt with Pentecost, we were talking about Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and He sat down and something happened when Jesus Christ sat down; a new program was instituted. We called that the heavenly origin of the church. The church comes from an outer space planetary extra-terrestrial origin. It’s not originating on earth. So the church has played very much of a background role in the spiritual darkness and the battles of this world.
If you go back earlier when we were discussing the ascension of Christ, on pages 21–22 we dealt with the angelic conflict, and we said that when Jesus Christ walked into the throne room of God and He sat down, that is the first time in history where a member of the human race occupied that throne. And at the moment that Jesus Christ, as God-man, sat on that throne, from that point on, Satan can never dislodge that throne. Up until that point you could say “theoretically,” I put it in quotes, up until that point it might have been possible from Satan’s point of view to try to get that spot. But the moment the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead and he ascended into heaven and He sat down at the Father’s right hand, that throne is occupied and it’s always going to be occupied and no one else is going to sit there.
At that point something significant happened in history. On page 21 we had a table in which we discussed why Jesus Christ beat out Satan and why Jesus Christ is the head creature in His humanity. We said that … it comes out of the hypostatic union and doctrine of kenosis, Satan’s appeal probably would have been that true humanity … this is what God would say against Satan who would challenge Jesus’ right to sit on the throne, the answer to Satan’s accusation is that true humanity is what historically and perfectly obeyed the will of God; the Creator/creature distinction is not violated at any time, the Lord Jesus Christ never ever relied upon His deity to beat Satan out. Every time Satan met Jesus Christ, Christ met him with the filling of the Spirit in His humanity. So that being the case, Satan therefore can never argue that well, that was a special case, I mean He was God, of course He could beat me; if you tied His hands behind His back I could beat Him. He can’t argue that way because His hands were tied, His deity was tied down because of the doctrine of kenosis. He gave up the voluntary use of His divine attributes. So since He gave up the voluntary use of His divine attributes He never had that weaponry deployed against Satan. The weapons Jesus used is the filling of the Spirit, which is true for the Church Age. That’s number one, the argument is that Jesus won fair and square in that battle.
On page 22, what this intercession business is about is that the angelic conflict now expands because once Jesus Christ sits on the throne, He’s got to collect His people, because the images in Daniel, remember the Son of Man comes and all the images of Daniel, whether it’s the bear, or whether it’s the lion or whether it’s the kingdom of this or the kingdom of that, it’s always…, the imagery in the Old Testament looks forward to four kings, the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, the Greece Empire, and the Roman Empire. But those beasts that are pictured there stand not just for the leaders, but for the people. It’s the leaders and the people of those kingdoms that are pictured there and they’re pictured as non-human creatures, i.e. animal creatures, because they’re subhuman. Morally it’s a picture of the ethical level of man’s civilization. It’s animal-like, it’s fallen, it’s corrupt—it doesn’t elevate truth. And the only one of those images from Daniel that’s human is the Son of Man, the fifth kingdom, because only the fifth kingdom truly fits what God intended by designing the human race the way He designed it.
The problem is that the Son of Man is a solitary figure unless the Son of man has people. Who are the people that belong to the Son of Man back in the Old Testament? They are never revealed. So what is happening in the Church Age is that the royal family of the Kingdom is being generated. That’s the story of the church, that’s what makes the church different from Israel; that’s why it’s a different dispensation than the dispensation of Israel.
The question now is, Satan always wants to object to every point of victory that God has against him. Every time somebody becomes a Christian during the Church Ag …, so looking at the church from the time of Pentecost, our time line here, from the time of Pentecost to the time of the rapture, all during that Church Age there’s defeat after defeat after defeat after defeat of Satan because every time somebody trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ, they have been called out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. And that represents lost ground for Satan, every time that happens, lost ground for Satan, now he’s lost another one, now he’s lost another one, now he’s lost another one, now he’s lost another one. And he’s done it because these creatures, when they have been called by God, without any arm twisting, they have responded to God’s call over against Satan’s call. You might look upon it, it’s not really a correct way of doing it because it’s not theologically correct, but you can almost look upon it as people are voting with their feet, and the human race is voting with its feet to go with Jesus Christ. This is why there’s a progressive defeat of Satan but it starts with a strategic move right here when the Lord Jesus Christ ascends and is seated at the Father’s right hand. That sets up a strategy and this is just the tactical envelopment that happens over the centuries of time.
There are going to be objections to this, that’s where the chart on page 22 came in. All grace is grounded. The grace that allows this to happen is grounded on the substitutionary blood atonement of Jesus Christ and on no other ground. That’s why it’s so important to talk about the cross of Jesus Christ as the all sufficient sacrifice. If you dare to say that any of these people, ourselves included, are going to be in the kingdom because we have so many brownie points with God, we’re such wonderful people, we do such wonderful things for the Lord Satan can blow that out of the tub immediately because he knows every sin, he has access, he’s watching us, he can accuse us, that’s what his name means, “accuser,” so he can accuse all of us and discredit our record before God and say therefore God, this person shouldn’t be sitting there, hey, come on, you condemned me, how you don’t condemn them?
