Mixed feelings on the Gospel, gratitude and God-centeredness

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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
It's been a long struggle for me (and it still is) to think in a God-centered manner, like a slave ought to think ultimately about his master's good. I've never really been able to appreciate the fact that God acts ultimately for Himself. When I look at the Gospel, it's so easy to feel gratitude for what God has done for ME, but when I start to consider God as the ultimate end in all this -- God acting for Himself -- I just get anxious and confused. I know I must be missing something that prevents me from being able to appreciate God's self-centeredness, I just can't seem to get what it is. I realize it may be hard for me to grasp for the very reason that I'm self-centered myself.

I just felt like opening a discussion on this topic, because it is obviously very important to our faith.
 

Zach

Puritan Board Junior
I've been helped a lot recently by sermons at Living Hope OPC on the goodness of God. Remember, when God acts for Himself he is acting for us too. God created us and redeemed us to share his glory with us. Him being glorified in all of this is the very best thing for us.
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
This may sound odd, but I wonder if it starts with understanding the Trinity. What you call "self-centeredness" is NOT a praiseworthy attribute. But when God acts for his own glory, he's hardly being self-centered in that selfish way. He's been other-centered for eternity; the Father honoring the Son, the Son honoring the Father, etc. God is love. He always has been, even before he created people to love, because the Father loves the Son and so on. So when God acts for his own glory, he still does this in a love-for-others way, not in the selfish way we would do it if we acted for our own glory.

Best of all for us, since we're joined to Jesus, God brings us into that Father/Son/Spirit love-for-others relationship. Yes, God is our Master. But the Bible also reminds us repeatedly that, in Christ and through the Spirit, he is our Father. He delights to love us, and whatever God-centeredness we have flows from that love, not from a slave's mentality. See Galatians 4:4-7 for how we are no longer slaves because of our connection to the triune God.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I've been helped a lot recently by sermons at Living Hope OPC on the goodness of God. Remember, when God acts for Himself he is acting for us too. God created us and redeemed us to share his glory with us. Him being glorified in all of this is the very best thing for us.

I understand what you're saying. But isn't that making OUR good the ultimate motivation and end of our end of glorifying God?
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
This may sound odd, but I wonder if it starts with understanding the Trinity. What you call "self-centeredness" is NOT a praiseworthy attribute. But when God acts for his own glory, he's hardly being self-centered in that selfish way. He's been other-centered for eternity; the Father honoring the Son, the Son honoring the Father, etc. God is love. He always has been, even before he created people to love, because the Father loves the Son and so on. So when God acts for his own glory, he still does this in a love-for-others way, not in the selfish way we would do it if we acted for our own glory.

Best of all for us, since we're joined to Jesus, God brings us into that Father/Son/Spirit love-for-others relationship. Yes, God is our Master. But the Bible also reminds us repeatedly that, in Christ and through the Spirit, he is our Father. He delights to love us, and whatever God-centeredness we have flows from that love, not from a slave's mentality. See Galatians 4:4-7 for how we are no longer slaves because of our connection to the triune God.

I don't believe self-centeredness is a bad thing in and of itself. It is an attribute that rightly belongs only to God. Also, being a slave is not a bad thing in and of itself, (have you read John MacArthur's "Slave"?) it is what rightly fits our position. Of course, as slaves we are motivated by God's love, not something else. Duty can never motivate us, we must be Gospel-driven.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
This may sound odd, but I wonder if it starts with understanding the Trinity. What you call "self-centeredness" is NOT a praiseworthy attribute. But when God acts for his own glory, he's hardly being self-centered in that selfish way. He's been other-centered for eternity; the Father honoring the Son, the Son honoring the Father, etc. God is love. He always has been, even before he created people to love, because the Father loves the Son and so on. So when God acts for his own glory, he still does this in a love-for-others way, not in the selfish way we would do it if we acted for our own glory.

Best of all for us, since we're joined to Jesus, God brings us into that Father/Son/Spirit love-for-others relationship. Yes, God is our Master. But the Bible also reminds us repeatedly that, in Christ and through the Spirit, he is our Father. He delights to love us, and whatever God-centeredness we have flows from that love, not from a slave's mentality. See Galatians 4:4-7 for how we are no longer slaves because of our connection to the triune God.

I don't believe self-centeredness is a bad thing in and of itself. It is an attribute that rightly belongs only to God. Also, being a slave is not a bad thing in and of itself, (have you read John MacArthur's "Slave"?) it is what rightly fits our position. Of course, as slaves we are motivated by God's love, not something else. Duty can never motivate us, we must be Gospel-driven.

