The Constitution of the Government of God
The full title of this chapter is “The Constitution of the
Government of God As It Was Before the
Entrance of Sin.” Such a study is an essential introduction to
understanding God’s government as it was after the entrance of rebellion.
While such an investigation is proceeding, continually keep in mind “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.” The
Great Controversy, 492
Every one of these
traditions and misinterpretations of God have been authored by Satan. This
explains why, when Christ came to the earth, the representation of God which
He gave was totally opposite from
that given by Satan, as it is written, “He presented to men that which was exactly contrary to the
representations of the enemy in regard to the character of God, . . .” Fundamentals
of Christian Education, 177.
Therefore, if we
find the truth on this question as that truth is written in the Holy
Scriptures, then we find that which is exactly
contrary to what is generally believed. This means we would enter into a
set of wholly revised and reversed concepts of God’s government and
character. At the same time, there would be the continual pressure of
traditionally held theories seeking to drag the mind back to the old ways
again—a pressure which must be consciously resisted in order to arrive at the
The whole structure
of God’s government is perfection. It cannot be improved and, to it, there is
not a single alternative. God’s way is not the best way—it is the only way.
While other ways have been proposed and have even existed for a time, they
cannot be counted as a way of life for they shortly die by their own
Essential in the
structure of divine government is the existence of law. The necessity is
there because of the provision of mighty powers without which life would be
impossible, but which have in them the potential for destruction. God’s law,
as we shall better learn, is a love gift from Him to His creatures, perfectly
designed to save them from destruction. That law is perfect as it is written.
“The law of the
Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple.
“The statutes of
the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes.
“The fear of the
Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and
“More to be desired
are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold:
sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
“Moreover by them is Thy servant warned:
and in keeping of them there is great reward.” Psalms 19:7-11.
“Wherefore thy law
is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Romans 7:12.
That perfect, holy,
just, and righteous law is the very foundation of God’s government. “In the
earthly temple the ark of the testimony took its name from the testimony—the
Ten Commandments—which was put within it. These commandments the Lord Himself
wrote with His own hand, and gave to Moses to deposit beneath the mercy-seat,
above which the presence of the glory of God dwelt, between the cherubim. It
is therefore evident that the ark of His testament in the heavenly temple
takes its title also from the fact that therein, beneath the mercy-seat and
the cherubim upon it, there is the original of the testimony of God—the Ten
Commandments—of which that on earth was a copy. And as this holy law—the Ten
Commandments—is but the expression in writing, a transcript, of the character
of Him Who sits upon the throne, therefore it is written:—
“’The Lord reigneth, let the people tremble,
upon [above] the cherubim, let the earth be moved.’
darkness are round about Him:
and judgment are the foundation of Thy throne:
judgment are the foundation of Thy throne:
Mercy and truth go before Thy face.’ Psalms
99:1: 97:2; 89:14. Revised Version.” Ecclesiastical Empires, 571, 572, by A.T. Jones.
The law of God being, as it is, the very
foundation of His throne, the nature of that law and the relationship of God
to it is a very important aspect of the study both of the character and
government of God. Consider then what the law is in its sublime perfection.
In that consideration we will find striking differences between the character
of the laws of men and those of God.
In the statement above, A.T. Jones declared
that the law of God is “the expression in writing, a transcript,” of the
character of God. This truth is not merely his belief. It is found in the
Word of God where it is written.—
“His law is a transcript of His own character, and it is the standard
of all character.” Christ’s Object
“The law of God is as sacred as God Himself. It is a revelation of His
will, a transcript of His character, the expression of divine love and
wisdom.” Patriarchs and Prophets,
“He has given in His holy law a transcript of His character.” Testimonies, 8:63.
Here is a truth wherein lies something of the greatest importance. A
transcription is the rewriting of the former in a new location. It does not
matter whether you read the former or the
latter, for the message will be the same. Therefore in reading the holy law
as the transcript of God’s character, the character of God itself is being
read. Inasmuch as God does what He does because of what He firstly is, then
the law being what God is, is the guide to His behavior. God will do nothing
which is not in His character. Therefore, He will do nothing that is contrary
to the law.
As surely as the understanding of the law will lead to a clearer
understanding of God’s character, so, in turn, the better His character is
understood, the greater will be the comprehension of the perfection of that
law. It is impossible to separate one from the other and still remain in the
Yet there is a most serious tendency to do this. It is so natural and
easy to think of the law as something that God decreed as being His wishes
for our deportment, but which has little or no bearing upon His own conduct.
