Is it by Might or by Right? ('Agape' Reflection)

Posted Jul 28, 2022 by Allan Gathoni in Character of God

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God’s character is self-sacrificing love. “God is love.” 1 John 4:16. His nature, His law, is love. It ever has been; it ever will be. {PP 33.1} He is Agape.

When Christ came working miracles and proclaiming His kingdom, He quickly rose to great popularity, as the masses perceived that this would be the One to restore the lost glory that was theirs. They hoped He would make Israel great again, taking the place at the head of the nations of the world from Rome. Yet though He did miracles, He didn’t seem to want to fulfil this political ambition of theirs.

Thus when Jesus fed the five thousand  the enthusiasm of the people had reached such a height that they would make Him king by force. But He would not be the type of king they wanted: a leader of armies and worldly glory. His refusal to fulfil what the people wanted from the Messiah would make his path to the cross inevitable, when those who had so ardently called for His crowning would scream for His crucifixion.

The Israelites had a very definite concept of God’s character, shaped by the educational processes in their environment. Jesus did not perform as their concept of God’s character led them to expect.  Thus, the question of God’s character became the most critical element in the mission of Jesus and the fate of the Jews.

The devil had done his work well: he had caused the people to misunderstand what Christ’s mission was. They saw God as the vengeful, destroying One that they drew out of the Old Testament. Their concept of the God of the Old Testament (where God was forced to work in man’s paradigm, for example the people demanding a King) led them to believe that God’s Son would act the same way.

But Christ was born of Heaven unlike the prophets, and He would not be bound by human thinking like those prophets. God the Father knew that there was a high chance that the incarnation of Christ would take Israel by surprise, and thus through the visions of Daniel and the reconsidering of Torah by Ezra and Nehemiah they were to learn from the lessons of the past. But they didn’t, and because their understanding of God’s character was wrong, their expectations were to be disappointed.

This brings us to today. Is something similar going to happen at the end of time? Why all the controversy about the message on the character of God? Is it really important? Does it really matter whether God kills His opponents by the use of violent force or how the wicked are destroyed so long as they are destroyed?

Wrong ideas about God’s character will produce wrong ideas about sanctification and defects in character development.

For example, the Jews believed that God loved His own people but hated His enemies. They therefore loved their friends and hated their enemies and they thought this was righteous. Why? Because they were only following the ideas of their God, who was righteous in hating His enemies (as they saw it). Man cannot be more righteous than God, a creature cannot be greater than its Creator; and we will only reach up to the ideal of God that we have in our mind.

Similarly, false religionists in the Dark Ages killed those who differed with them in their doctrine, creed or belief. They thought they were righteous because they, too, thought that God used physical force to put down His enemies. Jesus, in His teachings, exposed such errors and taught the truth of His Father’s character.

These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.  (John 16:1-3)

If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him. (John 14:7)

Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10)

Jesus wants to bring our conceptions of God higher. He wants us to see God really as a FATHER. The wonderful truth of God’s character sets us free from being afraid of God. We can trust Him because He truly loves humanity; His love isn’t arbitrary and fickle, where some are killed here and others are spared there. The law of God, being a revelation of His will, a transcript of His character, must forever endure (GC 434.1). We will not kill, because God doesn’t kill. And because we won’t kill, we won’t be scared of being killed, because we are in God’s will – a God who loves, forgives, and wants to save His enemies, rather than killing them (though He will respect their free will).

Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. (Psalm 112:6-7)

In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. (Psalm 56:11)

Thus it is through knowing God’s character, really studying it, that we will be strengthened for the dark days ahead of us, the darkest days of human history, before Jesus comes again.

Certainly, all of God’s children should be interested in the character of their God, however there are many who believe that any discussion on the character of God is useless.

We can perhaps understand the unbeliever’s apathy to such a subject. Elementary religion simply presents Christianity within the context of “punishments and rewards”, eternal rewards for the saved and eternal punishments for the unsaved. From this superficial level, it should provoke us to a deeper analysis to reveal the underlying issues.

We should be reminded immediately that the scripture invites, in fact admonishes, us to know God’s character. We read these two passages of scripture:

Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise [man] glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty [man] glory in his might, let not the rich [man] glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I [am] the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these [things] I delight, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

“And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.)

Only by love is love awakened. To know God is to love Him; His character must be manifested in contrast to the character of Satan. {DA 22.1}

God’s final generation of living saints demands a greater understanding and experience than merely the understanding of ‘’fear of punishment’’ and ‘’desire for reward’’. When a character of love has matured in the believer’s soul, then perfect love will cast out fear (1 John 4:16-18). And it is for this reason that the fullness of the message of Gods character is a last-day message, it’s in fact a sealing message.

