Author Archives: patricklloyd

On Fire for the Lord

INTRODUCTION. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “to be on fire for the Lord”. Have you ever wondered what it means exactly? While this paper does not claim to have researched the etymological history of the phrase, the goal here is to show the phrase’s most likely Biblical context and that it has relevant application to the Christian experience today.

FIRES OF THE TRIUNE GOD. When we consider the three persons of the triune Godhead individually, a picture of fire and/or fiery light is found in descriptions of both their persons and purposes.

The Father. For example, Father God is described in the Word as a consuming fire worthy of reverence and awe (Hebrews 12.29). In fact, the voice of God was described as a blazing fire with black clouds and a deep, forbidding darkness that stretched all the way from the top of Mount Horeb to the very heavens (Deuteronomy 4.11—12). What’s more, Father God’s Holy Writ—the Word of God—is described as a hammer of fire that breaks a rock into pieces (Jeremiah 23.29).

God’s presence was also often depicted in terms of fire or fiery light. For example, His presence appeared to Moses in flames of fire from within a bush that was never consumed (Exodus 3.2). In the Shekinah glory, God’s presence was said to be a pillar of fire that led the Israelites through the desert (Exodus 13.21), and at times a fire powerful enough to make Mount Sinai tremble violently (Exodus 19.18).

Father God’s presence is furthermore described as totally engulfed in a radiant fiery light in the Godly visions of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1.4, 27—28). And Daniel saw Father God on a throne flaming in fire and a river of fire actually flowing out from before him (Daniel 7.9—10). When approaching the Father’s throne, we draw near to him who lives in and clothes himself with immortal light that shines out the fiery light of his splendor and majesty—his glory (Psalm 104.1—2; 1 Timothy 6.16; Isaiah 60.1—3).

To draw close to the fiery presence of Father God is “to be set on fire for the Lord“.

The Son. When Jesus came he brought “a fire on earth” (Luke 12.49), intending to set our hearts ablaze with the passions of his heart to please the Father by knowing and obeying his Word (Luke 24.32; John 15.10). And Jesus will one day come again, this time to bring the blazing fire of Judgment that will consume all the wicked who have rebelled against the Spirit of God (Revelation 20.14—15).

The fiery passion of Christ already come is one of love. To know Christ is to embrace that mighty blazing Orb, the Morning Star, burning bright with the Majestic Glory of God rising in our hearts, like his resurrection from his baptism of fire by crucifixion (2 Peter 1.17—19). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3.16). He thus taught us that loving our brothers is how we may pass from death to life (1 John 3.14) and how we can set our hearts at rest in God’s presence (1 John 3.19). Anyone who believes in the Son of God has life in his Son—indeed, eternal life (1 John 5.10—11).

Only by and through Christ (John 17.25) is the truth of Father God fully revealed to us so that we may partake in the glory that the Father has given to the Son since before the creation of the world (John 17.24). Also, by and through Christ we are able to share in the fellowship of love that flows from Father to Son since eternity past (John 17.26). These revelations are incomprehensibly intimate. Listen to the passion that Christ’s heart has for those who believe in him.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am” (John 17.24). Note how Jesus does not hold back any portion of the Father for himself. He wants us to fully partake in the Father as if we were him! And further: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me” (John 17.22—23). In other words, whatever passes from Father to Son is immediately passed on to us so we might share in their absolute, complete unity. We are One with the Father through the Son. Indeed, the love Christ has for us believers is so fiery passionate that it literally makes our hearts burn within us (Luke 24.32).

The fiery passion of Christ to come is one of justice. In John’s vision of Christ’s return he saw Jesus riding on a white horse with hairs on his head as white as snow, but his eyes were like blazing fire and his face shone like the sun in all its brilliance (Revelation 1.14—16). Out of the mouth of Christ came a sharp double-edged sword as he led the charge of his army of angels into the final battle of this era. Jesus and his army of justice captured the beast and his false prophet (the anti-Christ & a servant) and threw them into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, after which he slayed all the kings of the earth and their armies and left them for dead to be gorged on by vultures (Revelation 19.15—21; see also 2 Thessalonians 1.6—7).

Satan will then be bound while Christ reigns on earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20.2), after which Satan will be loosed on earth once again for a short period of time (Revelation 20.7) until he is finally thrown into the lake of burning sulfur forever (Revelation 20.10). Then will come the Day of Judgment before the great white throne, where each person will be judged for eternity according to his faith and works (Revelation 20.15).

And so, on the one hand, Jesus is filled with a fiery, passionate heart of love and on the other he is filled with fiery eyes and a passionate heart of justice. To draw close to the fiery passions of Christ Jesus is to fuel the fire of God.

The Spirit. Scripture teaches that to be set on fire for the Lord and to maintain its intensity one must draw close to the Father by and through the Christ. The question then becomes—how does one draw close to the Father by and through the Christ given that Christ currently sits at the right hand of Father God in heaven? (Colossians 3.1). Enter the third person of the Triune God—the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of burning, the Spirit of fire! (John 15.26; Isaiah 4.4).

The Holy Spirit was associated with fire when John the Baptist predicted that Jesus would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3.11). The prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Spirit of God was “a glow of flaming fire” (Isaiah 4.5). On the day of Pentecost when the Spirit actually came to earth, the Holy Spirit was portrayed by Luke as “what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of [the disciples]” (Acts 2.3). Also, we are commanded to fan into flames the gifts of God’s Spirit (2 Timothy 1.6—7). Finally, we are warned to never put out or squelch the Spirit’s fire within us (1 Thessalonians 5.19).

As Scripture clearly teaches, the Holy Spirit is often affiliated with fire. To remain on fire for the Lord, we must fan the flame of the Holy Spirit within us.

THE FIRES OF SANCTIFICATION THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT. The question then becomes—how do we go about fanning the flame of God’s Spirit within us? Answer: discover the Spirit’s purpose and put it into application.

Every believer has been called to grow in holiness and purity—the sanctification of man (1 Peter 1.15—16). The Holy Spirit is the agent of our sanctification (1 Corinthians 6.11; 2 Thessalonians 2.13). By making known the presence, passion and forgiveness of God, the fire of the Spirit will in turn produce the purity of God within us.

The Fire of His Presence. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God indwelling the heart of every believer (Romans 8.9). In the old economy under the covenant of law, God filled the tabernacle with the fiery glory of his presence by indwelling the innermost room called the Holy of Holies (Exodus 25.8). The Spirit of God hovered just above the Ark of the Covenant where he would meet with Moses and subsequently the High Priests to give commands and answer their spiritual inquiries (Exodus 25.22). This fiery presence provided light and guidance to God’s people as they journeyed in the desert (Numbers 9.17—23). In like manner, when Solomon finished constructing and dedicated the temple building, the presence of God “filled the house of the LORD” in much the same manner and for the same reasons (1 Kings 8.10).

In the new economy under the covenant of grace in Christ, the moment we come to believe in Christ as our Savior, the Spirit of God indwells our innermost room, our holy of holies—that is, our spirit (Romans 8.9). God guides and convicts his children through the Holy Spirit dwelling in our very bodies—our body being the “tabernacle” and the “temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 5.1; 6.16). Therefore, as the glory of God filled the tabernacle/temple of old, so his glory through the flames of his Spirit fills the new temples of Christ—our bodies.

The Fire of His Passion. The Holy Spirit also stirs the passion of God in our hearts, and we must learn to nurture our passion for Christ in order to grow in holiness. Recall to mind the two disciples who unwittingly talked with the resurrected Jesus for several hours as they traveled down the road to Emmaus. Once they realized it had been the risen Christ that had so eloquently spoken to them about the Scriptures prophesying the coming Messiah, they asked each other: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24.32). The Spirit of truth in Jesus’ words had stirred the passions of their hearts.

Similarly, after the apostles received the baptism of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2.3—4), the disciples carried within them a passion for Christ that lasted a lifetime, a passion that compelled them to speak the Word of God assertively and boldly despite being persecuted and even martyred because of it (Acts 4.31).

To fan those flames of passion and keep them burning within us (2 Timothy 1.6—7), there are three primary means of fueling these fires. First, we need to pray daily to be filled with his Spirit (Ephesians 5.18), and also “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5.19—20).

The second means of fanning the flames of God’s passion within is by walking in the Spirit, living by the Spirit (Galatians 5.16). “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5.25). This entails not only listening for the Spirit of truth’s voice, but also following its lead once we hear that voice. “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts'” (Hebrews 3.7—8). To follow the Spirit’s lead, we simply must combine the message of truth we hear from him with faith (Hebrews 4.2).

The third and final means of fanning the flames of the Spirit’s passions is to sow to the Spirit. “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6.7—8).

These flames of God’s passion can indeed burn forever within us as long as the fuel feeding them is the truth of his Word.

The Fire of His Forgiveness. Finally, to grow in holiness, a believer must continually work the process of forgiveness in his life—to acknowledge his sin, to ask for and receive God’s forgiveness, and to forgive others.

In the old economy of the covenant of works, the sacrifice of forgiveness at the altar had to be made on a regular basis in order to make atonement for the sins of the people. The fire would consume the sacrificial animal’s burnt offering and carry the swirling embers of burning flesh as a pleasing aroma up to God in heaven (Exodus 29.41). The altar can serve as a picture of our commitment to the Lord in the context of the new economy of grace, as well.

As believers in Christ, however, the apostle Paul implored us to offer our bodies, not an animal carcass, as “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12.1). The living sacrifice of our bodies are engulfed by the flames of the inextinguishable fire of the Holy Spirit, and the pleasing aroma to God is the broken spirit and/or contrite heart of a believer who has acknowledged his sin, has experienced Godly guilt, has bowed in prayer and is asking God for forgiveness (Psalm 51.17). These swirling embers of humility are indeed an aroma that only the flames of the Holy Spirit can produce.

In the old economy, the law of God rested in the Ark of the Covenant which was kept in the Holy of Holies within the sanctuary. Today, the Spirit facilitates this process of maintaining holiness through forgiveness by writing God’s laws on our hearts and minds (Hebrews 8.10). Internalizing God’s commands makes it easier (not easy) to live the way God wants us to, and living Godly lives is what enables us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This in turn is what empowers us to test and approve what God’s good and perfect will is, which is how we live in a Godly manner (Romans 12.2)—and so the process goes.

Finally, regardless of how well we take the required steps for forgiveness discussed above, we will not receive forgiveness from God if we do not also forgive those who have sinned against us (Matthew 6.15). This command comes directly from Jesus and is an unambiguous prerequisite to being purified through the process of forgiveness.

CONCLUSIONThe Fire of His Purity. As the silversmith uses fire to purge the impurities from precious metal, so God will use the Spirit to make known his presence within us, fan the flames of Godly passion within us, teach us to give and receive forgiveness, and thus ultimately cleanse and purify our faith, increasing our holiness (Psalm 66.10; Proverbs 17.3).

And so, to know God, who is a fiery presence, and to abide in Him, which is a fiery process, is what it means to be on fire for the Lord!

May the fires of the Lord burn within us forever!

 

© 2017 the WORD runs deep publishing

Abraham Departed

INTRODUCTION. The call of the Israelites and ultimately our Christian journey began when the Voice of God challenged Abraham (then Abram) to pick up his family and complete the journey his father had begun a few years earlier, to walk away from what had always been in his seventy-five year old life—his country, his people, his father’s household—and go forth to a land unknown where God promised to make Abraham and his family into a great nation by blessing him. “So Abraham departed” (Genesis 12.4, KJV).

We must not take for granted the profound significance of these few words, for they signal a radical departure from virtually everything that had, up to that point, ever occurred in the far-reaching evolution of mankind and its culture.

ABRAHAM’S WORLD. In Abraham’s time, with few variations, the prehistoric worldview and attending religions held that the Earth was a flat circle covered by the rotating dome of Heaven. In between was the great mediator, Air, in which lived the astrological bodies projecting the cyclical drama of Heaven which in turn predicted, and often dictated, life on Earth. The Sea surrounded Earth on all sides, and just beneath the flat round disc was the realm of the dead—Hades or hell.

Many Gods. Each of the great elements was a god. We can easily imagine the overwhelming impression the sparkling skies had on prehistoric man. The far away stars were mysterious, unattainable, higher than man and readily understood as unparalleled and transcendent—self-evidently the abode of the “most high”—the divine. Despite being more proximate, the closer elements like the sun, moon, air, and sea were still sufficiently aloof, not well understood and dangerously powerful, and thus also assigned the status of gods. Hence, Heaven was father, Earth was mother. As the insightful “interpreter” between Heaven and Earth, Air was often a significant god. The all-powerful Sea and its fickle ways was a god not to be trifled with. The Sun and the Moon—gods.

Static Worldview. The harmonious counterbalance to the cosmic drama’s mystery and inaccessibility, however, was its eternal order and predictability. Man’s perception of this cyclical precision no doubt engendered some feelings of security—in a sense, a measure of correspondence both from and with the gods. What’s more, the cyclical motions of the heavenly bodies provided man with a recurring drama of corruptible life on earth—its births, seasons, deaths, and regenerations.

