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WHAT CONDESCENSION!
by Philip Owen

          What condescension! What mercy. What longsuffering. What patience. What lovingkindness. Sinners never come to God of their own volition, never make the first overture toward God, never initiate contact. God had created Adam, placed him in a perfect environment, given him everything his heart might desire, and, wonder of wonders, had deigned to walk and talk with Adam in that garden paradise. Adam had earned nothing and had merited nothing; his life and the world that he inherited were the product of God’s favor. That the infinite, eternal, holy God was pleased to communicate, and, yes, to fellowship with Adam, to share His thoughts face-to-face is unfathomable. But He did. Yet in an unbelievable moment and for an inconceivable reason, Adam disdained it all with one unspeakable act of rebellion, unrivaled in sin except for the enormity of the crucifixion of Christ.

           Did Adam seek out God after his sin in order to repent, to seek forgiveness, or to make amends? No, God sought out Adam who was hiding himself “from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8b). And although the scope of Adam’s sin was literally beyond human comprehension, and though God would have been just and justified in immediately casting Adam into hell, instead, He “made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). It is true that God chastened them severely, but it is equally true that He prolonged Adam’s life to nine hundred thirty years and graciously gave him sons and daughters, one of whom—Seth—began the line through whom the Christ would come to redeem men from sin and all the consequences that Adam had initiated.

           What condescension! Who would have chosen Samson to be a judge of Israel for God? Can you name one meritorious act, much less holy deed, performed by Samson? Even in those brief moments when he set aside his lust and sin to perform some “heroic” feat, his behavior was motivated by revenge, pride, and presumption. And never is it recorded that he either thanked or praised God for the mighty acts of deliverance that the Lord had enabled him to perform. Yes, God chastened him, severely. Nevertheless, it pleased God both to use and to bless this marred vessel and to memorialize him eternally among those who conquered through faith (see Heb. 11:32-34).

           What condescension! Has there ever been a greater saint or a more faithful and effective minister of God than the Apostle Paul? Who has been used to greater advantage than this man? So what were the stellar qualifications that commended him to God, first, for salvation, and second, for unique service? Two things come immediately to mind. First, from Paul’s direct testimony: “I persecuted this Way [i.e., of salvation through Christ] to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons . . . and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished” (Acts 22:4, 5). Next, the exchange between Paul and the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Paul: “Who are You, Lord?” The Lord Jesus: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4, 5).

           Can you imagine that the very one who with ferocious zeal sought the annihilation of Christians would be handpicked by the Lord Jesus, whom Paul was, in effect, persecuting, not only to redeem and to be the revelator of the gospel of the grace of God, but to be the exemplar to the church of that grace he had so undeservedly received?

           What condescension! Toward Adam? Samson? Paul? Yes. Yes. Yes. But also toward me. Am I more qualified for salvation and service than they? Of course not! And what about you, believer? Has the unfathomable wealth of God’s grace toward you ceased to amaze you? Does the grace upon grace you receive seem ordinary? Are you ever still, like Charles Wesley, “lost in wonder, love and praise”? What an infinite debt we owe to the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Eph. 5:2). What He has endured because of us even since we have been saved is immeasurable. May we respond with all thankfulness, praise, obedience, and love.

 

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