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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine God’s communicable attributes. Today we are going to look at the fact that God is jealous. Dr. Spencer, most people think of jealousy as a negative trait and, therefore, not a trait that is befitting for God. How would you respond to them?

Dr. Spencer: I would point out that the word jealous, like most words, has a fairly wide range of meanings, and not all of them are negative even in our modern usage. I should, for example, be jealous to guard the exclusivity of my relationship with my wife.

Marc Roby: I’m sure she would agree with that statement.

Dr. Spencer: I am too. Our society seems to have lost the idea that being faithful to our commitments is important, and it has especially lost the notion that a marriage commitment is a sacred, life-long covenant commitment. In Malachi 2:16 we read, “‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel” [1], and God expects husbands and wives to be faithful to their spouses in marriage. We see clearly how important this is by the fact that adultery in the Old Testament was a capital offense and in the New Testament it is grounds for divorce. John Frame defines the biblical concept of jealousy in the following way: “Jealousy (Heb. Qin’ah, Gk. zēlos) is a passionate zeal to guard the exclusiveness of a marriage relationship, leading to anger against an unfaithful spouse.”[2]

Marc Roby: I want to point out that you correctly called marriage a covenant commitment, which means that it is a formal and serious commitment, not something casual. And God frequently alludes to the human marriage relationship as an analogy to the relationship his people have with him.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, he does. In fact, it is important to note God’s overall sovereignty and plan in this regard. Marriage is not a humanly contrived or instituted relationship. It was established by God and was intended from the very beginning to be part of his plan for creation. And, as we have discussed before, God’s purpose in creation is the manifestation of his own glory[3], so marriage contributes to that. We have also mentioned before that marriage between a man and a woman, and the children resulting from that union, do a better job of reflecting the glory of our triune God than individual human beings can.[4]

Marc Roby: And the marriage relationship is also used by God to teach us many things. We learn more about our own inpatient, selfish sinful nature, and as we work to make our families function properly, we learn patience, what it means to truly love others sacrificially, the importance of authority and many other things as well.

Dr. Spencer: And I’m sure we could come up with other reasons for the marriage relationship being important, but to get back to our topic of God’s jealousy, it is not a negative thing at all. It is in fact, a very good thing. We should be zealous to guard something as precious as our exclusive relationship with our spouse.

Marc Roby: I think part of the problem with people considering jealousy to be a negative trait is that human beings often corrupt that trait. For example, they can be irrationally and sinfully suspicious of their spouse without cause.

Dr. Spencer: That’s very true. And that is definitely not the kind of jealousy that God has. As with all of the communicable attributes we must be very careful to strip sinful human perversions of them from our thinking. I think it will be useful to quote again something I quoted in Session 42 when we were discussing the science of hermeneutics, or how to properly understand the Bible.

In his book Interpreting the Bible, A. Berkeley Mickelsen wrote that “Grief, anger, wrath, etc., are all genuine responses of God. The metaphorical element arises from the fact that human grief, anger, and wrath are a complex array of elements. Grief can involve self-pity; anger can be filled with an irrational obsession for revenge; wrath can be overlaid with a passion to return in kind. Yet these elements must be excluded from an accurate picture of God’s grief, anger, and wrath. God’s response is genuine; it is the human counterpart that is tainted by corrupt elements.”[5]

Marc Roby: And so, applying that thought to God’s jealousy, John Frame quotes from the Song of Solomon 8:6, which says, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” And then Frame notes about this verse that “Here, fiery jealousy is part of love, the prerogative of love that is as strong as death. It is the proper attitude of a man toward his wife (cf. Prov. 6:34). It is entirely right for him to be zealous for her purity and for the exclusiveness of her love for him.”[6]

Dr. Spencer: That’s a very good passage. Our society has greatly cheapened the institution of marriage, which is, I think, why so many people don’t even bother to get married today. But when marriage is given the respect and honor it should have, and people treat it with the seriousness they should, it is a truly beautiful and wonderful thing. In God’s plan marriage is the most intimate relationship two human beings can ever have. They should both come to it as virgins and the commitment they make to one another and to God is to be absolutely faithful to each other, forsaking all others, until death separates them.

Marc Roby: Not many people think about marriage that way anymore.

Dr. Spencer: And that is to their great loss. Real love is sacrificial and focused on the other person. It isn’t just a feeling, it is a firm commitment to do for someone else that which is best for that person. We only learn that to the fullest extent possible when we commit ourselves to working out whatever problems arise in a marriage. There cannot be any plan B. I can’t have in mind that I will stay married so long as we are both happy or so long as it makes me happy, or so long as I still “love” my wife.

