Which by nature are no gods

“But then, indeed, not knowing God, you served as slaves [to] the ones by nature not being gods” (Galatians 4:8; LITV).

“Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods” (Galatians 4:8; KJV).

“But then, indeed, not having known God, ye were in servitude to those not by nature gods” (Galatians 4:8;Young’s Literal Version).

The gospel is God’s promise to save His people, giving them all the blessings of salvation from regeneration to final glory, conditioned exclusively on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, totally apart from the sinner’s works and efforts. It reveals the righteousness of God — how God is just to justify the ungodly based on the work of Jesus Christ alone. The gospel is not merely the fact that Jesus lived, died, and rose again, considered apart from the purpose of these truths, which were accomplished to establish a righteousness for all whom Jesus represented (CCF).

What does the Bible say about the nature of God? What does it mean to be “BY NATURE” God (or God “BY NATURE”)? What does it mean to be God? From the gospel definition above, How is God able to keep His promises for His people’s good and His own glory? How does God’s ability to keep His promises relate to His being the Sovereign Creator? What is the relation of God keeping promises to God actively controlling every single thing and person in the universe? Related and/or relevant verses to God keeping His promises.

“For you [are] a holy people to Jehovah your God. Jehovah your God has chosen you to be His own treasure out of all the people on the face of the earth. Jehovah did not set His love on you or choose you because you were more in number than any people, for you [were] the fewest of all peoples. But because Jehovah loved you, and because He kept the oath which He swore to your fathers, Jehovah has caused you to go out with a strong hand, and redeemed you from the house of slaves, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Because of this, know that Jehovah your God, He [is] God, the faithful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to those who love Him, and to those who keep His commands, to a thousand generations; and repaying to his face those that hate Him, to destroy him; He will not delay, He will repay him who hates Him, to his face” (Deuteronomy 7:6-10).

“And, behold! Today I [am] going in the way of all the earth, and you know with all your heart and with all your soul that there has not failed one thing of all the good things which Jehovah your God has spoken concerning you; all of it has come to you; there has not one thing failed of it” (Joshua 23:14).

“Remember former things from forever, for I [am] God, and no one else [is] God, even none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past those things which were not done, saying, My counsel shall rise; and, I will do all My desire; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My counsel from a far off land. Yes, I have spoken; yes, I will cause it to come; I have formed; yes, I will do it. Listen to Me, mighty ones of heart who [are] far from righteousness: I bring near My righteousness; it shall not be far off, and My salvation shall not wait; I will place salvation in Zion, My glory for Israel” (Isaiah 46:9-13).

“Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands, there where I have driven them in My anger, and in My fury, and in great indignation. And I will bring them again to this place, and I will cause them to live in safety. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me all the days, for good to them and to their sons after them. And I will cut an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do good to them. But I will put My fear in their heart, that they shall not depart from Me. And I will rejoice over them, to do good to them; and I will truly plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul” (Jeremiah 32:37-41).

“The Lord of the promise is not slow, as some deem slowness, but is long-suffering toward us, not having purposed any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in [the] night, in which the heavens will pass away with rushing sound, and having burned [the] elements will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be burned up. Then all these being [about] to be dissolved, [of] what sort ought you to be in holy behavior and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the Day of God, through which [the] heavens having been set afire will be dissolved; and burning, [the] elements will melt? But according to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:9-13).

Passages speaking to God’s absolutely sovereign and active control.

“But He [is] in one [mind], and who can turn Him? Yea, His soul desires, and He does [it]. For He fulfilled my lot, and many like these are with Him” (Job 23:13-14).

“He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants” (Psalm 105:25).

“But our God [is] in Heaven; He has done all that He has pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

“For I know that Jehovah [is] great, and our Lord [is] above all gods. Every [thing] which Jehovah [was] pleased to do, He did, in the heavens and in the earth, and in the seas and all deep places. He causes the vapors to rise from the end of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain; He brings the wind out of His storehouses” (Psalm 135:5-7).

“[As] streams of waters, the king’s heart [is] in the hand of Jehovah; He turns it wherever He desires” (Proverbs 21:1).

“that they may know from the rising of the sun, and to its going down, that [there is] non besides Me; I [am] Jehovah, and there is none else; forming light, and creating darkness; making peace, and creating evil. I, Jehovah, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:6-7).

Here is R.L. Dabney demonstrating his service or slavery to those “by nature not being gods” (Dabney’s “god” is void of one “by nature” attribute of God, which is absolute and active control over His own creation).

This, then, is my picture of the providential evolution of God’s purpose as to sinful acts; so to arrange and group events and objects around free agents by His manifold wisdom and power, as to place each soul, at every step, in the presence of those circumstances, which, He knows, will be a sufficient objective inducement to it to do, of its own native, free activity, just the thing called for by God’s plan. Thus the act is man’s alone, though its occurrence is efficaciously secured by God. And the sin is man’s only. God’s concern in it is holy, first, because all His personal agency in arranging to secure its occurrence was holy; and second, His ends or purposes are holy. God does not will the sin of the act, for the sake of its sinfulness; but only wills the result to which the act is a means, and that result is always worthy of His holiness. e. g., A righteous king, besieged by wicked rebels, may arrange a sally, with a view to their righteous defeat, and the glorious deliverance of the good citizens, in which he knows the rebels will slay some of his soldiers. This slaying is sin; the good king determines efficaciously to permit it; not for the sake of the slaying, but for the sake of the righteous triumph of which it is part means. The death of these good soldiers is the sin of the rebels; the righteousness of the end in view, is the king’s.

Is God’s intelligence herein Scientia Media?

It may be said, that this scheme represents God, after all, as governing free agents by a sort of scientia media. I reply: Let us not be scared by unpopular names. It is a knowledge conditioned on His own almighty purpose, and His own infallible knowledge of the dispositions of creatures; and it is, in this sense, relative. But this is not a dangerous sense. For only lay down the true doctrine, that volitions are efficiently determined by dispositions, and there is, to God, no shadow of contingency remaining about such foreknowledge (That was the ugly trait). As I showed you, when explaining this scientia media, in the hands of him who holds the contingency of the will, it is illogical; in the hands of the Calvinist, it becomes consistent” (R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology, pp. 288-289; underlining mine).

True gospel simplicity (or the simplicity of the gospel) is a theme I plan to continue. Having just begun with the word “God” in the gospel definition above, we already have R.L. Dabney here corrupting, clouding, and adulterating the simplicity of God’s absolutely sovereign and active control over His creatures.

Dabney pictures his vain figment’s “almighty purpose” of arranging, grouping, and infallible knowing of various inducements and dispositions, etc. Dabney’s idol does pretty much everything except what Psalm 105:25 says He does — actually TURNS hearts. Dabney’s idol allegedly foreknows things infallibly, but Dabney’s idol does not (or cannot) actively control things.

“Shall the axe glorify itself over him chopping with it? Or shall the saw magnify itself over him moving it? As [if] a rod [could] wave those who lift [it]. As [if] a staff [could] raise [what is] not wood!” (Isaiah 10:15)

The “native, free activity” of Dabney’s “free agents” is that of vaunting axes, self-moving saws, recalcitrant rods, and sovereign staffs.