And there (bolded) comes the problem for me again. We are not motivated ("constrained") by God's love for HIMSELF, but for us. That seems to be what the Bible teaches. I do agree this comes down to the Trinity (the Son, Father, Holy Spirit love relationship), but it's easy to fall in our speculations, we need Scripture. I'm not ready to admit that God's highest priority goes outside of that Trinity. No, God is the first and foremost to be loved, then come others.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
I don't believe self-centeredness is a bad thing in and of itself. It is an attribute that rightly belongs only to God.

Perhaps "self-serving" would be a better way to put what I mean to say. God can rightly be "self-centered," as Jesus time and time again pointed people to himself. There's nothing and no one better for God to find pleasure in. But this does not make him self-serving, which sounds like the view of God you're struggling with.

Think about Jesus, which is how we best know what God is like (John 14:8-9). Jesus did not live a life in service to himself and to his own desires and pleasures. He willingly gave up ALL of that to obey the Father and to be of service to us. Yes, all this was "for the joy that was set before him" (Hebrews 12:2), but any study of his life among us shows that he still is not a self-serving person. He's loving, giving, noticing others, sacrificing for them, obeying his Father... and THAT is the character of God.

I bring this up because the nagging suspicion that God is not really good, but is actually rather self-serving, is one of biggest hindrances many people have to appreciating and loving God. I think (1) the love within the Trinity and (2) the character of Jesus are the best answers to that suspicion. Ask yourself if the idea you have of God's "self-centeredness" fits character of Jesus you see in the Gospels. If it doesn't, I do suspect you need to change your idea of what God is like to fit how he's revealed himself in Christ. (We all need to do this, constantly.)


Also, being a slave is not a bad thing in and of itself, (have you read John MacArthur's "Slave"?) it is what rightly fits our position. Of course, as slaves we are motivated by God's love, not something else. Duty can never motivate us, we must be Gospel-driven.

We live in a time when many who claim to belong to Jesus see little need to treat him as their Lord, which makes some teaching on our duty necessary. It's commendable and biblical to see oneself as a slave to Christ. I simply suggest you not underestimate the thrill and the glad service to God that comes from meditating on your status as a son.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I don't believe self-centeredness is a bad thing in and of itself. It is an attribute that rightly belongs only to God.

Perhaps "self-serving" would be a better way to put what I mean to say. God can rightly be "self-centered," as Jesus time and time again pointed people to himself. There's nothing and no one better for God to find pleasure in. But this does not make him self-serving, which sounds like the view of God you're struggling with.

Think about Jesus, which is how we best know what God is like (John 14:8-9). Jesus did not live a life in service to himself and to his own desires and pleasures. He willingly gave up ALL of that to obey the Father and to be of service to us. Yes, all this was "for the joy that was set before him" (Hebrews 12:2), but any study of his life among us shows that he still is not a self-serving person. He's loving, giving, noticing others, sacrificing for them, obeying his Father... and THAT is the character of God.

When Jesus ascended from Heaven, He became a representative to us, sinners, and also regarded Himself as such (His participation of the sinner's baptism). Here we cannot speak of God as it regards His position in the universe. Again, Christ is representing us, He is showing us what is a perfect mankind, BUT this does not mean He is not also revealing to us what God is like -- it's just that the servanthood is not what He's revealing, but God's love. When we see Christ serving us, we know God loves us, BUT it doesn't mean God is in servanthood to mankind. The relationship between a servant and a master is vital to understand -- the servant is lower, the master is higher; thus, the master is to be served foremost, even by the master himself.

I also want to make clear that God's self-centeredness is not acceptable to me, because it results in the greatest good of others, but because GOD IS WORTHY. WHO is the worthiest being in the universe to be served? GOD. So, is there a problem if God serves Himself first, THEN others? NO.

This is how I see it.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I don't believe self-centeredness is a bad thing in and of itself. It is an attribute that rightly belongs only to God.

Perhaps "self-serving" would be a better way to put what I mean to say. God can rightly be "self-centered," as Jesus time and time again pointed people to himself. There's nothing and no one better for God to find pleasure in. But this does not make him self-serving, which sounds like the view of God you're struggling with.

Think about Jesus, which is how we best know what God is like (John 14:8-9). Jesus did not live a life in service to himself and to his own desires and pleasures. He willingly gave up ALL of that to obey the Father and to be of service to us. Yes, all this was "for the joy that was set before him" (Hebrews 12:2), but any study of his life among us shows that he still is not a self-serving person. He's loving, giving, noticing others, sacrificing for them, obeying his Father... and THAT is the character of God.