This pattern eventually grew to become the static worldview—the sky was a revolving picture of the gods, a wheel-like pattern that was ever predictive of life for us mortals on earth. The only exceptions were the calamitous acts of destruction which man mistook for aberrations of anger on the part of the gods.

The Great Wheel of Life & Death. This worldview’s corresponding religious paradigm was known as the Great Wheel of Life and Death. All of life unfolded within the confines of the Great Wheel, and like the stars traversing the skies, all of mankind was destined to walk the Great Wheel in more or less the same direction and manner.

This resulted in continuous suppression of the optimistic notion that each man is a separate identity, free to maneuver in space and time. Such sentiment succumbed to the constant, herding motion of the Great Wheel until each man was rendered indistinguishable from the next, like the Muslims trudging around the Kaaba stone at Mecca. Time was a circle endlessly turning on itself and all life, therefore, was a predictable pattern devoid of freedom and creativity. In other words, everything that had been simply came around again—each man’s fate was fixed by the rote, ritualistic dance of the gods in the stars.

JOURNEY OF FAITH. This was the world in which Abraham had breathed and lived the greater portion of his seventy-five years. The monotonous grind of that timeless Wheel must have felt like the pump of his heart pushing life-blood through his veins. Perhaps now—surely now—we can more fully appreciate the monumental leap of faith Abraham took when he heard the Voice inside his heart and, upon its command, departed from his home.

The Quiet Voice Inside. For Abraham no longer heard the gods speaking to him through steady rains or blinding thunderstorms, through abundant crops or drought and famine, through conquering military victories or devastating defeats. Here was a man who heard and trusted a God speaking to him in a singular, disembodied Voice found inside his heart. How on earth did this man of the Wheel hear the quiet, internal voice of God after seventy-five years of listening for Him in the external roar of thunder and earthquake?

Breaking Free From the Wheel. Not only did Abraham hear this quiet, singular Voice, he also heeded the call of it to break free from the Great Wheel. There is no way to exaggerate how difficult this would have been for Abraham to do. First of all, it was not just his seventy-five years of wheel-walking that Abraham defied, it was eons of the greater wisdom of humanity that he literally just … up and walked away from.

Also, Abraham was most likely scorned as a lunatic and admonished by his contemporaries not to journey, but to sit and meditate on the meaningless flow of time until time once again turned on itself, crumbling into the dusty bones that made up the spokes of the Great Wheel of Life and Death. But the true call of the LORD is wholly irresistible, and so Abraham departed.

Into the Great Unknown. Thus began Abraham’s journey of faith into the great unknown. In a vision, the Voice of God beckoned Abraham to “look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then God said to him, “So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15.5—6). Abraham believed God’s Promise and it was credited to him as righteousness. What happened between God and Abraham that day would forever change the world.

Infinite Points of Light. In a simple phrase contained within the Promise—“if indeed you can count them”—the Voice of God had ever so gently revealed to Abraham the profound truth that he could not in fact count the stars. This, of course, blew the roof off the “few thousand stars” contained within the rotating dome of the static worldview and the Great Wheel. The starry host was not a finite dome circling the flat earth in wheel-like fashion—at best implying eternal transcendence of the heavens. The Voice was telling Abraham the sparkling heavens were in fact eternally transcendent—infinite points of light that surround the rotating globe of earth.

Linear View of Time. God had called Abraham to a new paradigm that shattered the cyclical views of time and history that were governed by fixed gods of inevitable fate—forlorn and fruitless, stifling and sterile. The first great Promise of the Christian doctrine offered instead a linear view of time and history moving toward their consummation in the sovereign purposes of their Creator, in which the freedom to explore this earth—indeed, the universe—was given to creatures.

Free to Choose. Moreover, Abraham was learning the soul of man and the path he takes are neither confined nor coerced by the stars or the Great Wheel—man is free to choose his path under the heavens. In fact, man is blessed with infinite, inexhaustible possibilities of unique and creative discovery that ultimately lead us back home to the praise and glory of the Creator God. Abraham was the first man to catch a glimpse of this inspiring hope the Creator planned for us by way of the Promise (Hebrews 11.1).

CLOSING THOUGHTS. In closing, do not think for a second that modern man is immune from the confining and impotent paradigm of Abraham’s day. The corrupt paradigms of our day will be anything but obvious to us, insidiously hidden in the “wisdom” of our modern culture. Indeed, have we not, under the auspices of scientific progress, digressed into thinking that “if we cannot see it, it must not exist”? Like Abraham, we must first listen for and then in faith trust the still, small Voice inside our heart over and above that boisterous, vainglorious voice extolling the virtues of higher education and knowledge.

May we forever have the courage of Abraham to depart from the darker paradigms of our day and go where that still, small Voice prompts us—the glorious journey into the great unknown of the true light that brings hope to every man (1 John 1.5).

The Capstone Christ

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes (Psalm 118.22—23).

There has long been debate among theologians as to whether our lead text refers to David/Israel or to the Christ, or to both, a question to which we presently turn.

DAVID/ISRAEL.  On the one hand, our text appears to apply to David as he indeed experienced rejection before ultimately becoming the capstone of God’s building, his chosen people, the Israelite nation.

Despite God pointing out that He was their leader, the Israelite people clamored for a traditional king and God turned them over to their desires with the anointing of Saul as king over Israel. Not long afterwards, however, Saul began to disobey the LORD’s commands causing hardships for Israel and, consequently, God rejected Saul as king, instructing Samuel, the prophet, to anoint David king of Israel, which he promptly did.

David’s rejection, however, came at the hands of an extremely jealous Saul who would not stand down as king and, despite David’s unrequited support of Saul, he tried to kill David, or have him killed, for several years following David’s anointing. After several failed murderous attempts on David’s life and a huge military defeat to the Philistines under Saul’s leadership, rather than battle the Philistines to his death, Saul succumbed to the evil spirit that tormented him and fell on his own sword, killing himself.

At last, David was installed as king of Israel, but his rejection lingered on for seven and a half agonizing years as he was forced to deal with persisting civil wars between the houses of Saul and David. This resulted in a kingdom divided, but David endured and the people grew to love him, and ultimately he became the capstone that united all the tribes and families of Israel for thirty-three years of national prosperity and growth.

After David’s kingship and his son Solomon’s Godly rule, however, the nation of Israel could be considered the rejected head stone referred to in our lead text. The powers of the world were jealous of Israel’s past success and grew to despise its existence, continually conspiring to bring about its destruction. To make matters worse, many of Israel’s kings allowed pagan influences to seep into and weaken God’s house. Consequently, God’s hand was removed from Israel and its power and authority were diminished to the point where surrounding nations scoffed at “these feeble Jews”. In spite of this, however, God had destined this lowly nation to a place of honor among the kingdoms of the world.

And so, after enduring many hardships, including the fall of Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem, the stone by stone dismantling of the temple of God, and the exile of the Israelite people into enemy hands, Israel was eventually restored. Israel was ultimately advanced by God to be the capstone of both past eminence and future prominence—the former as Christ is the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, a descendant of David (Revelation 5.5; Romans 1.3; 2 Timothy 2.8), and the latter as the capital city that is to come, and enduring city coming down out of heaven from God, a beautiful bride and a very precious jewel, the Holy City, the new Jerusalem (Hebrews 13.14; Revelation 21.2 & 11).

THE CHRIST.  And yet, we know for certain that our text is applicable to Jesus the Christ, the prophesied Messiah, because Jesus himself quoted this very Scripture and said unequivocally that it was about him. When Jesus was here on earth and had begun his healing and teaching ministry, one day he shared a parable with the Pharisees about a vineyard owner whose tenants refused to hand over the harvested fruit, even killing the owner’s son and servants who had been sent to collect that year’s yield. Jesus then, right there on the temple court steps, got the Pharisees to publicly declare that the tenants should not have rejected the vineyard owner’s son and servants as they had a legitimate claim of right to the harvest and, furthermore, that God should punish them accordingly.

Jesus astutely turned the Pharisees’ own declarative judgment against them by quoting Psalm 118.22, asserting that it was them, the Pharisees, who were right then at that moment rejecting the very stone referred to in Psalm 118—he, Jesus, was that stone. By making this claim, Jesus was also implying that it was he who would ultimately be revealed as the capstone, the prophesied Messiah of God’s chosen people (Matthew 21.42—45). The chief priest and the Pharisees were furious at being called out by Jesus and wanted him arrested, but they were scared of the people who were drawn to Jesus’ powerful words and obvious authority.

To be sure, the Jewish scribes, priests and Pharisees had rejected Jesus with inexorable disdain. They saw no excellence in Jesus upon which to build their church. As far as they were concerned, Jesus was a stone of another quarry, certainly not someone who could be made to fit in with their dogmatic and legalistic brand of Judaism.

Therefore, though straight out of the Hebrew scrolls, they disavowed the wisdom in Jesus’ doctrines and ordinances. They refrained from listening to him preach unless it was to catch him in a trap, which they failed at miserably. Needless to say, they did not preach about Jesus, even precluding others from doing it. In short, the Pharisees refused to own Jesus as the stone, rejecting him out of hand and, moreover, trampled upon this stone when they chose the robber and thief, Barabbas, over Christ.

The Apostle Peter reaffirmed that Christ is the capstone referred to in Psalm 118. In the book of Acts, when speaking to the Sanhedrin, the overruling religious body of which the Pharisees were one sect, Peter called them out as the ones who had crucified Jesus Christ, stating that Christ was “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone” (Acts 4.11). Note how Peter substituted the word “you” for the original “the” in referring to “the/you” builders who rejected the capstone Christ—emphatically reasserting Jesus’ accusation that Psalm 118.22 prophetically exposed the Jewish religious leaders’ rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.

By humbling himself in compliance with his Father’s design, Jesus indeed became the head stone, the corner stone, the capstone—the foundation of our hope, the center of our unity, and the cause of our living. “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1.21). As the chief corner stone, Christ is the head of the body, exalted above all principalities and powers, bringing both strength and beauty to his church.

This, of course, was all accomplished by and in accordance with the good and perfect will of Father God (Ephesians 1.11). The Father sent him (John 5.36), sealed him (John 6.27), and God’s hand was with him throughout the entire undertaking (Acts 2.22—24). In like manner, from the first to the last, Jesus sought out and did his Father’s will (John 6.38), even to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2.8). Because of the Father’s plan and the Son’s obedience, Christ was raised and made the capstone, and our redemption was wrought. This, the most amazing of all God’s wondrous works, ought to be and truly is marvelous in the eyes of all believers!

CONCLUSION.  In closing, one would be hard pressed, I believe, to show that our text does not refer to David and the nation of Israel, both of which experienced significant rejection before undergoing advancement at the hands of the Lord’s will. Additionally, Peter quotes our lead text a second time referring to Christ as the “living” Stone, the cornerstone who is chosen by, and precious to, Father God. Moreover, says Peter, those who trust in this capstone will not be put to shame (1 Peter 2.4—8).

In the end, it is reasonable and prudent to conclude our principal text refers to both David/Israel and to the Christ. After all, the principle underlying our text is that Christ, the true representative of Israel, vicariously undertook and accomplished the very mission originally assigned to Israel. In light of this, one would expect our text to apply in like manner to both Israel and Christ, and it in fact does.

Is it Good to Hate? (Romans 12.9)

Is it good to hate? If understood and applied properly, it is absolutely good to hate. In fact, it is demanded of all believers! An integral part of loving is a healthy hate for all that is evil. “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good” (Romans 12.9).

SINCERE LOVE REQUIRES HATING WHAT IS EVIL. The first thing to note is this Scripture implies that anyone who does not hate what is evil and cling to what is good cannot truly or sincerely love. Conversely, one cannot actually or fully love unless he both hates what is evil and clings to what is good. But why do we have to hate anything in order to love?

To begin, we know that “God is love” (1 John 4.7). The Apostle John is not saying that God is like love or filled with love, or that God has love in him. It is much more than any of those—God is love. At the core of Father God’s very nature is love. First and for all eternity, he loves his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (John 17.24); and then, at the dawn of time, this fountain of love brimmed over into Creation and we humans, of course, are the primary beneficiary of this love (Colossians 1.15—20).

Now, it is inherently true that one cannot choose to do a certain thing and actually do it unless he first knows what that thing is. Applied to the issue at hand, this means we cannot choose to actually love something or someone without first knowing what love is. Given that God is love, we cannot know love without knowing God. Indeed, to know love is to know God—to express love is to express God.

From this, we can extrapolate the following hypothesis—sincere or pure love cannot in any way contradict what we know to be God’s nature, attributes, thoughts or desires. Romans 12.9 holds one cannot sincerely love unless he both hates what is evil and clings to or loves what is good, so we need to ascertain if God indeed both hates what is evil and loves what is good.

