Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | February 24, 2008

Lord’s Day Quote: Michael Horton

We work very hard to make God user-friendly. That’s why the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai, terrified by God’s voice, decided to make a golden calf that they could manage more safely. Instead of trembling in God’s presence, they “sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” (Exod. 32:6). We hear people talk today about their personal relationship with God as if he were a locker-room pal or even a romantic interest. However, when people were actually confronted with God’s presence, they always came apart at the seams. Even Moses trembled with fear (Exod. 19-20; Heb. 12:18-29). Isaiah was all set to go on his mission to announce the woes (curses) on everybody else until he received a vision of God in his sanctuary, with seraphim and cherubim calling to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth.” Isaiah could only respond, “Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.” Nevertheless, one of the seraphim brought a glowing coal to the prophet and, touching it to his lips, said, “Now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, and your sin is atoned for” (Isa. 6:3-7). Peter, hardly known for a reverent temperament, responded to the amazing catch of fish at Jesus’ command, fell on his knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8).

To confess that God is holy is to say that he is not only quantitatively but qualitatively different from us. In other words, he isn’t simply better than we are, nicer, friendlier, more knowledgeable, more powerful, more loving. He is incomprehensible, unfathomable, unsearchable. We can only have access to him because he has willed to be our God, revealing himself by speaking “baby talk”-accommodating to our frail capacities. Grace is God’s willingness not only to condescend to our creaturely finitude even to the point of assuming our flesh, but to give his life for us “while we were still enemies” (Rom. 5:10).

God is intolerant of sin, but just as infinite in his love and long-suffering. God is just and righteous, unable to let bygones be bygones, and yet he is free to have mercy on whom he will have mercy. To have mercy on the wicked, however, God cannot suspend his justice. God’s justice did not require the salvation of anyone, so his grace is totally free. When God is gracious toward sinners, it is not because his justice is sacrificed to his love, but because he has freely found a way to be “just and the justifier of the ungodly” (Rom. 3:26). At the cross, not only God’s love but his strangeness-his utter difference from us-is most clearly displayed.

Michael S Horton, “Grace: How Strange the Sound” (Modern Reformation Volume 16 Number 4 July/August 2007) p 12 

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