The Starting Point of Theology — Martyn Lloyd-Jones
‘Why,’ asks someone, ‘is it so vital that we must start with God and not ourselves; why do we start with God and not with our opinions? Why must I be so attuned to this revelation? Why must I start with the holiness of God rather than with His love?’
Let me give you some answers. I suggest that if you do not start with the holiness of God you will never understand God’s plan of salvation, which is that salvation is only possible to us through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross on Calvary’s hill. But the question arises; why is that cross essential, why is that the only way whereby man can be saved? If God is only love and compassion and mercy, then the cross is surely meaningless, for if God is love alone, then all He needs to do when man sins is to forgive him. But the whole message is that the cross is at the centre, and without that death God, I say with reverence, cannot forgive.
So what is the trouble? And here is the answer—‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.’ And that means that He is just and righteous; it means that He is of such pure countenance that He cannot behold and look upon iniquity (Habakkuk 1:13); it is the holiness of God that demands the cross, so without starting with holiness there is no meaning in the cross. It is not surprising that the cross has been discounted by modern theologians; it is because they have started with the love of God without His holiness. It is because they have forgotten the life of God, His holy life, that everything in Him is holy; with God love and forgiveness are not things of weakness or compromise. He can only forgive sin as He has dealt with it in His own holy manner, and that is what He did upon the cross.
Therefore it is essential to start with the holiness of God; otherwise the plan of redemption, the scheme of salvation, becomes meaningless and we can see no point or purpose in some of the central doctrines of the Christian faith. But if I start with the holiness of God I see that the incarnation must take place; the cross is absolutely essential, and the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit and every other part of the great plan as well. How important it is that we should start at the right place; how vital it is that we should be led by truth and not by our own ideas.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John (reprint, Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2002), pg. 101
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