Psalm 45 is an illustrious prophecy of Messiah the King and quoted in Hebrews:

“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” (Hebrews 1.8).

Knowing that this Scripture is talking about Christ and that Christ is one with the Father (John 1.1), we can deduce that God loves righteousness (doing God’s will, i.e., what is good) and hates wickedness (doing what is evil). Also, Psalm 97.10 says “those who love the LORD hate evil.”

Scripture teaches that God is love and he hates what is evil and loves what is good. The logical extension of these principles affirms the truth of the Romans 12.9 exhortation that we, too, must hate what is evil and cling to what is good if we want to express the pure love of God.

TO HATE WHAT IS EVIL. What exactly does it mean for us to hate what is evil? Perhaps it is best to start by emphasizing two things it is not.

First, hating what is evil does not include hating men. We may hate what a person does, but we must not hate the person who does it. The Lord Jesus exhorted his disciples to love all men, even those who hated them (Luke 6.27—28). Our Christlike example is to be kind to the ungrateful and wicked, and never repay hatred with hatred. We are to be merciful to sinners, just as our Father is merciful to us (Luke 6.35—36). If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (1 John 4.12).

Secondly, while it is true that Christians are to have a strong dislike or hatred for evil, we are also drawn to have a deep, abiding love for God and what is good. Therefore, a healthy hatred of all that is evil must never be characterized by a malicious attitude. Accordingly, we should guard against our hatred for evil ever playing any part in discord, jealousy, fits of rage, dissensions or factions; nor should it ever support the sin of selfish ambition. If any of these has occurred, then our hatred has indeed become a sinful hatred of the flesh (Galatians 5.20) and is, therefore, incompatible with the Christlike spirit of hating what is evil.

In short, to hate what is evil is to despise what God despises, to abhor what he abhors. All sin is hated by God. Because he is holy and pure and altogether apart from sin in his nature and person, God’s total opposition and aversion to sin is quite simply required for him to remain pure. He takes no pleasure in hating the evil of sin, it is simply “not him”. As we love God and gain understanding from him, then we too will hate sin as he does (Psalm 97.10; Psalm 119.104), The ONLY pleasure we should take in hating sin or evil, however, is that of pleasing God.

We should also hate the sphere of darkness in which the unbeliever lives and operates (John 3.19—20; 1 John 2.11). This sphere of darkness is the product of Satan’s hand and his dominion (2 Corinthians 4.4). Any person who lives in this darkness, however, is not necessarily doomed to its shadows forever—one can be rescued from it and brought into the light (Ephesians 5.8).

Finally, believers in Christ should also despise Satan himself and his demons. Satan is the author of all sin and evil, he who embodies what is not of God. Unlike those who do not yet believe and can be rescued from darkness, there is no hope of redemption for Satan and his demons—they have already been judged and merely await sentencing. Their sole purpose is to lure us away from God (1 Peter 5.8). Certainly God hates “the abomination that causes desolation” (Daniel 12.11). Simply put, to love God is to hate Satan.

WHY WE HATE WHAT IS EVIL. In what way will hating what is evil benefit us? Thankfully, God provides us with some understanding of the practical benefits of hating what is evil.

First, to hate what is evil helps us cling to what is good. These two precepts are not mere tautology, but were created to act in synergy. To hate the darkness helps us see, desire and cling to the light. To love and abide in the light helps us see and avoid the darkness (John 3.20—21). But in a culture that increasingly believes the difference between good and evil is not a spiritual reality but an intellectual distinction that is social and psychological in nature, it would be hard to overemphasize our need to hate what is evil in order to maintain a balanced perspective between these two precepts.

There is always a risk that love will weaken the condemnation of what is wrong and evil, especially for those who do not believe these are in fact spiritual concepts. And so, in a sincere desire (if not zeal) to love and do good, modern liberality appears to have lost sight of the fact that evil stands in direct contravention to love and good. Thus, for example, it is not uncommon for today’s convicted criminal to be pitied as much as blamed, and our prison system has slowly become as much or more about rehabilitation than punishment. It’s not that I’m against educating and socially elevating the wrong-doers of society, quite the contrary, as long as that agenda does not supersede the function of punishment. Indeed, accepting and enduring the punishment handed down for crimes committed is the first step toward actual rehabilitation.

A related threat to the delicate balance between hating what is evil and clinging to what is good stems from the now well-publicized misappropriations of this exhortation “in the name of Christ”—abominations such as the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, the Ku Klux Clan, and the neo-Nazi skinhead movement, to name a few. These distortions of the command to hate what is evil, coupled with media misinformation and/or exaggeration about them, have led to expanding persecution for anyone who dares to publicly express views consistent with the scriptural command to hate evil. To “hate” anything, even evil things, is becoming taboo in today’s world and is often frowned upon, if not ridiculed. “All hate is wrong” has become the insidious battle cry of an increasingly spiritless culture—all in the name of love, of course.

As a result, when presented with an opportunity to express our hate of evil things, we Christians often cower in silence or take the path of least resistance with half-mumbled euphemisms. While it is true that few, if any, Christians are called to actively seek out persecution for their faith—all Christians are called to embrace such persecution when it presents itself, and not just for God’s glory in this case, but for our own sake, as well. By not expressing our views about hating evil, the delicate balance between the two precepts of this exhortation is disrupted and our ability to cling to what is good is proportionately weakened. To lovingly express our views about hating what is evil is more challenging than ever today, but speak we must.

Another reason to express our specific views about hating evil is that it often provides us an opportunity to witness our faith in general. If handled properly, the very fact that all “hate speak” is becoming taboo can be creatively turned on its head and used as a conversation starter that naturally leads to discussing God and faith. There is nothing wrong with being “crafty” as long as our motives are good.

CONCLUSION. In closing, please keep in mind that the primary purpose of this writing is to emphasize the more difficult teaching that believers are actually required to hate all that is evil. As discussed, we are also required to cling to all that is good. In practice, by word or deed, life will present many more opportunities for us to cling to something good than hate something evil, all the more reason to keep reminding ourselves of the need to hate evil, as well.

As always, Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Word of God provides us with an enduring example of how this command can be lived out. As he entered Jerusalem for what he knew was the last time and with the sober knowledge of why he came, traveling across a bed of cloaks and palm branches spread in homage to the path he followed and hearing the hails of praise from those attending his triumphal entry, one could easily imagine that Jesus would have preferred to cling to what good there was in this humble honor bestowed upon him. But that is not what life presented to him.

Upon entering his Father’s house of worship, he was assaulted by the stench of greed oozing from the inflated prices of the money changers and those selling sacrificial animals—abusing many worshipers who came with poor means and a pure heart to worship his Father. Jesus hated the evil he saw and expressed his indignation by overturning tables and verbally exposing their iniquities to all who could hear! Soon after, however, Jesus let go of his anger and embraced the opportunity to heal the blind and the lame that came to him there in the temple. By doing so, Jesus heaped loving coals upon the exposed greed by clinging to the good of caring for those in need (Matthew 21.12—17).

Jesus’ loathing of evil was undeniable and absolute, and equally intense and pure was his clinging to that which is good. In his obedience to both commands and the harmony that blossoms between them, Jesus makes God known to us, he makes love known to us—he loves us perfectly, showing us how to love perfectly.

© 2014 by Patrick Lloyd—the WORD runs deep publishing  (TWRD Short # 024)

This Lump of Clay (God has mercy & God hardens—Romans 9)

“Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9.18). In this verse, Paul could not have been more unequivocal and yet most of us struggle to fully understand it, much less accept it at face value.

While researching this issue, I came across a blog site written by a Catholic priest who rather elegantly takes the position that I think most theologians take with respect to the issue of “God hardening Pharaoh’s heart”. It’s a position with which I respectfully and passionately disagree. This blog invites reader response. The following is my response which is currently “awaiting moderation”.

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With all due respect, Msgr., I disagree with your position and hope you have the courage to share this with your readers.

Your position is that God “hardening Pharaoh’s heart” was not God exercising his sovereign will over and above and in the place of Pharaoh’s free will, i.e., God did not cause Pharaoh to do something he wasn’t going to do anyway. Your position appears to state that God hardening Pharaoh’s heart is “voluntary” on the part of Pharaoh–in other words, in no way did God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart temporarily supplant, displace or override Pharaoh’s free will–indeed, “God hardens in such a way that he uses [Pharaoh’s] own will, whom he hardens, for the executing of his judgment and his acceptance that [Pharaoh’s] will against him is definitive.”

You go on to cite in support of this position that it is Pharaoh who hardens his own heart in the first 5 plagues and “it is only after this repeated hardening of his own heart, that the Exodus text shifts, and speaks of God as the one who hardens.” You state that only after “Pharaoh’s repeated demonstration of his own hardness” does God in effect “‘cement the deal’ as a kind of sovereign judgment on Pharaoh.”

If I am understanding you correctly, your position implies that 1) Pharaoh’s repeated self-imposed hardness to not let the Israelites go, 2) coupled with God’s foreknowledge that Pharaoh’s disposition against God’s will would not change, 3) results in God “declaring and permitting” Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened in some definitive way. Wow! I’ve never considered God’s sovereignty so passive in its nature. On the contrary, I’ve always thought of it as authoritative—clearly something that stands over and above man’s free will if it so chooses.

My first question is—given your definition of what it means for God to harden Pharaoh’s heart—what is the point of Scripture making a distinction between “Pharaoh hardening his own heart” and “God hardening Pharaoh’s heart”? Your explanation dilutes the latter so much that it becomes a “distinction without a difference”. According to you, Pharaoh would not have let the Israelites go anyway. God just “cemented” this reality in some “definitive way”. What exactly does that mean? If something’s going to happen anyway, and I am God and therefore know in my omniscience it’s going to happen, how can anything I do make it happen in a more “definitive way”? The bottom line is, given your interpretation, God “hardening Pharaoh’s heart” made absolutely no practical difference in the outcome of events. So again, I ask, what is the point of God stating he’s the one who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Doesn’t your position actually make God’s “sovereign will” look rather impotently bound by man’s free will?

It certainly does not set the Lord apart like God says it will in Exodus 7. God said “but I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you” (Exodus 7.3—4). Under your interpretation, God sounds disingenuous in this verse, if not braggadocios. Doesn’t it sound like God is “taking credit” for something that would have happened anyway, given Pharaoh’s disposition?

I suggest for consideration an entirely different interpretation of events. Pharaoh’s own arrogant stubbornness propelled his unwillingness to do God’s will through the first 5 plagues. After the 6th plague, however, I believe Scripture implies that Pharaoh would have broken down and let the Israelites go (this does not speak one way or the other to the issue of whether Pharaoh would have fully repented and turned to the Lord, though I assume not). But 5 plagues was not the full measure of God’s will and plan, and thus, in his sovereign will and authority, God intervened into human affairs and propped Pharaoh up by “hardening his heart so that he would not listen to Moses and Aaron” for another 5 plagues and then some. God continued hardening Pharaoh’s heart until the full measure of his will and plan regarding these events was accomplished—that his name be proclaimed in all the earth as the one who freed his people from Egyptian slavery. In other words, God hardening Pharaoh’s heart indeed changed the course of events that free will on its own accord would have rendered.

I don’t understand why people resist this notion. It appears that God works his sovereign will almost exclusively in conjunction with man’s free will. Occasionally, however, God deems it necessary to interpose his will over and against man’s free will. We Christians do not seem to have a problem with this notion as it applies to the immaculate conception. To put it bluntly, God imposed himself on Mary’s free will by impregnating her virgin egg with his Holy Spirit, indeed, while she was engaged to be married to Joseph. Although God told Mary this would happen, he certainly did not ask for her or Joseph’s consent in the matter.

How is the immaculate conception ANY different from God imposing himself on Pharaoh’s free will? On the one hand, God imposed himself on the free will of Pharaoh to deliver his people from bondage to Egyptian slavery by revealing himself as the one true God with the power to perform such miraculous signs of plagues, to establish himself as the Father of the law that he would soon deliver through the hands and labor of the Israelites. On the other hand, God imposed himself on the free will of Mary to deliver his people from bondage to sin by revealing himself as the one true Light with the power to perform such miraculous signs of healing, to establish himself as the Father of grace that he would soon deliver though the blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Granted, Mary came to see her will being imposed upon by God as a wonderful blessing—that Pharaoh did not do the same is not God’s fault or responsibility.

Yes, I would imagine that God’s foreknowledge of Pharaoh’s evil disposition did factor into his decision to supplant Pharaoh’s free will—God is a fair and just God. But we must understand that God’s sovereignty rules over and comes before everything else, including man’s free will. And sometimes, though we may not see it clearly, we are called to simply trust in God’s fairness and justice. Paul reminds us of this when, right after referring to God making use of Pharaoh to accomplish his very purposes, he states unequivocally that “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9.18). This is both a frightening and wonderful reality for Christians to embrace. In short, this verse reminds us who God really is—Creator AND Ruler of the Universe!