The only basis has to be a perfect basis, and that’s why it’s imputed righteousness that makes the difference. It’s not human good, it’s not human merit, it’s not how many times you went to church, how many times you got baptized, or any of the other stuff - it’s the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone that saves. Nothing else can save because nothing else can survive a satanic challenge. That’s why on that chart, on the same line as the substitutionary blood atonement, I say “there is no unavoidable contradiction between God’s holiness and His acceptance of sinful creatures covered legally by the substitutionary blood atonement.”
That’s a mouthful but let’s go through that sentence again. “There is no unavoidable contradiction,” there’s nothing illogical about this, God fits this thing together perfectly, and when we mess around with human merit, that’s where we get illogical things creeping in and mess it up. There is nothing illogical, it’s a perfectly rational plan of salvation that keeps, preserves, God’s absolute holiness. That’s never compromised in this salvation package, in no way. God’s absolute righteousness and holiness is protected by the salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ’s substitutionary blood atonement. It is not protected if religion gets involved because if religion gets involved with salvation, then what happens is we’ve got God’s holiness compromised and every religion on earth is a compromise of God’s holiness.
Allah in Islam cannot be holy, and the reason he can’t be is because in Islam the idea is that Allah is going to sit there and do a balancing act - scales - the good works versus the bad works. And if your good works outweigh your bad works you can go copulate with the seventy-two virgins. It’s a balancing act, but the point is even if the good outweighs the bad, the bad still exists, it’s only being outweighed but it still exists, it doesn’t go away. Where does it go? You’ve got a holy God accepting this evil. The evil question is never dealt with really. So if God doesn’t forgive on the basis of some absolute righteousness, He has compromised His holiness in the act of forgiving.
Therefore, Biblical people down through church history have argued so strenuously for justification by faith alone. That’s what tore up Europe in the 16th century, people died over this, they had wars over this thing. Today most Christians walk around like there’s no difference between Protestants and Catholics. Well, I’m sorry to say there’s a big difference between knowledgeable Bible-believing Protestants and knowledgeable dedicated loyal Roman Catholics. It’s just a fact of history, we’re not being belligerent it’s just a fact of history; there is a big difference here. So what we’re saying is that during the Church Age one by one people are won to Jesus Christ, and so one by one the people of the King are being formed. And Satan cannot challenge this because the basis of their drawing out is the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Turn to Eph. 4; we’ll go over that passage again because we can’t review it enough. This is a picture of the Church Age and this was the example of prisoners of war. It’s taken out of the Old Testament and it’s that passage just before spiritual gifts are talked about. In verse 7 it says “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore the Scripture says,” now what’s delightful about verses 8, 9, and 10 is if you look at those carefully, read slowly, and observe the text, what you see in verses 8, 9, and 10 is what you would have heard had you been in a synagogue listening to Paul himself. Verses 8, 9, and 10 are a depiction of rabbinical exegesis by one of the greatest minds of church history, if not the greatest apostle as far as theology is concerned. This is how Paul taught. Notice he taught verse by verse; he referred to the text. In verse 8 he cites the text. We went through that, it comes from Psalm 68; it’s talking about Jehovah ascending to His mount after a battle was won, and the picture in the Old Testament is He’s taking prisoners of war. It’s a picture of the conquering general. It’s a military metaphor that God the Holy Spirit has used here.
Although verse 8 comes from Psalm 68, and Psalm 68 is talking about Jehovah, clearly verse 8 in Paul’s teaching is now it’s Jesus. Here’s one of those New Testament passages Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t seem to ever get this; here’s a case where Jehovah and Jesus are identified because you’ve got a quote that applies to Jehovah, from Psalm 68, and Paul is applying it to the Lord Jesus Christ and making the two identical, Jesus is Jehovah. Jesus is now ascended and He’s going to be pictured as a conquering general. And he said, verse 9, “(Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)”
Then he starts verse 11, “And He gave….” Where did he get the verb “gave?” Look in the context, where’s the last occurrence of g-a-v-e? That’s the verb in verse 11, that’s how verse 11 starts. Look up in the text and lo and behold, in verse 8 the last clause quoted from Psalm 68 says “He gave.” And you remember when we went through that passage that if you look in the Old Testament text it’s not “He gave,” it’s “He took.” In the Old Testament it’s God conquering, He takes captives, and He takes booty. In the Old Testament, and frankly all through most of history until the United States arose on the world scene, conquering nations financed their military endeavor by booty from the defeated land. We are the first country not to do that in history, at least on a major scale. So when you hear all these people whining and wetting their pants because our President talks about an axis of evil, just remember there’s no other nation on earth that ever rebuilt their enemies like we did after World War II.
The issue here in the Old Testament is Jehovah took booty. But Paul deliberately structures the quote, here he is, he’s taking the Old Testament text and now he actually changes the Old Testament text when it applies to Jesus. He’s using his apostolic authority under the extra revelation of the Holy Spirit to do this. “He ascended on high,” there’s the Lord Jesus, “He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” Now what’s he talking about? How does that apply to Jesus? We said how it applies is an amazing depiction of what’s going on in the Church Age. Taking captives means those people who are taken captive from the kingdom of darkness, His opponent. Who are these people? The people are those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. And here those who have believed, including all of us and all believers of all time in the Church Age, since Pentecost, are said to be prisoners of war. Instead of taking gifts, taking booty, it says He gave gifts. Then Paul goes on to say in verse 11, what are the gifts, and the gifts here are people, leaders, people in position in the church.
