Space for Grace

Feb 21, 2023 | Articles, by Luke Walker, Marrow Ministries Free Content

Upon first glance, it is obvious to every logical creature not only that God exists, but that He rules over existence. The skies and seas, animals and ants, peoples and plants all declare the glorious reign of their Maker. Take a gander out of doors; let your eyes wander to and fro. God architected this realm and fashioned its multitudinous subjects. “God made me,” they say, “and He takes care of me.” He gives them their form and function, their food in season, and rules them according to his righteous laws. It is so obvious that God sits on the throne.

Take, for example, the laws of math and physics. He enforces these laws strictly and at all times. Can anyone make 2 + 2 = 5? Of course not. And who could survive falling from a thousand-foot cliff? We would thusly defy gravity at the cost of our lives. As a Scandinavian-Mexican wrestling friar who went on to break his vows of celibacy put it, “Don’t be crazy.” In addition to these fixed laws, sun, moon, and star tread the fields of the sky in their regular rhythm, causing seasons to come and go on earth. Far below the Great Dance, terrestrial ecosystems flow in coordinated dances of their own. Even the atomic and quantum realms are governed in order. Surely God reigns over all this.

But viewed from another angle, it seems impossible that God reigns. He enforces the laws of nature, yes—but what about the laws of justice? Why doth His moral law slumber? If I defy gravity, judgment is rendered immediately; yet if I defy righteousness, I live on. Where is He when wicked people do unthinkably wicked things? Evil happens every day and the sun doesn’t so much as dim. It shines on as clouds float by. Therefore, it seems that God does not reign at all.

God does indeed reign. He seems to pass over the deeds of the wicked, but it is only that they may fall at the proper time. Share on X

The objection appears to carry weight. The wicked do escape with their lives. People get away with horrible stuff every day. But hold your apocalyptic horses just a minute. The Bible actually admits this charge for itself:

There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous (Ecclesiastes 8:14).

Solomon says it straight up: things go well for evil people and not so well for good people. Another wise man in the Bible named Asaph also noticed. He felt the sting of jealousy when he saw how wicked men lived on in their wickedness, prosperous and happy:

I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind (Psalm 73:3-5).

As you can see, the Bible says so itself. And yet the Bible also claims that God reigns over all peoples and places forever and ever. So what’s the answer? Asaph provides it for us:

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end (Psalm 73:16–17).

And again, Solomon says: “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

Ah! So the wicked do not escape. They only evade for a time the just fury that stalks them, ready to pounce at any moment. When they do finally die, they are swept away forever into darkness and despair. In a flash, they and their foul pleasures are no more.

God does indeed reign. He seems to pass over the deeds of the wicked, but it is only that they may fall at the proper time. Their condemnation is not asleep, though it is hidden from them, like a tiger prowling in the grass. Behold! Their checkmate is at hand:

Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin (Psalm 73:18).

This calls for special wisdom. For David says,

The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;

but you, O Lord, are on high forever (Psa 92:6–8).

God reigns on high forever. From His throne He gives wicked people a lifetime to turn back to Him and accept His astounding offer of divine pardon and sonship. Their refusal to accept the gospel is their greatest crime of all. In their case, His merciful offers only serve to compound their guilt and aggravate their judgment. In fact, all God’s blessings upon them will do so, if they refuse to trust in Christ for salvation. “The prosperous success of the wicked,” says the Puritan William Perkins, “their spoils, their revenues, and all their honor turns to their greater woe in the end.”

And yet, every day God saves rebels just like these. This should strike us as good news because we are those wicked people who resist God’s reign. We are all rebels against Him by nature. Thus, since He offers forgiveness to the ungodly, He offers it to us. And that is an encouraging thought. Peter agrees:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:8–9).

God reigns in this way in order to show us who He is: a forgiving God who loves to show mercy to everyone who seeks Him. Even you. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. So when evil goes unchecked, let us remember to “count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15). It’s his space for grace.

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