We tend to think this way because of our familiarity with human law
makers. Professedly, in modern
democracies, the same laws made to control the behavior of the citizenry, are
to be obeyed by the rulers who make them. But ever more frequently of late
the cover has been lifted to reveal that this is not so in fact. It is seen
that the leaders are guilty of the worst kind of crimes—bribery, deceit,
theft, murders, and invasion of individual privacy. The only mistake with
them is not in doing it but in being found out. Yet even when they are, they
do not suffer the penalties imposed upon the man in the street for the same
The more absolute the ruler is, the more open and obvious is this
practice of making laws for the people which are not in any sense for the
This is not so in God’s government. His law is first of all His very
own character. As such, it is the revelation of the way in which He will act
under all circumstances. Then He simply calls upon us to behave as He does.
He is righteous in all His works. He calls upon us to be and do the same.
The same law is for God as for His
Therefore He says to us, “For I am the Lord your God: ye shall
therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy.”
“But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner
“Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15, 16.
The Revised Standard Version
renders this as follows: “But as He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is
written, ‘You shall be holy for I am
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your
Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.
“. . . Throughout the Sermon on the Mount He [Christ] describes its
fruits, and now in one sentence He points out its source and its nature: Be
perfect as God is perfect. The law is but a
transcript of the character of God, Behold in your heavenly Father a perfect
manifestation of the principles which are the foundation of His government.
“. . . He tells us to be perfect as He is, in the same manner. . . .
“Jesus said, Be perfect as your Father is perfect. If you are the
children of God you are partakers of His nature, and you cannot but be like
Him. Every child lives by the life of his father. If you are God’s children,
begotten by His Spirit, you live by the life of God. In Christ dwells ‘all
the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ (Colossians 2:9); and the life of Jesus
is made manifest ‘in our mortal flesh’ (2
Corinthians 4:11). That life in you will produce the same character and
manifest the same works as it did in Him. Thus you will be in harmony with
every precept of His law; for ‘the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the
soul.’ Psalm 19:7, margin. Through
love ‘the righteousness of the law’ will be ‘fulfilled in us, who walk not
after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ Romans
8:4” Thoughts From the Mount of
Blessing, 77, 78. Emphasis original.
Consider carefully the message of these words and their implications.
The law is the transcript of God’s character. He keeps that law not as
something to which He is bound, but because it is the natural expression of
what He is, and therefore it is not possible for Him to behave in any other
way. A character which gives expression to a holy law is a holy character.
God calls upon us to be holy as He is holy so that our behavior will be as His
behavior is. Therefore, we are to receive His life, which is His character,
which is the transcript of the law, so that the law is written on our hearts.
Then that will “produce the same character and manifest the same works as it
did in Him.” Thus there is to be no difference in essence or nature between
the character of the Sovereign Father of the universe and the creatures whom
He has created to fill that universe.
The only difference lies in the fact that the same love, mercy,
justice, goodness, power, tenderness, hatred of sin, and so on, which the
true people of God have to a certain degree, God has to infinitude. This is
in no sense of the word bringing God down to us but it is bringing us up to
Him. He is the Father. We are the children. As such He provides us with the
perfect example of how we are to live, asking of us nothing which He does not
firstly do Himself.
As we look as best we are able through the revealed word into the
eternity of the past we have no difficulty in seeing that never in all the
time before sin appeared, did God ever behave out of harmony with His sacred
law and character. It is inconceivable to think of God acting out of harmony
with some of the commandments at least, such as putting another god in His
own place, setting up graven images for Himself to worship and such like. The
areas where dispute in regard to God’s behavior does exist is in respect to
the commandments “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not steal, and Thou shalt
not bear false witness.”
During all the eternity of the past, we know that death never made its
appearance until sin entered and brought death with it. Therefore as
certainly, God never once raised His powerful arm to take the life even of
the minutest organism in His vast realm. Nor did He ever act deceitfully, or
retrieve by force, or steal back that which He had given to any one of His
It may be protested that there was no necessity for the Lord to
destroy the life of any creature during that time because none had rebelled
against Him to incur the penalty of death. It was for this reasons, it may be
argued, that the Lord never terminated life prior to the fall of angels and
then of men, but, when sin did enter, a situation arose different from any
which had ever existed, and this required the Lord to take decisive action to
cut the sedition short and preserve the entire universe from corruption.