So what is the picture? The picture is this: that during the Church Age the Lord Jesus Christ is calling out His people, out of Satan’s domain. He’s doing it with imputed righteousness so Satan can never object to this, he can’t stop it, there’s not a legal stand that Satan can articulate as an accuser. So one by one, one by one, here, there, here, people become a Christian, people trust the Lord, people become a Christian, people trust the Lord, people become a Christian, people trust the Lord, so everybody, all these believers, there are looked upon as prisoners of war. And what God does here, what Jesus does; He turns around and gives them back to the church.
So who do you think was on Paul’s mind when Paul wrote this? Himself - he was taken captive on the Damascus Road, and what happened? God invested him with teaching abilities, apostolic office and gifts and what did He do? He gave Paul back to the church. “He gave apostles, He gave prophets,” etc. it’s a wonderful, wonderful description of the work of Jesus Christ during the Church Age as He builds His church.
All that’s by way of background because when we come back to the work of Christ, the interceding work of the Lord Jesus, that’s what this priestly intercession is on page 79, there’s the dynamic working in the Church Age. You have God the Father, who is the author of the Plan, and one who is the eventual object, everybody submits to Him so He’s the source of it, then you have God the Son, and then you have God the Holy Spirit.
Figure 5. Relationship of the church to the Trinity and to the world system
But God the Son is making His intercession where? In Heaven. Where is the Holy Spirit locally? By locally we’re not denying His omnipresence, but where is the Holy Spirit’s center of operations in the Church Age. It’s on earth. So that’s why the Holy Spirit in this diagram is at the bottom. See the arrow from the church on earth; the Holy Spirit is making on-scene intercession according to Romans 8 for the church. He’s as it were, the on-scene commander. You know, when you have a disaster or something, the police and fire departments have these emergency operating plans and one of the things that they have to figure on is when you have a catastrophe, when you have a disaster, there’s got to be somebody that calls the shots. Most plans speak of someone who is the on-scene commander. It doesn’t mean he’s the supreme commander, it means that as far as that location goes, all the logistics and everything else that’s happening, the communication and everything else, has to function through that on-scene commander.
That’s the picture of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8; He is the on-scene commander for the church. And it says in Romans 8 that He makes intercession for us “with groanings that cannot be uttered.” We said when we exegeted that passage that’s talking about stuff in the Greek fraternities, there were passwords, and we would say today the Holy Spirit is on-scene commander, He makes intercession for each of us, for sanctification, for spiritual growth, but the petition doesn’t go to the Father, it goes to the Son. And that’s clear in Romans 8 because it speaks of the One who searches the reins, the kidneys, etc., you can use by comparison that, that’s what the Lord Jesus is in the book of Revelation. [Revelation 2:23]
So the intercession goes up in a chain. The Holy Spirit is making intercession down here for our sanctification, He passes it to the Lord Jesus by a secure communication route, “groanings that cannot be uttered” meaning, “It’s secure com.” Satan would love to know what that prayer content is, because if Satan could find out what the prayer content was, he could get right in there and jam it. You see, the problem is, he loses the initiative because the Holy Spirit is the one who initiates. All Satan can ever do is he can respond very quickly to a work that God does, but he can’t initiate, he can’t jam it at the front end because he doesn’t know what’s coming and that’s all because of this secure com between the Holy Spirit making intercession to the head of the church, the Lord Jesus.
Satan has another thing; you see where Satan is mentioned twice in the diagram. One, Satan and his angels make historical attacks against the church. In the next chapter we’re going to deal with church history, and you’ll see the sequence of the attacks that Satan has made not just against individuals but he has made bodily, corporate attacks against the church itself down through the centuries at times. Who resists that? It’s the Holy Spirit, “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” That’s that horizontal battle that’s going on. But that’s only part of the battle. What this diagram shows you is there’s a heavenly component to that battle. And that’s why Satan is mentioned twice in the diagram.
You notice Satan is above, what is he doing in heaven? He’s accusing the brethren. Now why is Satan interested in accusing the brethren? Just because he wants to accuse? No, he’s got a serious situation here. He’s trying to defend against the loss of these prisoners of war during the Church Age, because every time somebody defects he’s lost ground. Finally he’s going to lose enough ground so that, theologians going back to Augustine have said this, it’s speculation, but it’s an interesting speculation, that the total number of people that will eventually be saved in the Church Age are going to equal the number of angels that went with Satan. And when it reaches that point, that’s the end of that—the Rapture of the church. I’m not saying that’s taught in the Scriptures, I’m just saying that Christians who have looked at the Scriptures wonder about that because it seems like the Church Age is over, not according to a date line, like Israel, Israel had a date line; the church doesn’t have a date line.
The church has something else, and it’s just as definite when the church ends as it was when you went from one age to the other with Israel. What is it that’s the marker? If it’s not time it must be some other event. So it’s event-driven rather than time-driven. You know programmers, you can have a program executing and it can be a time triggered thing or it can be an event triggered thing. So apparently the Church Age is terminated with an event. The question is what is the event? That’s why the suggestion has been made, again just a suggestion, that when the sanctification work gets done, Satan’s been totally replaced. Everybody that went with him has been totally replaced, booted out and replaced. That kind of stuff is going on. Satan has a real thing going here; he’s got to constantly challenge the legal basis. He’s like some of these lawyers that are always worried about whether somebody ate Twinkies before they killed somebody and their high blood sugar caused the problem and they’re not responsible, or the arresting officer didn’t sign the right blank on the form or something. Never mind what happened, just dismiss it on a technicality. That’s what this is all about. That’s a good one when you run across these guys and you get ticked off at them, if I was a policeman sometimes I’d say yeah, well Satan does the same things, I know how it is. It’s a good retort because that’s exactly what Satan is doing; he’s looking for a technicality to stop this erosion of his base.