Men have long seen God as having two faces. One of these is the forgiving, merciful face which He turns toward man during the period of pleading for their repentance, while the other is the face of thunder as He is about to destroy him. Christ exhibited no such duality. Throughout His life only one role was ever played by Him—that of a Savior and a Savior only. Not once do we find Christ lifting His hand to destroy anyone. He lived only to bless, to heal, to restore, and to save.

God has to do everything for the maintenance of the creation. If He does nothing, the creation would collapse:

But the power of God is still exercised in upholding the objects of His creation. It is not because the mechanism once set in motion continues to act by its own inherent energy that the pulse beats, and breath follows breath. Every breath, every pulsation of the heart, is evidence of the care of Him in whom we live and move and have our being. From the smallest insect to man, every living creature is daily dependent upon His providence. {Ed 131.1}

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. (Acts 17:28)

God therefore does not have to use any compelling force to overthrow any rival government. All He needs to do is to do nothing in terms of sustaining, i.e., all He needs to do is to withdraw His active, sustaining energy from those who do not want Him. And He never withdraws arbitrarily. He withdraws always in accordance with the absolute principles of respecting expressed freedom of choice, where His presence is no longer acknowledged, cherished or desired.

If God had withdrawn His sustaining, life-giving and maintaining power from Satan and his hosts in the beginning, they would have perished. But the unfallen angels would not have understood that death, permanent death, is the absolutely inevitable result of sin.

Therefore, not only does God not use force to put down rebellion, but He wants it to be known and understood and appreciated by all His creatures that He does not use force to destroy sinners. Death is the absolute inevitable end-result of sin. And God wants all of His creatures to understand this fact.

“At the beginning of the great controversy, the angels did not understand this. Had Satan and his host then been left to reap the full result of their sin, they would have perished; but it would not have been apparent to heavenly beings that this was the inevitable result of sin. A doubt of God’s goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, to produce its deadly fruit of sin and woe.” {DA.764.2}

God is patiently waiting. He moves as fast as His followers move in their understanding of the nature of sin, the character of God and how He deals with the sin problem. Even the holy angels with their superior intellects and unfallen minds took a long time to understand the nature of sin.

Not until the death of Christ was the character of Satan clearly revealed to the angels or to the unfallen worlds. The arch apostate had so clothed himself with deception that even holy beings had not understood his principles. They had not clearly seen the nature of his rebellion.” {DA 758.3}

And even though the character of Satan was clearly revealed to the angels at the cross, they did not fully understand all that was involved in the great controversy. God had to allow more time for fallen humanity to understand His character, before Satan overtakes their souls.

One of the biggest challenges in understanding this wonderful subject is the difficulty caused by tradition and its misinterpretation.

“Others, however, fail of a satisfactory understanding of the great problem of evil, from the fact that tradition and misinterpretation have obscured the teaching of the Bible concerning the character of God, the nature of His government, and the principles of His dealing with sin.” {GC 492.1}

Satan the father of lies, uses misdirection and thrives when the people become ignorant of God’s character and ways. Jesus came to unveil the traditional deception and to reveal God’s real character. Satan twists Bible language to his advantage, to cause a false understanding of God. For example, the sufferings which fell upon Israel are usually called “punishments” visited upon them by the direct decree of God. Such language has to be correctly interpreted because we are told that:

The Jews had forged their own fetters; they had filled for themselves the cup of vengeance. In the utter destruction that befell them as a nation, and in all the woes that followed them in their dispersion, they were but reaping the harvest which their own hands had sown. Says the prophet: “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself;” “for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” Hosea 13:9; 14:1. Their sufferings are often represented as a punishment visited upon them by the direct decree of God. It is thus that the great deceiver seeks to conceal his own work. By stubborn rejection of divine love and mercy, the Jews had caused the protection of God to be withdrawn from them, and Satan was permitted to rule them according to his will.” {GC 35.3}

The question is usually asked: Why does the Bible use such “destructive” language if God does not use force to destroy sinners?

To find the answer we must find out how inspiration worked in the giving of the scriptures. Follow carefully:

“The Bible is not given to us in grand superhuman language. Jesus, in order to reach man where he is, Christ took on the fallen flesh of humanity. The Bible must be given in the language of men. Everything that is of fallen humanity is imperfect. Different meanings can be expressed by the same word; there is not one combination of words for a distinct idea. The Bible was given for practical purposes and offer clarity to those willing to study out the layers of deeper meanings. {1SM 20.2}

“The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God’s mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God’s penmen, not His pen. Look at the different writers.  {1SM 21.1}

It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts on the man’s words or his expressions but on the man himself who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God.” {1SM 21.2}

It is clear then that the language which seems to suggest the violent use of force by God needs to be correctly understood in cases of Deut.31:16-18; Isaiah 54:7,8. (sin leads to God’s anger leads to Him “hiding His face” – what does this mean?)

