“How can I believe in a God who commands people ‘You shall not murder’ (Exodus 20:13) and yet this God goes killing off, left and right, people whom He dislikes or hates?” This is one reason a good number of people have become atheists. Among other reasons atheists cite for their unbelief in God are: why does God allow a race or class of people to impose cruel slavery upon another race or class; why is there so much suffering, so much violence, within humanity and within the animal kingdom?
It is quite understandable that some people would have this feeling about certain gory and horrid details in Biblical and secular history and in the natural order. But this feeling fails to understand that there are prerogatives that are God’s alone and not man’s. Webster defines “prerogative” as “a prior or exclusive right or privilege.”
In this day and age where the buzz word is “inclusivity,” to speak about “exclusive right or privilege” would be to bring the reproach if not the wrath of many upon oneself. But I invite our readers to consider, a little more objectively and with less emotion, what the Bible reveals about God’s prerogatives — the divine prerogatives. When we come to grasp better these prerogatives, we will begin to understand that we have a God who does really care for us and love us.
None besides God
The whole issue about God’s prerogatives boils down to God’s very claim: “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me” (Isaiah 46:9). God repeats this claim or a variant of it (“I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me”) in Isaiah 45:5, 6, 18, 21, 22. Israel’s King David, a man after God’s own heart, prayed to God saying, “Among the gods [Hebrew, elohim] there is none like You, O Lord; nor are there any works like Your works…You alone are God” (Psalm 86:8, 10).
Let us, therefore, explore what the Bible teaches as the prerogatives of God being God or LORD alone and none other. I will present at least eight such prerogatives here, not necessarily in the order of weight or importance.
Prerogative #1: God alone is worthy of worship
From the time God removed His personal ( “bodily”) presence from mankind since Adam and Eve sinned [see: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and The Flaming Sword East of Eden], men have sought to be somehow in touch or connected with some invisible power or force and to worship or bow down before that force — whether as unseen or as represented in an image, idol, or icon/picture (Genesis 4:9). Since the Flood of Noah’s day until today, men and nations have set up and worshiped some “God” or “god” after their own imagination, and not after God’s revelation in His Word, the Bible. One need simply leaf through the pages of the history of various civilizations down through the last millennia of human existence on this earth, to see the gamut of “gods” and idols they have set up and worshiped. [See: True Worship.]
That is why in the First Commandment God tells us: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). And, because God is far above anything that is physical or seen, He tells us, in the Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:44-5). In Isaiah 42:8, God says: “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another nor My praise to carved images.”
God’s glory and majesty are so “out of this world” that any physical portrayal of that glory and majesty through some carved image would only be an insult to God’s true being! The apostle Paul bluntly tells about idolaters: “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:22-23).
As the one and only God and LORD, God guards His name and reputation zealously. In the Third Commandment He tells us: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). One cannot keep on profaning God’s name (or names) and using them without a holy and sensible purpose — assuming wrongly that God will not call one to account for the offense. Those who use God’s name idly — like some kind of punctuation mark or verbal crutch — will need to deal with Christ’s warning: “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).
Because God alone is worthy of worship, we are not to worship even angels — spirit beings that God created to be ” His ministers [or servants] ” (Psalm 104:4; Hebrews 1:13-14). John (the writer of the gospel of John, the three letters in his name, and the book of Revelation) was so awed by the message he heard from an angel. His reaction: “I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things” (Revelation 22:8). Notice what the angel told John: “See that you do not do that [worship him]. For I am your fellow servant and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Verse 9).
Much less are we to worship another man, regardless of how exalted the man’s status may be. The Italian centurion and an early convert to the Christian faith, Cornelius was greatly overwhelmed by the presence of the apostle Peter, whom God had sent to his house. “As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I myself am also a man'” (Acts 10:25-26).
Never in the history of mankind has the worship of other men — rank idolatry — been more rampant than today! Not only have celebrities become “idols.” Just about everything that man has made has become an idol to many. Speaking about the descendants of the “house of Jacob [or Israe]l,” God condemns them: “Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made” (Isaiah 2:7-8).
However, God promises that those who are faithful in keeping His Word and not denying His name: “Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not [false Christians], but lie — indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you” (Revelation 3:8-9).
