Theme: God’s Justice
This parable warns that we must act now, in the day of grace.
And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Years ago the greatest theologian this country has ever produced, Jonathan Edwards, wrote a discourse that developed this theme at length. It was entitled “Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies” and was based on Romans 5:10 (“For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son…”). Most of us, when we take a text like that, focus on the good part – in this case, on the wonder of the death of Christ, Edwards did not go about things in that way. He saw that no one could appreciate the death of Christ, the second part of the verse, until he understood that he was an enemy of God, the first part. So in that discourse he examined how we are God’s enemies until regenerated.
We are God’s enemies in several ways, says Edwards. First, we are enemies in our judgments. We have mean opinions about him. Edwards uses an illustration here, asking: What do you do when you are present in some gathering and a friend of yours is attacked? The answer is that we go to his or her defense. And how is it when an enemy is praised? In that case, we introduce whatever negative factors we can and put down anything in that person that might be thought praiseworthy. So it is in people’s judgments of God, Edwards argues,
They entertain very low and contemptible thoughts of God. Whatever honor and respect they may pretend, and make a show of toward God, if their practice be examined, it will show that they certainly look upon him as a Being that is but little to be regarded. The language of their hearts is, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?” (Exodus 5:2), “What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have if we pray unto him?” (Job 21:15). They count him worthy neither to be loved nor feared. They dare not behave with that slight and disregard towards one of their fellow creatures, when a little raised above them in power and authority, as they dare, and do, towards God. They value one of their equals much more than God, and are ten times more afraid of offending such, than of displeasing God that made them. They cast such exceeding contempt on God, as to prefer every vile lust before him. And every worldly enjoyment is set higher in their esteem than God. A morsel of meat, or a few pence of worldly gain, is preferred before him. God is set last and lowest in the esteem of natural men.1
The second way in which we show that we are enemies of God is in the natural relish of our souls. “Relish” is an old-fashioned word, but it means “likes” or “desires.” Here Edwards means that we do not naturally take to God. In fact, the opposite is the case. By nature we find him and his attributes repugnant.
This is where Edwards discusses our hatred of the four great attributes of God – holiness, omniscience, power, and immutability – which I have often referred to in echoing Edwards. He says of unsaved people,
They hear God is an infinitely holy, pure, and righteous Being, and they do not like him upon this account; they have no relish of such qualifications; they take no delight in contemplating them… And on account of their distaste of these perfections, they dislike all his other attributes. They have greater aversion to him because his omniscience is a holy omniscience. They are not pleased that he is omnipotent, and can do whatever he pleases, because it is a holy omnipotence. They are enemies even to his mercy, because it is a holy mercy. They do not like his immutability, because by this he never will be otherwise than he is, an infinitely holy God.2
That explains why men and women will not have much to do with God, why they try to keep at such great distance from him. I have a neighbor who is so adverse to God that one cannot even begin to witness to her. The moment the name of God comes up, she cries out, “Don’t talk to me about God!” She is even adverse to letting her six-year-old daughter hear his name mentioned. It is why people will not go with you to church, will not read Christian books, will not pray. If the truth be told, it is why even Christian people have such a difficult time with some of these items.
1Jonathan Edwards, “Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies”, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols. (Edinburgh and Carlisle, Pa: Banner of Truth, 1974), 2:131.
2 Edwards, 2:131.
What are two ways in which we are enemies of God?
Define the four attributes of God that Jonathan Edwards mentions. Why do we rebel against them?
What is your natural inclination toward God? Does this need to change? How can you do it?
Ask God to make you more like him rejecting the natural tendency to dislike him and his attributes.