There are potentially three aspects common to us all:

1. We have a definite opinion about God’s character based on observation, reading and what we were taught.

2. Our attitude towards God manifests in our treatment towards others.

3. All of us were born predisposed to possess a false concept of God (due to our fallen nature) which in turn has been confirmed and extended by the environment of our educational influences.

Unless we are delivered from these influences and initiated into a true knowledge of God, it will be impossible to enter into a full and perfect Christian experience, and the prospects of our eternal life will be at risk. We need to be reconciled to God because it is we who have a wrong understanding of Him (and ourselves); God doesn’t have a wrong understanding of us.

We have only one perfect photograph of God, and this is Jesus Christ (Manuscript 70, 1899). {7BC 906.3}

All that man needs to know or can know of God has been revealed in the life and character of His Son. {8T 286.1}

Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou [then], Show us the Father? {John 14:9}

Note what AT Jones said about this:

We look into the face of Jesus Christ. What do we see? We see God. We see the Father. We do not see Christ reflected in the face of Jesus Christ. He emptied Himself, that God might be reflected, that God might shine forth to man, who could not bear His presence in his [i.e., man’s] human flesh. Jesus Christ took man's flesh, which as a veil so modified the bright beams of the glory of God that we might look and live. We cannot look upon the unveiled face of God, not as much as the children of Israel might look upon the face of Moses. Therefore, Jesus gathers in Himself man's flesh and veils the bright, consuming glory of the Father, so that we, looking into His face, can see God reflected and can see and love Him as He is and thus have the life that is in Him. {February 27, 1895 ATJ, GCB 378.3}

So, when we look into the face of Jesus Christ, what do we see?  We see God.  We see the Father.  We do not see Christ reflected in the face of Jesus Christ.  He emptied Himself, so that God might be reflected, so that God might shine forth to man because man cannot look directly upon God and live.  So, Christ veiled Himself with humanity to make it so we are able to see God.

For too many and for too long, the Old Testament revelation of God, com­pared with Christ’s unfolding of Him in the New, has provided an altogether contradictory picture. God is seen as a stern, exacting lawmaker who will not permit His will to be thwarted, while Christ is viewed as a tender, benign, loving forgiver of all sins.

To God is ascribed one character, and to Christ another. This destroys the precious truth that Christ and the Father are one (John 10:30) in authority, character, spirit, aims, and works. The belief is spawned that Christ is the appeaser of the Father’s fury, influencing Him to act contrary to His real character and show mercy when it is not in His heart or nature to do so. This is a pagan conception of God. It is why people pray to dead saints to get them to appeal to God. We know that this cannot be true because we know that Jesus told us otherwise.

Gross darkness is engulfing minds, leading to darkness covering the earth –  a spiritual darkness, an abominating desolator of men’s relationship with our Heavenly Father. This will be the case just before the return of Jesus:

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.  For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:1-2)

The inspiration says;

The coming of Christ will take place in the darkest period of this earth’s history. {PK 717.1}

What is the reason the world is in spiritual darkness?  What is this spiritual darkness?  Let us find it out.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:4-5)

When Jesus came into the world, at His first advent, the world was in darkness but in him was life and that life that was in Him was the light of men that shineth in darkness.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:18-19)

Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (John 14:10)

So here we see that the Father dwelt in Christ and we saw in John 1:4 that in him was life.  So it must be that the life that was in Him, the life that was the light of men must have been the life of His Father.  Therefore, it must have been that men loved darkness rather than the life of God. This means the light that men hated so much, the light from the life that showed men their deeds were evil, that very same light must have been the revelation of the character of God through His life that was in Jesus.

So, we can say with confidence that it must be the absence or lack of the knowledge of the character of God that is spiritual darkness, because it is the revelation of God’s character that brings light into the world.

The glory of the Lord is his character that was revealed to Moses; but how different is the representation of himself from that made by Satan, the father of lies!  {ST, June 27, 1895 par. 2}

Those who wait for the Bridegroom's coming are to say to the people, "Behold your God." The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character, they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them.  {COL 415.5}

So, we can see clearly that man was created to be the recipient and reflection of God’s character:

Man was to bear God’s image, both in outward resemblance and in character. {PP 45.2}

Man was created to bear the character of God but sin took away that character. To what extent was God’s character taken away?  What did Paul say about the carnal mind?

Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Romans 8:7)

That is how far sin has taken us from the character of God; our carnal minds are opposed and at war with God.

In Testimonies to Ministers page 91 we read this:

The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.  {TM 91.2}

What is the third angel’s message?  It is the invitation to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God.

What is the righteousness of Christ?

