This is not only reasonable in view of today’s virtual atheism, but it has paid spiritual dividends in the salvation of many out of non-Christian backgrounds.
The first response of human beings to God’s call must be a response of repentance. Not only was John the Baptist’s first message a call to repentance, but so was that of Jesus in His ministry on earth. Then we find Peter taking the same line, even with Jews, and finally the writings of the Apostle Paul are saturated with it.
We have one Old Testament example at least, where contemplation of the creative works of God led to a repentance that was deep and real, based as it had been on previous intense suffering. I refer to the response of the patriarch Job.
What was it that finally persuaded Job that his whole attitude was wrong, that reduced him to a person with no answer to God but a reverent submission? Quite clearly it was the contemplation of God’s great works of creation.
As we look about the world today we see very little recognition from people that humans are basically rebellious and unwilling to thank God for His great works. Paul tells us that before God, every mouth [should] be stopped’ (Romans 3:19). Job himself eventually said: ‘I will lay my hand upon my mouth’, and from that moment he began to accept by faith that God is inherently good.
Many people today, even if they do think of God sometimes, do so in a careless and often an angry mood, as if God were not the concerned Creator, longing that they would repent and turn towards Him. Some depict Christ as a soft, easy-going man who taught people that God will overlook sin, and that this got rid of the cruel tribal God of the Hebrews. This perversion of the Gospel comes mainly because people have no basic reverence for the Creator, and so are unable to see the mercy of God in ‘the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering’ (Romans 2:4).
As Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones pointed out in a sermon on Romans 2:4, the Apostle Peter prophesied a time when people would regard God as slack concerning His promises to send Christ back to this world (2 Peter 3:3, 4). The fact that God does not at once punish sin or set right evil is only because He is patient, not wanting any to perish eternally.
Thus in Romans 2, Paul states that this patience is designed to lead people to repentance, which will then enable them to exercise faith. Lloyd-Jones points out that God leads, but does not force.
Job, it seems, was allowed to argue with some judgmental philosophers, and to protest his innocence. But neither he nor they were right before God. In the end God revealed Himself as the almighty Creator, yet as one concerned for His creation in all its aspects, animate and inanimate. God is thus seen as maker, owner and manager of this world, which He might easily have destroyed when it became spoilt with sin in Adam.
From this starting-point, Job was humbled to realize how rebellious he had been in his attitude, even though he had never entirely lost trust in God. Therefore he laid his hand on his mouth. So Job was ‘led’ to a repentant attitude and in this case, restored to true faith in his Maker.
If even Job, a righteous man, needed to learn repentance, through contemplating God’s power in creation, how much more the unbelieving people of our world, who have been trained to believe the world arose through evolution. Theistic evolutionists too, who teach some type of ‘ogre’ God who supposedly allowed millions of years of death and suffering before the first man and woman, need to repent of telling people that these are God’s works and methods rather than a judgment on sin.
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Righteous Judgment of God, Romans 2:1–3:20, Banner of Truth, 1989, p. 51.