God… Too Big for Our Box

The past two weeks in Sunday School, we’ve been studying Romans 9… yes, that Romans 9… the chapter on God’s sovereign choice, which speaks to the doctrine of election. If it gives you any idea how much meat is there and how much discussion it’s drawn, we’ll be on our third week of discussion this Sunday.

So… what’s the big deal? Let’s let the Bible speak for itself.

Romans 9:18
18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Romans 9:22-24
22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath — prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory — 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

You see, these passages are pretty tough to swallow. They don’t provide very pleasant thoughts to most of us (especially if we’re not completely sold on reformed theology)… this idea that God is in complete control of our salvation. It just doesn’t seem to mesh well with other parts of Scripture, and especially many of our long-treasured beliefs about God:

John 3:16-18
16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

The idea of election, and especially the idea of God creating certain individuals for destruction, is really quite disturbing to believers who have been taught over and over that God is love, and especially in light of what that teaching generally leads us to think about God.

Now, I’m not going with this where you think I am… I really could care less about the debate over the doctrine of election. This simply provides a good example for my main point:

God doesn’t fit in our box.

He’s too big for us to define. He’s far more complex than we’re generally comfortable with. He’s given us Scriptures which can be quite confusing at times. He’s full of qualities that can seem to be in opposition. He allows things in our lives we just don’t get. Even His plan of salvation seems downright crazy when you look at it objectively.

God just doesn’t fit in our box.

I wonder if that’s the root problem of so much of our the turmoil in Christianity today… not just amongst Baptists, but Christians of all denominations.

Have we forgotten who God is (or simply been afraid to look and find out)? Are we too comfortable placing walls around God to make Him easy for us to swallow? Do we shun certain Biblical concepts because we just don’t like the way they taste? Are we so full of pride that we think we can keep God in our box? Do we fear the discomfort that the idea of a God we don’t fully understand forces us to try to keep Him there?

Is our God box what enables us to fight and argue with such self-righteousness?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I think they’re worth asking.

You see… when I’m forced to face tough Scripture passages like Romans 9… I always find that my ability to define Him and understand Him can’t create a big enough box. In a way, that’s quite discomforting, but in another… it’s all the comfort in the world.

God is bigger than anything you and I can imagine. He’s smarter than us, more loving than us, more just than us, more righteous than us, has wiser plans than us, is more determined than us… you name it.

God is God.

In light of that simple yet profound truth, I can only be humbled, fall to my face in worship… and toss aside my worthless box.


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John Written by:

Husband, Daddy, Christ-follower, sports fan... pressing on toward the goal for which God has called me heavenward in Christ. #ForeverRoyal!

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  1. September 6, 2006
    Reply

    John,

    Great insight! I agree that a big percent of our controversies are rooted in us wanting to “put God in a box” that conforms more to our cultural biases and presuppostions.

  2. September 6, 2006
    Reply

    Two things come to mind. One is that I heard a well-known and highly revered preacher deliver a sermon in our church, entitled “Five things God doesn’t know”.

    The points were that God didn’t know a better day to be saved than today, any other way to be saved besides Jesus, etc. Well .. if I tell someone about Jesus today, and he turns me down but gets saved tomorrow .. guess what … God knew a better day. But the main point is that how can a mortal human claim to know what God does and does not know.

    The second thought that hit me last week: where did Paul say the “sinner’s prayer”? Where does it say he was baptized.

    The point that hit me last week was that God tells us how we are to work in His fields, about His Kingdom work. In our pride and arrogance, we think that’s how HE has to work, then. And it sure isn’t.

  3. September 6, 2006
    Reply

    I can’t tell you how many times God has shattered the box I have Him in!

  4. September 14, 2006
    Reply

    I’m trying to make a box with no sides. I can manage a solid base, but without sides there’s no keeping the lid on Him either!

    And I’m in suspense waiting for the sequel. Where did your study group discussions go next?

  5. September 18, 2006
    Reply

    Judah,

    Sorry for the slow response…

    We came back to Romans 9, and wrapped up the study of that chapter pretty quickly with a review of the previous weeks and a couple new questions. I think most of us left our three-Sunday study of Romans 9 with a much greater appreciation of our complicated and confusing God, and a much greater realization of our own limitations in understanding Him.

    There are just SO many passages of Scripture that are hard to get your arms around. If we’re honest with ourselves, none of us are all that adept at really understanding who God is, how He works, and the like. I definitely wish that we could all learn to approach matters regarding God with the proper amount of humility… not just worship and prayer (I think humility comes more naturally in those activities), but especially discussions / debates with other believers about God. We are often so full of ourselves in such matters that we lose sight of honoring God in our attempts to help others understand the “right” view of God. If anything, God’s big enough to handle that by Himself.

    Anyway, I’m working on a post rooted in yesterday’s study of Romans 10. Hopefully I’ll have that up soon.

    God bless!

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