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MYSTERY AND MARVEL
by Philip Owen

            If you will permit a fool to expound beyond his understanding, then, please, read on.  For today we touch on a mystery and a marvel, or a marvel and a mystery—you be the judge.  Both have to do with God’s knowledge, and immediately we know we are in deep water because who can fathom that?  I lack both the scholarship and the space to delve into the subject of Greek verbs except to note that numerous Greek linguists point out a very significant meaning of one group of verbs, which includes ginosko (“to know”) and proginosko (“to foreknow”).  What distinguishes this from other verbs translated as know is that these verbs do not focus on an intellectual knowledge but on an experiential one, particularly a knowledge involving a close personal relationship.  Given that understanding of those verbs, let’s note something Christ did not know followed by something God did know.

            Christ did not know sin.  Paul expresses the mystery-marvel this way:  “He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God” (II Cor. 5:21).  Clearly, as the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ had a perfect intellectual understanding of sin.  He knew every sin—its source, its scope, its heinousness, and the horror of its end.  What He did not have was a personal, intimate relationship with it.  We humans are born with a depraved nature; we come into this world at enmity with God.  We are dogged by attractive temptations; plagued by wicked thoughts, desires, and emotions; and dominated by a twisted, fallen will.  At every turn we are opposed by a sick world, a seductive Satan, and our own sinful flesh.  Sin is the most intimate reality of our fallen nature, inseparable from us because it is us.  Our perfect Savior and God, on the other hand, was altogether holy.  Sin had no place in any part of His being.  He did not sin; He could not sin; and so far from having any intimate acquaintanceship with it, He was separated from it an infinite distance.  To say that sin was more repugnant to Him than being thrown into a cesspool would be to us does not begin to describe the contrast.

            God did know the elect.  To quote Paul again, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).  God has always known the elect.  It did not at some point dawn on Him that this or that person would be saved.  Furthermore, the concept of God’s foreknowledge has nothing to do with an intellectual recognition that such and such persons would exercise faith and thus be saved.  What Paul states in this verse is that even before creation, from all eternity, in fact, God had established a personal relationship with those whom He who would be redeeming.  Though we have known Him but a short time since our salvation, He ever knew us, drawing us with the bands of a man and the cords of love.  We know Him—have come into a personal, redemptive relationship with Him—because He has from eternity had us, those who are saved, in His heart and mind as His.

            Our first verse explains the significance of these two mystery-marvels.  The very thing with which Christ had no personal acquaintance, namely sin, He became intimately acquainted with; in fact, the connection was so personal, intimate, and thorough that Paul explains it as God having “made” Christ “to be sin.”  Whatever sin is in its full scope and consequence, Christ became.  Why?  “So that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”   Because God had determined from eternity to bring many sinful sons to glory, He “was pleased to crush” (Isa. 53:10) His Son in order that we might cease knowing sin and come to know Him who loved us and gave Himself for us in a personal and intimate way.   

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