In the previous post*, I discussed “If God is for us, who is against us,” the idea that if God is on our side, no opposition can crush us. That is thought number one of J. I. Packer’s “four final thoughts.”
Final thought number two is “No Good Thing Withheld.”
Not only can no opposition crush us, but with “No Good Thing Withheld” he is stating that God gave up all for us. He gave His Son for us and He is holding nothing back in the good things that He is capable of giving us.
All of the four final thoughts come from the Apostle Paul’s ideas as expressed in Romans 8 and the starting point for Packer’s conclusions are verses 38-39: “I am convinced that neither death nor life. . .nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Packer says that we as Christians need to meditate on verses 38 and 39 and realize we are “more than conquerors” and our God is more than adequate.
The “no good thing” final thought comes from Romans 8: 32: “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” This Scripture focuses our attention on the costliness of our redemption. As you consider the sacrifice that God made in giving His only Son for our sins, you begin to realize that God’s love for us has no limits. Packer describes this act in these words: “If the measure of love is what it gives, then there never was such love as God showed to sinners at Calvary, nor will any subsequent love-gift to us cost God so much”[Packer, 264]. Sometimes Christians have a feeling that God has a limit on the gifts He can give us. Seriously consider the cost of our redemption through the death of His Son Jesus Christ and as you do, you will conclude that none of us should ever limit how much God can show His love for you and for me.
Besides the cost of God’s sacrifice of His Son, Packer also wants to emphasize the effectiveness of God’s gift of redemption. The death of Jesus Christ is the basis of God’s forgiveness of man but we don’t really receive that forgiveness unless we have faith in God. Here is where many of us get confused, that there is some quid pro quo arrangement with God. We won’t receive any gifts from God unless we give God a gift [our faith for example]. Nothing could be further from the truth. Packer writes “psychologically, faith is our own act, but the theological truth about it is that it is God’s work in us: our faith and our new relationship with God as believers and all the divine gifts that are enjoyed within this relationship, were all alike secured for us by Jesus’ death on the cross” [Packer, 265]. The cross is often our focal point in God’s eternal plan to save us but we don’t have to give God anything or show God anything in order to receive His loving gifts. Of course we focus on the removal of the “sin barrier” which is Jesus atoning for our sins [wow, what a gift!]. But think about the beauty of the process of becoming a believing Christian: one is called, one is justified and then one leads a life that glorifies God. One can say about God, how shall [not will] He not give us all things because the sacrifice of His Son opens up the doors for us to be given all of His gifts. “The saving purpose of God, from eternal election to final glory, is one, and it is vital for both our understanding and our assurance that we should not lose sight of the links that bind together its various stages and parts” [Packer , 265]. If God’s pursuit of a relationship with man is the story of Christian history, effective is the word I would use to describe how God has brought that all about.
If you thought Packer’s discussion of the cost and the effectiveness of God’s gifts to us is a bit dense, he really presents challenging material about the consequences of God’s gift of redemption.** Maybe you are thinking that this gift with no “strings” is too good to be true. Maybe you are thinking that I am not sure I am “believing” enough. Maybe you have times when your faith is a bit shaky due to temptations from the world. God has given me faith but is it growing? What we are really looking for is assurance.
Packer writes a lot about this in his final thoughts, but to synthesize his thinking, he feels that God is very serious about the First Commandment: “thou shalt have no other Gods before you.” Some might say that this is what He demanded of the Israelites who lived in a polytheistic culture, but Packer says that today’s Christian lives under the same commandment.
What does this mean for today?
We are to live the life of a “pilgrim,” a temporary resident of this earth. We are to be willing to give up material wealth and the security it provides. We must be willing to carry our cross daily. We are called to be meek people. We are called to be sensitive to the plight of others. We are asked to be ready to suffer indignity for our faith as those around us in today’s world will turn a cold shoulder, show us contempt and disgust.
“Do we live it? [the kind of life that Christ calls us to]. Well look at the churches, observe the shortage of ministers and missionaries, especially men; the luxury goods in Christian homes; the fund-raising problems of Christian societies; the readiness of Christians in all walks of life to grumble about their salaries; the lack of concern for the old and lonely and for anyone outside the circle of ‘sound believers’” [Packer, 269].
God says “thou shalt have no other gods before you.”
What Packer says God is really saying is that I am all you need. I am adequate. You need not fear accepting responsibility for those less fortunate, I will help you. You don’t have to have all those trappings of material security; they distract you from Me. I am all you need. Don’t worry about all those social conventions. Follow Me and you will be fine. Don’t worry about fitting in.
Then come the words from Packer: “Now let us call a spade a spade.” The Apostle Paul in Romans 8 is saying that we are not believing God for enough. “The name of the game we are playing is unbelief.” When we don’t take God at His word, it is us showing our shaky faith. If God denies us something we think we need, we moan. Faithful people see that God really is making room for other things He has in mind. We can find ourselves stuck in a static faith that is too culture-based. We think we are worth what we are worth because of the things we possess. Our possessions are our security. Our possessions become our God.
Instead of taking that risky, costly move that God is calling you to do, we hold back and cling to the things of this world. On one level, we know God has the strength and wisdom to do anything. On one level we know that God has overall plans for our ultimate good. On one level we know that God is constant in His love for us, but we hold back anyhow.
If we would only believe “he will give us all things” Packer writes “one day we shall see that nothing—literally nothing—which could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothing—literally nothing—that could have reduced that happiness has been left to us.”
Are there consequences of accepting God’s gift of redemption? There are. But as human beings we don’t need to be that concerned about counting the cost. Consequences is a word that sounds negative but in this case it is not. Our God is a good God and He loves you and me. The consequences are good consequences.
Let me close this discussion with wonderful concluding words from Packer: “Your God is faithful to you, and He is adequate for you. You will never need more than He can supply, and what He supplies, both materially and spiritually, will always be enough for the present” [Packer, 271].
*the post “A String of Beads” September 15, 2020, St. John Studies.
**The consequences section of this post is long but Packer really has an extensive discussion of his third point. I tried to be as succinct as possible but I would refer the reader to pages 266–271 for his more developed explication of the consequences of God’s gifts to us.