When Jesus ascended from Heaven, He became a representative to us, sinners, and also regarded Himself as such (His participation of the sinner's baptism). Here we cannot speak of God as it regards His position in the universe. Again, Christ is representing us, He is showing us what is a perfect mankind, BUT this does not mean He is not also revealing to us what God is like -- it's just that the servanthood is not what He's revealing, but God's love. When we see Christ serving us, we know God loves us, BUT it doesn't mean God is in servanthood to mankind. The relationship between a servant and a master is vital to understand -- the servant is lower, the master is higher; thus, the master is to be served foremost, even by the master himself.

I also want to make clear that God's self-centeredness is not acceptable to me, because it results in the greatest good of others, but because GOD IS WORTHY. WHO is the worthiest being in the universe to be served? GOD. So, is there a problem if God serves Himself first, THEN others? NO.

This is how I see it.

There might be another viable option to consider: God prioritizing simultaneous love for EVERYONE, but higher love for Himself (due to His higher status), and lower love for others (due to their lower status). But I don't know how this would work in practise, and how to Biblically support it, because we ARE commanded to love our neighbours as ourselves, and God with all our being (which are essentially the same thing). Biblically I think we should love everyone with ALL OUR BEINGS, but God first, then others.

ACTUALLY, there is yet another viable option: God prioritizing EQUAL love for everyone, because He has in His good pleasure wanted so. Obviously, God is still more worthy of love than others, but this is His covenant between mankind and Himself, so man is to LOVE (not treat) God and others equally. I think this option makes most sense to me.

What do you think?
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
From Jesus: "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you" (John 13:13-15).

Jesus shows us that, having the high place, he chooses to show love and to act the servant. This in no way makes his higher position less than it is. But it ought to dispel any notion that God is self-centered in a distasteful, aloof sort of way.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
From Jesus: "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you" (John 13:13-15).

Jesus shows us that, having the high place, he chooses to show love and to act the servant. This in no way makes his higher position less than it is. But it ought to dispel any notion that God is self-centered in a distasteful, aloof sort of way.

Okay, Jack. May I suggest that this distastefulness of God (or anyone for that matter) being selfish may derive from the fact that we ourselves are selfish? I see, Biblically, no warrant to think God shouldn't be selfish. I don't see anything that makes it bad. Who should complain if God wants to direct all effort to serve the being that most deserves it? God is our sun, and we are the light beams of that sun. Why shouldn't we live primarily for our Creator, on whom we depend in everything?

But that aside, could you answer to my earlier questions (the options I presented)?
 

Zach

Puritan Board Junior
I've been helped a lot recently by sermons at Living Hope OPC on the goodness of God. Remember, when God acts for Himself he is acting for us too. God created us and redeemed us to share his glory with us. Him being glorified in all of this is the very best thing for us.

I understand what you're saying. But isn't that making OUR good the ultimate motivation and end of our end of glorifying God?

I don't think so. I think God gets all the glory when we say, "Thank you for being so good to me, a sinner!"
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I don't think so. I think God gets all the glory when we say, "Thank you for being so good to me, a sinner!"

This is so true. His glory is revealed in His great goodness to us.

Samuel, I think we grow by degrees in the love of God for His own sake. Just as a child originally loves its parent because the parent cherishes it and cares for its every need -- and only after many years of such care comes to know the parent as a friend, and love the parent for their own sake -- so in our relationship with God. If you are struggling with this aspect of the love of God I think perhaps you should not be overly discouraged nor try to work up the grace in yourself. Simply confess it to Him and ask Him for the grace; and give thanks for the grace you have now to love Him for His goodness to you. I have struggled with this also for many years and it is only recently that the consideration that God is glorifying Himself in my trials (where I don't perceive His goodness so readily) has become a tremendous comfort to me. And I am quite sure that even now my love of Him is so far from perfect in this regard that the only reason it is at all sweet to my Lord is that 'Christ taketh as poor men may give' (Samuel Rutherford).
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
At the present, I feel like I really need to think about the motive in phares like, "Thank you for being so good to me, a sinner!" (assuming that the sinner in question really means what he's saying). And thank you Heidi, as always. I know there is wisdom in your words, I just need to read them carefully.

But I do feel a need to get your opinion on the options I previously presented on God's highest priority. I'll list them here:

God's highest priority is...

1) Simultaneous love for Himself and others, but more for Himself and less for others
2) Equal love for everyone, but first for Himself, then for others
3) Simultaneous and equal love for Himself and others (because of His covenant) <=== I'm feeling this is the Biblical choice
 
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a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Samuel, I feel certain that the others in this thread (and reading it) are far more qualified to answer such a question. Please forgive me if I say anything wrong.