Marc Roby: I think that anytime someone goes into a marriage with that kind of attitude, the probability of the marriage ending in divorce is about 100%.

Dr. Spencer: I completely agree. We’ve both been married to our wives for long enough to know that it isn’t always wonderful. I’m a sinner. And my wife is a sinner. And whenever two sinners live together there will be trouble.

Marc Roby: And our children are also sinners, which introduces even more trouble!

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. But as I said a moment ago, real biblical love is not something you can fall in and out of, it is a firm commitment to do what is best for the other person. When we get married, we make a vow before God to love our spouse, and we are to keep our vows. It is, as we noted earlier, a covenant commitment. Being faithful is extremely important.

Marc Roby: And the extreme value and importance of marriage shows why being jealous, in the proper sense, is a good thing.

Dr. Spencer: That’s exactly right. As I said earlier, God is the sovereign creator and everything he does works together to accomplish his purpose of making his own glory manifest. So I am quite sure that when God established the institution of marriage, he had in mind that it would, in addition to many other things, teach us something about our covenant relationship to him and the importance of our being faithful in that relationship.

Marc Roby: And God compares idolatry to adultery. For example, Jeremiah Chapter 3 uses adultery as a metaphor for the Jewish people being unfaithful to God.

Dr. Spencer: That’s a great chapter to make this point, so let’s take a moment to look at it.

Marc Roby: Let me begin by reminding our listeners of the history that they need to know to understand this chapter. Jeremiah prophesied in the late 7th-century B.C. Prior to this time the united Jewish kingdom of Saul, David and Solomon had been divided into two and the northern kingdom, here referred to as Israel, had already been destroyed and its people taken into captivity by the Assyrians in the late 8th-century B.C. The southern kingdom of Judah was all that remained and they were soon to be defeated and taken into captivity by the Babylonians. Jeremiah was one of the prophets God sent to warn his people of this coming disaster.

Dr. Spencer: And now, with that history in mind, let me read Jeremiah 3:6. It says, “During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, ‘Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there.’” The references to every high hill and every spreading tree refer to the pagan altars at which the Jewish people had been worshipping pagan idols.

Marc Roby: And God then refers to the destruction and captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel in Verse 8. Jeremiah tells us that the LORD said, “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.”

Dr. Spencer: And that verse establishes the point I wanted to make perfectly. God compares sending his unfaithful people into captivity with divorce and he compares their unfaithfulness with adultery. God should be jealous of his covenant people. How wicked it was for them to forget all that he had done for them and to run off and worship false gods made of wood and stone.

Marc Roby: And God mocked these idols in the chapter just before this. We read in Jeremiah 2:27-28, “They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’ and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, ‘Come and save us!’ Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah.”

Dr. Spencer: Whenever any of God’s people trust in something other than God, the Creator and Lord of all creation, they and the things they trust in deserve to be mocked. God wants his people to be holy and blameless and able to worship and serve him properly, and that is absolutely impossible when they worship false gods.

Marc Roby: I’m sure that when you used the phrase “holy and blameless” you had Ephesians 5:25-27 in mind, where the apostle Paul commands us, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

Dr. Spencer: That is exactly what I had in mind. And those verses clearly indicate God’s jealousy. Remember that Frame said that God’s jealousy is “a passionate zeal to guard the exclusiveness of a marriage relationship”. And here in Ephesians 5 we see that. God uses the example of Christ as the husband and the church as his bride to explain to us how we should be concerned for the eternal welfare of our wives. Jealousy is an aspect of true love.

Marc Roby: And it is also related to wrath and judgment, because God will judge those who oppose his church and his people and he will pour out his wrath upon them. We read in Nahum 1:2 “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies.”

Dr. Spencer: That is absolutely true. We read over and over again in the prophets about the coming judgment against God’s enemies. God is jealous for the glory and honor of his own name. We read in Isaiah 42:8 that God says, “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.”

And God’s church, which is called the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:27 and the bride of Christ in Revelation 19:7, is meant to bring him glory as well. Therefore, because God is very jealous to protect his own glory, he is also very jealous to protect the glory of his church.

Marc Roby: And that should be a great comfort to all members of God’s church. If the supreme Lord of the universe is jealous to protect our honor and glory, we are safe.