Please don’t do what the moderns do and dilute the latter part of this Scripture into some meaningless concoction that is “always consistent” with man’s free will. Poppycock! God’s sovereignty is not bound by man’s free will. Cannot the Potter do what he wants with this lump of clay we call fallen mankind? Who are we to question God’s actions or motives (Romans 9.21)? Indeed, shouldn’t every believer stand ready in fear and trembling for God to use him or her in whatever way he chooses? Even if it be “the way of the Pharaoh”, then we should praise God for using us to accomplish his great purposes!

 © 2014 by Patrick Lloyd—the WORD runs deep publishing  (TWRD Short # 023)

What Do We Seek First? (Matthew 6.33)

Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6.33). “These things” to which Christ referred are the means of living here on earth—food, clothing, shelter—the blessed provision of Father God. Not to mention air to breath and our lungs that once again draw it in—life itself and those creatures with whom we share it. So, to maintain a Godly perspective and live accordingly will not only provide us assurance of tomorrow, it will also lead to blessings today. In other words, we taste of the kingdom to come … today.

So why is it that even if I’m not living an actively sinful life—I’m not worshipping Buddha, for example, or disrespecting my elders; I’m not murdering or committing adultery, stealing or lying—I can still find myself discontent with God’s provision today? That is to say, why do I have to “work” at being grateful for his many blessings? The answer is usually because I’ve become focused on the blessings or lack thereof instead of remaining focused on He who grants or withholds them.

All that is required to drive a wedge between us and God is that our perspective or priorities become skewed. Consider the Israelites who were delivered from Egyptian slavery under circumstances that made it clear their savior was the Lord of the Universe. Ten frighteningly miraculous plagues had been cast on cue upon the Egyptians in order to secure their release. When their escape was in jeopardy because the Pharaoh had changed his mind and chased after the Israelites in the desert, they were saved once again by the parting of the Red Sea. Who but the Lord of the Universe could have done such things as these?

At first the Israelites worshipped their deliverer with trust and gratitude in their hearts. Eventually, however, they started focusing on what they didn’t have—fresh water upon demand, meat instead of manna, the guaranteed strength and numbers to defeat their enemies in battle—instead of focusing on what they did have—the God of the Universe as their Lord and Savior. The inevitable result was their trust in God and contentment waned, while their fear and grumbling increased.

Satan has used this strategy against God’s people from the beginning. He cannot have our salvation (Romans 8.38—39), so he tries to rob us of our joy in salvation (Romans 7.23). Our salvation is in the Lord, and so will our joy be in him! Yes, it is true that while we are here on earth, the Lord blesses us through means and creatures. But, oh, what a clever but subtle trick of Satan to insidiously ease us into focusing upon these means and creatures instead of upon the Creator and Grantor of them.

That is precisely how he deceived Adam and Eve to commit the first sin! He massaged Eve’s visceral nature by getting her to focus not on the Creator of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, but on the fruit itself. He manipulated Eve’s intellectual nature by getting her to focus not upon he who gave the commandment not to eat of the fruit, but on the commandment itself. The moment we cast our gaze and desire horizontally rather than vertically, we’re bound to do the devil’s bidding, for he is “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” of this world (Ephesians 2.2).

Yes, we are to be thankful for the means and creatures he blesses us with, but they are not to become the focus of our eye or the desire of our heart. Only God deserves such devotion! “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If we seek first “these things”, we forego God’s kingdom today.

© 2014 by Patrick Lloyd—the WORD runs deep publishing  (TWRD Short # 022)

Abiding in Christ (John 15.1-10)

INTRODUCTION.  In John 15.4, we have the divine imperative to abide in Christ when Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” Either on the way to Gethsemane or still in the upper room, Christ taught the disciples the essential need of abiding in him by employing the metaphor of the vine and branches. “I am the vine; you are the branches” (v. 5). “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (v. 4).

The questions then become: what does it mean to remain in Christ? why should we do it? and, how do we go about abiding in Christ?

WHAT IS ABIDING IN CHRIST.  So what does it mean to remain in Christ? The NT verb translated “to abide” or “to remain” is used both transitively and intransitively. The intransitive sense is applicable here and it means to continue in a place or state in which one now is, to reside, to last, especially in the face of trial (cf. Luke 8.27; Acts 27.31; John 15.5; 1 Corinthians 3.14).

From Christ’s metaphor we see that to remain in him means to stay healthily connected to him like a branch to the vine. As the branch stays connected enough to be able to draw upon the life giving nutrients of the vine that lead to bearing fruit, we must stay connected to Christ closely enough to draw upon his resources that lead to our fulfilling our purpose in life.

To remain in Christ is: first, to accept Jesus as Savior by believing in him in the first place (John 6.56); second, to continue and persevere in believing in Jesus as Savior (1 John 2.24); and third, to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12.2).

WHY ABIDE IN CHRIST.  Why should we abide in Christ? As the metaphor emphasizes, we remain in the vine so we are able to bear the desired fruit. “No branch can bear fruit itself; it must remain in the vine” (v. 4). The organic union with the vine means life for the branches. A branch that remains well grafted into the vine will draw upon its life giving nutrients and in turn bear fruit. Apart from Christ, however, we can do nothing (v. 5). Any branch that is not truly connected to the vine withers on the vine, becomes dead wood and will be cut off and thrown into the fire (v. 6).

Moreover, if we remain in Christ and his words remain in us, then “ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (v. 7). This can be misconstrued as endorsing a “name it and claim it” mentality. What it actually means is if we remain in Christ and his words in us, then our minds will be “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8.29) and our prayers will therefore conform to the Father’s will, and thus what we ask for will be given us.

The fruitfulness of all Christians is to participate in the conversion of souls to the glory of God (Romans 15.16). By our good works, many are brought to glorify our Father who is in heaven, and on that great Day, we will share in the joy of our Lord. In order to be fruitful, we must abide in Christ, we must keep our union with him through faith, and do all we do in the virtue of that union. Indeed, the Father is the Gardner who nurtures and cultivates the Vine (v. 1), and so to be one with the vine is to be one with the Father.

HOW TO ABIDE IN CHRIST.  How do we abide or remain in Christ? All believers are motivated by the wonder of Jesus’ love which is patterned after the Father’s love in its quality and extent. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (v. 9). Remaining in Christ’s love may seem mystical but Jesus made it quite a concrete concept. Obedience to the Father’s commands is the same for a believer as it was for the Son. “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (v. 10). To obey his commands, we must attend to his word, pray and serve others. Moreover, we must be willing to be pruned so we can be even more fruitful (v. 2). God disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12.6), and further does it for our own good, that we may share in his holiness (Hebrews 12.10). Active dependence and loving obedience are the proper paths for all Christians to stay grafted to the vine and bear the desired fruit.

CONCLUSION. The test of whether we are abiding in the vine is whether or not we are bearing good fruit. If we are not abiding, we won’t bear fruit; if we are, we will. Either we are abiding at any given moment, or we are not. There is no in between.

 

© 2014 by Patrick Lloyd—the WORD runs deep publishing  (TWRD Short # 021)

JOY IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS?

James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1.2). Do you grit your teeth when you read or hear this verse and wonder why on earth God would ask this of us? You are not alone and yet, there it is, it’s not going away, and it poses a monumental challenge for all believers in Christ. Many would argue that to respond to all our trials, especially the tough ones, with joy in our heart is unreasonably optimistic and simply impossible to genuinely accomplish. Let’s explore what this command actually says and consider why and how we might go about accomplishing this great challenge.

JOY IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS.  What does God’s command from James actually mean? The first thing to note is that James did not tell us to be joyful for the trials themselves but in the trials. This is a very important distinction. To not be joyful for the trial allows us to express any anger or frustrations we may have with God when tough trials overwhelm us. To be joyful in the trial, however, requires that we realize trials are not a punishment from God or a disaster beyond the poise of humanity, but are something that should paradoxically prompt an attitude of joy. Furthermore, this joy should be pure joy, not just some joy mixed with sorrow. Many people consider it a joy when they avoid or come out of their trials, but James said to count it all joy in the midst of trials. The question then becomes – how does one find pure joy in the midst of trials?

MOTIVE.  The first thing to always check in our Christian walk is the motive in our hearts. If our motive in finding joy in our trials is simply the selfish avoidance of pain, then it’s hard not to be cynical and see it as anything more than disingenuous folly. If our motive, however, is belief in the truth of the Word of God and a desire to affirm its claims as a way to glorify God, then finding joy in our trials is worthy of consideration for the following two reasons. A Biblically grounded motive has as its foundation the Creator of the Universe, more virtuous and credible than the flimsy foundation of selfishness. Furthermore, a Biblically grounded motive comes with the Holy Spirit, a source both for understanding God’s will in this command and the power to carry it out. A Biblically grounded motive can thus lead to the confidence, the understanding and the power to carry out this ambitious command.

THE RESULTING GOOD.  The primary way to find joy in our trials is to truly believe that ultimately God is working through them for our good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8.28). God has a plan to prosper all believers, and he does this in and through all things, including trials.

To find pure joy in the midst of trials, however, we must not only wholly believe the promise found in Romans 8.28, we must focus solely upon it in the midst of our trials. Therefore, to think or say, “This is an awful thing that’s happening to me, but I choose to look forward to the good things God is going to do with it” is still short of the mark of what we believers are called to do. Our challenge is to go beyond even this and, in the midst of awful circumstances, move forward with confidence and fully lay claim to the good that will come out of them to the point that the circumstances fade into the periphery.

It is our response to difficult circumstances that is paramount, not the circumstances themselves. The actual circumstances must be relegated to the peripheral vision of the soul by our relentless focus on the prime center – the good of God that is to come. If we persist, we will be amazed at how even our view of the peripheral circumstances can be transformed from “what is” into “what is hoped for”.  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

The question then becomes – do we really believe God is going to turn this awful circumstance into something good? If so, doesn’t this awful thing cease being awful the moment we in faith wholly believe this is true? We know, of course, this awful thing in and of itself is not good, as it is the painful consequences of a fallen and decaying world. But we also know God created this world and stands ready to teach and grow us right through the heart of this awful thing. Our faith that this actually will happen and our longing for the coming Godly growth is what beckons us to now in effect look upon this awful thing as a Godly thing – to refashion through faith our present feelings of anger and sorrow into sincere gratitude and joy. This is our faith overcoming our feelings.

It’s important that you know I am not suggesting we simply deny that awful things are happening to us. There is a fine line, but critical distinction, between simply denying the awful things happening to us, and laying claim to the good God promises to deliver out of the ashes of these awful things. The former denies present reality, while the latter intently focuses on the future good that will result from this very real present reality.

THE RESULTING PERSEVERANCE.  The good that God promises us in Romans 8.28 can take on many forms, all according to his will and purpose. James, however, specifies one consistent pure quality that is produced by all trials that are rightly taken – perseverance (James 1.3). Trials that are endured with faith yield steadfastness in the face of difficulties. But it doesn’t end there. Perseverance, when developed, produces the ultimate qualities of spiritual maturity and fulfillment (v. 4). And so, trials can be faced with joy because, when infused with faith, they result in perseverance, and when perseverance spreads her sails full tilt it will produce a mature Christian who is not lacking anything and “content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4.11–13).

THE RESULTING DEPENDENCE.  Another reason to welcome trials with joy is they keep us humble before the Lord, reminding us to depend on his grace and strength, not our own. From the time of his conversion, so much of the Lord and his truth was directly revealed to the Apostle Paul that, to keep him humble, he said the Lord gave “me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (2 Corinthians 12.7). Paul pleaded three times for the Lord to take this thorn away from him, but the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9). Thus, Paul delighted in his “weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties” (v. 10). For he knew that when he was shown to be weak and helpless in whatever trials came his way, that is precisely when he would turn all the more fervently to the Lord for strength. He depended on his trials to keep him humble before the Lord and on his knees to the Lord, and therefore he delighted in his trials.

CONCLUSION.  I would like to be able to tell you that I in some large measure practice what I preach. I can’t. There have been some trials through which, like most of us, I have experienced a fair measure of success in maintaining joy and a positive attitude. The largest thorn in my side, however, is still a challenge I struggle with – searing pain 24/7 in the lower three quarters of my body. After seventeen years of paraplegia where I felt not a whisper of any sensation from the chest down, fifteen years ago I suddenly and inexplicably started feeling chronic neuropathic pain below my line of feeling.

Living paralyzed from the chest down is a hard life, but I had largely accepted it because I was partially culpable in it happening to me. I struggle to this day, however, to understand why or simply accept that God allowed this chronic pain to “pile on” top of my longtime paraplegia. That’s what it feels like anyway. That’s where I am now and that’s okay. What matters is spiritual progress in the direction of spiritual perfection. I do hope to one day accept my pain for what it is so I can let it go and focus on the mark, thanking God faithfully for what is to come. I believe that is when I will begin to see the good He has in mind for me.