This will happen only after these elect saints of God will have been changed to glory at Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15:42-55). This is that time when Jesus Christ “… will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…” (Philippians 3:21). The apostle John said: “…we know that when He [Jesus] is revealed [at His second coming], we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). As such, the glorified saints will become a part of God’s glorious family as “children of God.” They, too, will be worthy of worship by mortal men and by angels as well!
Because this is the awesome destiny of God’s children, John exhorts: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He [God] is pure” (Verse 3). A part in that purification process is to engage in True Worship.
Prerogative #2: God alone decides what is good and what is evil
The reason why Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden was that they ate the fruit of the tree which God had forbidden them to eat: the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). Satan the tempter, in the guise of a wily serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14; Revelation 12:9), tempted Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. And his “tag line”: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil ” (Genesis 3:5). [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”] By disobeying God’s command not to eat the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve thus took to themselves God’s prerogative to decide what is good and what is evil.
As explained in the above-quoted article on this website, the descendants of Adam and Eve have since decided for themselves what is good and what is evil apart from what God has laid down, in His Word, as His law that defines what is good [or righteous] and what is evil [or sinful, unrighteous] (Romans 7:7; 3:20). With not only nations and groups but also individuals deciding what is good and what is evil, is it any wonder that this world has never been more divided and in conflict than ever before? Where is this great divide between ISIS, for example, and seemingly the rest of humanity going to take us if not into more and more heightened violence and bloodbath? [See: “The Next Chapter of History“ and The Children of Abraham.]
Only Christ’s return to “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18) and establish God’s kingdom of God on this earth will bring about the peace that everyone seeks but which everyone does not know how to achieve (Isaiah 59:8)! In that day “…all nations shall flow into it [Jerusalem, from where Jesus will rule]. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3). [See: World Peace — At Last!] God’s law is expanded in the New Testament to address various aspects of our worship of God and our relationship with other human beings.
No longer will people follow the “way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). No longer will human leaders “devise evil by law” (Psalm 94:20), as many do today — laws that favor certain sectors of society while discriminating against or oppressing other sectors. No longer will there be conflicting moral and ethical values that have divided nations and cultures. Only God’s perfect ways and laws will be enforced when Jesus reigns on earth. [See: The Great Wall.]
Prerogative #3: God alone can create from nothing
A lot of people pride themselves in, or praise others for, being “creative” — being able to conceive of ideas and make or invent something “new.” However, there’s one thing God alone can do which no human being can do: only God can produce something from absolutely nothing that existed before. That’s what the story of the Creation, in Genesis 1 and 2, is mostly about. And God alone can bring something into existence mostly by saying or commanding it (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26; Psalm 148:5). Indeed, God has given man the capacity to produce and manufacture things (houses, buildings, other engineering works, clothing, tools, gadgets, toys, etc., etc.) — but these are made from materials that have already existed, having been placed here by our Creator God beforehand.
God humbled Job and led him to repentance when He asked Job if he could do things that only a Supreme God could (Job 38 – 42). True, God has given man a capacity — seemingly unstoppable — to imagine things and make them happen (Genesis 11:6). But man should realize that he can only work with something that God has already created and made available to man. Thus, no man can rightly glory in God’s presence (1 Corinthians 1:29).
In Isaiah 66:1-2, God says, “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist…But on this one will I look: on him who is poor [humble] and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” God’s “house” and “resting place” is the “Holy City” — the New Jerusalem — “which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10), a “more perfect tabernacle not made with [human] hands, that is, not of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11). That city is described in Revelation 21 and 22 as coming down to this renewed earth with God the Father Himself, to dwell here with glorified men forever.
Nor has God have given to angels the power to create something from nothing. Nehemiah 9:6 testifies of God: “You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heavens worships You.” This belies the claim of some that the devil created thorns and thistles as a curse on man for his sin (Genesis 3:18). Only God can place thorns and thistles — and only He can remove them forever, as He promises in Isaiah 55:13 — “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Who knows what we humans, when we finally become the spiritual and immortal children of God, can create from nothing? For now, God has made us “a little lower than the angels.” But in the resurrection to life everlasting, God will crown us “with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5). With the same Spirit of God in us, we can be sure that — if we will create as God creates — we will create only what is “… noble … pure … lovely” (Philippians 4:8), and sound-minded (2 Timothy 1:7). [See: “He Marveled.”]