Dr. Spencer: Very true. And the Bible makes clear that God is jealous. We’ve already seen that in several verses, but there some others we have yet to share that are quite explicit about this being an important aspect of God’s being. For example, when God renewed his covenant with his people after their horrible apostasy in having Aaron create a golden calf to worship while Moses was still on Mount Sinai meeting with God, we read in Exodus 34:14 that God told the people, “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

Marc Roby: And when God says his “name is Jealous” he is clearly saying that it is an essential part of his nature.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that is exactly what he means.

Marc Roby: And that episode in Israel’s history is a remarkable example of God’s gracious love and man’s terrible sin. God had brought the people out of their slavery in Egypt by doing mighty miracles among the Egyptians, and had established his covenant with them. We read in Exodus 24:7 that Moses, “took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.’”

Dr. Spencer: And the Book of the Covenant included the Ten Commandments. The second commandment is given in Exodus 20:4-6 and it says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Marc Roby: And, amazingly, it was right after the people had said “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey”, that they had Aaron make the golden calf for them to worship. How unbelievably gracious it is that God would not destroy them for their almost immediate violation of the covenant.

Dr. Spencer: It is amazing that God would be that gracious and would renew the covenant rather than destroying them for violating it. But his doing that was a result of his own covenant faithfulness and for his own glory. In Exodus 15 we read what is called the Song of Moses, which he sung after God had destroyed Pharaoh’s army when it came after the Jewish slaves who had left Egypt. In that song, in Exodus 15:13, we read, “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.”  The words “unfailing love” translate the Hebrew word hesed. We mentioned this word in Session 77 as well, it primarily refers to God’s covenant love for his people.

God’s covenant love, which includes his jealousy, is the reason he did not destroy his people. He will bring to fruition his plan of salvation. No one can thwart this plan, not Satan or his demons, not the world, and not even the sins of God’s own people. He will discipline us and he will work within us to be transformed, and ultimately, he will perfect us, but in his jealous zeal he will not allow the people he has chosen for himself to be lost.

Marc Roby: What great comfort that provides to us. As Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6, he was “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Dr. Spencer: And God will accomplish this for his own glory. He has chosen his people and he calls us his treasured possession. When the Israelites first arrived at Mount Sinai after leaving Egypt, one of the first things God said to them through Moses was, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” We read that in Exodus 19:5.

Marc Roby: And we noted in Session 67 that God’s people are called his treasured possession six times in the Old Testament. What an amazing thing that is.

Dr. Spencer: It is an astounding thing. But I want to wrap up our discussion of God’s jealousy by tying together all the strands we’ve been discussing. God’s purpose in creation is the manifestation of his own glory. God is loving and faithful and he will have a loving and faithful covenant people to be with him in heaven and display his glory. He is zealous for his glory and will not allow his plans to fail or an enemy to succeed, and that zeal for the honor of his own name is his jealousy. It is a wonderful attribute of God.

Marc Roby: That’s a good summary and with that we are out of time for today. As always, we invite our listeners to email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org and we will respond.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] John Frame, The Doctrine of God, P&R Publishing Company, 2002, pg. 458

[3] See Sessions 2, 67 and 74.

[4] See Session 29.

[5] A. Berkeley Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974, pg. 185

[6] Frame, op. cit.

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine God’s communicable attributes.  Dr. Spencer, we were discussing God’s wisdom last time, what else would you like to say about it?

Dr. Spencer: I’d like to begin today by reading a quote from Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology. He has a wonderful statement in his section on the wisdom of God.

Marc Roby: Please proceed.

Dr. Spencer: Hodge wrote, “As there is abundant evidence of design in the works of nature, so all the works of God declare his wisdom. They show, from the most minute to the greatest, the most wonderful adaptation of means to accomplish the high end of the good of his creatures and the manifestation of his own glory. So also, in the whole course of history, we see evidence of the controlling power of God making all things work together for the best interests of his people, and the promotion of his kingdom upon earth. It is, however, in the work of redemption that this divine attribute is specially revealed. It is by the Church, that God has determined to manifest, through all ages, to principalities and powers, his manifold wisdom.”[1]

Marc Roby: That is a great statement. And it points out clearly that it is the creation of the Church of Christ, God’s holy people, that is the pinnacle of God’s creative acts.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that’s right. This world will one day be destroyed and God will create a new heaven and a new earth. At that time, all of those who have not surrendered to Christ will be sent to eternal hell to make God’s perfect justice manifest, and all of those who have surrendered all to Christ will spend eternity with God in heaven. And all of this is for God’s glory.