After the fall, it is contended, the state of things, the absence of which
before the festering of rebellion excluded any necessity for capital
punishment, left God with no choice but to kill the insurgents.
Such an argument is not consistent with the truths laid down earlier
in this chapter. Aware as we are of the existence of these contentions about
the character of God and in anticipation of their appearing in the minds of
those especially who have long held to the traditional views of God’s
character, we laid out those clear evidences from the Inspired Word.
Those evidences are summed up in these words, “I am the Lord, I change
not,” “The same yesterday, today and forever,” “with Whom there is no
variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Link with those words the truth
that the law is the very expression of His character. So if the transcript of
that character say “Thou shalt not kill,” then how could we possibly conceive
of God taking life?
Certainly at this point there will run through the reader’s mind the
many statements, especially in the Old Testament, where it appears that God did come down and, by
the direct and personal exercise of His mighty power, destroy, sometimes with
great cruelty, many thousands of people. We are equally aware of these
references and later we will invite you to take another look at these
incidents. They will be dealt with after we have studied the constitution of
God’s character as it was before the admission of the great mutiny.
For now we wish to consider the nature of that character in the
original kingdom and some of the implications of what we learn.
The Scriptures make it forever plain that the Lord has never changed.
Therefore, He has done nothing this side of the fall that He did not do
before, or will do in the eternity of bliss to be reinstated in the near
Therefore, it is impossible to believe the Scriptural truth that God
changes not and, concurrently, hold the belief that He takes the lives of the
disobedient, unless there is a willingness to be an inconsistent thinker. To
recognize that God never destroyed before there was sin, and to accept the
idea that He does destroy after its
emergence, is to believe that He has changed. It is to admit that with Him,
of Whom it is written that there is no variableness nor shadow of turning,
there has been variation, a complete turning about. It is to believe that God
respected the law in one way before iniquity arose, and then in a different
and opposite way thereafter. It is to believe that when sin is finally ended,
He will return to the original pattern of behavior.
Just now the reader may feel disposed to
discontinue the pursuance of the arguments here because they are so contrary
to what he has formerly believed. We agree that they are contrary, for they
are Christ’s teachings and He came to present “to men that which was exactly contrary to the
representations of the enemy in regard to the character of god . . .” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 177.
If, in the days of Christ, men had retained a correct knowledge of
God’ character, then there would have been no need for the witness so
contrary to their understanding which Christ gave of His Father, and if, in
the intervening time, men had retained the picture of God as
given by Christ, there would have been no need for producing this volume as
an effort directed to turning the minds of all back to the divine pattern.
That which has so far been presented is only the barest beginning of
the evidences to be tendered. It is important that all the evidences be
considered before the conclusions herein are rejected.
Consideration must now be given to the way in which God keeps the law.
He does not do it by reining Himself up to a code of behavior which is
foreign to His nature. He obeys it as a natural outworking of that which He
Himself is. It is His pleasure to do righteousness and He has interest in no
other course of action.
This is the only kind of obedience God wishes to receive from His
creatures—that which springs from a personal conviction that His way is the
only way, and from a heart created in the image of God and as a transcript of
His holy law.
“Since the service of love can alone be acceptable to God, the
allegiance of His creatures must rest upon a conviction of His justice and
benevolence.” The Great Controversy,
law of love being the foundation of the government of God, the happiness of
all created beings depended upon their perfect accord with its great
principles of righteousness. God desires from all His creatures the service
of love,--homage that springs from an intelligent appreciation of His
character. He takes no pleasure in a forced allegiance, and to all He grants
freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service.” ibid., 493. Patriarchs and Prophets, 34.
God recognizes that if obedience to His law has to be compelled, then
He would have a form of government which was short of perfection. But He will
have nothing that is anything less than the ideal. He is determined
on this for He will be content with the
provision only of the ultimate in happiness and prosperity for all His
subjects. Therefore, in God’s kingdom, no force is ever employed to bring
about allegiance to Him or to put down rebellion. We can be certain of this
for it is plainly written that it is so.
“God could have destroyed Satan and his sympathizers as easily as one
can cast a pebble to the earth; but He did not do this. Rebellion was not to
be overcome by force. Compelling power
is found only under Satan’s government. The Lord’s principles are not of this
order. His authority rests upon goodness, mercy, and love; and the
presentation of these principles is the means to be used. God’s government is
moral, and truth and love are to be the prevailing power.” The Desire of Ages, 759.