That’s why the church is important and that’s why premillennialism is not pessimism, and why the church isn’t something passive. The Church Age is something that’s got to be finished before the Kingdom can come. Before Christ can fully exercise His authority by returning to this earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom He’s got to have a people. Where is He going to get the people from? The Church Age. The Church Age is going be finished before He can do that.
That diagram says the Holy Spirit makes intercession to the Son and then the Son protects us with another kind of intercession which guarantees and stabilizes our salvation claim. So whereas the Son guarantees salvation by every time an accusation comes up, “My righteousness,” substitutionary blood atonement gets rid of the sin, My righteousness takes care of justification, so that locks that up. Then what happens is the Holy Spirit makes intercession in Romans 8 for different sanctifications; if we knew what the Holy Spirit was praying about right now in each of our lives we’d know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but we don’t know that because He doesn’t tell us that. That’s secure communications; it’s strictly between Him and the Son over the issue of the body.
Having said all that, we go on to describe another work which we introduced last time, Jesus Christ is the head of the church and He’s also the judge of the church. As head of the church, we see that in the book of Revelation, how He says I will take the lamp out of the lampstand etc., He’s administering the church, His body; He’s the head of it. We talked about the heavenly direction, and then we talked about the priestly intercession, and finally we talk about the judging.
Turn to 2 Corinthians 5 the Lord Jesus Christ is going to judge us. In verses 10-11 the Scriptures say that Jesus Christ is the judge of the church. What that means is that, as it says, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” The exposition of that is found in 1 Corinthians 3; it’s talking about burning up wood, hay and stubble. What is the issue at this judgment? If the issue isn’t salvation, what is the issue here at this judgment? The issue at this judgment is works and the question then becomes what are the righteous works, what are those works that we have done in obedience to the leading of the Spirit versus the works that we have done because we were pressured by our boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband, group, teenage gang or whatever else, some motivation that had nothing to do with the leading of the Holy Spirit, it was just external pressure.
The works have been divided into the bad works and the good works. And these are eliminated from our credit card, so we don’t get credit for that, that’s the wood, hay and stubble, and the works that were done through the leading of the Holy Spirit we are rewarded for those. But the problem here is that you see, just as with this, no believer can go into eternity saved on any other basis than a perfect basis. The substitutionary death of Christ removes sin; imputed righteousness of Christ justifies. So also the church has to have a personal evaluation and we go into eternity but we can’t go in with some false notion of our significance in our lifetime. And it can be a sobering kind of scary thing when the Lord Jesus Christ evaluates each one of us on what we did that was correct, what we did that wasn’t. Paul even hints in his writings he doesn’t know. As an apostle he didn’t know a lot of things, he says it’s going to be revealed in the last day, I’m not going to sit here and worry about it, I’m going to go on living my life as unto the Lord, doing what I know to do and leave the results with Him.
But the fact is that there’s going to be no false notion about how great people we were or how incompetent we were; some of us who think we were incompetent will be finding out, oh yeah, when you witnessed to that person of said that kind word to somebody or you encouraged somebody, that reconcile that happened here, here, here, you never realized the fallout from all that. And some of us can be pleasantly surprised by things that we never even dreamed that we were involved with. In fact, probably most of the things that come out good will be the things we never thought of, and the thing we thought were so good will probably go down the toilet. That’s the surprise of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Judgment.
Let’s go on to the Father, because now we come back to the source behind the plan of salvation, what led to it. On page 80 we get into the works of the Father. One of the keys in going back through and thinking of this package, you can think of this package as basically the causes of all the rest. This is where the plan started. This is why the plan has the design it has. This is what triggered the whole thing of the plan of salvation. I want to review something we covered years ago, back when we were talking in the Old Testament about the call of Abraham. The last time we dealt with the doctrine of election, remember the event? It was Abraham. We talked about God, of all the people in the earth, picked Abraham out. Why? Because Abraham was good? No, He picked Abraham out for reasons God had to Himself. He picked Abraham out because the human race was so rapidly paganizing itself after the Noahic recolonization of the planet after the flood, races were developing, you had various apostasies develop and it was clear that the Noahic Bible would become eclipsed through cultural degeneration. So God had to form a counterculture, a greenhouse, as it were, to protect the truth and Abraham was called to start that project.
Here we get back to the same idea. Abraham was called out from a pagan environment and I went through a little about the cultural background. In cities like Ur of the Chaldeas and those ancient cities, they were looked on as cities of people who were under the dominion of a god or goddess. They believed in other gods and other goddesses but the city itself usually had a god or a goddess that was over that city. The way they explained history in those days was that if that city was invaded, and say city A took over city B, the interpretation of that history was that the god of city B was bigger than the god of city A and won in this ebb and flow of the gods. The point of telling the story is this: that you never had eternal security because there was never a final god or goddess who would guarantee that your city wouldn’t fall tomorrow to another god or goddess. So as long as you had polytheism you wound up in a chance environment where there was no one who had the final say. In paganism there’s no one that has the final say. Not one god or goddess is all powerful. There’s a competition. If you read all the mythologies of the world you’ll see it, it’s saturated with all the fights the gods and goddesses have with each other. They’re just as fallen and depraved as men. So that doesn’t produce security.