Paul tells us this in Philippians 2:9-11, where we read about God exalting Jesus Christ because of his obedience in carrying out the work of redemption. Paul wrote, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [2]

Marc Roby: That does clearly show that God’s ultimate purpose for creation is his own glory.

Dr. Spencer: And the tremendous wisdom displayed by God in his ultimate goal and the means he is using to accomplish that goal should cause us to break into praise with the apostle Paul, who wrote in Romans 11:33-36, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

Marc Roby: That is such a wonderful passage. We cannot know the mind of God completely, but he has revealed enough that we can stand in awe of his great wisdom and power. Even the great apostle Paul, who had such a deep understanding given to him as he wrote that magnificent letter to the church in Rome, even he is reduced to simple worship as he meditated on these things.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, we should all be brought to a place of great worship as we consider God’s attributes. But I want to return to the statement by Hodge. He said that all of creation accomplishes, “the high end of the good of his creatures and the manifestation of his own glory.” So, he has added something here that is very important, especially to us! God’s ultimate purpose in creation is his own glory, but in making his glory manifest he simultaneously does that which is good for his creatures.

Marc Roby: Which includes you, me and all of our listeners.

Dr. Spencer: And all of the angels too. Notice that if the purpose of God’s creation is to make his glory manifest, we must ask, to whom is it made manifest? God knows himself perfectly, so it can’t be that he will somehow see his own glory more clearly. I think it would be biblical to say that God’s purpose in creation is the joy he derives from making creatures who are capable of having fellowship with him and then making his glory manifest to those creatures.

Marc Roby: Now, how would you back that statement up biblically?

Dr. Spencer: Well, first, remember that Hodge said, at the end of his statement about God’s wisdom, that it is “in the work of redemption that this divine attribute is specially revealed. It is by the Church, that God has determined to manifest, through all ages, to principalities and powers, his manifold wisdom.” Therefore, my first point in support of my contention is that the church is God’s treasure, it is what he delights in.

In the Old Testament we are told six times that God’s people are his “treasured possession”. For example, in Exodus 19:4-6 we read that when Moses went up onto Mount Sinai and spoke with God, God told him to say the people, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Marc Roby: That’s hard to fathom; that we could be God’s treasured possession. And in the New Testament the apostle Peter quoted from this verse. In 1 Peter 2:9 he writes, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that’s wonderful. The church consists of all born-again believers. In the Old Testament it is usually referred to as being synonymous with the nation of Israel, but the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 9:6 that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”

Marc Roby: By which, of course, Paul means that not all people who are physically descended from Jacob, who was renamed Israel, are part of the true people called Israel.

Dr. Spencer: That is exactly what he means. Paul goes on to write, in Verses 7 and 8, “Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”

Marc Roby: That passage could again use some explanation.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. Paul is distinguishing between two groups of people among Abraham’s descendants. Those whom God has chosen to save, who are called “children of the promise”, and those whom God has chosen to pass over and treat with justice, who are called “the natural children”.

Marc Roby: You know, that shows how silly some modern ecumenical movements are when they speak about the children of Abraham, or the Abrahamic religions, and act as if we all worship the same God.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that’s right. But getting back to the point I was making, we must remember that when God promised Abraham and Sarah they would have an heir it didn’t happen for a long time. During that time, Sarah became impatient as she got well past the age of child bearing, so she determined to solve the problem herself.

Marc Roby: That’s usually not a good idea. When we stop trusting God and take matters into our own hands we usually mess things up.

Dr. Spencer: And she did mess things up quite badly. As was the custom at the time, she gave her young handmaiden Hagar to Abraham and he had a son with her, who was named Ishmael. But this was not God’s plan. And so, years later, God came and told Abraham he would have a son through Sarah, even though they were both past the age where people can normally have children, and God’s promise miraculously came true. Sarah conceived and bore Isaac. Paul wrote in Galatians 4:23 that Abraham’s “son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.” And then in Verse 28 of that chapter he wrote, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”

Marc Roby: Which establishes that salvation is not based on physical descent from Abraham or anyone else, it is based on God’s divine promise and his electing love.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it certainly is. And this group of people, the children of promise, having been chosen by God, are called his treasured possession. We are told in Psalm 149:4 that “the LORD takes delight in his people”. And, then again, in Zephaniah 3 the prophet tells the people about the salvation that God will ultimately bring about and in Verse 17 he says, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Marc Roby: That is almost impossible to imagine. God will delight in us? He will rejoice over us with singing?

