J. I. Packer:

“I think of the two pans of an old fashioned pair of scales. If one goes up, the other goes down.

Once upon a time folks new that God was great and that man by comparison was small. Each individual carried around a sense of his own smallness in the greatness of God’s world.

However, the scale pans are in a different relation today. Man has risen in his own estimation. He thinks of himself as great, grand and marvelously resourceful. This means inevitably that our thoughts about God have shrunk. As God goes down in our estimation, He gets smaller. He also exists now only for our pleasure, our convenience and our health, rather than we existing for His glory.

Now, I’m an old fashioned Christian and I believe that we exist for the glory of God. So the first thing I always want to do in any teaching of Christianity is to attempt to try and get those scale pans reversed. I want to try and show folks that God is the one of central importance. We exist for His praise, to worship Him, and find our joy and fulfillment in Him; therefore He must have all the glory. God is great and He must be acknowledged as great. I think there is a tremendous difference between the view that God saves us and the idea that we save ourselves with God’s help. Formula number two fits the modern idea, while formula number one, as I read my Bible, is scriptural. We do not see salvation straight until we recognize that from first to last it is God’s work. He didn’t need to save us. He owed us nothing but damnation after we sinned. What he does, though, is to move in mercy. He sends us a Savior and His Holy Spirit into our hearts to bring us to faith in that Savior. Then He keeps us in that faith and brings us to His glory. It is His work from beginning to end. God saves sinners. It does, of course, put us down very low. It is that aspect of the gospel that presents the biggest challenge to the modern viewpoint. But we must not forget that it also sets God up very high. It reveals to us a God who is very great, very gracious and very glorious. A God who is certainly worthy of our worship.”

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2 thoughts on “God and Man on the Scale”

  1. joe says:

    Maybe there is another way of looking at this matter – a way that transcends weights and scales and reflects instead a glorious mystery in the relationship between God and man- reflected in the scripture of Acts 17:28:

    “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”

    If God is truly grand and magnificent, is not His Divine essence reflected in our own natures, to the degree that we are physically, psychologically, and spiritually aligned with the God in whom we “live and move”. Isn’t is more spiritually empowering to strive to actualize and express the grandness and magnificence of God within us (by living according to His word) than climb into the pan of scale and hope we tip down, so God can tip up.

    You mention “God is great and He must be acknowledged as great.” Yes, human beings who are great need to be acknowledged as such – for without the acknowledgment there can be no greatness. Now, I would not presume insight into the deeper workings of Divine psychology (no matter how many scriptures I read, or divinity schools I receive degrees from, or personal conversations I think I’ve had with the Almighty. But I would fathom a guess that God has no need of any acknowledgment of greatness. I would guess that God would much rather we unfold his greatness within us, than acknowledge how great he is.

    According to Matthew 23:12 – “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” So would not God, the most exalted being in existence also be a being of the greatest humility. Does a humble being need – or even desire – acknowledgement of greatness?

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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