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The Theodicy (3)

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Covenant Reformed News

May 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 1

The Theodicy (3)


“We are often rightly told that God will not remember our sins and has removed them from us to an infinite distance (as far as the east is from the west) and buried them in the deepest sea. So how can those same sins be brought out into the open on the judgment day, with every believer being rewarded according to his works? Are our sins not to be brought up again as they are all atoned for and simply our works judged? Because surely the quality of the works will expose the sin inherent in them?”

As our readers will recall, I have been discussing the theodicy in the last two articles. I intend to end the discussion with this article. The question quoted above prompted me to widen the answer to include a discussion of the theodicy because 1) it underlies the question and 2) the theodicy is rarely discussed in today’s insipid theological world. Yet it is a truth that lies at the heart of Reformed theology.

I am convinced that the lack of teaching on this subject is due to a wrong emphasis on man in preaching and writing in today’s church world. This is not the emphasis in Scripture. Scripture is God-centred. It teaches what God does, why He does what He does, and that His name alone ought to be praised and given all the glory. With today’s theologians, one hears only man, man, man. In Reformed theology, the emphasis is God, God, God. Read Ephesians 1:3-14. While the passage, only one sentence in the Greek, tells us of the astounding gifts that God gives His people, the purpose is always to show that God gives them and that He does so that He alone may be praised. The truth of the theodicy brings us to the foot of God’s throne in humble adoration.

The questioner wants to know whether our sins will be revealed in the judgment day. He apparently hopes that they are not. In that wish, he is like all of us, for our sins are so many and so great and so terrible that we really do not want anyone to know them. That they will be publicly revealed in the judgment day makes us cringe in fear.

The questioner argues that all our sins are covered by Christ’s blood and that they exist no longer. In addition to that, the questioner argues that our good works will themselves reveal their inherent sinfulness. The point is, however, not whether our sins will be revealed in the judgment day (they will be) but whether God will be justified in saving His people, who are in themselves just as wicked as anyone else in the world, and why they are saved. That is the theodicy.

In the theodicy, God justifies Himself in election, not only in reprobation, as we saw last time. God justifies Himself in a seemingly arbitrary choice to bless in Christ only some of our fallen race equally involved in spiritual ruin.

God did not choose those whom He elected because they were morally superior to others or because they performed more good works than others or because, out of the whole of fallen man, they were found more noble and of more worth. Election is absolutely free and sovereign. God chooses whom He wills to choose. His basis for electing some and not others is His own sovereign good pleasure. He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He wills, He hardens (Rom 9:15-18).

As I said in the last article in connection with reprobation, God has the right to do this and He is under no obligation to explain to us why He does what He does. He is infinite; we are specks of dirt. He is the Creator of all; we are created. He gives life and existence to every creature; we depend on Him for every breath and every beat of our hearts. Paul again: Does not the potter have power over the clay to make a good vessel or a bad vessel (Rom 9:21)? Of course, He does. So it is with God.

The Creator may do with those He creates as He pleases. This is the basic truth. God does all His good pleasure. No one may question His right to do it.

If the church is pictured as a temple, as it is in Ephesians 2:20-22, God chooses to build the temple of the elect on Christ. He chooses the reprobate as scaffolding to make the erection of the temple possible. When the temple is fully built, the scaffolding is no longer needed and is discarded.

But there is more. To show the great wonder of God’s work of salvation, He saves from sin in the death and exaltation of His own dear Son. To demonstrate His grace, He must and does show how wicked His people are in themselves. To show the greatness of the wonder of salvation, all our iniquities will be publicly revealed.

In the death of Christ, as the satisfaction God requires to save His people from their sins against Him, God punishes His Son and not His people. The light of God’s holiness shines the brighter against the background of our dreadful sin. One can see the beam of a torch only in the dark; one can see God’s great glory especially as it shines in the darkness of our sins.

Our sins will never be manifest in all their horror until the last day. They will be publicly revealed as all covered by the blood of Christ. We stand as sinners, who are made into saints by Christ’s death. God does it all that He alone may be glorified as the great eternal author of all His works. Therefore, John tells us that we need not be afraid of the judgment because we know that God loves us (I John 4:16-18).

This is the theodicy. God justifies His work of salvation by grace alone by showing us as we are in ourselves and as saved by Christ.

God reveals as gloriously as possible that He alone is sovereign also in the work of the salvation of His elect. The greatest glory of His name is achieved through revealing all His attributes in the highest possible way. He reveals His (what we call) incommunicable attributes): sovereignty, omnipotence, eternal unchangeableness, the blessedness of His own Triune covenant life He lives as the Triune God.

He also reveals His (what we call) communicable attributes in the highest way in Christ and in all His work: His mercy, grace, love, longsuffering, patience. God reveals all these attributes when an innumerable host of elect sinners stand before Him, clothed in the white robes of Christ’s righteousness. We, who are dreadful sinners, just as bad as everybody else in the world, are saved by God and blessed eternally!

Our sins must be revealed, for only in this way can the greatness of God’s mercy be shown and can we appreciate the wonder of Christ’s work and the greatness of a God who sent His beloved Son to hell to save His people.  Prof. Herman Hanko (emeritus, PRC Seminary)

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 16
  • Issue: 1
Hanko, Herman

Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)

Ordained: October 1955

Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965

Emeritus: 2001

Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko

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