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The Sufficient God

By Rev. David Blunt

This Editorial was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 1, January-March 1996.

A MONG the most ennobling of all the truths of Scripture is that of the Divine sufficiency. We refer in the first place of course to the fact that God is blessed in and of Himself: He has need of nothing but Himself, and with Himself He is eternally, perfectly, satisfied. The three divine persons rejoice and delight in one another: Light considers Light, Goodness communes with Goodness, and Love contemplates Love. And, we may say, Infinity knows Infinity, and is content with the knowing. When God reveals Himself to men, it is by names which declare His self-existence and absoluteness: He alone can make the unqualified assertion "I AM" (Exod. 3:14). There is then with the Almighty a most glorious independence, such that the work of creation ought continually to fill us with wonder, that it should ever have been executed.

Dependence of Man

No greater contrast could be found than man! Early in his existence he was taught his dependence upon His Maker: "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb.....and every tree.....for meat" (Gen. 1:29). But what a change came upon Adam at the Fall! Sin bred in him a 'free spirit', no longer regulated by divine command or relying upon divine provision. Man's tragedy now is not that he has needs, but that he no longer understands how his needs are to be met. Thus he seems to be in a worse condition than the brute creation: "The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God" (Psa. 104:21). As for the raven, "his young ones cry unto God" (Job 38:41). They are not disappointed: "He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry" (Psa. 147:9); as David acknowledged, "Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing" (Psa. 145:16).

Every sane individual knows his need of bodily food – but does he seek it from God? No, he will rather ascribe even his daily bread to his own abilities, though there is a sun in the sky to teach him that he is dependent upon other resources. Perversely he may give the glory to the creation itself, not realising that the sun only shines because of a still greater and original Power (Psa. 74:16).

Our Greatest Need

What we have said regarding man's material needs is true a thousand times over of his spiritual wants. The understanding man now has of his physical constitution is very remarkable, but the knowledge he has of his soul seems to have diminished in inverse proportion! He often denies its existence altogether! But, soul or no soul, he cannot for long hide those inner desires which transcend the purely physical. Companionship, affection, purpose, hope, contentment – what man has not sensed these needs? The sin is in our attempts either to deny them or else to fulfil them in anyone or anything apart from God.

Surpassing all other needs and lying at the root of all our ills is the need of righteousness. We should remember that sin essentially is not a thing in itself but rather the absence of something – righteousness. The principle of righteousness is at the centre of all God's dealings with men, so much so that it is the only proper condition of His covenants. Adam was created with purity of heart from which flowed uprightness of conduct. Measured by the strict rule of the Divine Law, no fault could be found within or without. But when he sinned he was stripped of his original righteousness, and we with him. His very being became corrupt. The prophet's lament may well be applied to the whole human race: "How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!" (Lam. 4:1). The exact opposite of "the Midas touch"! What was valuable and precious has by a single act of folly turned itself into base metal. Tarnished gold may be made to shine again, but not if its actual substance has been transmuted into lead! The lustre of original righteousness has been lost, with no possibility of recovery if left to man.

Questions and Answers

The sinner, then, in whom God is at work, is first made aware of his spiritual pollution and nakedness. Confronted with the awesome holiness of God, two thoughts begin to weigh heavily upon him: "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" (Psa. 130:3); and, "How should man be just with God?" (Job 9:1). The answer to the first question is all too apparent, but nothing in nature can furnish us with a right reply to the second. The myriad religions of the world are but wrong answers defiantly uttered by proud rebels.

Grace teaches us that it is the same God who demands men's obedience who has provided the remedy for their disobedience. His righteousness always condemns sin but in His mercy He may covet sinners. In Old Testament terms He is "a just God and a Saviour" (Isa. 45:21); in the fuller light of the New Testament He is "...just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). For the needy sinner there is an adequate Christ.

Christ Sufficient

The wonder of our Lord's obedience as the Redeemer of His people is that in addition to perfect purity of heart and life there was something that the first man could never provide: a full satisfaction for sin. The law broken by man must in man's nature be magnified and made honourable again. Christ undertook to pay the Church's debt by His own obedience unto death: so He is smitten that we might be embraced; He is bruised that we should be healed; He endures wrath that we may receive mercy. In brief (and solemn) terms, He is "made sin," so that we might be "made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21).

The perfection of Christ's righteousness means that nothing remains to be performed by the sinner as a ground to obtain eternal life. Faith and repentance are gifts of God promised to those who have an interest in His covenant of grace, that they may realise and enjoy its rich blessings (Phil. 1:29; Acts 5:31). Everywhere in Scripture believing men proclaim not their own goodness, but that of Another: their everlasting hope they gladly rest upon the righteousness of Jesus alone.

The Christian Satisfied

The Christian is satisfied not only with Christ's work but also with His glorious Person. In union with the Redeemer he has a title to glory: through communion with his Saviour he enjoys foretastes of heaven even now. Such a blessed state is pictured for us in the Song of Solomon: "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste" (Song 2:3).

Have we "sat down" here? If we have a right estimation of our blessed Lord we will not be content to dwell anywhere else. What bounties are provided here by the "tree of life"! There is a mighty canopy of grace to preserve the fearful and to relieve the weary and heavy laden. There are fruits of grace which when eaten nourish the souls of the godly and conform them to the likeness of Christ Himself. Those who begin the banquet here enjoy the prospect of its fulfilment in the paradise above.

In the last Chapter of Holy Scripture we have a glimpse into the eternal abode of the redeemed. The sun does not shine there. Is it that the saved no longer have needs to be met? Do they attain to a godlike independence at last?

Christ is heard out of the throne of God: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." He is our sufficiency still, heaven's temple and heaven's light. In Him we shall know more and more of the infinite God. And with Him we shall be perfectly and eternally satisfied.