Prerogative #4: God alone has the right to take human life
God “has made us, and not we ourselves,” declares Psalm 100:3. As our Creator, therefore, God owns us and He alone decides when to take back our lives. As Israel’s King David declared of God: “And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:16). [See: The Book of Life.]
In the first generations of mankind since Adam and Eve, people lived to a great old age — from 365 to almost a thousand years (Genesis 5). Genesis 6:3 indicates that, after the Flood of Noah’s day, the lifespan of men became reduced drastically to about 120 years, on the average — some exceeding that number by a few hundred or score years (Genesis 11:10-26; 23:1; 35:28; 47:28; 50:22). Eventually — with the combined changes in the earth’s atmosphere since the Flood and the degeneracy of the human species through sinful living — God has pegged the present average lifespan of man to the proverbial “three-score years and ten” or seventy years (Psalm 90:10), some of course dying earlier and others living beyond that by a few years or decades even.
The blameless and upright Job had all his property and all his children taken away from him by God’s permission to Satan, whom God allowed to test Job severely (Job 1:1-19). Job understood that it was God’s prerogative to give human life and property and to take them away. He even blessed the name of the LORD for this, and “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:21-22).
It is our Creator-God’s sole prerogative to take a man’s life away — and when. God can do this through the “natural” process of aging, with its attendant ailments, or through natural and man-made disasters. But God can also take a man’s life suddenly as He wills, to fulfill some purpose that may not be immediately obvious to man. A good example is Enoch, whom God took away at a relatively “young” age of 365 years, at a time when people were living up to age 900+ (Genesis 5:21).
Another example is the sons of Judah, Er and Onan. Er “was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him” (Genesis 38:7). When his brother Onan refused to fulfill his duty to marry the widow of Er in order to raise up an heir to him (as codified later in Leviticus 18:16), God also killed Onan (Genesis 38:9-10).
A dramatic example of God taking the lives of several rebels and their families, through a “sink hole,” is found in Numbers 16. On several occasions, God killed a good number of the rebellious among the children of Israel through plagues and other punishments (Numbers 25:9; 21:4-6).
In the New Testament God killed Ananias and his wife Sapphira for having lied to God (Acts 5:1-11). God also killed Herod for passing himself off as some kind of god and failing to “give glory to God” (Acts 12:21-23). The apostle Paul wrote that, at Christ’s return, the “man of sin” or “the lawless one” will be consumed by the fiery breath of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12). Multiple millions of people (unbelievers in God) will be killed by the plagues of God before Jesus’ return (Revelation 15-18).
That is why God commands us: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). It is God’s prerogative to take away human life, but at times God allows human agents to exercise that prerogative on His behalf.
Because of their faith, God made an unconditional promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (later renamed Israel) that He would give the land of Canaan and its vicinity to their descendants — the children of Israel (Genesis 17:8; 15:18-20; Psalm 105:10-11). In order to fulfill that, God had to drive out the original inhabitants of those lands. While sometimes God would destroy those inhabitants through some supernatural intervention, He would also delegate His prerogative to the people of Israel to kill off those inhabitants through some military conquest (Joshua 8; 10:16-43; 11-13; Judges 1; etc.).
God also delegated to the priests and judges of Israel His judgment to put to death the people of Israel who committed capital offenses (see, for example, Exodus 21:12, 14-17, 28-29; 22:18-20; Leviticus 20:1-2; 9-16, 27). God, in fact, commanded them to effect that capital punishment. Disobeying that command — with the mistaken belief in becoming more “merciful” than God is in certain situations — is a grievous sin that brings about great punishment.
A case in point is Israel’s first king, Saul. God had purposed to punish the descendants of Amalek for their lack of kindness to the children of Israel in ambushing them on their way to the Promised Land (1 Samuel 15:1-2; Exodus 17:8, 14-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19). God told Saul: “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (1 Samuel 15:3). As it turned out, Saul only partly obeyed God’s command. He and his men killed the people and most of the animals, but they spared Agag king of the Amalekites and “the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them” as God had commanded (Verses 8-9) — on the pretext that they would offer these animals in sacrifice to God. God counted this disobedience as “rebellion” which is “as the sin of witchcraft” (Verse 23). Because of this, Samuel told Saul: “…you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel” (Verse 26). God eventually removed Saul from being king, and David was anointed as king in his stead.
