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January 22, 2009

’Sometimes we’re called for a long fight’

Brownback.jpg Senator Sam Brownback recounted the story some of you might remember from the film Amazing Grace, where William Wilberforce was close to a victory over slavery until someone slipped opera tickets to his allies on the day of the vote -- and he was in for another 20-some years of fighting. He also mentioned the story from John 5 of the man who was ill for many years before Jesus healed him. We can lament that "We were so close" to victory; we can wonder why God would take so long to act; but in the end we have to recognize that "sometimes we're called for a long fight," and refuse to give up.

(Image © Gina Dalfonzo)

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Rolley Haggard

But implicit in the call to “the long fight”, I think, is the assurance from God that if the fight could be won in any other way, it would. If we are called to fight “the long fight”, it is only because, from a moral standpoint at least, it is absolutely necessary.

I believe Jesus implied as much in the garden when He prayed, “O my Father, IF IT BE POSSIBLE, let this cup pass from me.” (Matthew 26:39). And again in Matthew 26:42, “O my Father, IF THIS CUP MAY NOT PASS AWAY FROM ME, EXCEPT I DRINK IT, thy will be done.”

Jesus did not even hint that our salvation could be secured in any other way. There were no options. If mankind was to have any hope of pardon, it HAD to be at His expense. Christ’s long walk to Golgotha, His “long fight” for us, was absolutely necessary.

The apostle Paul said something similar in Galatians when he wrote, “if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Galatians 3:21-22)

If we were to paraphrase the principle observable in all these passages, I would suggest it is this: that where a less extravagant approach is possible, it will be adopted. Conversely, if an extravagant approach is adopted – i.e., if we are called to “the long fight” – it is only because, from a moral standpoint, it is absolutely necessary.

Some of us bristle instinctively at the notion of “absolute necessity.” It seems to limit God, to circumscribe His sovereignty with a finite list of things He can and cannot do.

But all such “limitations” on God are purely moral. Titus 1:2 says, “God CANNOT lie.” The inability to lie is a moral limitation. Such limitations do not diminish God’s power and greatness. Rather, they magnify His holiness.

In the same way, the necessity of Christ’s death for us was a moral limitation. His sacrificial death was absolutely necessary because there was no other moral way for guilty people to be taken to heaven than for a Substitute to take their deserved punishment. Christ’s death was no “limitation” on the power and greatness of God. It was a magnification of His love.

Those accustomed to the axiom, “God is sovereign. He can do whatever He wants” would do well to bear the “necessity principle” in mind. If we are called to “the long fight”, it is almost certainly because there was no other way, consistent with holiness and love, to win.

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