In conclusion, I believe the precise measure of just how pure our joy is in the midst of our trials is proportionate to the degree that: 1) we truly believe God will turn them into something good; 2) we believe they will teach us perseverance which leads to spiritual maturity and fulfillment; and 3) we truly want to rely on His grace and power as opposed to our own sufficiency and strength.

My prayer – “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9.24).

© 2014 by Patrick Lloyd—the WORD runs deep publishing  (TWRD Short # 020)

THE FIRST THREE DAYS ~ THE HOLY TRINITY

Have you ever considered that the first three days of Creation are an illustrative metaphor for the Holy Trinity of God? Light, sky and land/seas represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, respectively.

First Day—the Father:  It is fitting that He who is first among equals within the Trinity is symbolically represented in the first day’s creation of “light” (Genesis 1.3). Father God’s first creative act was the earthly manifestation of his divine nature—for God is light (1 John 1.5). In eternity past, Father God communed with his begotten Son and Spirit (John 17.5). Creation is the manner in which the Father inwardly resolved to make himself known beyond the Son and Spirit, and he did so because of his abundant love for the Son and his desire to share that love with us (John 17.25—26), for at the core of Father God’s nature is love (1 John 4.8). First and for all eternity, the Father loves his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (John 17.24); and then, at the dawn of time, this fountain of love brimmed over into Creation, particularly, into those who choose to become adopted sons through belief in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1.5).

In addition to God’s loving nature, however, is his light. Light signifies God’s presence and favor (Psalm 27.1; Isaiah 9.2). Indeed, his countenance is light (Psalm 4.6) and the unapproachable light in which he lives offers us insight into his holiness (1 Timothy 6.16). Moreover, it is God himself who makes “his light shine in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 4.6). It is the very nature of the Father to shine out his loving light. He does this in and through the nature of the Son who shines out from his Father, for the Son “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1.15), sublimely showing us what the Father is like in “the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1.3).

So, while it is true the “light of the gospel” is indeed found in Christ, this light originates with the Father. Thus, the Apostle John proclaimed with the authority that comes from first-hand knowledge: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1.5). In short, the Father of all light is himself light (James 1.17), for light, as well as love, is God’s nature.

The light of the first day of Creation points to Father God and his loving light—light that he wants to share with us in and through Creation and Christ.

Second Day—the Son: On the second day of Creation, God made the “sky”—the expanse that “separated the water under the expanse from the water above it” (Genesis 1.7). In other words, the sky is that which exists between the things of this earth and those which are in heaven (cf. Psalm 19.1; 148.4). Traditionally, the sky is thought to be everything that lies a certain distance above the surface of the earth, including both the earth’s atmosphere and what is commonly referred to as outer space or the heavens. The sky, therefore, exists in the earthly realm by way of its atmosphere from which the rains fall (Psalm 147.8) and in the heavenly realms represented by the vast space where stars and planets make their home (Genesis 1.14—17). In this way, the sky bridges the gap between earth and heaven, reconciling the two distinct realms.

By analogy, Jesus also exists within and reconciles these two realms. He is fully man of earth and fully God of heaven—manhood and the Godhead—the union of two distinct natures in the one person of Christ. Jesus’ humanity is manifest in the fact that he was born a baby and had a human mother (Luke 2.7; Galatians 4.4); and that he became weary (John 4.6), thirsty (John 19.28), and hungry (Matthew 4.2) like the rest of us do. And yet the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is also fully God. He was not a lot like God or someone very close to God, but “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1.15), “being in very nature God” (Philippians 2.6) in whom “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell” (Colossians 1.19). Fully man and fully God.

We can deduce that Jesus has always been God, for God is eternal, but only 2,000 years ago he became a man and walked this earth. Why? Because we humans have flesh and blood, he chose to share in our humanity and suffer temptation and death “in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God” making atonement for our sins as our Savior (Hebrews 2.17). That is to say, he wanted us to trust that he understood our temptations and empathized with our suffering. He also had to live a sinless human life in order to become the perfect and final sacrifice for our sins. Moreover, since Christ was raised from death and ascended into heaven, he lives at the right hand of God interceding on behalf of all believers, reconciling those of us from earth to the love of Father God in heaven (Romans 8.34; Hebrews 7.25).

The sky of the second day of Creation points to the Son who is both man and God, bridging the gap between believers from earth and Father God in heaven.

Third Day—the Holy Spirit: On day three of Creation, God separated the waters of the earth in order to create “land” and “seas”. The creative purpose of land is to produce seed-bearing plants and trees that bear fruit of various kinds which are pleasing to the eye and provide for the bodily nourishment of man (Genesis 2.9). The land also produces all living creatures and livestock of various kinds that walk this earth also providing for the physical nourishment and needs of mankind (Genesis 1.24—25). The seas further baptize man with the blessings of nourishment. Broadly speaking, the land and seas represent the entire surface of the earth and all its natural resources which, again, continually feed the material needs of man.

Metaphorically, the land and seas paint an accurate picture of the Holy Spirit of God. The seas provide the waters of baptism where our faith is first proclaimed and our spiritual journey begins. The land of Canaan that was promised prior to Christ becomes the Holy Spirit that was promised after Christ (John 14.26). Moreover, the Holy Spirit is given to believers to provide for their ongoing spiritual nourishment and needs (John 14.17, 26; 16.13—15). And, as with land and the fruit it bears, there is a proportional relationship between how much time we spend getting to know Him and how much He will grow in us and bear fruit through us.

The land and seas of the third day of Creation point to the Holy Spirit who provides all believers with the recurring spiritual nourishment of truth and understanding necessary for true life in Christ.

Conclusion. God is Creator and it should come as no surprise that we can see him in what was created by him. In this Creation “trifecta” of light, sky and land/seas, we can see the three persons of the Holy Trinity of God. Praise God Almighty in his Creation!

© 2014 by Patrick Lloyd—the WORD runs deep publishing  (TWRD Short # 019)

 

The Light of Day One of Creation

THE LIGHT OF DAY ONE OF CREATION[1]

INTRODUCTION

THE LIGHT OF DAY ONE SET APART.  Have you ever considered just how special the light God created on day one is? When Father God said, “Let there be light,” the seven days of Creation began. Everything the Lord of the Universe created, positioned and purposed was inherently extraordinary, but nothing as remarkable as what he created last—man. Indeed, the six days of Creation work in many ways appear to be a steady crescendo from lower to higher means and creatures, an uncompromising advance towards increasingly complex forms, culminating in the making of that which was created last—man—the plum of Creation.

And yet, our Creator is the Alpha as well as the Omega, the First and the Last (Revelation 1.8, 22.13), and the first creative words God spoke issued forth “light”—light that not only played a remarkable role in the Creation, but also plays a fundamental role in the Christian experience while here on earth and in eternity.

Stop and consider several factors manifest in the Creation narrative that set the light of day one apart from everything else God created:

  • God chose light to be the first and only thing he created on day one.
  • After creating light on day one, Father God immediately declared that it was “good”, in other words, “of Him”. Note, however, the Creator did not include the darkness of day one in this blessing. Interestingly, though, both the light and darkness of day four were included in God’s blessing as “good” or “of Him”. This appears to distinguish these two acts of creation of light.
  • Of all things created by God, only light was afforded two “stages” of creation, two full days to create—the first and fourth days. This distinguishes both the light of days one and four.
  • The two “stages” of the creation of light did not, however, occur on consecutive days, thus again implying a distinction between the light of day one and the light of day four.
  • God, in effect, separated light from darkness on two separate occasions, days one and four, once again differentiating between the two acts of creation of light.
  • For the first three days of Creation, the actual light of day was provided by day one light, most likely before the stars, planets, and moons were even created, but, in the alternative,[2] definitely before these celestial rocks had been “lit up” by God on day four. This intriguing paradox undeniably sets day one light apart as special indeed.

Each one of these factors advances the proposition that the light created on day one was set apart by God as truly exceptional when compared to the rest of Creation. Analysis of the particulars of the Creation account bolsters this claim, first by discrediting traditional theology’s theory of the light of day one, and then by proposing a reason why God so definitively set the light of day one apart from the rest of Creation.

TRADITIONAL THEOLOGY’S THEORY OF THE CREATION OF LIGHT DISCREDITED. What exactly did God do on day one of Creation? Traditional theology’s long-standing answer to this question has been the light of day one was “light proper”, in effect, an “archetype or prototype” of material light. An archetype or prototype is the original pattern or model from which the final “product” is based or formed. The implication in this instance is that God first created the archetype of light on day one and then presumably used this in some way to complete the creation of material light on day four (hereinafter referred to as the Archetype/Prototype-to-Completion Theory, or “A/PCT”). To my knowledge, traditional theology’s two-step theory regarding the creation of light has gone mostly, if not completely, unchallenged for hundreds of years.

When A/PCT is considered in light of a series of inquisitive questions that naturally flow from the Creation account, however, the hypothesis underlying A/PCT is exposed as irrational and impotent in several ways: 1) the implied purpose of A/PCT is fundamentally flawed; 2) the theory is inconsistent with other Scripture; and 3) A/PCT has no identifiable edifying role.

First. Let us begin by considering whether A/PCT in any way explains why God chose to include an initial, archetypal stage in his creation of material light. First of all, it is patently absurd to imply that an omniscient, omnipotent God would in fact need the aid of an archetype or prototype to successfully create anything (Hebrews 4.13; Jeremiah 32.17). God’s will articulated by and through his spoken Word was all God needed to create the entire universe and, as incredible of a substance as material light is, God did not need an archetype to create it (Psalm 33.9).

Furthermore, when we consider the amount of creative consideration, attention, effort and detail that God put into the events of day four of Creation, this alone appears to be sufficient to achieve the creation of material light. This may be deduced by examining other things God created. For example, if what was done by God on day five of Creation was sufficient to create all creatures in the sea and air without the aid of an archetype, then one may reasonably conclude that what God did on day four was sufficient to achieve the creation of material light without an archetype. In short, God did not need day one of Creation, or two stages, to accomplish the creation of material light.

The question then becomes—if God did not need an archetypal stage to create material light, what was the purpose of the light of day one? There is nothing implied within A/PCT theory that suggests an answer to this compelling question, nor to my knowledge does traditional theology provide us directly with an answer. At this point, the one and only thing we can say about the creation of light on day one is that it was not an accident or coincidence, or the result of a meaningless whim on God’s part, because God plans out “everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1.11). Trusting the truth of Scripture, we can state with confidence, therefore, that God had a good reason and purpose for the light he made on day one of Creation.

Second. A second question A/PCT does not field well is, if days one and four were merely two parts of the one creation of material light, why did God treat the darkness of these two days differently? As previously noted, Father God blessed the light of day one as good or “of Him” immediately following its creation. He did not, however, include the darkness of day one in this blessing. What’s more, this is diametrically opposed to what God did on day four of Creation where he unmistakably affirmed that both the light and darkness of that day were “of Him” (Genesis 1.16—18). It makes no sense that on day four God would bless the darkness that is related to material light as “of Him” and yet on day one he would not similarly bless the darkness connected with the more pure archetype of that very same material light. A/PCT offers no direct explanation for this apparent inconsistency on the part of God, nor does the theory infer such an explanation.

Third. Also, the prevalent pattern God followed on the other days of Creation was to (a) wait until the conclusion of that day’s work to (b) declare everything he had created and purposed on that day to be “of Him”. The only thing God specified on day one to be “of him” was light, and it was not at the end of that day’s work. This gives rise to our third question—is there anything within A/PCT that explains this curious and seemingly inconsistent action taken by God on day one? The answer is no. We do know, however, there was a good reason for God intentionally conducting the affairs of day one differently than the other days of Creation because, again, God does everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.

Fourth. A/PCT fails to explain why light was the only thing of all things created that God granted two full days to complete. Even the making of preeminent man only took a portion of one day to create, and that was after God had apparently spent the better part of that same day creating every other living creature that moves across dry land on earth. Now, I am not suggesting that light must be special because the Creator needed two full days to create it, or that man could not be that special because he did not even warrant a full day of God’s creative attention. God, of course, is not bound by the constraints or implications of time—indeed, he could have created both light and man in less than the blink of an eye.

The point is this—in addition to man being the undisputed finale of Creation and thus clearly set apart as special, God also chose to set the first thing he created apart from everything else by doing it first and giving it a full day of his creative attention. This raises a fourth significant question for which A/PCT has no answer: why would God conspicuously invest much more “time and attention” into making a mere blueprint for the creation of material light than he did into making mankind?

Fifth. Three final questions regarding the Creation narrative also go unanswered by A/PCT. First, if days one and four were simply two parts of the A/PCT of material light, wouldn’t God have accomplished this on two consecutive days? To my knowledge, traditional theology has never offered an explanation for why God started creating material light on day one and then, willy-nilly it would seem, put that project on hold for a couple of days while he created other things before finally deciding to return to and finish creating light. This sounds like the unplanned, disorganized, sloppy actions of a mad scientist, not those of an omniscient, omnipotent God.