What is love, and what is good? 'God is love'; 'For the Lord is good'. Well then, what does this love and goodness look like?

All the form and beauty we see around us in creation are (though corrupted in many respects) what this love and goodness looks like. Creation is a work abounding from Triune love and goodness. All the goodness of the creature is only a mirrored glimmer of the goodness of God.

But the place where we see what it looks like most is in the life of Jesus Christ. You spoke of Christ as the image of what man ought to be -- but man is made in the image of God and the moral law expresses His holiness in our creaturely form. Christ is the perfect image of the Father to us, showing us 'in our own language' what the Father is like. And the love and goodness we see in Christ is the most 'selfless' this earth has witnessed. It abounds to others, even at great personal cost. It is not characterised by grasping at possession and glory, but by humility, and self sacrifice, and giving freely. And though we are recipients of this in a deeply personal and utterly satisfying way, the love Christ lived before us at its depth is love for the Father.

What I am trying to express is what Jack K said earlier: that God the Father loves the creature precisely because He loves the Son and the Spirit, and the Son and Spirit love the creature because they love one another. They are good to the creature because goodness overflows out of the abundant love they have for one another. 'God is most good, and He who is most good is also most communicable.' (Ursinus)

Of course God has priority. To love anything else 'most' would be to love what has no goodness or even love in itself: it would be evil and even utterly nonsensical. It would also be sterile: there would be no possibility of abundance. Think of parents whose love for one another brings forth a little child. To ask if they loved the child first is incoherent. To ask if they love the child 'most' (in a godly family) is irrelevant. The love for the child is part of, flowing out of and back into, the love they have for one another.

In the same way, the child does not love his parents because they are 'Bill' and 'Jean', quite apart from everything the parents have done for Him. He may come to have an appreciation for them that has more to do with their personalities or character than just with what they have done for him. But his very ability to have that appreciation is due to everything they have done for him. Their character has been expressed to him most intimately in this way. His love for them would not be possible without it. It is simply a profound token of all love he has received from them, if he grows up to be a person who can love them as friends.

We are still just little ones in many ways, Samuel. It's okay to love Him as a little one, because He is good to us. The apprehension that He is good in Himself, and love for Him as such, grows out of this personal experience of His goodness, and never gets beyond it.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
PS. Samuel to be more clear, I think it involves a misconception to ask if God loves us more or equally or less. We only *exist* because God the Father loves the Son, etc. And these are not isolated and measured out loves. God is simple.

Here are some quotes Ruben located when I asked him about this. It helps me to remember that love is the working of our moral nature, that adheres to what we perceive as good. God is good, the fount of goodness, and as we come to love Him more, what we adhere to is Himself, and not any of His gifts. But His gifts are not somehow separable from all this. The good we adhere to is a *Giver*: His giving so lavishly is the quality of His goodness. And we would have no being to desire Him at all if He had not given lavishly to *us*.

Augustine, Literal Meaning of Genesis:

The unchangeable good, of course, is God, whereas human beings, as far as the nature is concerned in which God made them, are indeed a good, but not an unchangeable one like God. Now the changeable good, which comes after the unchangeable good, becomes a better good, when it clings to the unchangeable good by loving and serving it with its own rational will. This is indeed the nature of a great good, that it also received the ability to cling to the nature of the highest good.

Augustine, the same:

He, that is to say, has no need of us as his servants or slaves, but we do need him as our lord and master, to work us and guard us. And that is the reason why he alone is truly Lord, because we are his servants and slaves for our benefit and welfare, not for his; I mean, if he needed us, by that very fact he would not be a true lord, since we would be helping him in his neediness, to which he would himself be the salve. Rightly did the man say in the psalm, My God are you, since you have no need of my good things (Psalm 16:2). Nor should what I have said, that we are his slaves for our benefit and welfare, be taken in the sense that we should look for anything else from him but himself, seeing that he is himself our supreme benefit and welfare. In this way, you see, we love him freely and for nothing, according to the words, But for me to stick to God is good (Psalm 73:28).

John Flavel, Planelogia, Appendix 2 (Works, v.3), p.586:

…no man can rightly take the Lord for his God, but he must take him for his supreme good, and consequently therein may, and must have a due respect to his own happiness.

You and your sister are in our prayers. It is nice to see you around. :)
 

ChariotsofFire

Puritan Board Sophomore
I heard this sermon on refnet.fm and I thought it could add to the discussion:
God Is Most Glorified in Us When We Are Most Satisfied in*Him - Desiring God

Here's a quote from that sermon:
"2. Christian Hedonism is the biblical solution to this problem.