“The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s
government; He desires only the service of love and love cannot be commanded;
it cannot be won by force or authority.” ibid.,
“Earthly kingdoms rule by the ascendancy of physical power; but from
Christ’s kingdom every carnal weapon, every instrument of coercion, is
banished.” The Acts of the Apostles,
“In the work of
redemption there is no compulsion. No external force is employed. Under the
influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will
serve. In the change that takes place when the soul surrenders to Christ,
there is the highest sense of freedom.”
The Desire of Ages, 466.
“God does not
employ compulsory measures; love is the agent which He uses to expel sin from
the heart.” The Mount of Blessing,
The message of
these statements is very clear. They tell us that “Compelling power is found only under Satan’s government.” If compelling power or force is exclusive
to Satan and his government than it is never found under God’s government. It
is foreign to Him. “The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of
God’s government.” If there is one thing of which there is absolute
certainly, it is that God does nothing
that is contrary to His principles. Men do over and [over] again, but God
never. Therefore, it needs to be fixed in mind that because the exercise of
force is contrary to the principles of God and His government, under no
circumstances will He use force to solve any problem.
Certainly He never
did in the eternity of the past before sin entered for clearly no situation
arose to necessitate it. Perfect harmony pervaded the entire universe and not
one being stepped out of line until the betrayal of God by Lucifer.
Since the fall, men
and devils have continually exercised force in their efforts to solve their
problems for this is the way of Satan and men. They are fully convinced that
the circumstances in which they are placed make it impossible not to use
force both for survival and for achieving their ambitions.
The words as quoted
above are God’s positive assurances to us that He never resorts to the use of
compelling power. What God says, is the truth,
and His every action is consistent with that truth for, unlike
sinful men and devils, He does not say one thing, and then do another.
Therefore, confidence should fill every child of God, that the use of force
is never to be found with God. God affirms it is so. Accordingly, let us
simply and implicitly believe it to be so.
It is a principle
of faith that belief in God’s words must be maintained in the face of
evidences which declare the contrary is true. Thus in the Old Testament,
God’s actions seem to say that He
did use compelling power to achieve His righteous ends, that He did resort to
force to put down rebellion, and that He did make an example of some by
crushing them with terrible punishments that were often fatal.
The choice of
belief between the declarations of God and the appearances of what God did in the human arena, is before every
person. The greater proportion choose to believe what they think they see rather than what God has said.
Therefore, the almost universal belief is that God does use force, that He
exterminates whole nations who have utterly rejected Him, and that He relies
on compelling power to put down rebellion.
But the true child
of God will believe what God said despite any evidences which at least appear to be contrary. God said that
He does not use force or compelling power, so he believes that, even though
he cannot rightly understand what God really did in those Old Testament
incidents. He will simply admit to the challenger of his faith that he does
not yet understand just what God did, nor does he have to necessarily. In the
meantime, he will assure the doubting questioner that he has the plain
utterances of the Word of God, so that he can be assured that, even though he
cannot explain it in detail, God does not do what He appears to do. This is the way faith works. It is based on the
Word of God, not on appearances. In
due time such a faithful one will discover, under God’s wise tutelage, just
what God actually did in each varied incident. When he does, he will find
that God did not once act contrary to His principles, but only in perfect harmony
Thus each person
today falls into one or the other of two categories. Either he is a believer
in the Word of God or he builds his belief on the witness of sight and
circumstances. It is simple to know which you are. If you believe God’s
declaration that compelling power is found only under Satan’s government,
that He never turns to the use of force, and never crushes to destruction
those who do not serve Him, then you are a child of faith.
Otherwise, if you
believe that God did find it necessary to use force to destroy His opponents,
then you are an unbeliever, because you have allowed the witness of
appearances to take precedence over the witness of God’s Word.
the witness of sight and circumstances is very powerful. When the Old
Testament stories re read wherein it is reported that
God rained fire and brimstone on the Sodomites; that He poured
forth the waters of the flood until they were all drowned; and so on, it is easy
and natural to believe that God was personally resorting to the weapons of
But that pure
faith, the faith of Jesus, which clings unswervingly to the spoken word of
God, recognizes that if this is so, then God is truly inconsistent. He has spoken
one thing but does another. This is the charge which Satan laid against God
in heaven and which the great controversy is designed to remove. If the Lord
was to act contrary to His stated principles, then He would quickly and
effectively give Satan the very evidences he needed to prove the point he had
sought to make up in heaven. It would have been much better for the Lord to
have admitted inconsistency to Satan in the first case than to blatantly
continue it where it could be openly seen by all. But, the very nature of the
great controversy and the issues involved in that, demand that if the Lord is
to triumph, He must be utterly consistent with Himself. He cannot say one
thing and then do another. To do so, even for a single instance, would be to lose
everything and give the victory to Satan and his angels.