What paganism sometimes does, because it needs stability, what does it do? Think, if the gods and goddesses can’t give you stability, what do you revert to for your stability, because men and women have to have some stability in life? They attribute it to fate. So the other side of this darkness in the unbelieving world is it’s either the gods or the goddesses that are constantly dynamically interchanging, we call that Chance, the marbles rolling around the table, or the other thing you get this thing called Fate. If you want to see a good picture of fate, think back to that classic movie 2001. At the beginning of the movie, Kubrick has the monolith that spins through space and you look at it and it’s very interesting. Cooper had to do something to somehow picture on the screen what fate looked like, so he chose a table. Cooper knew what he was doing because in the ancient world the tablet … they didn’t call it fate, fate is a Latin word that came in later with the Greeks and Romans, but their idea of fate came out of a tablet of destiny. That’s the way they viewed it, a tablet of destiny. It’s like a code that existed. The gods and goddesses themselves were under this power of the tablet.
This is why in that movie you see this tablet spinning through and out of space, and it looks like one of the Ten Commandments, it’s got that same … almost like he borrowed it out of Cecil B. DeMille or something. So there’s the extreme, you either have marbles of you have stability. If you have stability the problem is, it’s impersonal, there’s nothing personal about it. If you want to get the personal involved, now you’ve a fight involved, everybody is disagreeing with everybody else so now you’ve got marbles. So you either have people and marbles or you have total cold barrenness and stability. And that’s the dilemma, and an awful lot goes between those two poles.
When we come to the Father on page 80, this is what we’re talking about. Follow with me, “The Work of the Father. Thinking again in terms of the speaker, the message, and the effects of the message, we come to the work of God the Father. God the Father is the Personal Cause.” Now you see why I capitalized “Personal Cause” in that background? He’s not just caused by fate, He is a Personal Cause. “In contrast to paganism which attributes ultimate cause to both impersonal Fate and Chance, the Bible insists upon the ultimate cause as the one personal will of the Creator.” Period, no competitors; NO competitors! No votes. God works all things after the counsel of the Gallup Poll? Or after His own counsel? God does not take counsel from anyone other than Himself. And that’s the source and origin of history. That’s what we’re talking about, the origin of this plan, the works of God the Father.
Turn to Romans 8:29, there’s the passage that deals with this. It’s interesting because that’s the passage that talks about suffering, and Paul has to deal with this issue. It’s no accident that Romans 8 … [blank spot] … How would Romans 8:28 work out for a pagan? If you say well, gee, I’m following a lunar deity tonight, and the lunar deity guarantees me that all things work out together for good, could a lunar deity guarantee you that all things work out together for good? No, because tomorrow the solar deity could beat him. So if Romans 8:28 doesn’t have a root, doesn’t have a leg to stand on, it’s just nice comforting religious poetry, that’s all it is. There’s not any substantive claim. But for Romans 8:28 to have a substantive claim it’s got to be rooted on something. So verse 29 starts, and here are some works of God the Father, so let’s list them.
Verse 29, “For whom He did foreknow, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;  and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, and whom He justified these He also glorified.” Let’s count those. We’ve got foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. So we’ve done six of all the other members of the Trinity, so here we go, foreknowing, predestinating, calling, justifying and glorifying. Now we’ve at least got five works of God the Father and we’re going to start going through those. There’s the package that comes from God the Father. They are all the package that deals with the causes of everything else in the chain: what the Son does; what the Holy Spirit does.
Foreknowing: if you’ll follow me, page 80, I talk about foreknowing, and then we’ll talk about some of the Scriptures that are involved. “In eternity, past God ‘knew’ each New Testament saint in Christ. This action expresses a divine choice about creation and history. Autonomous man hates to hear that God is the final cause of all things.” There’s nothing that brings to the surface of our souls our rebelliousness more than when we here it said that God has the final say, period, because right there we’re face to face …, the carnal mind does not like to submit to God. The last word that the carnal mind wants to hear is that God has the final say. Who chose the kind of history we’ve got here? If He had a thousand different versions of history, He chose this one. He chose history with evil in it. He chose history with suffering in it. He chose history with His Son dying in it. It’s His choice. He didn’t consult with anyone, and that’s what we mean when we talk about God is the final cause.
Continuing, “Yet it follows immediately from the doctrine of creation.” That’s why from the very start I’ve always emphasized the Creator/creature distinction. We’re going to see why in some more detail, why I keep emphasizing that, the Creator/creature distinction, it never goes away. “Ultimately, what happens in history—whether the fall of Satan, the fall of Adam, the rejection of Jesus Christ by Israel, or the final judgment—whatever happens is a result of God’s choice to make history the way it is playing out.” He is the author and we’re characters in His story.