Christian Hedonism says, God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. That’s the shortest summary of the what we mean by Christian Hedonism. If that is true, then there is no conflict between your greatest exhilaration and God’s greatest glorification.

In fact, not only is there no conflict between your happiness and God’s glory, but his glory shines in your happiness, when your happiness is in him. And since God is the source of greatest happiness, and since he is the greatest treasure in the world, and since his glory is the most satisfying gift he could possibly give us, therefore it is the kindest, most loving thing he could possibly do — to reveal himself, and magnify himself and vindicate himself for our everlasting enjoyment. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

God is the one being for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act, because he is exalting for us what alone can satisfy us fully and forever. If we exalt ourselves, we are not loving, because we distract people from the one Person who can make them happy forever, God. But if God exalts himself, he draws attention to the one Person who can make us happy forever, himself. He is not an egomaniac. He is an infinitely glorious, all-satisfying God, offering us everlasting and supreme joy in himself."
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I'm sorry for any misunderstandings I may have caused by my poor word choice. I wasn't aware the word "selfish" cannot be used of God, because it does not regard the good of others AT ALL. The question was not whether God loves Himself solely, but whether He loves Himself primarily. And that holds true. God may love Himself in order to love others, but that is still in order to love Himself. It all comes back to Himself. God is self-centered, but regards the good of others, because if He didn't, He wouldn't regard His glory.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Something I'd like to clarify is how this love of God for Himself operates in the threefold personality of God, the Trinity. First of all, I'd consider that either person of the Trinity is equal in glory, so they have no reason not to love themselves. On the other hand, it would be wrong if they loved only themselves, because all the persons of the Trinity are equally God. So, it is reasonable for the persons of the trinity love both themselves and each other.

Furthermore, God is necessarily the Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). It is not God's free choice to be Trinity (as anything in relation to God's creation is a free choice), it is His necessary choice (because the choice depends on His very nature). Because God is self-sufficient, God's happiness is not dependent on His creation. God's happiness, and to be more precise, the happiness of each person of the Trinity, depends on the whole Trinity. Thus, even if God had all His attributes, but was not a Trinity, His glory would be lacking. That would be the necessary consequence of the Trinity's necessity for God.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Here is something I want to know. Why did the Trinity decide to make the Son "the firstborn among many brethren," if God is self-sufficient?
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Samuel, I think a lot of these statements touch on things that are out of my own depth, and involve precise and developed concepts. I do think there is a problem with the way you employ the language of 'necessity' regarding the being of God. God is entirely self-actualized: there is no 'necessity' outside of His own will, laid upon Him. I am sure I am saying this very badly: I just want to highlight that this may be an area in which to read more?

As for God making the Son the firstborn among many brethren, that is simply His abounding goodness.
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
I'm certainly not qualified to answer your questions, but two things occurred to me while reading these posts. Reverend D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out in his sermons on the first chapter of Ephesians that God the Father created us, sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, elected us to everlasting life, to worship Him. It was not for 'us' but for Him.

In MLJ's series on the Doctrines of God he points out that there are things we will never understand in our finite minds. That realization coming from a man I consider a genius is a great comfort to me. Not that we shouldn't attempt to understand all that we are able, but that I must accept that 'the deep things belong to God' as in Deuteronomy 29:29.

Finally, When our Lord declares, in The Book of Matthew 11: 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

That to me illustrates the unselfish love of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I used to be puzzled by verse 30. Living the Christian life seemed to me to be a difficult yoke. It came to me that the yoke of 'the world' is much more of a burden and that "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness'; is, if I do it, a much easier and less burdensome yoke.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Samuel, I think a lot of these statements touch on things that are out of my own depth, and involve precise and developed concepts. I do think there is a problem with the way you employ the language of 'necessity' regarding the being of God. God is entirely self-actualized: there is no 'necessity' outside of His own will, laid upon Him. I am sure I am saying this very badly: I just want to highlight that this may be an area in which to read more?

As for God making the Son the firstborn among many brethren, that is simply His abounding goodness.

Heidi, I understand your warning, but don't worry, I've especially studied Turretin's Institutes of Elentic Theology (the first book) on the will of God, and that's where I've taken the terms. I bet your husband has it, so you can check Turretin's discussion on The Will of God (chapter's title), and the first question:

"Does God will some things necessarily and others freely? We affirm."

If you don't have the book, I can read from it for you, if you want. But here is one of the main points:

"... necessity is twofold; one absolute, which simply and by itself and its own nature cannot be otherwise, as that God is good, just, etc. The other hypothetical, which is not so of itself and simply such but that it could be otherwise, but yet on the positing of something it necessarily follows and could not be otherwise; as for example, if you posit that God predestinated Jacob to salvation, it is necessary that Jacob should be saved, namely on the hypothesis of the decree. Otherwise he could have been not predestinated and not saved. When, therefore, the question is asked whether God wills some things necessarily, but others freely I refer not only to the hypothetical necessity (for thus those things which God wills freely, the decree being posited, he no more not wills), but concerning the absolute necessity."