Sixth. Second, if these were simply two distinct parts of one creation act, why would God separate the same light from the same darkness twice? That is to say, why would an omniscient, omnipotent God engage himself in such redundant, superfluous acts?

Seventh. Finally, the Creation language of day four fails to mention any connection with day one of Creation. Why not? The Creation narrative of day four is completely silent with respect to the light of day one of Creation, not even a hint that God was now finishing what he had started on day one. If A/PCT were true, wouldn’t we expect to see within the language of these corresponding verses some connecting thread regarding the presumably related actions taken by God on these two days?

Conclusion. In summary, the discussion above not only shows that A/PCT is irrational, it demonstrates how A/PCT makes the Creator of the Universe out to be irrational, inconsistent, and incompetent, if not disingenuous. Furthermore, A/PCT is shown to be inconsistent with other Scripture. Finally, A/PCT is completely incapable of fielding a series of seven logical questions that naturally derive from the Creation narrative. For these reasons, traditional theology’s archetype/prototype-to-completion theory of the creation of light is hereby discredited and therefore no longer considered a viable theory.

THE SPECIAL ESSENCE & PURPOSE OF THE LIGHT OF DAY ONE. If the light of day one of Creation was not an archetype for the creation of material light, then what was this light and its purpose? Earlier discussion established that the Creation narrative reveals several distinguishing characteristics that set the light of day one of Creation apart from everything else created, thus implying God had in mind a special purpose for the light he created that day. The question then becomes is it possible to determine the nature of this light and its special purpose? I submit the answer is yes, and in two simple steps.

Step One. The first step  is to immediately conclude that both this light’s nature and purpose had nothing to do with material light and/or sustenance of physical life, etc. If this were the case, its nature and/or purpose would merely be duplicative of the light of day four of Creation. There is nothing special or unique about redundancy and, moreover, it is rational to assume the Creator of the Universe would not be so clumsy and inefficient in his Creation plan or putting this plan into action.

Step Two. Second, we may deduce that, if the essence and purpose of the light of day one was not related to issues of a material nature, it follows that both must have pertained to issues of the spirit. That is to say, the light of day one of Creation was spiritually purposed, and further the actual matter out of which this light was made was also somehow spiritual in essence. This is not suggesting, however, the light of day one was pure spirit in essence, for if that were the case then its nature—like God himself—would be separate from and transcend Creation entirely and, as such, could not be a created entity. Given that we know the light of day one was in fact a created entity, then in addition to being mostly made up of spirit, its essence included some necessary measure of matter, as well.

Conclusion. This leaves us with only one conclusion. With respect to its nature or essence, the light of day one of Creation was a specially created entity that was mostly, but not entirely, composed of spirit. As to its purpose, day one light was specially commissioned by God either entirely or virtually entirely for spiritual undertakings. That is precisely what this paper contends, resulting in the following working hypothesis:

WORKING HYPOTHESIS. The light of day one of Creation was a uniquely created entity that was mostly but not entirely spirit in essence, designed by God for the special purpose of edifying man about subtle, eternally significant, spiritual realities of life in our worlda foundational act on the part of God out of which the rest of Creation flows.

It would seem our next order of business is to consider whether or not this working hypothesis satisfies the seven probing questions that flow from the Creation narrative and which completely foiled traditional theology’s archetype/prototype-to-completion-theory (A/PCT):

  1. If God did not need an initial, archetypal stage in the creation of material light, why did he choose to create the light of day one? God created the light of day one for a purpose that was separate and distinct from that of day four’s material light—that is, the light of day one was designed to be spiritually-purposed in that it would educate man regarding subtle spiritual realities of life, a foundational act on the part of God from which all subsequent Creation would flow.
  2. Why did the darkness of days one and four of Creation receive contrary treatment by God? Days one and four of Creation were two separate creation acts making two distinct created entities—one was a spiritually purposed light (that of day one) and the other was material light (that of day four). Since day one light was in effect spiritual in its nature, it makes perfect sense that God would not bless the spiritual darkness of day one that opposed it because spiritual light and spiritual darkness do not comingle (2 Corinthians 6.14). (this concept is more fully developed in the next section, pp. 9—11). On day four, however, God created, positioned and put into motion the material lights of the universe and our world which, in turn, caused the separation of the material light and darkness of a twenty-four hour cycle of our world that, when extended, propelled the sequence of seasons and the march of linear time. Thus, both the material light and material darkness of day four served a unified purpose that benefitted mankind and, as such, were both blessed by God.
  3. Why did God on day one of Creation deviate from the pattern established throughout the rest of Creation of waiting until the end of that day’s work and declaring everything he made and purposed on that day to be “of Him”? God deviated from this pattern of Creation acts in order to highlight the fact that day one of Creation was indeed different from and unique as compared to the rest of Creation, and further to emphasize what he was trying to teach us in and through this difference.
  4. Why would God conspicuously invest much more “time and attention” into making a blueprint for the creation of material light than he did into making mankind? The light God created on day one was slated for a special purpose that warranted an entire day of his creative attention and furthermore this fact highlighted day one light’s purpose and uniqueness, causing us to inquire into its nature and purpose. God’s hope was/is that man would come to appreciate that life is more than the material world perceived by our senses—that the Biblical worldview includes a coexisting spirit world that is controlled by Satan (1 John 5.19). Moreover, God wants man to know that spiritual realities and purposes are ultimately why the universe and man were created by God. It could be said that the light of day one was designed to be the blue print that guides man into spiritual Light. These are the reasons why God invested so much into day one of Creation.
  5. Why didn’t God create light on consecutive days? Because the creation of day one light had a purpose unrelated to the creation of material light, it makes perfect sense to create them on non-consecutive days in order to avoid confusing the two distinct lights as parts of one light.
  6. Why would God separate the same light from the same darkness on two different occasions—isn’t this redundant? That day one light was spiritual in nature and day four light was material explains why God would separate the light from darkness on both occasionseach time he was separating distinct entities for different reasons.
  7. Why wouldn’t we see a connecting thread between the verses discussing days one and four of Creation regarding the various actions taken by God on these two days? The fact that Scripture does not articulate any connection whatsoever between what God created on days one and four further supports our working hypothesis’ claim that these were in fact separate and distinct creative acts on God’s part.

The working hypothesis appears to provide complete, rational answers to all seven probing questions that emanate from the Creation narrative.

CONCLUSION. Every Word of God is flawless (Proverbs 30.5) and further gives light and understanding to the simple (Psalm 119.130), as long as we do not add or subtract from its perfection (Proverbs 30.6). And so, we next consult the Word of God as it is given in search of sublime spiritual realities that are consistent with the contentions of our working hypothesis.

 

THE FATHER—THE FOUNDATIONAL LIGHT FOR ALL CREATION

SCRIPTURE: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1.5).

PREMISE: Father God’s first creative act was the earthly manifestation of one of his divine attributes—God is light—designed to be the spiritual foundation for all subsequent Creation. In eternity past, Father God communed in glory with the Son and Spirit (John 17.5). Creation is the way the Father inwardly resolved to make himself known beyond the Son and Spirit. This had nothing to do with narcissism or a need to be known on the part of God (Acts 17.25). On the contrary, it had everything to do with the Creator’s love for his created.

Creation Born Out of Love. Father God’s nature at its core is love, for God is love (1 John 4.8)—first and for all eternity, he loves his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (John 17.24); and then, at the dawn of time, this fountain of love brimmed over into Creation, particularly, into those who choose to become adopted sons through belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior (Ephesians 1.5). God’s love is perfect, pure love and, as a result, is spirit in essence. The Father so delighted in eternal love for his Son that he desired to share it with all believers (John 17.25—26), and he hopes that all people become believers (1 Timothy 2.4). And so, Creation and its prime creature, man, are the beneficiaries of God’s love. In fact, Creation was born out of God’s love.

Creation Born in Light. Co-existing with the divine attribute of love is light. God is light. The Apostle John proclaimed this Godly attribute with the authority that comes only from first-hand, intimate knowledge when he wrote: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1.5). It’s imperative to note that John did not say God is like light or God is a light—he said God is light. In other words, this is not a metaphor—this is an attribute of God. In the same way that God is love, he is light. This assertion is bolstered by the equivalent negative assertion that immediately followed—“in him there is no darkness at all”. Again, John did not say there is no darkness “in his presence” or “around him”—there is no darkness “in him”. Scripture further tells us God “is resplendent with light” (Psalm 76.4). “He wraps himself in light” that casts forth His splendor and majesty (Psalm 104.1—2), which is His unapproachable glory (1 Timothy 6.16; Isaiah 60.1—3). In short, the Father of all lights is himself light (James 1.17)—the source of all light—Source Light. For light, as well as love, is in God’s nature. What’s more, in that the Creator’s first creative act issued forth a created manifestation of the light of God to which John refers, it can be said that Creation was born in God’s light.

Creation Born of the Spirit. It stands to reason that the light in God’s nature is in its essence spirit. In other words, the light of God to which John refers is not the electromagnetic radiation emitted from the stars in the universe or the light bulbs in our homes, i.e., light that is made of matter—natural light. The light of God refers to an even more mysterious light that is, like love, of the spirit—spiritual light (Proverbs 20.27). Hence, Jesus said, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit” (John 4.24). In his spirit nature, therefore, God is both love and light.[3] And since Creation was born out of God’s love and in God’s light, it can be said that Creation was born of the Spirit.

Separation. The innate inclination of God’s spiritual light is to, in effect, do what natural light does. Beginning at its Source within the spirit world, spiritual light shines outward in equal measure penetrating and scattering any darkness which necessarily opposes it. Inevitably, any darkness that opposes God’s spiritual light is spiritual darkness, home to the elements of evil—selfishness, secrecy, deceit, decay, death—all of which are inherently adverse to the counterpart fruits of Father God’s spiritual light—selflessness, transparency, truth, growth and life. Therefore, after the light burst forth into the midst of day one’s “formless and empty” darkness, what occurred next necessarily followed—separation. God acknowledged the light was good and “he separated the light from the darkness”.

Separation was a fundamental and recurring dynamic in the creation of the universe and our world. The six days of Creation work are replete with examples of this dynamic. Separation, for instance, played an essential role in God distinguishing humans from animals. One critical differentiation is that humans, unlike animals, have the ability to articulate distinctions in our mind and then freely choose between them. God’s many acts of separation during the creation of our world provided man with an endless array of choices to make as he navigates the boulevards of life.[4]

God’s first act of separation, however, was the most fundamental and important act of separation he made during Creation as it resulted in the distinction between spiritual light and spiritual darkness. Consequently, this provided man with his most fundamental and important choice—the choice between spiritual light and spiritual darkness. Specifically for man’s spiritual edification and well-being, God articulated that the light of day one was “good”, i.e., it was “of or from Him”, while God’s disregard of that day’s darkness as such rendered it “not good” or “not of Him”. As previously mentioned, this darkness of day one was spiritual in its nature, thus belonging to that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan.

The Spiritual Darkness of Satan. How do we know the darkness of day one was spiritual in its nature and belonged to Satan? To answer these questions, we begin with the premise that God created the angels sometime prior to creating mankind, for we are told that angels were singing praises during the creation of the earth (Job 38.7). Furthermore, nothing in Scripture indicates that angels were created during Creation, thus it is reasonable to conclude that angels were created prior to Creation.

Second, given that Satan ultimately sinned against God, we can reasonably conclude that angels were created with free will. Satan was created “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” but then his “heart became proud on account of his beauty, and he corrupted his wisdom because of his splendor” (Ezekiel 28.12—17), eventually resulting in Satan revealing his true desire, “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14.13—14). Satan desiring to be equal to God was an egregious sin of pride and undeniably demonstrates that angels were in fact created with free will.

Third, Satan sinned and was thus forever banished from heaven and condemned to earth. God could not abide Satan’s ungrateful, arrogant disobedience, and had him “banished from heaven and hurled down to earth by Michael and his army of angels (Revelation 12.8—9), along with a third of all the angels in heaven whom Satan had apparently corrupted, as well (Revelation 12.4 & 9). Ironically, Satan got his kingdom, his reign of power over the spiritual darkness of our world (Ephesians 6.12; Luke 22.53). Satan hopes to lead all men astray from the truth of God (Revelation 12.9).

Fourth, the evidence shows that Satan’s banishment from heaven and fall to earth occurred before the 7-day Creation. First of all, “that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan” (Revelation 20.2) was present during the 7-day Creation in the Garden of Eden to tempt man, and there is no record of him being banished during the 7-day Creation (see Genesis 1—3). Moreover, when referring to Satan being hurled down to earth, the Bible says, “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!” (Revelation 12.10, 12). Note that heaven and those beings who live there were told to rejoice over Satan’s banishment, but only the earth and the sea were told to despair over his coming to earth. No people on earth were warned to lament the coming of Satan. The clear implication here is that Satan was banished to earth prior to it being inhabited by people, in other words, before the 7-day Creation.