When an author writes a story, I’m indebted to C. S. Lewis for this because he was a writer. C. S. Lewis was talking about foreknowing and predestinating one time, and he said you know, the best way of thinking of this, the way I always think of it, is when I write a story …, remember The Narnia Chronicles, you read your kids these neat little stories, when C. S. Lewis wrote The Narnia Chronicles he had characters in them.
When an author writes a story he doesn’t write about puppets, he writes about real people who have real decisions. You put a story together, and to make the story real you have real people, suffering, you have real decision making, etc. So, if you’re the author, in order to have genuine people, you have genuine choices, but they’re choices that you yourself in the overall scheme of things have mapped out. That’s an analogy to how God runs history. We have these choices but the choices are still part of the script. But they’re a script of real people making real choices.
“Remembering our discussion in part III, the (Q)uality of God’s sovereignty has analogies and disanalogies with the (q)uality of human choice.” So here we’re coming back to that age-old thing that we’ve covered thousands of times in this series, and that is we go back to the Creator/creature distinction. God is sovereign, humans have choice, there are analogies between these two qualities but there are disanalogies between them. One is the attribute of the Creator; the other is the attribute of the creature. They are not identical.
I can summarize some of these notes by drawing a chart. Where people have a hard time working with this is that we load our brains with the wrong set of tools. And we do this almost unconsciously, because most of the time, in our everyday experience, the tools that we load our thinking machine with are suited to this world. But when we start discussing something that bridges the Creator/creature distinction we’ve got to watch out the set of tools that we’re loading our computer with.
When we deal with this, what the tendency to do is to take the idea of, and I’ll put it in quotes, the idea of “cause” or put it in the form of a noun, a different noun, “causation.” We grab hold of the vocabulary word “causation” and in our minds we start applying it promiscuously in the same sense to the Creator as we do to the creature. We think that we’ve got the thing aced by saying that we know what causation means when it applies to God because we know what it means when it applies to man or nature, or the raindrops falling out of the cloud. We have an idea of cause; with our idea of cause we can’t imagine God dictating everything about history without jamming choice. How can you have choice with God’s choice superseding that choice? You can’t have causation, in other words, if you locate it up here it destroys choice. But that’s only because we’ve tricked ourselves in the way we’ve been thinking.
The fallacy is that we’ve taken this concept of causation and we’ve applied it across the boundary of the Creator/creature, as though that word has no change in meaning whatsoever, it means the same thing with God, it means the same with man. Wrong! Let me give an example. Where do we have an historic test case to use in the mind’s eye that we can check out our thinking with? Can you think of any place where the Creator and the creature have come close together? The Lord Jesus Christ, the hypostatic union, undiminished deity and true humanity in one person. Now, if God’s sovereignty and human choice were illogically related and in conflict, you never could have had the Lord Jesus Christ uniting both of those in one person. As a matter of fact, He did, and we may have a hard time trying to understand that but we’ve got a perfect historical example of where it all came together.
Every time the Lord Jesus Christ faced a temptation as a man He had choice. He had a choice in the Garden of Gethsemane. But yet we know from the doctrine of impeccability, posse non peccare, He is not able to sin. That’s why we had that discussion ages ago about those two phrases, non posse peccare, posse non peccare. He is not able to sin but He is able not to sin. How did we resolve that? We said the term posse non peccare, able not to sin, looks at the Lord Jesus Christ from His humanity; He is able not to sin. So He could be tempted and He was able not to sin, He had a choice. Yet because He was also God, He was non posse peccare; he was not able to sin. How could you get those two together? Remember the argument I said? Good theologians have strained their brains over this, you know, give me a bigger motherboard, I’ve got a problem here, I can’t get a hold of this one. And that’s right, we can’t. The problem then is not that it’s illogical, it’s that when we try to bridge across what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to get some common idea that’s common to both sides of this equation, and we can’t do it because it’s the Creator/ creature distinction.
When we talk about foreknowing, what are we saying? In a nutshell, what does foreknowledge mean? Here’s what it doesn’t mean. It is not a synonym for omniscience; omniscience is God knows all things and He knows what is possible: possible history. Remember that strange comment the Lord Jesus made in the garden, what did He say? He said do you now know that I could call to My Father and He’d send Me legions of angels. He had knowledge of what could have happened. That’s omniscience; it is a total knowledge of everything, actual and potential. Foreknowledge is not that. Foreknowledge is the knowledge of actual history the way it would work out. It is Him foreknowing, and people who study this word far more intensely that I ever have, have said that there’s a personal commitment. This knowing isn’t just a bare naked abstract knowledge, it’s knowing, much as Adam knew his wife—it’s a personal relationship. God has a personal commitment to His plan of history. So He foreknows it, it’s His plan from the start, and everything else flows out of His choice to make history go the way He wanted to do it. When an author sits down they foreknow their story because they have it in mind how they’re going to write the story and that’s how God has that foreknowledge. We’ll deal more with this when we get into predestination.
Going back to Romans 8:29 you’ll see, “For whom He foreknew,” that means to some people He didn’t “foreknew;” in the sense of omniscience; He knew everybody in the sense of omniscience, but the foreknowing is talking about those whom He foreknew, those who would be in Christ, “He predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” That’s why Romans 8:28 can work. If you compromise verse 29 you can flush verse 28. Verse 29 is the basis for verse 28. So that’s why it has to be rooted in the certain plan of God. We don’t have marbles running the cosmic show here. We have one personal will of God, period. No outsiders are telling God how to run the system, He chose the history.
