They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are your works, Jehovah God, the Almighty! Righteous and true are your ways, you King of the nations. — Revelation 15:3 — RLIV
(1) JEHOVAH’S wisdom, love and justice decide on what is best, and that decision is His will or law. But, strictly speaking, only so much of God’s will as He expresses to His creatures is law to them. Hence, while His laws never conflict, they may be more or less fully and differently expressed on one occasion than on another. Thus, while the law was given to Adam not to eat of a forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:16,17), we are not under any such law. And to Noah a command was given to build an ark (Genesis 6:14-7:1), we today are not given such a command.
(2) All of God’s intelligent creatures are under instruction, being taught those laws which his infinite love, wisdom and justice have enacted for the well-being of all. Though created perfect, each in his plane of being, yet they all lack that scope of knowledge and wisdom which belongs in full measure to the divine nature only. They all lack experience; hence, in giving them instruction in the wisdom and propriety of his laws, it has pleased Jehovah to make an illustration which would manifest and practically exemplify his own nature and demonstrate to his creatures the wisdom and righteousness of his laws.
(3) It is evident that the spirit of his law is not to take advantage of some transgressive slip, occasioned by lack of experience on the part of his creatures, but that he intends it to apply to the thoughts and intents of the hearts. That this is the real intent of God, we shall see illustrated by his dealings with those who have from lack of knowledge become sinners.
(4) His law in full, as we now see it in the light of his Word, is, “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37,38) Jesus stated: “The whole law and the prophets hangs on these two commandments.” God had given to Israel a covenant, often called the “Law Covenant”, and the penalty attached to the slightest deviation from that law is, “The soul who sins, he will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4) As applied in the final judgment, this principle would mean that no being will be permitted to continue to live, who, when fully informed of God’s righteous will, and enabled to obey it, refuses to conform to Jehovah’s will. All such will be cut off from life. Nevertheless, the same prinicple of law existed before God made his covenant with the children of Israel, for Adam was to either prove or fail to prove his love for his Creator by his obedience or disobedience.
(5) To fully exemplify this law, God caused man to be used as an illustration before this extreme penalty was placed upon the angels. So man was placed under the extreme penalty of his law — death. God knew that through inexperience man would violate that law and come under its penalty; but he purposed to make an illustration to all his creatures of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and its sure consequences, while at the same time his love and wisdom so marked out the plan, that mankind, the illustration, might not suffer loss, but be blessed by the lesson as learned. — Romans 7:13; Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 29:18,19; Jeremiah 16:61-63.
(6) Nor should we forget that God’s dealing with man was perfectly just. He had a right to demand perfect obedience from a perfect creature; and the fact that he at first did not inflict death upon the angels was a favor toward them; even as toward man he has displayed his favor also, though in a different manner — through a ransom, and Savior, and restitution, and future trial for life, more favorable than the first, because of the knowledge of sin and its effects, meanwhile acquired by experience. (See our publication: Mankind’s Course to the Day of Judgment) This was a masterly stroke of wise economy on God’s part; for had the death penalty been pronounced on the angels who sinned, a redeemer of their own kind would have been necessary for their recovery; and not only one, but many — one redeemer for each transgressor; for they were legion and were individually on trial; and the requirement of God’s law is, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life.
(7) Let us briefly view the exhibition of God’s character as displayed in his dealing toward mankind whom he made a spectacle to angels. (1 Corinthians 4:9) In so doing, let us guard against the common error which would judge God’s actions exactly as our own. Let us remember that justice, love, wisdom and power, as commonly displayed by the fallen race, in dealing with each other, and by human parents with their children, are far from perfect. In our first parents those qualities were perfect: they were in the image of Jehovah; but in our experience, in consequence of the fall, these qualities are constantly at war with each other. Sometimes love has a victory over justice, and sometimes justice has a victory over love.
(8) But with Jehovah there can be no conflict; and neither ever gains a victory or ascendancy over the other. Both are perfect, and work only in perfect harmony.
(9) Before man was created, the Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power of God held conference on the subject, and devised the plan which has since then been developing. The plan was suggested by Wisdom and concurred in by the other attributes; the arrangement and execution of it being left in Wisdom’s hands.
(10) Wisdom designed to have the largest returns from the experience of man, and the most valuable illustration of God’s character to all his creatures, on every plane of being. Accordingly Wisdom said, Let the man come under the control of Justice, Love and Power, separately, that the force and operation of each may be the more forcibly illustrated. Let Justice first have complete control, let men be dealt with by the strict law, “You must not” –. “In the day that you eat…dying you will die.” And it was so.
(11) Man, inexperienced and unused to self-control and liberty, violated the law, and experienced the full weight of Justice, as Wisdom had foreseen and prepared for.