Finally, the condition of the earth just prior to the 7-day Creation was described as “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1.2). If the phrase “darkness was over the surface of the deep” referred to the material world and natural darkness, then it stated something painfully obvious to any reader given that this verse described conditions prior to the creation of any form of light whatsoever. Of course total darkness was present anywhere and everywhere on or around earth! What would be the purpose of telling the reader something this obvious?

If, on the other hand, this phrase was designed to convey to the reader that Satan’s spiritual darkness was not only present but also pervading earth, such a statement would be highly informative to the reader and furthermore would arguably serve to explain why the earth had become “formless and empty”. Additionally, this latter interpretation appears to be more congruous with the last phrase of this verse—”and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters”. That is to say, this verse begins by conveying to the reader that the current conditions on earth were rather bleak, “formless and empty”, to be exact.

The verse goes on to explain that conditions were so dismal because of the pervading presence of Satan and his spiritual darkness, but then offers the faithful reader hope by sharing that there was another One present within this spirit realm upon earth—the Spirit of God. And the discerning reader sees that the Spirit of God was not only present on earth, but he hovered there as if in a protective perch over the nurturing waters. At that time, it is conceded, darkness and death reigned upon earth, but the reader soon finds out that light and life imminently await the Creator’s Word.

For the reasons discussed above, it is reasonable to conclude that the darkness of day one was spirit in essence and belonged to Satan. And once God burst forth his light into this world at the Creation, precisely because He is light and in him there is no darkness, there was no way whatsoever God would have comingled with Satan’s spiritual darkness, much less declared it to be good or “of Him”.

“For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? … ‘Therefore come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6.14, 17a, emphasis added). And Jesus, referring to spiritual light and darkness, said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in the darkness” (John 12.46).

Moral Sketch. What is the point of this? By separating his light from this darkness at the beginning of everything, God gave notice to all men that this distinction was the black and white “moral sketch” upon which man is to paint the full color mural of his life. The distinction between good and evil drawn by this moral sketch makes all the difference in our lives. It applies to everything we think, say or do. For every thought a man has, every choice he makes, every word he speaks, and any and all acts he takes are bound by God’s first act of separation insofar as these thoughts, choices, words and acts propel man spiritually—either toward and into the light (that which is good) or toward and into the darkness (that which is evil).

It is extremely significant at this point to note that there is no mention in Genesis 1.3 of a blended or neutral zone manifested in between light and darkness in which humans might reside and make these choices. The polarizing words of Christ found in Luke 11 support this “either/or” notion, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11.23). “Between the Trinity and hell there lies no other choice.”[5] We, therefore, live and proceed either in the goodness of the day or in the evil of the night (John 3.19—21). There is nothing in between these two fixed, diametric arenas of spiritual reality.

Relativism. This paradigm, however, runs completely contrary to the ever-growing worldview of relativism in which there are no black and white, or absolute, truths. In general, an absolute truth is something that is always valid, regardless of parameters or context. In contrast, there is relative “truth” which continually varies depending on circumstances or vantage points. A relativist would, therefore, by definition either believe the lines of distinction God drew between spiritual light and spiritual darkness do not exist at all or, even if they do, their value would vary on a case-by-case basis, rendering the distinction meaningless. For the relativist, there is no such thing as fixed values equally applicable to all humans.

Application. I contend, however, these lines of distinction do in fact exist and apply equally to all mankind, rendering them invaluable. Their existence was conceived for our benefit in God’s first words creating the light of day one. The distinction was subsequently put into effect when he separated this light from that darkness, creating a spiritual and moral fountainhead from which, and for which, the river of Creation flows—the foundation from which all life and knowledge of the Creator proceeds.

In effect God said, “Okay, at this very moment I am creating you and the world in which you are going to live, and the very first thing I am accomplishing and want you to know is, in this world, there is spiritual light and there is spiritual darkness—there is ME and there is NOT ME. And this truth will flow in and through everything else I create. Therefore, even if you never set one foot inside a church or never read one word of my sacred text, you are without excuse—this distinction stands and you are bound by it!”

For since the Creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1.20).

Indeed, “The finite world is not, because of its finiteness, incapable of entertaining comprehensible revelations of the incomprehensible God.”[6] The Father’s invisible qualities are “clearly seen” by and “understood” through the mysterious, quasi-spiritual light God created on day one of Creation. Perhaps this light is a conduit through which Spirit flows into the material world.[7] In any event, this light and its subsequent separation from darkness in no uncertain terms revealed to us who God is (light) and who God is not (darkness), and then God created man with the ability to perceive this distinction and appreciate its significance. This is the essence of life—our ability to freely choose to move into his light or instead choose to remain in darkness.

The Father is the Source of all spiritual light into which man may freely choose to move in all he does and is. The man whose eyes and ears are open aspires to the love, truth and glory in this light which is elegantly portrayed in the radiance and purpose of the Son, to which we now turn in further pursuit of sublime spiritual realities in the Word that are consistent with the contentions of our working hypothesis.

 

THE SON—THE TRUE LIGHT OF ALL MEN CREATED

SCRIPTURE: “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1.9).

The Word teaches that God created all things in and through Jesus Christ (John 1.3), manifesting the significance of Christ for our knowledge of the meaning of Creation. Scripture also teaches, however, that it is for Christ that all things were created (Colossians 1.16), conversely proclaiming the significance of Creation for our knowledge of the meaning and purpose of Christ. An example of the latter of these truths is that Creation emanates outward and proceeds forward from that which the Word indicates came first, radiance—radiance that, from the outset, endows each individual Biblical reference to the true light of the Messiah with brightness and clarity.[8]

PREMISE: The radiance of day one was a harbinger of the true light, Jesus Christ, who would one day come into the world to destroy the one who masquerades as an angel of light.

THE TRUE LIGHT that gives light to every man was coming into the world — Of primary significance is the fact that Christ is not just any light, he is the true light. Attesting to the supreme excellence of this true light, Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1.15—18), sublimely showing us what the Father is like in “the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1.3). “It is the very nature of the Son to be the one who shines out from his Father.”[9]

Compare this light, for example, to the transitory flame found in Moses or John the Baptist. Am I suggesting the radiance on the face of Moses or in the Baptist’s lamp was a false light? Of course not! These men were ordained by God to play monumental roles in effecting his plan to offer forgiveness of sins for all who believe in Jesus’ name (Hebrews 3.5; Matthew 11.11; John 1.12). In heeding these profound calls to serve, Moses and the Baptist came to know the Father intimately and absorbed much of the light of his glory, and this was reflected in the light of their earthly presence and ministries (2 Corinthians 3.13; John 5.35).

But as we know, notwithstanding their brightness, the lights of Moses and the Baptist were derivative and transitory in nature. Consequently, their lights were destined to last only for a time and to fade at the end of their respective seasons (2 Corinthians 3.7; Matthew 3.11). As such, their lights pale in comparison to, and indeed served to exalt, the surpassing glory of the “bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22.16), Jesus Christ, the true light that radiates forever without fading (2 Corinthians 3.10—11).

The true light that GIVES LIGHT TO EVERY MAN was coming into the world — Next, we note that the true light of Christ gives light to every man in at least these three ways:

THE LIGHT OF NATURE. As the Logos, Jesus was a co-agent of Creation with the Father and the Spirit (John 1.1—2), for by and through and for the Logos all things were created (John 1.3; Colossians 1.16). This, of course, included the lights of nature created on day four (Genesis 1.14—19), the sun and moon, and more distant stars and planets, which provide for and bless every man with the sustenance necessary for biological life on earth.

THE LIGHT OF REASON. The matter that makes up all living creatures is derived from the Logos and sustained by him (Genesis 1.20, 24; Acts 17.25). Man, however, became a living soul by the breath of the Spirit and thus was blessed with the light of reason, those capacities of rational thinking that distinguish and dignify him above all other creatures (Genesis 1.26—27; 2.7). “The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord, and it was the eternal Word [the Logos] that lighted this candle.”[10] (see also John 1.3—5).

THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL.  By and through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, a reconciling salvation—the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ—was put into effect and revealed to every man (Colossians 1.23). In fact, when a righteous man named Simeon laid eyes on the baby Jesus, he was prophetically moved by the Spirit to publicly proclaim that Jesus was “a light for revelation” of salvation for the Gentiles and “a light for glory” to the Jews (Luke 2.29—32).

By appearing as our Savior and conquering death, this prophecy was fulfilled by Christ, bringing life and immortality to light through the gospel and revealing to the whole world the light of grace (2 Timothy 1.10; 1 John 2.2). “For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (Psalm 57.13).

Every man is thereby enlightened by the call to believe, and whoever does believe will receive eternal life through the reconciling “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4.4); and, moreover, disciples of Christ are called “the light of the world” (Matthew 5.14). But whoever does not believe, already stands condemned in darkness by virtue of his unbelief (John 3.18—21).

And so, in these three ways, Christ gives light to every man.

The true light that gives light to every man was COMING INTO THE WORLD — The prophecy discussed above, however, could not be fulfilled without Jesus first coming into the world. Thus, in an abundance of love for the Son and those who would believe, the Father in eternity past ordained the coming of Jesus into the world (John 10.36; Ephesians 1.3—5; John 17.18). Despite being God in his very nature, Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped and was willing to humble himself and become one of us (Philippians 2.6).[11] Accordingly, the Son was sent forth by the Father, entering into flesh when the virgin named Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit—the miraculous incarnation (Luke 1.35).

When Jesus was born, “the light of men” suddenly “appeared to us” in the midst of the spiritual darkness of all sin that permeated this world in the hearts of mankind (John 1.1—5; 1 John 1.1—2). The reason the Son of God, the True Light, appeared to us was to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3.8) who masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11.14), blinding the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4.4). Ultimately, this true light could not be kept under a bowl, and the Source of all light, the Father, and his love were made known to the world by the light of Christ (Matthew 5.15). Praying to his Father, Jesus said, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them” (John 17. 26; see also 2 Corinthians 4.6).

Transfigured Light. Amazingly, the true light of Christ was even more directly (and yet mysteriously) divulged to the world at the Transfiguration, where the face of Jesus shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17.2). Transfiguration means “a change in appearance that comes from within”. The change in appearance that came from within Jesus was his spiritual light briefly shining out in a manner that could be seen by the physiological, natural eyes of man. The disciples came to realize that God had, in anticipation of the Messiah’s coming exaltation (Revelation 1.16), granted them the incredible privilege of glimpsing with their eyes the pre-incarnate glory of the Christ (John 1.14, 17.5; Philippians 2.6—7).

Application. Just as the material light created on day four merely reflects the more pure quasi-spiritual light of day one, those who believe are called to reflect the likeness of the Son’s pure radiance (2 Corinthians 3.18). Though we were once darkness, “the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” in those who believe (1 John 2.8). As co-heirs with Christ, we too are “sons of light” (John 12.36) who are “the light of the world” (Matthew 5.14), and called to “shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15). The degree of light we believers shine forth is proportional to our love for God as seen through our daily obedience to his law. “The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes” (Psalm 19.8) of those who “are sons of the light and sons of the day” (1 Thessalonians 5.5).

Not only did the light of day one establish the spiritual foundation for the rest of Creation and act as a harbinger of the true light that would one day come into the world in the person of Christ, this light is intimately connected to the illuminating light of the new spiritual creation that occurs through Christ and in man at the time of his salvation.

 

THE SPIRIT—THE ILLUMINATING LIGHT OF THE NEW CREATION

SCRIPTURE: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4.6).

PREMISE: According to Scripture, the light of day one is intimately connected with, and thus made a part of, the illuminating light of the Spirit that shines in our souls at the moment of salvation. If we would only embrace the true light of men about whom the Word gives witness, Father God stands ready to pour his light into our dark minds and wicked hearts and make us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5.17). The Source of all light who commanded light to burst forth into the pervading darkness to begin Creation will pour the light of his Spirit of truth into our dark hearts to begin our new creation (2 Corinthians 1.22; Ephesians 1.13—14). “In the new creation, the first thing that is wrought in the soul is light: the blessed Spirit works upon the will and affections by enlightening the understanding. Those who by sin were darkness, by grace become light in the Lord.”[12]

To state the obvious, were God to shine some form of natural light (a flashlight, for example) into our material heart, it would in no way whatsoever enlighten us with respect to the spiritual intimacies of God. We can, therefore, reasonably infer that “his light” in 2 Corinthians 4.6 refers to Father God’s spiritual light. The Spirit Light (Spirit) pours out from the Source Light (Father) testifying and teaching us the truth about the True Light (Son) which, in turn, is how we come to know and participate in the Glory of God (John 15.26; 2 Corinthians 4.6).