Now how He does that, and not become the author of sin because you could say well, gee, He could have had a history without a fall, He could have had a history without babies dying, He chose that kind of a history. Well, yeah He did, He ultimately sat down and said that’s the history I want. People don’t like to hear that, but that’s the way the Scriptures lay it out, all things, He works all things, not some things, He works all things out after the counsel of His will. And it’s hard, this is a very hard truth, but the good thing about it is is that it and it alone gives the power to all the works that God has done for us. All the intercession, all the justification, there’s nothing that can stop it because He has decreed it shall take place. No one controverts the sovereign will of God.
By next week we’re going to finish, Lord willing, all of the positional truth that we’ve worked through for the church, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then we’re going to move on to the next chapter which will be church history. Obviously in one chapter we’re not going to do church history when church history takes volumes greater than the size of the Encyclopedia Britannic, so all we’re going to do is map out the general thrust of what the Holy Spirit has been doing in the twenty centuries since the Lord Jesus Christ ascent to Heaven. And by looking at that, that gives us perspective on where we are. I find very few Christians understand why we’re in these little independent churches, what’s evangelicalism, and what’s with the denominations and all the rest of that. We really have some bad need of some good church history.
Church history does something else for you, it puts into perspective various doctrines because you can go back to church history and say well … it’s like a laboratory, you can go back and say okay, if we believe this way then what happens if we believe this way for fifty years, what does that do. And you usually go back and find some place where that idea had domain, dominion, and say gee, you know what, look at what that idea produced. And it’s scary sometimes what sloppy theology has produced. It takes time for sloppy theology to work out, that’s the problem. You can have a very sloppy theology and be immune to its effects for almost a hundred years. In church history it seems like it takes two to three hundred years for bad ideas to work out. And then it’s ooh, we made a mistake back there, so then we have a big argument and fight and creeds and arguments and now we’ve come up with another creed statement and people have to knock heads. It’s almost like driving down the road on your vacation and making all the wrong turns and you go miles down the road, you made the wrong turn so you turn around and go back to where you got off the track. That’s a picture of church history, not very flattering but that’s the story.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s a good point, that we have to be careful, because history isn’t over yet. The story may go on for many chapters and we’re sitting here and we think we know the author’s mind because gee, we read the first 15 chapters. Well, there may be some surprises in the future. In other words, the point is we know that God’s attribute of goodness and His love and His graciousness will be vindicated, it will be vindicated, and it will be vindicated by what happens in history. Basically you can put a lot of it together right now in that the basis for rejecting Him, both on the part of Satan and on the part of man in the Garden of Eden is being refuted by saying okay, when men reject what God says, let’s look at the results. We twist that around in daily experience because usually you get somebody that’s angry at God because some evil happened in their life, or they’re angry at God because God took their children in childbirth or something, some tragedy, some genuine tragedies. And people hold grudges all their life over the way God supposedly treated them, that God has it in for them, and God’s a meany, and God does this, and God does that.
Well, if you go back in the Gospels there are several cases where the disciples were asking these questions. Anybody remember when there was an accident, what we would call an accident that happened? It’s in Luke, a tower fell down one day, killed a bunch of people and the disciples were all over Jesus; well, those people boy, they must have been sinning, the tower fell on them. And what did Jesus say? He said no, they didn’t sin any more, they weren’t picked out in other words, as remarkable sinners, they were just saying yeah, they’re sinners and everybody else can die just like them if they’re sinners, meaning that mortal life comes to an end.
Another good example is the blind man, a congenitally blind man in John 9. Remember they came to him and said did his parents sin or did he sin, they were all trying to pick it out, and Jesus said the answer was this happened that I may be glorified. So what was just pointed out, at the end of history it’s going to be that God is glorified. That sounds cruel to say that, it really sounds unloving, it sounds ungracious, and not very comforting in one sense.
But if it doesn’t sound comforting to you when you hear that news of God’s sovereignty, then what I think you need to do is go back and reread Job about 20 times, because remember when God came to Job He came in what looked like, and it still does, it still hits you when you read the story of Job, is that God really didn’t come on to Job too nicely and graciously. God came in there literally as a whirlwind and knocked the furniture all over the place and whacked him on the side of the head. Hey, come on, this guy is already on his back, why do you have to smack him so hard. And as I said when we discussed Job is that I believe the reason God came in on Job like that is because that’s the way He comes in on us, to get us thinking out of our pity parties, about the Creator/creature distinction. That’s what that whole quiz was about, 85 questions of whatever, in Job 28, 29, 40, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, what about this, what about this, what about this.
Now what happens when somebody asks you a question versus what happens to you when somebody tells you something? If I ask you a question what does that do to your brain? It starts it, and when we’re knocked flat on our backs like Job was, it’s easy because of the pain levels alone, to turn off the mind. Give me a pill; I don’t want to feel this any more. So we go passive in those things. And if you study how God works, He doesn’t want us to go passive. He wants us to go active and to consciously think of this. And hang on to Him through it all, it’s a roller coaster up and down but He wants us to hang on to Him. Now we’ll find out one day why, why did He make history like this with the pain levels the way they are. We only have the fact as He said about the congenitally blind man; I did this that God may be glorified. And you can be resentful about that and say well fine thing for Him to say that, you know, He’s using me for His glory. Well, bluntly stated, that’s His right. We’re the pot and He’s the potter. We don’t like that news, that doesn’t come over very nicely to the carnal mind, but actually He’s got a right to use you and me any way He wants because we’re His creatures.
