Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 6, 1964

Limiting God

Jesse M. Kelley

Text. Psalms 78:41

Introduction: Text relates to Israel's rebellion at the borders of Canaan when spies returned. The incident is recorded in Numbers 14:1-4. Give account of report of the spies and the result on the people.

Bible says they "limited God" — they "turned back from Him."

Without realizing it, there are multitudes, many of them in the church, who limit God today. They apparently place God on a level with man, and reason, unconsciously perhaps, that what man cannot do God cannot do. The power of God is equated with man's power, ability, and willingness to perform.

This was the case with Israel. They reasoned that because their human strength was not sufficient to overcome giants and walled cities, that God wasn't. They limited God!

To "limit" is to set bounds on something. It is to confine to a specific area of operation or function. Thus Israel set bounds on God's power — they confined His power to operate only in those areas which seemed reasonable to them.

Some ways in which men limit God today:

I. Limit His Mercy

A. The Jews of Jesus' day could not conceive of God's mercy extending to publicans and sinners. Theirs didn't, therefore God's couldn't.

1. The prayer of the Pharisee and the publican. (Luke 8:10-14) Cf. (Eph. 2:1-5.)

2. Even Ananias and the early church doubted when they heard of Saul's conversion. They couldn't conceive of God's mercy extending to such a vile sinner. (Acts 9:13, 14, 26.)

a. In the mind of the Jew God's mercy was hedged in by nationalistic boundary lines. Cf. Eldest son in parable of the prodigal.

B. Many today likewise build walls around God's mercy. Mention some attitudes toward great siners; vile persons; even those who have forsaken the church and are back in the world.

C. God's mercy conditional. (Jer. 59:1, 2.) Actually, a man builds a wall around himself and shuts out God's mercy from him. (Isa. 59:1,2.)

II. Sinners Limit God's Power And Willingness To Save

A. Very often sinners limit God's power and willingness to save them. "I have sinned so long," or, "My sins are so great, I doubt God would save me."

1. These think God is like a man. (2 Pet. 3:9; Isa. 1:18.)

a. In thus limiting God the sinner puts himself beyond any hope of salvation.

III. Limit God's Justice

A. Justice defined: "The administration of that which is just; merited reward or punishment of one's conduct according to law."

1. True justice is impartial. (Deut. 1:16,17.)

B. God is unwavering in His determination to punish sin. This is divine — perfect justice. The longsuffering of God shows that there is no vindictiveness in His judgment, but it lays a terrible stress on its deliberateness.

1. He will "punish the guilty." (Num. 14:18.)

C. Many would limit, or reduce God's justice to mere sentiment. It is argued that He would not condemn one to eternal torment — He is too good to do so.

1. Sin demands punishment, and justice renders unto sin its dues. (Rom. 6:23.) These wages have never been reduced. Cf. (Num. 23:19.)

IV. The Sin Of Limiting God

A. It brings God down to the standard of man. It is presumption to measure Him by the standard of human capacity. (Isa. 55:8, 9.)

B. It manifests disbelief in His word. (Eph. 3:20; Gen. 18:12-14; Matt. 19:16.)

1. Unbelief withdraws His hand from us and turns His face away from us. (Jas. 1:6; Matt. 9:29.)

2. Excluded Israel from Canaan and it will exclude us from heaven.

Conclusion: Exhort Christians to an unwavering faith and an undoubting confidence in God's power and willingness to bless.

Exhort sinners to accept him as revealed in his word and obey his holy commands — to place themselves in his hand by obedience to his word.

— Box 72, Newbern, Tennessee