Eternality Versus Infinity
First, we need to start with defining terms. There is often confusion between eternality and infinity. So, let’s define these terms:
Eternality: lasting or existing forever; seeming to last or persist forever
Infinity: limitless or endless in space, extent, or size; impossible to measure or calculate
Now, how do we understand these terms as the express God’s nature?
God describes Himself as being the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all things. Furthermore, He Himself has no beginning and no end. Nothing pre-exists God and nothing is formed that He has not formed Himself. There are no other gods and certainly none before Him.
He is utterly transcendent and outside of time. So, even trite sayings such as, “God looked down the corridor of time and saw…” is not an apt description. It isn’t that such a thing isn’t possible, it simply isn’t apt.
Moreover, being transcendent and Sovereign (one of his attributes) God works out all things to according to the counsel of His will. So, what is my point you may be asking?
God is both eternal, having no beginning and no end, and infinite, meaning that He is limitless and immeasurable. These two timeless truths (see what I did there?) are pivotal in understanding not only how God relates to His creation but also in understanding how we relate to Him.
Man Being Finite Against the Backdrop of God’s Infinity
God does not hesitate to remind mankind that we are finite. Telling us that everything is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1), reminding us that our lives are nothing but briefest vapor. He quite pointedly humbles us with the truth that He not only knows the number of our days but has determined our end. As I stated in a previous article, He is the one who has stitched us together in our mother’s wombs. Furthermore, fashioning each person in all of creation for one exact purpose, glorifying Him. No matter what that form will take.
It is my argument that our God, in His infinity, has ordained the finite nature of His creation for specific reasons. This may seem shocking to some as they read it because there is a perception in the Church that, pre-fall humanity was intended to have infinite life. This view, Arminianism, is contingent upon Adam and Eve acting independently of God and bringing the Fall about apart from God’s decretive will.
This position teaches that God intended infinity for human beings and that Adam and Eve trumped His will therefore bringing the curse of finite life upon us. While that seems reasonable and right on its face, it undervalues God and over-values mankind. Quite frankly, it puts man in the driver’s seat of creation.
God is not reactionary, and yet, that is what this view teaches. One of the most profound statements about mankind is given in Isaiah 55:8-9:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
God is going to great lengths to humble the prideful heart of humanity here. He is vastly incomprehensible.
The Eternality and Infinity of The Moral Law
God, being who He is has in Himself a character that is beyond our ability to comprehend. While we tend to focus on the moral law, or Ten Commandments, as being something created in time, we would be wrong. The Moral Law in inextricably linked to the eternality and infinity of God.
When God commands us to not have any other gods before Him it is because it would violate His character if He allowed such. The same is to be said for lying, stealing, murdering, coveting, fornicating and dishonoring parents. The sum and total of the Moral Law is a profound statement of the infinite nature of God’s character.
Thus, because God preexists time and space and all creation, His Morality preexists all of those as well. Because of this, it is right and good for Him to impose those standards upon mankind.
The Intrinsically Linked Infinity of God’s Law
As I mentioned in my article about properly understanding the nature of God’s Love, all of His attributes are intrinsically and inextricably linked. One cannot separate one of His attributes from the others without doing theological and philosophical violence to the rest.
Likewise, to try and understand the nature of the Law of God apart from His attributes is perfunctorily dangerous. Moreover, trying to understand the Moral Law at an individual level where you separate one from the other is equally dangerous.
Accordingly, we can begin to look at the Eternal Moral Law of God from vantage point of His attributes. As I argued in the linked article, if one were to force me to choose a “chief” attribute of God, it would be His Holiness. Therein, we can stand on the Holiness of God and perceive His Law as He lovingly imposes it on us for our own good.
“Lovingly Todd?” you may be asking. Precisely, because it was Paul in Romans 7 that said it is knowledge of the law that made him aware of sin. Being aware of sin is a good thing for humanity.
Furthermore, Peter quotes God from Leviticus 11 in his epistle and tells us to be holy as God is holy. God, in his transcendence and Holiness is utterly apart from us. Yet, he defines His Holiness and Righteousness in the terms of His Moral law. This defining of the Moral Law lays a ground work wherein we are confronted with our utter wretchedness before God and can then be moved to repentance.
James Lays Down the Law
James in his epistle lays out the weightiness of the infinity of God’s law when he exposes us to this reality:
“10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” James 2
The lesson here is that no matter how good we may be in one area we are all failing in another. As a result, God will hold us accountable for violating all of the law. That is somewhat like getting pulled over for excessive speeding in a school-zone and then subsequently getting charged for attempted homicide. In human courts that would be egregious; but in God’s court it is perfectly Just.
How is it Perfectly Just for God to Hold Us Accountable for all Laws if We Break Only One?
Hold on now, this is where our speed is going to pick up. God, infinitely and eternally transcendent is wholly other and set apart. His Moral Character, revealed through His Eternal Moral Law, is part and parcel of all that He Is. When God utters “I am who I Am” to Moses He is making a distinctive statement. God wasn’t struggling to explain Himself and in frustration swept aside Moses’ question.