God has also delegated the power to human governments or authorities to execute those who commit capital offenses (or “heinous crimes”). The apostle Paul said this about a duly constituted authority: “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:4). The apostle Peter resonated this: “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by [Him] for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” ( 1 Peter 2:13-14). When human authorities fail to deal wicked criminals a strong hand, evildoers will tend to proliferate, and people will become insecure (Ecclesiastes 8:11; Proverbs 28:28). [See: Of Dungeons and Prisons.]
Besides His prerogative to decide what is good and what is evil, it is also God’s sole prerogative to decide which sin is “leading to death” (1 John 5:16-17) or for which the “wages” or consequence is death (Romans 6:23). Since all of us, without exemption but Jesus Christ, have sinned, we are all worthy of the penalty of death (Romans 3:23; 1 Peter 2:21-22; Hebrews 4:14-15). [See: Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable?]
Prerogative #5: God alone has the power to show mercy
Romans 9:15-18 says, “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion’ [quoted from Exodus 33:19]. So then it is not of him [a man] who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharoah, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth’ [quoted from Exodus 9:16]. Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.” [See: The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love, especially the section titled “The length of Christ’s love.”]
As someone has defined it, mercy is “not getting what one deserves” — that is, for example, not getting the consequence of sin, which is death. In Romans 9, as quoted above, the apostle Paul shows that it is God’s sole prerogative — as God wills — to whom He will show mercy, and when. That is, God decides whom to free from the ultimate penalty of death by showing His mercy to the person or persons. And that means giving the sinner forgiveness — an undeserved favor, which is the essence of “grace.” [See: The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love, especially the section titled “The width of Christ’s love.”] Romans 6:23 promises, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The scribes and Pharisees took issue with Jesus when He told the paralytic man: “Man, your sins are forgiven you” (Luke 5:20). They reasoned among themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone” (Verse 21)? Jesus replied:
“Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man [Jesus] has power on earth to forgive sins” — He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”
Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!” (Verses 22-26.)
Only God can “justify” a sinner by forgiving him, and that by applying Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary to pay the ransom from death that every sinner is deserving of. But it is God’s call as to whom — and under what conditions — to extend that forgiveness and mercy to. Jesus’ parable, in Luke 18:9-14, about the “Two Men Who Prayed” shows whom God will justify. It is the person who humbles himself and admits his sin who will be justified, not one who thinks one is just and needs no forgiveness and mercy. In the ultimate analysis, it is God’s call as to whom to “save” now and whom to save later. [See: Predestination and God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 2 , especially the section “The feast of weeks/day of Pentecost and the Jews,” and Transgressions Under the First Covenant.]
Isaiah 43:11 has God declaring: “I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior.” Isaiah 45:21 echoes this: “And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me.” Only God, through Jesus Christ, can save us from sin! And God decides whom to save — and when.
In her prayer, Hannah said: “No one is holy like the LORD, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God….The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up” (1 Samuel 2:2, 6). It is God’s sole prerogative to take life but also to give life back in a resurrection, at the time God decides. Those who are now, in this age, “in Christ” — those “elect,” whom God has shown mercy and forgiveness to — will rise up in the resurrection of the righteous at Jesus’ return. This is well described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-57. Those who are not yet or are not truly “in Christ” will have their chance to be saved as mortal survivors when Christ establishes God’s kingdom on this earth, or when they are resurrected after the 1,000-year reign of Christ for their chance to be saved (Revelation 20:5).
Because God has shown us mercy and forgiveness, we are to show mercy to others and forgive them their sins against us. That is God’s condition for us receiving mercy and being forgiven. “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13). “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Let’s get it straight, though, about man forgiving the sin done him by another person. All sin against another person, against the created order, or even against oneself, is ultimately sin against God, who created all things. David sinned against his servant-soldier Uriah by committing adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba and plotting his death (story in 2 Samuel 11-12). When confronted about his double-sin, David admitted, “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Samuel 12:13). In his heartfelt prayer of repentance, David told God: “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:3-4).