(12) The lesson under Justice has been long and severe, but the lesson must be thorough, so that it shall never need repeating. Men and angels must learn that Justice is relentless, irrevocable and unalterable. Then, too, before it could be realized that the remedy for man lay only in Jehovah and nowhere else, an opportunity was offered for the trial of other methods for man’s recovery. First, the angels were given rulership (during the age before the flood), and made a miserable failure; for, while man became more and more corrupt himself, his evil influence led to the fall of some of those who attempted his assistance — “those angels who did not keep their first estate.” — Jude 6
(13) With the deluge that order of affairs passed away. Then, under the Law Covenant, given to one selected nation, another and different opportunity was presented, to prove to man that even if God should cancel all enmity, or resentment, and receive the world into covenant relations, they would require a Restorer, so that they could continue in harmony with God, even after being forgiven. Hence sacrifices and offerings for sin were instituted, and God treated that nation as though original sin and guilt had been removed, and then placed them under laws to prove to them, to us and to all, their inability (as degenerate creatures) to keep his law without a restitution to perfection — to his likeness. — See How God’s Son Condemned Sin in the Flesh.
(14) Meanwhile Love stood ready to manifest itself at the moment Wisdom should give the word. Love would have done so at once, but for two reasons: First, it could not oppose or interfere with the action of Justice in condemning man and delivering him over for the execution of the prescribed penalty. Second: though Love might have acknowledged Justice and approved its action by promptly providing a ransom (an equivalent price), Wisdom objected and did not permit this course at that time, because it saw best to make the lesson complete and thorough.
(15) Hence for over four thousand years Love was not permitted to manifest itself, and might only speak in shadowy sacrifices and ceremonies, and more or less obscure promises. But, finally, when the right time had come, “in due time,” “in the fulness of time,” Wisdom gave the word, and Love began to manifest itself for man’s relief. The first act was to produce a perfect and sinless man to be a suitable “ransom for all:” one not under the Adamic curse — who would lay down his life for the race, and whose sacrifice would meet all the requirements of Justice, and therefore be acceptable as a ransom and propitiation for man’s sins. And Love’s great exhibition was seen in the gift of the grandest and greatest and first of all God’s creation, who stooped and became man, to redeem men: and “they called his name Jesus.”
(16) “Ah!” says one who judges by his own feelings, “Now comes Love’s victory over Justice. We shall see that God is more loving than severe.” But not so; God is not more loving than severely just: he is perfect in both respects. It will be indeed a victory for Love, but not over Justice. It will be much grander than that. It will prove a victory for both Justice and Love; for it will be gained by Love’s paying the price demanded by Justice–a ransom, “an equivalent price.” — 1 Timothy 2:4-6.
(17) Thus did love of God magnify the justice and law of God, and ‘make it honorable,’ by acknowledging its claims in the payment of the very penalty demanded — man’s death.
(18) We need scarcely say, that the love of God so long veiled from sight, was manifested in the gift of his Son to be our Redeemer and Savior. The record is: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [satisfaction or appeasement] for our sins.” “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” — 1 John 4:9,10
(19) When Love had ransomed man, and was ready to reveal itself by restoring the willing and obedient of mankind to perfection and harmony with God, Wisdom postponed this on the ground that a further development of the plan would ultimately enhance Love’s glory, and perfect the work: that an interlude (the Gospel age) must occur in which should be selected some from among the redeemed, some sharers in Christ’s sufferings and reproach, who should be counted worthy to share his glory and to be his associates in the execution of Love’s triumph in “the restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets.” — Acts 3:21.
(20) Long and faithfully has Love labored; yet all her labor will yet be lost, unless in due time Wisdom shall commission Power to do its special part in the great plan.
(21) Power thus far has stood in the background, doing nothing directly in man’s relief, save in the resurrection of our Lord, and in the miracles which shadowed forth its coming work.
(22) Now, we are living in the era when Power begins to act, not in opposition to Justice, but in harmony with Wisdom, Justice and Love. Oh, blessed day! The Lamb that was slain and who redeemed us by his blood is now invested with Power to bless all whom he bought; and he is now about taking unto himself his great power, and shall reign until he has subdued all enemies. — Revelation 20:6; 1 Corinthians 15:25.
(23) Thus, God has chosen the plan which most fully and grandly exemplifies his unalterable justice, and exhibits the exceeding riches of his grace — his love; and in the restoration of man (“all who come to the Father by him”) from destruction, from death, to perfection and life, will God’s power be illustrated far more forcibly than even in man’s creation. And as men and angels come to recognize the full fruition of God’s plan in the ages to come, will they not with one consent exclaim with our brother and Apostle Paul, as he caught a glimpse of it: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who has known the mind [plan] of Jehovah? or who has been his counselor? … Because out of him, and through him, and for him are all [these] things. To him be the glory for ever.” — Romans 11:33-36.
— Based on article from Reprints page 1680 (R1680)
Updated 9/26/2010; 3/17/2014