Today we will finish the series. Some of you have made it to the final point! Good job– there’s not a great market for theology these days. But I write this because I strongly believe that theology is intensely practical. What we believe dictates what we do, what we feel, and how we cope.
A family tragedy provoked this series. In moments of abject emotional pain theology matters. Big questions rise to the surface. We must have answers. This post concludes my best attempt to give an answer to the problem of pain.
If you start here, you’ll be lost. To catch up, here’s the previous points we’ve built on:
Monday: Where We’re Going
Today we finish with the most controversial point:
The highest good (God’s exaltation) and our highest joy (worship) could not have been accomplished if evil had not entered the world.
On Tuesday we showed how it is not evil or unjust for God to take lives. It’s all we’ve ever deserved.
On Wednesday we examined how God does everything to magnify his name– and how that is the highest good in the universe.
Yesterday, we looked at how God’s self-exaltation through self-revelation is inherently loving because he is the only thing that could make us happy forever. If he obscured himself and exalted us, he would be cruelly withholding that which is best for us; namely, himself.
Today I hope to show how God’s greatest act of love toward us– his self-revelation– could not be fully accomplished in a world without evil. I desire to show that evil serves the great and terrible purpose of God to display the fullness of God’s character.
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1 Peter 1:12-13 describes the gospel as something “into which angels long to look.” There is something about the gospel that angels don’t fully understand. They long to see it. It is absolutely compelling.
What makes it so compelling? The reason why angels long to look into the gospel is because within this gospel story something has happened that is beyond the realm of their experience. There is something hidden deep inside the good news that they long to gaze upon. What could we possibly experience that angels don’t fully understand?
How could an angel experience mercy if he’s never been condemned? How can the heavenly beings exult in the saving grace of God is there is nothing they were saved from? There can be no forgiveness if there is nothing to be forgiven of. Angels haven’t experienced what the redeemed have.
I use this illustration to prove that there are aspects of God’s character that could only be revealed in a world that contains sin. The un-fallen angels are sinless. And that’s why they long to look upon the gospel. They want to see what forgiveness looks like, what saving grace does, what mercy yields.
If the most loving thing God can do for us is reveal himself to us, then it makes sense that the more of his character he unveils, the more we will be able to worship. The more we know, the more we are satisfied. To the eyes that have not been tainted by sin, there isn’t a sliver of repulsiveness in God’s character.
Therefore, in order to garner worship and produce joy in his people, God must show all of his attributes. Including his mercy, his grace, his justice, and his wrath– attributes that mean nothing apart from evil.
God, in ordaining evil to infect the world, created a place where he could be crucified on the cross in the most spectacular display of love, redemption, grace, and glory. The white-hot center of the revelation of the magnificent character of God is the cross. That is who God is.
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him…For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Everything was created for the glory of Christ. Pilate was created for the glory of Christ. Judas was created for the glory of Christ. Indeed, Satan was created for the glory of Christ.
Man could not devise such a plan. Praise be to God.
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A friend showed me this video when I was part way through this series. It’s appropriate to post here. It is John Piper explaining this truth better than I ever could. Enjoy.