After one has asked for God’s forgiveness one should ask for the forgiveness of the person one has offended or sinned against and be reconciled with him, where possible [as, for example, the person is still alive] (Matthew 5:23-26). Jesus also commanded an offended party to be ready to forgive the offender who is truly sorry (Matthew 18:15).
In the meantime, those to whom God has not shown His mercy He allows to suffer as an automatic consequence of sin. That is why there is some much suffering in the world today — man’s inhumanity to man, slavery, wars, famines, sicknesses, death. God has momentarily left man to his own devices and sufferings as a result. Until God intervenes, He tells us: “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still” (Revelation 22:11).
But God has it in His plan to end all of that suffering. And that by sending back His Son Jesus Christ to this weary earth in order to put down all who destroy and oppress, and to set up God’s kingdom of righteousness, holiness, and love. This is the gospel of Christ and of the kingdom of God! [See: “The Next Chapter of History.” and The Ransomed of the LORD.] God will transform the hearts of men, to make them obedient to God and His law. In that kingdom, even the wild and ferocious nature of animals will be changed and tamed (Isaiah 11:6-9).
Prerogative #6: God alone is “good”
Jesus said — and He could not lie (Titus 1:2) — “No one is good but One, that is God” (Matthew 19:17). The apostle Paul quoted David (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3) concerning human beings: “There is none righteous, no, not one….There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12).
Any “goodness” and “righteousness” that man may manifest can only be traced back to God, who is the Source of all goodness and righteousness. In declaring that there is no one good but God, Jesus was, in effect, showing to the rich young ruler, who called Him “Good Teacher,” that He was God in the flesh. All that God created, through Jesus Christ, God declared “good” or “very good” at the start (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). After God had created “cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth” and man on the sixth day of the Creation week, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Man started out “very good.” But as we follow the story in Genesis 2 and 3, and onwards, we will see that man decided to follow the opposite of “good” — evil. Mankind has since followed the way of sin, disobedience to God’s commandments. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened !”] All of mankind has, in fact, grown worse since, in such a way that God can say of the heart of man: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9)? Speaking about these our end-times (“the last days”), Paul wrote: “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:1, 13).
The only way for mankind to become “good” again, is for man to become “refreshed,” as it were — like one would press a “refresh” button on the computer in order to start a process all over again.
The apostle Peter preached: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19 – 21). It is thus only through Christ — and the power of His Spirit — that one is able to be converted and do good, to do “good works.” [See: Saved for Good Works, God’s Spirit and Obedience, Are We All God’s Children? The Higher Law of the Spirit and Is There Ever Any Good in Man?]
Prerogative #7: God alone has the right to avenge
“‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord,” Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 (Romans 12:19). Psalm 94:1-3 also declares: “O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongs — O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render punishment to the proud. LORD, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph?”
That is why Paul instructs us: “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath [God’s]” (Verses 17 and 18).
God commands: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18). Instead, we are to leave vengeance to God whose right alone it is! People who take this divine prerogative into their own hands invite endless vengeance and violence, like the proverbial vendetta between the “McCoys and the Campbells.” Instead God commands: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head [he will become ashamed of his wrong deed], and the LORD will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22).
Jesus reinforced this Old Testament command when He taught: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45).
When we leave vengeance to God, whose sole prerogative it is, we free ourselves from the stress of taking vengeance ourselves. It helps us to feel more positive toward those who do us wrong. And we can trust that God will justly recompense us of all wrongs done us, thereby giving us inner peace. God knows better how far to go in avenging us of wrongs. He alone knows the hearts of men and will recompense wrongs accordingly.
God alone knows when He will avenge His people. When His disciples asked Him when He would “restore the kingdom to Israel” — after He will have avenged His people — Jesus replied: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:6-7). That, too, is God’s prerogative!
It is also God’s prerogative to use human beings or human authorities to execute His vengeance on evildoers (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14).
Prerogative #8: God alone decides whom to give authority to
The apostle Paul famously instructs: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2).
God may directly appoint authorities, like He did the leaders of Israel — especially the priesthood. In Numbers 2 we find God appointing the leaders of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. In Numbers 3 -4 God appointed the children of Levi to serve Aaron and his descendants (whom God appointed to the priesthood) and in various duties in the tabernacle (and later the temple). The incident, recorded in Numbers 16, about the rebellion of certain leaders among the children of Levi against Moses and Aaron, is a serious reminder that God alone appoints people to certain positions in His nation [Israel], particularly the priesthood.
