"The Relation of the World to God"
The Signs of the Times
November 17, 1887
E. J. Waggoner
The relation which men sustain to God is the thing that above all others should be understood, and which is understood the least. Not only does the world in general fail to understand the matter, and feel perfectly indifferent over it, but many professed Christians, and even teachers of religion, have very crude ideas upon the subject. This thought was brought to mind very forcibly by a sentence in a sermon by Rev. Phillips Brooks, D.D., which was published in the Christian Union. It was this: "The world is not under law, but under grace." The context showed that this statement was meant to be taken literally, and not to convey the idea that the grace of God is held out to the world. It is a parallel to the teaching which is so common, about "the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man." We propose, therefore, as briefly as possible, to show just how the world does stand related to God.
In the first place, we will say that God is not the Father of all people who are in the world. God is the Creator of all, the Judge of all, and if sin had not entered into the world, he would be the Father of all; but now the mass of mankind have a far baser parentage. Adam was the son of God. Luke 3:38. While he was sinless, God was at once his Father and his King. But when he listened to the voice of the tempter, and deliberately (for he was not deceived, 1 Tim. 2:14) did the bidding of Satan, he yielded to Satan the principality-the earth-which had been intrusted to him, and forsook his allegiance to God.
It is sin that separates from God. Isa. 59:12. In John 8:44 Jesus said to the wicked Jews who claimed God for their Father, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." Again in the explanation of the parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus said, "The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one." Matt. 13:38. In these two texts sinners are directly charged with being the children of the devil. In Eph. 2:1-3 the apostle Paul makes the same point, and says that he himself was once a member of the same family. He says: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
"By nature the children of wrath." This fact answers the cavil that people often make against the destruction of the wicked, saying that God will not destroy his own children. No, he will not. The wrath of God comes only on the "children of disobedience" (Eph. 5:6), and all are by nature the children of disobedience, and consequently of wrath, since it is in the nature of man to sin,-to obey Satan rather than God. Said Christ: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness." Mark 7:21, 22. And Paul says: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him." 1 Cor. 2:14.
Then since this is the nature of, not one man or a few men, but of all mankind; since "the whole world lieth in wickedness," and the children of disobedience are the children of wrath, how can any escape the wrath of God, which brings destruction? Simply by becoming the children of God, since God will never destroy his children; for "like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." Ps. 103:13. In the family of God there is no wrath, for only the peace-makers shall be called the children of God. Matt. 5:9.
But that which proves most conclusively that men are not by nature the children of God, is the fact that they become such by adoption. Says Paul: "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." Gal. 4:4-7.
Read the same thing in Rom. 8:14-17: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."
Natural children are heirs without adoption; therefore we say that the fact that all who are the children of God become so only by adoption, shows that there are no natural children of God. And how do men become the children of God? By receiving the Spirit of God, which is also the Spirit of Christ, which makes them like Christ, and consequently heirs with him. This Spirit is given through the mercy of God, to those who exercise faith, as Paul says: "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7.
But what has this to do with deciding whether the world is or is not under the law? It has everything to do with it, settling the question completely, and showing that all men are by nature under the law, and that only the sons of God are under grace. Notice carefully: The Spirit of God is the pledge of our adoption as sons of God (Rom. 8:16); it is "the Spirit of adoption;" "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Verse 14. With this read Gal. 5:18: "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." The obvious conclusion from this text and the context is that those who are not led by the Spirit are under the law; and since only those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God, it follows that all who are not children of God are under the law. And since the children of God are few in comparison with the children of the wicked one, it follows that the greater part of the world are under the law.
Now what is meant by "under the law"? Does it mean, as most commonly supposed, subject to the law? in a state of obligation to keep the law? Our investigation concerning the sons of God furnishes the answer. Remember that only those who are not led by the Spirit, who are not children of God, are under the law. Then the children of the wicked one are under the law. Remember also that those who are not led by the Spirit, who are not children of God, are under the law. Then the children of the wicked one are under the law. Remember also that it is only sinners that are the children of Satan; as Paul expresses it, they are "children of disobedience." It is because they are disobedient that they are strangers from God, children of the wicked one, under the law. And this is corroborated by the words of the apostle. "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
All men are under obligation to keep the commandments of God. "Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man." Eccl. 12:13. But all men are not under the law; those who are led by the Spirit are not under the law; therefore we conclude that it is simply the disobedient,-those who do not do their duty, in keeping the commandments,-who are under the law. All others are under grace, since it is only by the grace of God that anybody can keep the commandments.
Read also Rom. 6:12-16: "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" In this passage we have the fact emphasized that those who are not under the law are the ones over whom sin has no dominion, and that those who are under the law are the servants of sin.
But sin brings condemnation; those only are free from condemnation, who walk according to the Spirit,-are led by the Spirit,-and who consequently are the sons of God. And the condemnation under which the sinner rests is a condemnation to death; "for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom. 6:23. Remember also the idea in verses 14-16, that those who are under the law, servants of sin, are servants "of sin unto death."
Man's relation to God, then, is simply this: By nature all men are sinners,-servants of sin,-children of Satan,-under the law,-condemned to death. By the righteousness of Christ, through faith in the blood, men may be made righteous,-servants of obedience unto righteousness,-children of God,-delivered from the condemnation of the law. Only those who are in Christ attain to this high honor; but this does not free them from obligation to keep the law. This can be seen from the very fact that it is sin that brings condemnation. Now it those who have been freed from condemnation,-have been taken out from under the law,-should transgress the law, they would thereby show their lack of appreciation of the grace of God, and would bring themselves into condemnation,-would bring themselves under the law.
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." Titus 2:11. To all men "the Spirit and the bride say, Come." With every man that enters into the world, the Spirit strives to cause him to renounce the service of Satan, and to become a child of God. But, alas! with the exception of a few who esteem the reproach of Christ, "the whole world lieth in wickedness." Reader will you place yourself on the Lord's side? If so, you must come to Christ, who is the way (Ps. 119:1), the truth (Ps. 119:142), and the life,-the one in whose heart is the law of God,-that you may become changed into the same image, having, like him, the law of God completely formed in your own heart. W.