It has been the
false interpretations of God’s behavior in the sin problem, imposed on men’s
minds by Satan, which have made it appear that the Lord has been
inconsistent. In verity, there has been no inconsistency whatsoever. God has
been impeccably faithful to His word. What is more, when God’s actions are
correctly evaluated, it will be confirmed that His ways are so perfect and
infallible that He experiences no need to turn to the use of force. There has
been an aptness to conclude that there is only one possible interpretation of
the Old Testament incidents. What is needed is a second and more educated
investigation into those happenings. This research, conducted along the lines
of correct principles of Scriptural interpretation, will bring the student to
conclusions which will dismiss ideas formed on the basis of what it seemed God did. It will be found that
there are vital differences between what the Lord appeared to have done and
what He really did. This will be undertaken later when time is given to
studying the manifestation of God’s character in His dealing with the sin
problem. For the present the study of His government as it was constituted
before sin appeared, must be continued.
We now need to consider a most important
aspect of God’s relationship to His subjects. It is a matter closely linked
to, and consistent with, the fact that any use of force is contrary to the
principles of God’s government and to the purpose and nature of God’s law.
Only as all three of these are studied together will it be possible to
understand any one of them.
This vital aspect
is the one of freedom, one of the most precious gifts ever given by God to
His subjects. A little thought will show that as surely as God has no
intention of using compelling power to enforce the observance of His law,
then as certainly has He set His creatures absolutely free to serve
Him or not to serve Him. The two are consistent with and
inseparable from each other. As soon as all compelling power is removed from
a person, then so soon is that person given complete freedom to choose not to
serve if that is his wish and desire.
“God never compels
the obedience of man. He leaves all free to choose whom they will serve.” Prophets and Kings, 511.
“They [the angels]
told Adam and Eve that God would not compel them to obey—that He had not
removed from them the power to go contrary to His will; that they were moral
agents, free to obey or disobey.” The
Story of Redemption, 30.
“Our first parents,
though created innocent and holy, were not placed beyond the possibility of
wrongdoing. God made them free moral agents, capable of appreciating the
wisdom and benevolence of His character and the justice of His requirements,
and with full liberty to yield or
to withhold obedience.” Patriarchs and
“The law of love being the foundation of the government of God, the happiness
of all created beings depended upon their perfect accord with its great
principles of righteousness. God desires from all His creatures the service
of love,—homage that springs from an intelligent appreciation of His
character. He takes no pleasure in a forced allegiance, and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render
Him voluntary service.” The Great
Controversy, 493, [and] Patriarchs
and Prophets, 34.
This is not to be
understood as stating that the Lord gave His creatures freedom to sin with impunity. There is a doctrine
abroad which paints God as being so sweetly loving, that He will excuse and
protect all sin and sinners rather than see anyone perish. That doctrine is
not to be confused with the positions taken here. The sinner will die. The
heavens and earth will be destroyed and the entire universe will be rendered
clean from the stain of sin. But it will not be God Who wields the scourge of
destruction to effect this. Rather, He will firstly have warned every created
being of the terrible consequences attendant on choosing to take the path of
disobedience. Then, when they do, He will expend every effort to save them
from it, and only when they reject His saving effort, will He finally leave
them to perish.
relationship between rendering to God a service of love based upon an
intelligent conviction of God’s justice and goodness and the granting to each
of perfect and complete freedom to obey or to disobey as the individual
himself shall choose. This connection is made particularly in the last
statement quoted. Interestingly, the exercise of that freedom in the wrong
direction immediately deprives a person of liberty, for sin is a cruel
taskmaster which forces its subjects into service. It is not God Who deprives
of this freedom. This is the work of sin and Satan.
But on the positive
side, only where there is complete freedom of choice is it possible for an
intelligent service of love to be rendered. Just so soon as any element of
compulsion such as the threat of punishment, is in-
troduced, then to that extent will there be a service
motivated by fear. God’s subjects would then obey Him because they were
afraid not to.