Paul [see: Who Wrote the Letter to the Hebrews?] explains: “Every high priest taken from among men is appointed [by God] for men in things pertaining to God….And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was” (Hebrews 5:1, 4). God cursed Judah’s King Uzziah for presuming to take the office of a priest by offering incense, when God had not appointed him for this work (see story in 2 Chronicles 26:1-21). As mentioned earlier, some of the nobles of Levi [not of the lineage of Aaron, whose descendants were appointed to the priesthood] became presumptuous and wanted to push themselves into the priesthood (Numbers 16:1-35). God consumed them and those who followed them.
God has done the same with His Church. The apostle Peter understood that true Christians are called to become a part of “a royal priesthood” that God has personally chosen (1 Peter 2:9). True disciples of Christ do not choose to be His disciples — rather it is God, along with Christ, who chooses them (John 15:16; 6:44, 65). [See: Predestination.]
Comparing Church members to various members of the human body, Paul declares that “God has set the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He pleased….And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (1 Corinthians 11:18, 28). The work of preaching the Word of God that brings salvation is something God appoints through those whom He sends (Romans 10:13-15). One cannot appoint oneself to these positions without becoming a false servant presuming to serve God! There are simply too many today who claim to be “sent” by God but in reality God has not sent them. [See: About Pool of Siloam, Beware of False Prophets, and When One Who Preaches Christ Plants Corn.]
In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul explains the reason for setting up various leaders in the Church: “…for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
In the world — outside of Israel and the Church — God has also “authorized” people to lead nations by direct appointment, or by permission. Some examples of God setting certain leaders to fulfill His purpose: Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:9; Daniel 2:37-38), Cyrus (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1–4), Darius (Ezra 5-6), Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:11-28; Nehemiah 2:1-9). As explained earlier, Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 teach about Christians being subject to the authorities “sent” by God to punish evildoers and to praise those who do good. Paul exhorts us: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 1:1-2). [See: Of Elections and Appointments.]
When Jesus returns to take the kingdoms of this world and rule the nations as He sets up God’s kingdom here on earth, He will share His reign with His “saints” — the holy people who now constitute the “elect,” members of the true Church of God (Daniel 7:21-22, 26-27; Revelation 1:6; 5:8-10; 20:6). As Daniel 2:44 prophesies: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” Only the saints will have supreme rule and authority in that kingdom! Satan, his demons and all wicked people will be put away (Revelation 20:1-3; 11:17-18).
In training in this life for that rule in God’s kingdom, Christians are commanded: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do it with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
How now, in the face of God’s prerogatives?
God’s prerogatives, such as the eight we have shown here, attest to the sovereignty of God in everything. One may smart at those prerogatives and raise one’s fists in protest. But, as Christ told Saul (who was later renamed Paul) on the Road to Damascus, to fight against God is to “kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5). In the end it is going to hurt the person who does this. For, ultimately, every man is going to be judged for every idle word he says, and for every evil work (Matthew 12:36; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 20:13; 22:12; Luke 13:27). [See: “I Never Knew You!”]
On the other hand, one may take the humbler attitude, like a lump of clay towards the Master Potter. The LORD told His people: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?…Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:6)! Paul, in reply to those who would fault God for exercising His prerogative to have “mercy on whom He wills,” and to harden whom He wills to harden: “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor” (Romans 9:20-21)?
Our Creator God tells us: “But on this one will I look [or regard]: on him who is poor [humble] and of a contrite [repentant] heart, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). A humble, child-like attitude trusts God as One who has created everything and done manifold works in perfect wisdom (Psalm 104:24). Despite what mankind, under Satan’s sway, has done to destroy God’s creation, God will — in the end — restore, and renew, all things! That’s what the gospel of the kingdom of God is all about! All that will be possible through Jesus Christ who, with His “elect,” will establish God’s kingdom on this earth. That kingdom will right everything that’s wrong with our present world.
From the depth of His rich wisdom and knowledge, His unsearchable judgments, God is working out His plan to eventually bring salvation to every individual person — in God’s own time and way. For God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (1 Peter 3:9). “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). [See: Predestination and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]
To God alone be the glory, honor and praise!
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.