That’s the starting point of the discussion and after that all I can say is that I think one of the things that God does in history because He clearly does this in the way the Old Testament develops, is he lets consequences flow to teach people. I just wrote a quick article on apologetics for a book and I had to condense 80 pages down to 20 and I don’t know whether I did a good job or not, but in trying to condense things down, I tried to put one footnote in there to make people think about the power of the argument of history in the Bible. I said this, because I figure this might irritate some people to think, and that is, very popular big ideas are refuted in the way the Bible is written. For example, today everybody believes in the goodness of democracy, the potential of democracy. We’re always trying to plant democracy, we’re trying to do it in Haiti, we’re trying to do it in Africa, we’re trying to do it in the Middle East, we’re trying all over the world we’re going to put democracy, like democracy is a big thing.
What’s the one book that you could cite from your Bible reading that is an argument from the first chapter to the last against democracy. Keep in mind, it’s not directly against democracy, but the presupposition of democracy is that citizenry, society, is basically good, and if left to themselves they should be able to discern themselves, so you give power to the people and let them decide. What’s the book that refutes that in the Scripture? Judges, every man did what was right in his own eyes. And what happened? Big mess, that’s what happened, because men are depraved sinners. So right there, see this is thinking Biblically, you grab a big idea right out of society, right out of the talk shows, right out of the newspaper, right out of the magazines, democracy, oh yeah, let me tell you about democracy.
Think of the Book of Judges. For three centuries God let that go on. He let massacres happen; He let people go through those horrifying deals, for what reason? He was teaching a lesson. That’s how half of us learn things, we don’t learn because somebody tells us, we learn because we go out there and get our head split open a couple of times and that’s how we learn. That’s how kids learn, they don’t listen to the parents, the parents are just gas bags, and they go out there and try to do it themselves, and boom bang all over the place, hey kid, that’s what makes older people wise, older have people have done the same mistake a thousand more times than the young people, that’s all. And so listen to them, it’ll save you some lumps along the way.
That’s the argument of the Bible. Now in counter to democracy, what’s the one other option in the modern world for democracy? What’s the thing that’s been tried three or four times in this century, it’s still being tried in Muslim lands, and that’s a totalitarian state. Think about it. In the Old Testament what’s the book of set of books that argue against centralized power? Samuel and Kings, the monarchy. And what was wrong? Because the leaders are sinful. So here’s the book of Judges saying you can’t give the power to the people because the people are sinful. Now Samuel and Kings come along, you can’t give the power to the king because he’s sinful. Well what are we going to do then? What did the prophets say after the experiment of Judges and after the experiment of the monarchy? What then came into prominence that wasn’t in prominence before? The office of the Messiah: Isaiah, Jeremiah. They didn’t prophecy back in the Judges period because people wouldn’t have listened. They didn’t listen then either, but the logic of the argument is that you first have to let all the bad ideas work themselves out and then after all the stuff hits the ceiling and flows all over the place, okay, now are we listening boys and girls. Okay, this is the way we’re going to do it.
That’s why I think it’s significant in our day, when we talk about the return of the Lord, if you think about it, what would have happened had Jesus come back to set up the Millennial Kingdom in 1700 versus Jesus coming back to set up the Millennial Kingdom in the 21st century. What is different about the consciousness of the historical experience of mankind between 1700 and 2050 say? What have we got different than the people had in 1700? In 1700 there wasn’t a global consciousness, there was some inkling—Marco Polo’s trips and other earlier things, something out there called the Orient and we know a little bit about the west, the North American continent. But there wasn’t a real consciousness of any global community. Are we getting globally conscious now? Yeah. And yet the global consciousness that we’re getting isn’t solving our problems. We’re still arming ourselves at the rate of billions of dollars a year. We’re still killing each other. Nothing’s changed. We’re killing more Christians in this century than we have ever in all of church history? Yeah, we kill Christians; we’re becoming more efficient at it actually.
So now when Jesus Christ comes back He’s let us go through …, “us” being now corporate humanity, He says are you going to listen to Me now boys and girls, or do you want another century of this, it’s all up to you, do you want another century, go ahead, blow yourselves up. I believe that’s the way God teaches and I think that’s the Scriptural story, and it goes back again till all those lessons come out and we try everything, so that in eternity we can’t rise up against the Kingdom of God and say oh, you know what, boy, God didn’t try this one, listen to my idea. No, God will go back, let’s see in 1764 that idea was tried for five years in country XYZ, take a look, got good video of that, there’s your idea. In other words, all possible options will have been tried and I think that’s going to be the end of history.
Someone says something: Clough says: Yeah, the technology wasn’t there for good and for evil.
Question asked: Clough replies: But think of it this way, imagine if God isn’t sovereign over all, now what do we have? If God isn’t sovereign over all then He can’t be sovereign at all, and now we’re back to the chaos of chance.
Question asked: Clough replies: Yeah, that’s a good way of saying it; we want to be protected from everyone else’s choice. That’s a good point. Our time is running out so next week we’re going to finish off this work of the Father and then we’ll go on to church history.