This, God can never
accept. He knows that such a kingdom cannot be blessed with flawless
happiness and fullness of joy. In His kingdom each and every subject is so
intelligent on the perfection of God’s ways that his admiration and love for
his Sovereign spring spontaneously, naturally, and joyously in devoted
allegiance. Thus in the kingdom of God, perfectly and fully established,
there is no question of the service rendered being real or feigned. It can
only be genuine. Thus God will have in eternity’s coming perfection, what
every earthly monarch through all time has craved—the total and loving
loyalty of every one of His people. Such indeed would be a blessed kingdom in
which perfect love and confidence would forever reign. Any ruler who had
this, could and would walk among his people without fear. Of him it could not
be said, “Uneasy lies the head which wears the crown.”
No kingdom has ever
been like this, though some have approached it. Earthly kingdoms always tend
to servitude in one form or another and seek to hold the loyalty of their
citizens with the threat of punishment for disobedience. No crime is
considered worse than treason—disloyalty to the state.
But Jesus came to
deliver men from all this, testifying of this mission in these words, “And ye
shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” “If the Son
therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:32, 36.
Jesus Christ does not come to transfer the
sinner from one form of bondage to another. God’s object in Christ is to
restore the kingdom to its original perfection, the perfection of complete
freedom to serve God. Accordingly, Jesus said that those whom the Son set
free would be free indeed. Here Christ envisaged a total freedom for His
children. That is the nature of God’s kingdom, the revelation of His purpose
of beneficence and love toward every creature.
A.T. Jones in Ecclesiastical
Empires, 586-588, has set forth these principles with the greatest force
“It may be further
asked: Could not God have prevented it all, by making Lucifer and all others
so that they could not sin? It is right and perfectly safe to answer, He
could not! To have made creatures so that they could not sin, would have been
really to make them so that they could not choose. To have no power of choice
is not only to be not free to think, but to be unable to think. It is to be
not intelligent, but only a mere machine. Such could not possibly be of any
use to themselves or their kind, nor be of any honor, praise, or glory to Him
who made them.
“Freedom of choice
is essential to intelligence. Freedom of thought is essential to freedom of
choice. God has made angels and men intelligent. He has made them free to
choose, and has left them perfectly free to choose. He made them free to
think as they choose. God is the author of
intelligence, of freedom of choice, and of freedom of thought.
And He will forever respect that of which He is the author. He will never
invade to a hair’s breadth the freedom of angel or man to choose for himself,
nor to think as he chooses. And God is infinitely more honored in making
intelligences free to choose such a course, and to think in such a way as to
make themselves devils, than He could possibly be in making them so that they
could not think nor choose, so that they would be not intelligent, but mere
“It may be yet
further queried: As God made angels and men free to sin if they should
choose, did He not then have to provide against this possible choice before
they were made—did He not have to provide for the possibility of sin, before
ever a single creature was made?—Assuredly He had to make such provision. And
He did so. And this provision is an essential part of that eternal purpose
which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, which we are now studying.
“Let us go back to
the time when there was no created thing; back to the eternal counsels of the
Father and the Son. The existence of God is not a self-satisfied existence.
His love is not self-love. His joy is not fulfilled in wrapping Himself
within Himself, and sitting solitary and self-centered. His love is satisfied
only in flowing out to those who will receive and enjoy it to the full. His
joy is fulfilled only in carrying to an infinite universe full of blessed
intelligences, the very fullness of eternal joy.
“Standing then, in
thought, with Him before there was a single intelligent creature created, He
desires that the universe shall be full of joyful intelligences enjoying His
love to the full. In order to do this they must be free to choose not to
serve Him, to choose not to enjoy His love. They must be free to choose Him
or themselves, life or death. And those who the second time would choose
death, let them have what they have chosen. And those who would choose
life,--the universe full of them,—let them enjoy to the full that which they
have chosen,—even eternal life, the fullness of perfect love, and the clear
delights of unalloyed joy forever.
