Ambassador of Reconciliation
7/18/14 at 02:00 AM 51 Comments

Is God Like Gargamel the Great?

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The other day I was reading some library books to my granddaughters. One of the books was Gargamel the Great, about the evil wizard who is the archenemy of the Smurfs. The vain and wicked Gargamel has a magic show and uses trickery to try to get his audience to admire him. In one scene, he forces the crowd to bow to him:


Gargamel looks at the crowd.
“Get on your knees and bow,” he says.
The crowd laughs.
“I said BOW!” Gargamel shouts.
Gargamel waves his wand at his fans.
He puts them under a spell.
They all fall to their knees and bow.
“That’s better,” Gargamel says.*

As I read those words I thought, This is not so different from what many Christians believe God will do to His enemies: He will force them to bow the knee and say Jesus is Lord against their will. For example, the notes in the NIV Study Bible say of Philippians 2:9-11, “Ultimately all will acknowledge him as Lord (see Ro 14:9), whether willingly or not. [emphasis added]

The Philippians passage declares:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.**

The NIV study notes state, “God’s design is that all people everywhere should worship and serve Jesus as Lord.” [emphasis added] How is it worship if people are forced to bow to Him? To confess something (ἐξομολογέω, eksomologéō) is to agree with it. How is it true confession if people say the words against their will? In 1 Corinthians, Paul declares that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (12:3). How can one acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus unless the Holy Spirit in him enables him to recognize Jesus as Lord? Philippians 2 says that bowing to Jesus and confessing Him as Lord is “to the glory of God the Father.” How does it glorify God if people are coerced into paying homage to Him? In Philippians 1:10-11 Paul tells how God will be truly glorified: when we are “pure and blameless” and “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ,” it will truly be “to the glory and praise of God.”

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Compare it to Philippians 2:11:

Romans: “confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’”
Philippians: “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”

In Romans, confessing Jesus as Lord is clearly genuine; it is not simply a grudging assent or a forced submission. It is parallel and complementary to believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead, and it is the ground of true regeneration. The construction in Philippians is nearly identical, so the logical conclusion is that it too refers to genuine confession and true salvation.

So is God like Gargamel? Does He want to coerce everybody into bending the knee and saying the words “Jesus is Lord”? No! His purpose is that all be in genuine worship and submission to Him, that the words on their lips would match the love in their hearts for Him. The confession of Jesus as Lord is willing and heartfelt, and God’s will is that ultimately every tongue will be doing it! As Revelation 5:13 says, “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them” will be worshiping the Lamb with joyful praise—all to the glory of God.

*Gargamel the Great, Adapted by Tina Gallo, Simon Spotlight, 2013

**The Old Testament also declares that every knee will bow to the Lord:

Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear (Is. 45:22-23).

The Lord is calling all the ends of the earth to turn to Him and be saved!

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