Thursday, April 12, 2007

God Needs To...?

I've caught myself several times recently in prayer starting a request for His assistance with teaching a class, working on a lesson or the like by saying or thinking: "Lord, you need to _____________." I usually stop at that point as I realize how presumptuous that way of addressing God is. Rather than seeking His gracious help, I am essentially ordering Him to do something for me. Consciously I would never say that I am doing that, but my words and thoughts seem to give away my real heart attitude. So I will restart my request with "Lord, I need you to ___________ ." This expresses the fact that God is not the one who has the need, but rather I am the needy one. A minor change in wording, but a major change in attitude and approach to the Lord of the Universe. One much more appropriate for me as a dependent slave of His.

This then started me thinking - what does God need to do? Are there things that God must do, that He is bound to do and cannot do otherwise? As the only self-existing and self-sufficient being in the universe, God has no needs. He is the I AM, who is complete and totally fulfilled within His own self. And He is the only being in the universe with a will that is totally free. As Tozer says, He must be the only totally free being in the universe or He would cease to be the only true God. But is that totally free and sovereign will bound by anything? Obviously not anything external to Him, for then He would fail to be sovereign. If there is anything that in any way limits the free will of God and results in actions that He must do, it has to be internal to Him. In other words, that which determines what God must do is the character and nature of God Himself. For example, God must be holy, for to act in an unholy manner would be contrary to His person and character. God must be loving and gracious and just and merciful and wrathful toward sin, because to be otherwise would be to violate who He is. God's perfect free will is bound by His perfect person and character. In other words, God's will must always act in a manner consistent with His righteous and perfect person.

So the question then becomes: are there things God wants to do that He cannot because of this binding of His will? As Paul might say, may it never be! For God, as the perfect moral being, never has a desire to act or behave in a manner contrary to His perfect character. So in one sense God's will is bound by His character and He needs to act as such. But in reality, His will is perfect so that He is not really restrained by this fact. Again, as Tozer notes, He is the only truly free being in existence.

I guess maybe the passage we've been looking at in 2 Timothy 2:13 has been on my mind, that deals with these subjects: "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." God's faithfulness and trustworthiness does not depend on me, but rather on Him and His steadfast and perfect character. For those who have trusted Christ and are in a faith relationship with God, He will be faithful and fulfill His promises to us, for to do otherwise would be to act contrary to His character. As Paul states, it would be to deny Himself. And this is something that God cannot do. He needs to be God at all times and in all His ways.

Isn't that ultimately a very comforting thought?


lawrence said...

What is your answer to inclusivists favorite thing to say, "God desires that none of these shall perish?" Obviously some shall...and yet God desires that they don't? Is this an example of something that God wants to do but cannot b/c of His nature?

The Doulos said...


My response to those that bring this up (and I have dealt with some, in the context of discussing election) is that they are disregarding the context of the passage in 2 Peter 3:9. The whole section is focused on being prepared for Christ's return, not on who shall be saved or God's decree regarding this. And God, like us, may have desires, but that's not the same as a willful decree. God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, but this does not mean that He abandons His justice to ensure their salvation. The principle is still the same - God will not act in a manner inconsistent with His character.

Great question, thanks for the comment!