“This is God, the
living God, the God of love, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
is fully able to do whatsoever He will, and yet ‘worketh ALL THINGS AFTER THE
COUNSEL OF His own will.’ Ephesians
1:11. And this is the mystery of His will, . . . which He hath purposed in
Himself; that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather
together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are
on earth; even in Him.’ Ephesians 1:9,
10. This is ‘the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
“The choice of self
is sin, bondage, and death. The choice of Christ is righteousness, freedom,
and life eternal in the realm and purpose of the eternal God.”
contemplation be given to the thoughts expressed in this statement and the
“Freedom of choice
is essential to intelligence.” The proving ground of history provides
evidence enough of the truth of this. It is the work of the gospel to set men
free, and never was the gospel more gloriously and effectively preached than
in the days of Pentecost and thereafter until the decline in the Christian
Church. As the liberating influence of the truth was robbed of its power, the
world was carried down into the Dark Ages. Freedom of choice was unknown, as
the papal hierarchy ruled the world with an absolute despotism. Such a state
of ignorance and corruption developed that the period was given the
designation of the Dark Ages.
There can be no
fair argument to the effect that that condition of things was due to
something other than the deprivation of the freedom of the world. Against any
such argument can be marshalled evidence upon evidence to show that wherever
men are despoiled of their liberties they sink into a state of ignorance and
darkness. Conversely, wherever the living gospel of Jesus Christ sets men
free, there is the greatest advance in knowledge and intellectual
development. It was the gospel preached in the Reformation which set men
free, there is the greatest advance in knowledge and intellectual
development. That work had far greater impact in some areas than in others.
There were those cities and countries where the dominant influence was
Protestant while other remained bastions of the papacy. Those areas today
where the Reformation influence was the strongest are the places where the
greatest advances have been made in every form of intellectual development.
In fact, the great wave of increased knowledge came directly upon the heels
of the Reformation. A.T. Jones is wholly correct in his assertion that
freedom of choice is essential to intelligence.
God could never be
honored or blessed by filling His kingdom with unintelligent creatures. His
is a kingdom of light—not darkness. Therefore He made angels and men
intelligent. He filled them with light and, in order to give that light the
fullest scope for increase, He gave them as He had to do to achieve this,
freedom of choice.
Therefore, “God is the author of intelligence, of freedom of choice,
and of freedom of thought.” These are God’s gifts to His creatures which are
inseparably and eternally associated with His dominion. They cannot be taken
away from Him and His creatures without changing the whole nature of His
character, government, and law. This God will not do, for it would make
perfection imperfect, and would limit to destruction the happiness and
contentment of His creatures.
Therefore, “He will ever respect that of which He is the author. He
will never invade to a hair’s breadth the freedom of angel or man to choose
for himself, nor to think as he chooses.”
This is eternally true of God. He has given that freedom and never so
much as by a hair’s breadth will He ever violate the right of any of His
creatures to choose the course they will pursue. This is the only way God
would, and will, have it, and it is the only way which any enlightened child
of God would have it too. Anything short of, or other than, this is less than
perfection and therefore less than total happiness.
This granting of freedom because it was essential to fullness of
development and happiness, possesses in itself terrible danger. It is the danger
that, despite the overwhelming evidences that God’s way was free from the
slightest stain of imperfection and had provided all with unspeakable joy and
fulfillment, some, or even all, of His subjects would choose to go to their
own way, making themselves into demons of horror and destruction. But, even
though God thoroughly understood the possibilities of there being a period
when some or even all of His creatures would undertake a terrible
experimentation with a supposed way of life other than His, He would not and
did not, institute any safeguards involving the element of force. He would
have nothing less for them than perfection wherein lay the unlimited
possibilities of infinite development. That could not be if there was not the
total freedom to serve God or to serve themselves as they themselves should
What are the implications of these points in the heavenly
constitution? To what extent did this determine how God would react to any of
His subjects turning away from Him and choosing another way?
Put these two principles together again—the principle of no coercive
force being used and the principle of granting absolute freedom to choose. As
surely as these two things are combined in the constitution of God’s kingdom,
then just so surely does God place Himself where He cannot punish those who do what He said they could do, namely,
choose another master if they wished.