Dr. Spencer: It is almost beyond belief. If God’s word didn’t tell it to us, I don’t think anyone could have expected so much. But in this life, we still sin and grieve the Holy Spirit and make God angry, so he disciplines us as a father disciplines a child we are told in Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:10. God is in the business of making us holy so that we can come into his presence. We are told in Hebrews 12:14 that “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” And in 1 Corinthians 1:2 the apostle Paul addresses his letter, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy”. Paul also wrote in Ephesians 1:4 that God chose us in Christ “before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” But, we are not holy yet.

Marc Roby: I think that is abundantly obvious.

Dr. Spencer: It certainly is. And the process of making us holy began with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to pay for our sins. We are told in Hebrews 13:12 that Jesus “suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.” And in Hebrews 12:2 we are told, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” That is an amazing statement. Jesus went to the cross and endured the wrath of God on our behalf “for the joy set before him.”

Marc Roby: That joy must be something really wonderful.

Dr. Spencer: It certainly must be. In John 15:9-11 we read that Jesus told his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Look at that last statement; Christ’s joy will be in us, we will have the same joy that he has.

Marc Roby: That is amazing. But that passage also equates obedience with love, which is not something most modern Churches would say.

Dr. Spencer: Churches might not say it, but Jesus did! And notice that joy comes from obedience, which comes from love. Getting back to Hebrews 12:2, when it said that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him, we should ask, “What is that joy?”

In his commentary on this passage, Pastor P.G. Mathew points out that this joy that was set before him had two aspects.[3]  One was the joy of pleasing the Father, which was a joy that he had throughout his life, even, I’m sure, on the cross. In other words, it was the joy that comes from obedience. And the other aspect was the coming joy of being restored to fellowship with the Father when his work was completed. But given what we read earlier, that God will delight in us and rejoice over us with singing, I think it is fair to add that this second aspect of Christ’s joy is fellowship with the Father and with his treasured possession, which is the church, it is us.

Marc Roby: Alright. You have been providing biblical support for the statement you made a few minutes ago, that “God’s purpose in creation is the joy he derives from making creatures who are capable of having fellowship with him and then making his glory manifest to those creatures.” You first showed that the church, in other words God’s chosen people, are his treasured possession. And you showed that God will delight in his people and derive joy from fellowship with them in heaven.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And let me tie it back in with the statement made by Hodge. With regard to God’s attribute of wisdom he wrote that “It is, however, in the work of redemption that this divine attribute is specially revealed. It is by the Church, that God has determined to manifest, through all ages, to principalities and powers, his manifold wisdom.” The work of redemption is God’s working in this world to create his church.

Marc Roby: So, we could reword Hodge’s statement a bit and say that God’s divine wisdom is most especially revealed in his work of creating the church.

Dr. Spencer: I think that’s a fair statement. And it is interesting to also note that no matter how long it is until Christ’s second coming, it will be a finite time. But the church, which consists of all of those people God has redeemed out of the world, will spend eternity in God’s presence in heaven, which is literally infinitely longer than however long this universe lasts. So, we can say that the whole purpose of this present universe and of all human history is simply to serve as the backdrop if you will to God’s work of creating the true church. This present world bears the same relationship to eternity that a caterpillar does to a butterfly.

Marc Roby: That’s incredible to think about and certainly is an amazing display of God’s wisdom.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is. And notice that Hodge said that by the Church, “God has determined to manifest, through all ages, to principalities and powers, his manifold wisdom.” And Hodge was right, the angels and demons are watching now and stand amazed at what God is doing. We are told in 1 Peter 1:12 that “Even angels long to look into these things.”

And the Old Testament tells us that the nations and the kings of the earth will see this great work. In Isaiah 62:1-4 the prophet declares, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.”

Marc Roby: A truly incredible prophecy. We will be a “crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand”. I can’t wait for that day. And Isaiah’s words remind me of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 3:10-11 Paul wrote that God’s “intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a great passage to make the same point. The church is the ultimate expression of the wisdom of God.

Marc Roby: Do you have anything more to say about God’s wisdom?

Dr. Spencer: I want to close by pointing out that it is radically different from what this world considers wisdom. People are often offended by the gospel message. It disturbs them greatly that God would be wrathful against sin and that he would require a blood sacrifice to pay for it. But we must remember what the apostle Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 1:21-25, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

Marc Roby: That is a humbling conclusion to the topic. But before we sign off, let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We’d love to hear from you.

[1] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1997, Vol. 1, pg. 401

[2] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[3] P.G. Mathew, Muscular Christianity, Grace and Glory Ministries, 2010, pg. 346

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