The King’s Unalienable Rights
By John Snyder
God possesses certain unalienable rights, to borrow the language of the Declaration of Independence. Unalienable rights are rights which cannot be taken away from or given away by the possessor. So, what rights belong to God? He has the right to be worshipped, feared, trusted, loved, and obeyed with a single-minded allegiance.
Why do these unalienable rights belong to God? First, God is Creator of all, without exception. He has made everything and everyone. He has not been aided in this task. He has also sustained everything in His creation. He goes so far as to explain that He is not merely the Originator and Sustainer; He is also the reason for all things. "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist" (Col. 1:16-17). Unlike all other beings who owe their existence to someone else, God is the Uncaused Cause, possessing all rights over all He has made.
The second reality that defines God’s rights is the Cross. He redeemed or purchased His own property after His rights had been violated by our sin. He not only made us; He also bought us. When Paul speaks to the Corinthian Christians, he reminds them of this reality. He explains that no Christian has a right to his own life; in fact he is not his own property, but God’s. He presses God’s rights with the following explanation: "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s" (1 Cor. 6:20). In his second letter to the same church, he writes: "…and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:15).
God’s unalienable rights are absolute. There is no room to add to them. He deserves everything from His creation. We are His property whether we are Christians or not. Yet the reality of Christ’s death for the sinner surely makes God’s claim upon us all the more weighty.
Paul mentions the death and resurrection of Christ as a motive for submitting to His rights in Romans 14. The passage does not limit itself to the Christian. "For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living" (vv. 7-9). Whether we live or die, whether we believe Him or reject Him, all humanity exists for the risen and exalted monarch, Jesus Christ. Our evangelism must begin with God and with His rights in regard to all humanity.
The Nature of Sin
All rights are God’s yet mankind has lived as if this were not true. We have ignored His rule and trampled His law. This is the nature of sin. A denial and violation of God’s unalienable rights are at the heart of every sin. At its core, sin is robbing God of the honor we owe Him as God.
Being "saved" must indicate that we are saved from something. The Bible clearly tells us that the good news of Jesus is that He saves us from our sin. Recall the words of the angel to Joseph prior to Jesus’ birth: "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). Therefore, salvation must include being rescued from our persistent denial of God’s rights.
A famous early American pastor, Joseph Bellamy (1719-1790), said that sin is the worst thing in all the world. It is even worse than its consequences. Think of the way that you hate sickness and death when it strikes someone very close to you. How dreadful to us is the existence of an everlasting hell. Yet sin is the cause of these sorrows, and it is even more horrendous than its consequences because sin is the violation of God’s rights, God’s honor. Bellamy gave a number of reasons why sin is to be hated:
• Sin is contrary to the nature of God. (It is against His love, His holiness, His majesty, and His mercy.)
• Sin is against the law, authority, and government of Almighty God.
• Sin is against the being of God.
• Sin is against the honor of God.
There are many other reasons why sin should be hated. Sin is against your own happiness and the happiness of all who are connected to you. Sin is the reason for every sorrow, every disease, every unkind act, every crime, every war, and every death. Though the reasons to hate sin are many, the reason above all others that should provoke our hatred is that sin is against our good King. It is from this wretched life of sin – a life that denies and violates the perfect King’s rights – that we must be saved! Therefore, in order to explain salvation to others, we must understand that God has unalienable rights and that sin is the fundamental denial and violation of those rights. We cannot understand salvation apart from a knowledge of God and sin. Only with these truths as the foundation of our thinking can we begin to understand and communicate the vastness and the beauty of the Gospel labors of Jesus Christ.
– Taken from the workbook Behold Your God: Rethinking God Biblically by John Snyder. Copyright © 2013 by John Snyder. Reprinted by permission of Media Gratiae. The author is indebted to Richard Owen Roberts for his thoughts on this subject. For a fuller treatment, see his pamphlet, Unalienable Rights (Wheaton, IL: International Awakening Press, 1993). Behold Your God: Rethinking God Biblically is a 12-week multimedia study that focuses on God’s self-revelation in the Bible, helping the believer apply the descriptions of God to all of life. Visit www.BeholdYourGod.org to learn more. The Herald Staff has benefited much from this study.