This is a most difficult principle for man to understand because it is
so foreign to his way of thinking. In human government there exists only
lawmakers who firstly frame the legislation, then draft punishments for those
who do not obey, and finally appoint enforcement machinery to administer the
sentence. This is all that is known to human experience in the
framework of human justice. Because it is so
hard to divorce the mind from this concept, it is difficult to conceive of
God placing Himself where He cannot personally visit penalties upon the head
of the evildoer.
rulers do not grant to anyone, freedom of choice. Their mandate is “Obey, or
suffer at our hands.” Those who make the law are the ones who punish the
lawbreaker, but it is not so in God’s kingdom. He has spelled out the law as
the expression of His own character, but it is sin and death which enslave
If it is possible for the dismissal of the human concept from the mind
so that the steps taken by God in putting together His empire can be viewed
dispassionately and objectively, it will be seen that to totally reject the
use of force, and at the same time grant to all freedom of will, is to set up
a situation wherein it would not be possible to administer punishment and
death in order to correct the problem. It does not matter how it may appear
that during the Old Testament period, for example, the Lord did administer
punishments as earthly rulers do, the fact remains that a government
constituted on lines of total rejection of the use of force as a solution,
while at the same time giving freedom of choice to the subjects, simply cannot punish those who do choose
to go another way. God gave them
the right to make that choice and He
cannot punish them for making the decision He Himself gave them the liberty
All that He can do,
prior to their making the wrong choice, is to work to save them from making
it by revealing the certain results of choosing the other course. It is the
same work as done by the mother who solemnly warns her child of the
consequences of painful burns which will certainly follow if the child
touches a hot stove.
When His subjects
had entered into a course of sin, God did all He could to save them even
then, if they would choose to be saved. He even went so far as to give His own life in the Person of His Son, so
that men might have a second opportunity to choose life instead of death.
Man’s first choice was made from the side of righteousness and freedom which
he left for bondage and death. His second choice is made from the opposite
side from where he decides either to remain in bondage and under sentence of
death, or to come back to the side of purity and eternal life. But the choice
is just as free in the second stage as it was in the first. The one
difference is that in making the second choice, man knows by experience the
hurt of sin and so has first-hand evidence of the truth of God’s Word.
If for the second
time men choose to go the way without God, then He has no recourse but to
leave them to that which they have chosen. Note, again the way this truth is
expressed in the words of A.T. Jones. “He made all intelligences free to
choose, and to think as they choose; and therefore free to sin if they
choose. And at the same time, in His infinite love and eternal righteousness, He purposed to give Himself a sacrifice
to redeem all who should sin; and give them even a second freedom to choose Him or
themselves, to choose life or death. And those who the second
time would choose death, let them have what they have chosen. And those who
would choose life,—the universe full of them,—let them enjoy to the full that
which they have chosen,—even eternal life, the fullness of perfect love, and
the clear delights of unalloyed joy forever.” Ecclesiastical Empires, 588. Emphasis original.
does not stand toward the sinner as the executioner of the sentence against
transgression; but He leaves the rejecters of His mercy to themselves, to
reap that which they have sown.” The
Great Controversy, 36.
arose, the sincerity of God’s gift of freedom to every creature remained
untested. In those days when no one chose anything but faithful service to
Him, it was a simple matter for God’s methods to work. No one even thought
about the possible implications to the system.
It was when those
powerful beings stood up under Lucifer’s leadership, determined to set up a
rival dominion, that the first challenge to God’s promise was raised. Satan
and his followers have pressed that challenge to the utmost limits, exploring,
probing and searching for some weakness whereby they might gain a foothold
and topple the divine organization. God had declared that His way were
perfection, not simply for the sunny, prosperous days, but for any possible
circumstances from the best to the worst. Under this searching inquisition,
this endless pressure, would those principles stand or would they prove to be
faulty? That was the question to be decided in the great controversy. Would
it be found that God had to make modifications and concessions, that He would
after all be forced to acknowledge that He had gone too far in granting such
complete freedom, and that He would have to withdraw it in order to rain
punishments on the wrongdoer?
The darkness in
which Satan has made God’s actions appear, contends that God and His ways did
not survive the test, that He had to resort to force to punish those who
exercised the freedom He gave them not to serve Him, and that He was not able
to tolerate the exercise of the freedom of choice which enabled angels and
men to establish a competing kingdom. The devil asserts that he has already
won the debate, which claim would be entirely true, if God had done what
Satan charges Him with doing.
All too readily,
men in general have subscribed to Satan’s lies. This gives support to his
cause. The time has come when a revised understanding of God’s actions is
Such will be
offered as this study progresses, but firstly consideration must be given to
another factor—the workings of the law of God. As already stated, the
rejection of force, the granting of perfect freedom of choice to all, and the
nature and purpose of God’s law are three things so closely related that they
must be studied in conjunction with each other for any or all of them to be adequately
understood. Study has been given to the former two, so we must now consider
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