"... I say God wills himself necessarily, not only by a hypothetical necessity but also by an absolute necessity. He is the ultimate end and the highest good which he cannot but will and love, not only as to specification (that he can will and love nothing contrary), but also as to exercise (that he never ceases from willing and loving himself), for he cannot nill his own glory or deny himself. But other things he wills, freely because, since no created things is necessary with respect to God but contingent (as he could do without them), so he wills all things as that he could not will them (i.e., by the liberty not only of spontaneity, but also of indifference)."


And in light of this truth, if I come back to my question on why God made the Son "the firstborn among many brethren," if He is self-sufficient, I'd have to say making Christ the firstborn was not necessary for God, so it remains a mystery to me why He did so.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
AAAAAaaaaaa...! Now I get it! I had to read Joe Morecraft's Authentic Christianity on God's self-sufficiency, and here is what he wrote:

"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is
Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with
hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed
anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all
things” (Acts 17:24–25). Jehovah is self-sufficient, self-contained,
and independent of His creation, while causing His creation to
be utterly dependent upon Him. He stands in need of nothing He
has made. He possesses in Himself all that is necessary for His
glorious self-existence.
Without this perfection of self-sufficiency, God would not be
God, for He would be helplessly dependent upon the energies, processes
and goodwill of man and the universe. When Jehovah declares
Himself to Moses to be “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:14), He is
identifying Himself as the all-sufficient, absolutely sovereign and
independent God who cannot be explained except in terms of His
own glorious being. Furthermore, everything in the universe is definable
only in terms of this self-contained God. Everything is impossible
and inexplicable apart from Him.
GOD DOES ALL THINGS FOR HIS OWN GLORY. “For of
Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the
glory forever” (Rom. 11:36). “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the
glory of Thy name; and deliver us, and forgive our sins, for Thy
name’s sake” (Ps. 79:9). “He predestined us to adoption as sons
through Jesus Christ to Himself...to the praise of the glory of His
grace” (Eph. 1:5–6).
These verses, along with many others, make abundantly clear
that the ultimate goal of God’s eternal plan, the goal of history, the
purpose of man and the universe is the glory and praise of God.
“Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor
and power” (Rev. 4:11). According to Romans 8:28–30, God’s ultimate
goal of His eternal plan is that Jesus Christ might be “the
firstborn among many brothers.” This title emphasizes Christ’s priority
and supremacy over all things. The goal of history, then, is that
in all things Christ might be preeminent (Col. 1:18), and that every
knee bow to Him to praise, serve and glorify Him as Lord, “to the
glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9f.).
In order to reach that end, the
plan in regard to God’s people must be accomplished. If Jesus is to
be the firstborn among many brothers, He must have many saved
brothers. This ultimate goal is the basis, then, for the strongest kind
of assurance of our own salvation in Christ. God’s whole purpose in
planning salvation is to glorify His Son (2:5f; Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:18f.).
His glorification and our salvation are inseparably connected. This
makes our salvation in Christ certainly and eternally secure. As
John Murray has pointed out: “His unique sonship and the fact that
he is the firstborn guard Christ’s distinctiveness and preeminence,
but it is among many brethren that his preeminence appears. This
is another example of the intimacy of the relation existing between
Christ and the people of God.”16
Unbelieving man’s concept of God is quite the contrary. Rather
than a God-centered God, he worships a man-centered god. Such a
god is one who needs man in order to be truly fulfilled. He needs to
serve man. He needs man to help him. But a man-centered god is no
God. If God needs us as much as we need Him, He is worse off than
we are! An example of unbelieving man’s degrading view of God is
found in the book, Unification Theology by Young Oon Kim, who
writes: “Thus, if God loves mankind, then God must benefit as
much from the relationship as we do.—While remaining unique as
the Creator, God wants to share in every way the life of his sons and
daughters so that in them He lives and moves and has His being.”17
Poor, impoverished god of Unification Theology. He draws out our
pity, but not our praise and reverence. The sad thing is that it is not
only the cults that believe in this kind of god. Many Protestants
have similar views.
16. John Murray, The New International Commentary on The New Testament:
The Book of Romans, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), 319–320.
17. Young Oon Kim, Unification Theology (New York, NY: The Holy Spirit
Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1980), 62.
GOD DOES ALL THINGS ACCORDING TO THE GOOD
PLEASURE OF HIS OWN WILL. “Whatever the Lord pleases, He
does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6).
“He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the
inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand” (Dan. 4:35).
“Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?
Who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him
again?” (Rom. 11:34–35). “He predestined us to adoption as sons
through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of
His will” (Eph. 1:5).
In making and executing His plans, God seeks no one’s counsel,
assistance or advice. Man in no way supplies any ingredient to the