The Great I Am was explaining who He is in the most complete way that He could. Jesus echoed that explanation in the New Testament when He uttered “Ego Eimi”. “I exist” is the cry of God. “All that I am always has been and always will be.”
This is the context in which we sin. When we sin, we raise our fists in violence against the infinitely transcendent One. We are making war on all that God is. We are marking Ego Eimi as the enemy who interferes with our desire to have what pleases us. As His subjects we are declaring that He has no authority over us. We are rebels without a clue.
This is why James warns us that to transgress His infinite transcendence in one place is to trespass against Him in all ways. Because of who God is in His very being, according to His own attributes, He must exact His Justice against all rebels. We cannot sin against Him in one area; because He is not divided into differentials. He is the sum of all that He is.
Sin Exists in Infinity Because God is Infinite
All sin is book-ended by two sins. On one end is the command to have no other gods before us. On the other end is the command to not covet. Every sin begins first with failing to love God above all else and then ends with hating neighbor instead of loving them.
Sin against neighbor always flows from sin against God. Subsequently, we become trapped in this endless feedback loop where we are always transgressing. As James warned us, we commit one and immediately we become guilty of the next. And so on. This is why I can say our sins exist in infinity. There are no trifling sins against God. Every sin is magnified beyond our comprehension because of the vastness of God’s unassailable character.
I challenge you to try and understand God who is beyond comprehension. Then dwell, not morbidly or myopically, on your own sin. Have a somewhat healthy fixation on how you have trespassed against the Sovereign of all creation. Here is the very One who has made all things and is utterly without equal and infinitely above all created things, and you are raising your hands against Him. Beating against Him if you will. Every blow of sinful rebellion an infinite statement of how much you despise Him.
So, while we are finite our sin does not exist in a finite space. Our sin exists in a realm without measure because our God is immeasurable.
As so many theologians like to remind us, a crime against your neighbor is far less severe than a crime against the mayor. However, the crime against the mayor is nothing compared to the crime committed against the president. Thus, what makes your filthy sin infinitely wretched is the infinite nature of the one it is enacted upon.
God is Infinitely Just to Punish Us Infinitely for Our sin, But!
The only reasonable response from God against sin is eternal torment in hell. Remember that God loves His own glory above all else. All things exist to glorify and magnify Him and His name. Consequently, when we actively make war on Him, He is obligated to glorify Himself by pouring out His infinite wrath against sin and sinners. To do anything less would be for God to make a mockery of Himself.
This is why God condescended to come in the form of the Second Person of the Trinity. The eternally preexistent Son in His infinitely incomprehensible wisdom and love and grace agreed to become the infinitely worthy and valuable propitiation for sin. The Son made flesh, Incarnate God, perfectly God and perfectly man, stepped into our position and interposed Himself between the infinite wrath of God against the infinite wickedness of sinners.
Only one who was perfectly and infinitely without sin could bear the infinite and eternal wrath of God. That is why Christ could do in nine hours what unrepentant sinners cannot do for eternity in hell. No matter how long a person suffers there they will never be able to make infinite atonement for their sins against God. They must trust in Christ alone or they will suffer the due reward of their sin.
Only an Infinitely Loving God Would Forgive in Such a Way
I am going to wrap this up and I am not going to mention the word infinitely again. I think I have made my point. Isn’t the purpose of writing pieces like this? Point making.
For those of us that are “sold-out” to the work of Advancing the Gospel into the perpetually disobedient and rebellious culture around us, the truth of what I have written about here is vitally important. We must, absolutely must, get this right. Anything short of this understanding of the depth and depravity of our sins against God and His nature will deliver a truncated and poisoned Gospel. We will begin to see our fellow man as basically good having committed a few faux-pas instead of seeing them as wretched rebels against our God. While this may not seem genuinely loving, it is the beginning of preaching about the most loving Being.
The Gospel message is what it is because of how God loves. The command to go out into the whole world preaching it to all creatures flows from all that He is. He receives all of the glory for saving those He chooses, but we receive a benefit rightly owned by the One who paid the steepest of prices.
Understanding this will motivate and influence the way you proclaim the Gospel. Instead of seeing the lost world around you as neutral entities you will see them as targets for the gracious and merciful Gospel message.
Some of you reading this will understand this already. But still others will be put off by what I have said about the infinite nature of our sin. All I can ask you to do is consider yourself. Consider who you were apart from Christ. Maybe you weren’t outwardly wretched, but if you are saved now, you know what your heart was like. Let that knowledge of pre-conversion you, drive you to take pity on the masses of hell-bound sinners around you.
In our Christian walk we are compelled to walk circumspect and on the same path as Christ. This means that instead of looking around us and being disgusted by the lost we are driven by utter sadness for their lost estate. This kind of empathetic love for our fellow man motivated by the reality of the just eternal and infinite judgement directed towards them for their sin, will cause us to preach the Gospel with depth and profound impact.
The beloved George Whitefield is said to have wept these words, “You blame me for weeping, but how can I help it when you will not weep for yourselves, though your immortal souls are on the verge of destruction?”
Soli Deo Gloria!