Now is the time for the careless to arouse from their slumber. Now is the time to entreat that souls shall not only hear the word of God, but without delay secure oil in their vessels with their lamps. That oil is the righteousness of Christ. It represents character, and character is not transferable. No man can secure it for another. Each must obtain for himself a character purified from every stain of sin. {TM 233.2}

The righteousness of Christ is the character of His Father and is also His character.  That character that was the life that was in Him and was the light of men; that same character will and must be manifested by His children as a witness to the world.

In Christ’s Object Lessons we read the explanation concerning Matthew 25;

In the parable, all the ten virgins went out to meet the bridegroom. All had lamps and vessels for oil. For a time, there was seen no difference between them. So with the church that lives just before Christ's second coming. All have a knowledge of the Scriptures. All have heard the message of Christ's near approach, and confidently expect His appearing. But as in the parable, so it is now. A time of waiting intervenes, faith is tried; and when the cry is heard, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him," many are unready. They have no oil in their vessels with their lamps. They are destitute of the Holy Spirit.  {COL 408.2}

The setting of this scene is now. Mrs. White then explains the role of the Holy Spirit in preparing a people for their God.

Without the Spirit of God, a knowledge of His word is of no avail. The theory of truth, unaccompanied by the Holy Spirit, cannot quicken the soul or sanctify the heart. One may be familiar with the commands and promises of the Bible; but unless the Spirit of God sets the truth home, the character will not be transformed. Without the enlightenment of the Spirit, men will not be able to distinguish truth from error, and they will fall under the masterful temptations of Satan.  {COL 408.3}

She then describes why those represented by the foolish virgins are lost, …They do not know God. They have not studied His character; they have not held communion with Him; 

The condition of the foolish virgins is the Laodicean condition.  It is the condition the character of the last church and last phase of personal Christlike development. Those that have responded to the knocking at the door are the wise virgins.  They have responded to the straight testimony of the faithful and true witness.  They have received the righteousness of Christ by faith through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

To say that God has given His intelligent creatures freedom of choice and to also say that He kills those who choose another government than His, is absurd.  In order for freedom of choice to be genuine and absolute each creature must be free to choose and to receive the results, the fruit of that seed of choice without any external threat. If there is death in choosing sin, that death must be the result of the sin itself.  If there is eternal life in choosing God’s government, that life must be the result of God’s government itself.

God wants us to know that we have a genuine choice. If we choose sin, we shall reap corruption from sin. If we choose righteousness, by choosing Christ, we shall reap eternal life through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. The scriptures are too clear on this matter to be misunderstood.

“For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.’’ (Pro. 8:35,36)

“The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness. “(Prov. 11:5-6)

“In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death. “(Prov. 12:28)

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. “(Gal. 6:7-8)

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23)

If you cling to self, refusing to yield your will to God, you are choosing death. To sin, wherever found, God is a consuming fire. If you choose sin, and refuse to separate from it, the presence of God, which consumes sin, must consume you. {MB 62.1}

“We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death.” {1SM 235.2}

I would highly recommend everyone to study the principles in the book Agape that emphasizes these precious concepts:

  1. Understand the breadth of Divine Love
  2. Examine the nature of personal and divine judgement
  3. Gain insights into Elijah’s calling of fire
  4. Observe that perfection is found in mercy
  5. Examine the relationship between the Father and Son: Does Jesus inherit something from His Father, or does He already have everything in Himself and needs nothing from His Father? What is the difference?
  6. Gain insights on the cross: Who required death at the cross? Why is it difficult for humanity to repent and ask for forgiveness?
  7. Why does it matter how we read the Bible?
  8. How does God respond to constant rejection? Does He feel pain?
  9. How will sin be eradicated, is it by force or by love?
  10. How is it possible for us to live our lives just as Jesus did? and many more…... Other booklets that can be of help: (End of the wicked-Fiery Final Judgement or Consuming Fire by Kelvin Mullins)

More than ever before we must realize that we are caught up in the great spiritual war of the universe. Which side will always do what is in your eternal interest? Which side will devour and destroy you if it can?

It can only have access to you when God walks away. The world is becoming more evil and insane with each passing day. By refusing to acknowledge God’s existence or even give Him appreciation, the Spirit of God is being pushed away to be withdrawn from the earth in respect to the principle of human free will. Humans will need to quit their neutral position and choose one side or the other. We cannot fool the invisible forces. Humans receive the master that they choose to obey. Neither side will forfeit anyone.

Get off the fence and choose God’s principles: Love and Mercy’. Choose not the god of this world but the true God.” Choose ye this day who ye will serve”

And if it seems evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)

May this knowledge of God’s character change your motives, your attitudes, and your life!

Blessings, Allan.

https://maranathamedia.com/book/view/agape

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