definition of the plans of God; nor does man contribute anything to
the working out of those plans.
God’s will is the final basis and cause of all things and of their
being what they are. You are what you are because God willed it.
Everything is derived from His perfect and holy will.
Creation and providence are derived from God’s sovereign will.
“Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed
and were created” (Rev. 4:11).
World government is derived from God’s sovereign will. “The
king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He
turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1).
Christ’s suffering resulted from the will of God. Jesus prayed:
“Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My
will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42).
Election and reprobation result from the will of God. “So then
He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires”
(Rom 9:18).
Regeneration, (the new birth), results from the will of God. “In
the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth”
(James 1:18).
Sanctification results from the will of God. “[F]or it is God who
is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”
(Phil. 2:13).
The Christian’s suffering and affliction result from the will of
God. “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing
what is right rather than for doing what is wrong” (1 Peter 3:17).
Our lives and destinies are determined by the will of God. “Instead,
you ought to say, ‘If the Lord will, we shall live and also do
this or that’” (James 4:15).
The smallest and least significant things result from the will of
God. “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them
will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt. 10:29).
Even things that appear to be “chance-happenings” result from
the will of God. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is
from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33).
In speaking of God’s will, we must distinguish two aspects of His
will: (1) God’s revealed will in the Bible, which prescribes what we
should do (Matt. 7:21; 12:50; John 4:34; 7:17; Rom 12:2), and (2) God’s
secret will, which is what He desires to do (Ps. 115:3; Dan. 4:17, 25, 32,
35; Rom. 9:18f.; Eph. 1:5, 9, 11; Rev. 11). The Bible itself makes this
distinction in the will of God: “The secret things belong to the Lord
our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever,
that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). God’s
secret will is that which He has not chosen to reveal to us. What God
wants us to do is revealed in the Bible. What God wills for our individual
futures is not revealed to us. Therefore, we must be content
with His secret will and obey His revealed will. We must make all our
decisions and plans on the basis of what God has revealed that we
should do, not of what we think He will do tomorrow.
God’s revealed will and His secret (unrevealed) will are not two
wills, nor are they two aspects of God’s will in conflict with one
another. Bavinck’s comments are helpful here:
Just as a father forbids his child to touch a sharp knife though
he himself uses it without injury or damage, so God forbids
us to sin though he himself is able to use and does use sin as
a means of self-glorification. The usual objection advanced
against the decretive (secret) will [i.e., what He has decreed
but not revealed] and the perceptive (revealed) will [i.e., what
He has revealed in the Bible] namely, that they are in conflict
with each other, is not justifiable, for: the preceptive will is
really not God’s will but his precept for our conduct; by
means of it God does not reveal to us what he will do; it is not
a law for his conduct; but it tells us what we must do; it is a
rule for our conduct, Deut. 29:29… God’s revealed will instead
of being opposed to the secret will is the means whereby
the latter is carried out: by means of warnings and admonitions,
prohibitions and threatenings, conditions and
commandments, God’s counsel is accomplished; while because
of the decretive will man, when he transgresses God’s
commandment, does not for a moment become independent
of God but in the very act of transgressing serves God’s
counsel, and becomes an instrument (however unwillingly)
of God’s glory.18
Robert L. Dabney concludes:
Say that God has no secret decretive will, and purposes just
what He commands and nothing more, and we represent
Him as a Being whose desires are perpetually crossed and
baffled: yea, trampled on; the most harassed, embarrassed,
and impotent Being in the universe. Deny the other part of
our distinction [the preceptive revealed aspect of God’s will],
and you represent God as acquiescing in all the iniquities
done on earth and in hell.19
So then, we see something of what it means to say that God is allsufficient.
He needs nothing He has made. He does all things for
His own glory according to the good pleasure of His will.
It is this infinite fullness of God that makes Him the end and
felicity [happiness] of the creature. Poor in ourselves, without
strength, without resources, feeble as a reed, and easily
crushed before the moth, we are yet rich and valiant and
mighty in God. We have treasures which can never be consumed,
resources which can never be exhausted, and strength
which can never fail. With the everlasting God as
our refuge we can bid defiance to the universe besides.
Though the earth be removed and though the mountains be
carried into the midst of the sea, though the waters thereof
roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the
swelling thereof, yet we need not fear. Nothing can be lost so
long as God remains our friend. He is all in all.20
Such is our God, who not only is all-sufficient in Himself but
who with His all-sufficiency can fill and saturate the soul to
such an overflowing measure that it has need of nothing else
but to have God as its portion."
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Thank you, Samuel. You are quite right about my husband's bookshelf :) but it is very thoughtful to quote that section for me; and it does help me understand better.

I feel that I don't have the full framework for these concepts but I think I understand about God necessarily willing Himself, and willing His own glory. Where I think the language of necessity might be unclear in the thread context is in relation to His glorifying of Himself with regard to created things? Again, I'm just flying blind here, not knowing very much; and it is quite possible I've misunderstood; and I don't feel that I know these concepts well enough to do more than highlight a possible complication in thought.

PS. I didn't see the post with the quote by Mr. Morecraft until after making mine -- I'm sure if you found it helpful, I will too.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
So, the Father made Christ the firstborn among many brethren to make Him preeminent, that is, first in priority (not in glory). But this still does not answer to WHY it was necessary for an all-sufficient God.
 
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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Thank you, Samuel. You are quite right about my husband's bookshelf :) but it is very thoughtful to quote that section for me; and it does help me understand better.

I feel that I don't have the full framework for these concepts but I think I understand about God necessarily willing Himself, and willing His own glory. Where I think the language of necessity might be unclear in the thread context is in relation to His glorifying of Himself with regard to created things? Again, I'm just flying blind here, not knowing very much; and it is quite possible I've misunderstood; and I don't feel that I know these concepts well enough to do more than highlight a possible complication in thought.

PS. I didn't see the post with the quote by Mr. Morecraft until after making mine -- I'm sure if you found it helpful, I will too.

Heidi, I'm sure you know many good things I'm totally unaware of, so don't shy from trying to help me. Don't worry, I won't believe your words, unless I'm convinced they are true. So, there is nothing to lose. =)
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
That's very kind Samuel. You know many good things I don't; and I always learn some of them in interacting with you.

It just seems that there is some sort of carryover in the 'necessity' in God's being a Trinity and this being an aspect of His absolute glory, to your reasoning about His works in creation. Hence, if the glory of His work does not add in some necessary way to the glory of His being, His action seems meaningless to you?

I can't help thinking that there is some sort of ambiguity in the concept of necessity in the way that is being carried over, but I don't know enough to put my finger on it or even to suggest any particular reading, so I am afraid this is not an instance where I can be of much help!
 
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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
That's very kind Samuel. You know many good things I don't; and I always learn some of them in interacting with you.

It just seems that there is some sort of carryover in the 'necessity' in God's being a Trinity and this being an aspect of His absolute glory, to your reasoning about His works in creation. Hence, if the glory of His work does not add in some necessary way to the glory of His being, His action seems meaningless to you?

I can't help thinking that there is some sort of ambiguity in the concept of necessity in the way that is being carried over, but I don't know enough to put my finger on it or even to suggest any particular reading, so I am afraid this is not an instance where I can be of much help!

There (bolded)! That is exactly how I think, except that I would not use the word "add", but rather "maintain". Heidi, I find it meaningless for God to do unnecessary things. Creation is secondary to God, it holds no value in and of itself. God gives meaning and value to things.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Samuel you remind me so much of a dear friend :).

I can't untangle precise theological issues so will leave that for others, but perhaps the flip side of your inability to see meaning because there is no 'necessity' to it, is to wonder at the 'most communicable' nature of the Most Good: the bountifulness with which God gives -- simply because He IS, good, fully self realised and needing nothing, having all to give.

I wonder if many of our struggles in loving God arise because of confusion about His 'necessary' glory. I hope someone will correct me if I am wrong, but surely it does not consist in and is not 'maintained' by our giving worship to Him. It is true that we can never, on a paradigm of His needing to act for His own sake, find a reason for His mercy to us -- trying to find one reduces God to our dependent: seeking to give Him that sort of glory is a terrible burden for the creature to bear. He is not seeking something in us. He is giving to us. Even the grace to worship Him is a gift by which He is giving us Himself. His glory simply abounds to this gift, and we get to be the recipients.

Seven vials hold Thy wrath: but what can hold
Thy mercy save Thine own Infinitude,
Boundlessly overflowing with all good,
All lovingkindness, all delights untold?
Thy Love, of each created love the mold;
Thyself, of all the empty plenitude;
Heard of at Ephrata, found in the Wood,
For ever One, the Same, and Manifold. . .
(Christina Rossetti)
 
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