This intimate fellowship of the triune God and his divine nature are available to believers who care to participate (2 Peter 1.4). Those who do will intuitively know that the same God who first set our world ablaze by commanding light to shine into the darkness exerts that same power to burst forth his light into the dark world of our heart with no less remarkable results. “Night is at once changed to day; and all things are seen in a blaze of glory.”[13] All believers are enlightened in this profound, life-changing manner at the moment of salvation.[14]

For Paul to employ the language of Genesis 1.3 in describing such a revelation draws a distinct connection between the creation of day one light and the dawn of the gospel light. “For as there was darkness upon the earth before there was light, so there is a natural darkness in the minds of men before any spiritual light is infused into them; and as light was the first production out of the dark and unformed chaos, so light is the first thing that is struck into the soul in conversion.”[15]

In both the first and the new creation, darkness is dispersed when light is created by divine intervention—in one case it was by the personal word of God: “Let there be light” (Genesis 1.3); whereas in the other case it was by the personal act of God: “he made his light shine in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 4.6; cf. 1 Peter 2.9). This is an unmistakable allusion to Paul’s Damascus Road encounter with the risen Christ when God “was pleased to reveal his Son” to him (Galatians 1.15—16), described as a noonday “bright light from heaven flashing around” (Acts 9.3, 22.6).

Application. The connecting language Paul used in 2 Corinthians 4.6 and the attending analogies drawn between the first light of Creation and the dawn of the gospel light support by inference the assertion that the light of day one incorporated a wealth of spiritual or heavenly attributes into its nature.

Father God is the source of light, the spiritual foundation of Creation; the Son is the true light, the Messiah of all men created; and the light of the Spirit is the illuminating light of the new creation. This Holy Trinity of light wants everyone to join with them in their light, tasting of the power and peace in the Eternal Light of the Glory of God (1 Timothy 2.4; 2 Peter 3.9).

 

THE ETERNAL LIGHT OF THE GLORY OF GOD

SCRIPTURE:  “The [New Jerusalem] will not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Revelation 21.23).

PREMISE: The light that was in the beginning will culminate in the Light of Eternity, affirming that God is the Alpha and the Omega of all things. Those who choose to pursue the true light in this age will reap rewards in the next, for what God first began on day one of this age he will culminate in the age to come when the Light of the Gospel of the Glory of Christ, who is the image of Father God, disperses the darkness once and for all, and forevermore! “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day” (Proverbs 4.18). The first light of day one is fulfilled in the forthcoming Eternal Light of Glory, as God “will at the last fill the universe with the Light of his wonderful Glory.”[16]

He called us out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2.9; Colossians 1.12—13). In our new home of righteousness, the new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3.13; Revelation 21.1), we will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5.4), forever dwelling in the final, complete, eternal separation of light from darkness. There will be no more darkness or its attending death, no evil, no adversity, no sadness, crying, pain (Revelation 21.4) or hunger (Psalm 17.14).

The Holy City will shine with the glory of God, and its brilliance will be like that of a very precious jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal (Revelation 21.11). The glory of his holiness and presence is the “everlasting light” of the redeemed in heaven (Isaiah 60.19—20). The city of lights will not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light (Revelation 21.23—24). There will be no more night … and we will reign in the kingdom of his light forever and ever (Revelation 22.5; Colossians 1.12).

Accessible Light. At Christ’s crucifixion, the tearing of his flesh and blood pouring from his heart rent the veil that separated all but the high priest from access to the Most Holy Place, the seat of God (Matthew 27.51). In Heaven, all believers will have access to the true and perfect Most Holy Place, not a man-made replica, and see the actual blood of Christ sprinkled on the altar (Hebrews 10.19—20). In our righteousness obtained through Christ, we will peer within and see the Creator of the Universe “face to face” (Psalm 17.15a) and fully, no longer in part, know the Glory in this Light (1 Corinthians 13.12; Revelation 22.4). To “dwell in His house” and “gaze upon His beauty” (Psalm 27.4) gives us direct access to behold the Light of his Glory revealed to us—this is our inspection. We will be satisfied with seeing His likeness (Psalm 27.15b).

Our inspection of God’s Eternal Light revealed to us, however, is only half of our heavenly hope. Our beholding the Light of his Glory will be quite fulfilling, to be sure, but there is more—for God will also offer us an acquiescence in him, an eternal tasting of his Light’s sweetness—that is to say, we will be granted not only inspection, but possession, too. The Light of his Glory will not only be revealed to us, but in us, as well (Romans 8.18). And so, to behold God’s Glory is his Glory revealed to us; whereas to partake of God’s Glory is his Glory revealed in us. All believers have the Holy Spirit deposited into their spirits at the moment salvation occurs (2 Corinthians 1.22) and from that point forward are free to partake in the divine nature and its power to overcome the evil desires and therefore live a godly life (2 Peter 1.3—4). For God “to hide us in the shelter of his tabernacle” by “set[ting] us high upon a rock” (Psalm 27.5)—the Rock, the Christ—is us partaking in the Light of his Glory revealed in us—this is our possession. We “will sing and make music to the LORD” (Psalm 27.6c).

By and through (Father) God’s revelation both to us and in us, the Light (Son) of his Glory (Spirit) will enlighten man with a rich understanding of the Godhead, forever drawing him into a satisfying and nurturing fellowship with the triune God (Psalm 17.15b).

Nurturing Light. The nature of the triune God’s Eternal Light and our contemplation of its Majestic Glory will nurture our mind, body, and spirit in every way:

MIND—We could not now bear even a fleeting glimpse, much less behold, the Light of God’s Eternal Glory. But our souls will be made ready, perfected through Christ in all holiness, our minds capacitated to behold and partake in the Glory of his Light’s penetrating waves of infinite knowledge that will permeate the inner sanctuary of our souls, informing and enlightening the inmost place of our inner parts with God’s intimate grace, truth and wisdom (2 Corinthians 4.6; Psalm 51.6);

BODY—Although a significant portion of our heavenly repose will be comprised of corporate citizenship and action, we will each still be individuals with separate bodies. Our bodies, however, will have been “raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15.44), as our Savior the Christ will have “transformed our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3.21). The omnipresent warmth and holy tenderness of God’s Light will sooth every fiber of our spiritual bodies, setting our hearts at rest (1 John 3.19) with a deep and lasting peace (Luke 1.78—79; Matthew 11.29); and

SPIRIT—His Light’s all-powerful radiation, the eternal wealth of divine power, will forever fuel the dawning of the Day in which that mighty blazing Orb, the Morning Star, Jesus Christ our Lord, rises in our hearts, burning bright with the Majestic Glory of God (2 Peter 1.19). Moses stood near God who put him in a cleft in the rock, where he saw the glory of God passing by (Exodus 33.22—23). In and through our blessed Rock, the Christ, we too will one day stand near and forever behold the Majestic Light of the Glory of God!

Fulfilling Light. The Light of God’s Glory will be eternal portions for mankind in heaven. The glorified soul will experience solace—not among, not with, not close to, but—in God, forever feasting on the Father’s love, peering into the pure face of the Son and basking in the light of his countenance. For in His light we see light (Psalm 36.8—9). In the Almighty, “we have light in perfection, wisdom, knowledge, and joy, all included in this light.”[17] Here on earth, our world “is a dark world; we see little comfort in it; but in the heavenly light there is true light, and no false light, light that is lasting and never wastes. In this world we see God, and enjoy him by creatures and means; but in heaven God himself shall be with us (Rev. 21:3) and we shall see and enjoy him immediately.”[18] The inexpressible joy we experience through faith (1 Peter 1.8) will become rapturous joy when we see him face to face—when we lean on the bosom of Christ and gaze up into the glorious Light of his face. It is said the soul trembles till it comes to God. If so, only in heaven will our soul truly be still, and fully know that he is God!

Application. All believers—a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation—will corporately commune as one with Him in the Eternal Light of the Glory of God—his abiding Light to us and our adoring reflections to him, his abundant Glory to us and our devout affections to him (Revelation 21.24 & 26).

Praise be to God Almighty!

 

WHAT’S IN A WORD?

Looking at the original languages involved and their definitions of the key words in the Creation narrative support the notion that the lights created on days one and four of Creation were separate and distinct from one another.

For example, the word used for the lights created on day four of Creation is maor, which rather concretely and restrictively means a luminary—a “luminous body” or “light-bearer”. In other words, its nature and meaning are inherently contingent or secondary and therefore appropriately limited in scope of application. Contrarily, the Hebrew word (‘owr) used for the light God created on day one of Creation means “light” or “illumination”, which is intrinsically primary in its nature—that which precedes light-bearing. Accordingly, it is not surprising that the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon incorporates several metaphorical concepts into a variety of definitions listed for the word ‘owr, such as:

  • Yahweh God, Father God, is one with this light, and thus
    • God’s face or countenance reflects this light (‘owr) (Job 29.24; Psalm 4.6; Psalm 44.3; Psalm 89.15);
    • Father God wraps himself in this light (‘owr) (Psalm 104.2);
    • Father God makes his light (‘owr) shine on us (Psalm 118.27);
    • as the Creator, Father God formed light (‘owr) and thus created darkness (Isaiah 45.7); and
    • the Father is the fountain of life in whose light (‘owr) we see light (‘owr) (Psalm 36.9).
  • Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is also one with this light, and thus
    • Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah’s light,
      • “Arise, shine, for your light (‘owr) has come” (Isaiah 60.1); and
      • “The people walking in darkness (Gentiles) have seen a great light (‘owr); on those living in the land of deep darkness a light (‘owr) has dawned” (Isaiah 9.2).
    • Jesus is “the light of life” and
      • in Job, it is said that those who are saved by God from the pit of darkness “shall live to enjoy the light (‘owr) of life” and “the light (‘owr) of life” will shine on them (Job 33.28—30);
      • Jesus himself said, “He who follows me shall not walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8.12); and
      • in the Psalms, those who have been delivered from death “walk before God in the light (‘owr) of life” (Psalm 56.13).
    • Jesus is to be “a light (‘owr) for the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42.6) “that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49.6).
  • Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, is one with this light, and thus
    • “The Lord is my light (‘owr) and my salvation” (Psalm 27.1);
    • “The light (‘owr) of the righteous shines brightly” (Proverbs 13.9); and
    • “This teaching is a light (‘owr), and correction and instruction are the way to life” (Proverbs 6.23).
  • The Eternal Light of the Glory of God is one with this light, and thus
    • in the new heaven and new earth, the Lord will be the everlasting light (‘owr) of Zion instead of the sun and the moon (Isaiah 60.19—20); and
    • the new Jerusalem “does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light” (Revelation 21.23).

It is not a coincidence and extremely supportive of our working hypothesis that the meaning of the Hebrew word (‘owr) for the light of day one of Creation includes several spiritually inclined metaphorical definitions. What’s more, these metaphorical definitions align themselves perfectly with the several dynamic spiritual realities found in the Word that are consistent with and can be readily incorporated into this paper’s working hypothesis. Also supporting our claims herein is the Hebrew word (maor) for the lights created on day four whose definition is much simpler and more limited in its scope than that of ‘owr, which is consistent with the working hypothesis’ contention that the lights created on day four of Creation serve a much narrower function within Creation than the light of day one.

In short, the original language of the Word lends itself in support of the claims of the working hypothesis of this paper.

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Once again reflect on the scripture in Revelation that tells us in Heaven the Holy City will not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the Glory of God gives it Light and the Lamb is its lamp. I contend the Creator has already given us a glimpse of this Glorious Light in the light he created on day one of Creation—the light that lit our world during the first three days of Creation, before the sun or moon of our world and the many other material balls and rocks of the universe were created or, alternatively, lit up by God on day four of Creation.

It seems quite impossible for any visible light to exist were we to strip the universe of all stars, planets and moons, and yet, there it is—the great enigma of Creation—the light of day one! Far from a cosmic accident and conforming perfectly to the purpose of His will, the incredible power possessed only by the Creator of the Universe was revealed in the ordained sequence of Creation when—hidden within the breathe of His first creative words, and without the benefit of stars, planets and moons—this glorious primordial light sprung forth, unveiling the foundational truth of the universe and everything in it.

How did God do it? What we know from the Word and its reasonable inferences follows:

  • during eternity in Heaven, there will be no light coming from our sun or moon and the stars of the universe (material light) as the Light of the Glory of God (spiritual light) will provide the actual light by which mankind will live (Revelation 21.23);
  • the light created by God on day one of Creation provided actual light that lit up the day portion of the first three days of Creation (Genesis 1.5);
  • the light of day one of Creation was not material light, as material lights were not created (or, in the alternative, not “lit up”[19]) by God until day four of Creation (Genesis 1.14—19);
  • the light of day one of Creation was not the pure spiritual Light of the Glory of God that will one day provide light for us in Heaven because this light is purely spiritual and eternal in nature, and as such cannot be a created thing of this world;
  • It follows that day one light was and is a created manifestation of the spiritual Light of God’s Glory, existing in mysterious form residual to the pure spiritual Light of God, and with this God provided light for the day portion of each of the first three days of Creation.[20]

In the end, something has to account for why the light of day one was so undeniably set apart by God from everything else created. Although admittedly radical as compared to traditional theological claims regarding Creation, I believe the assertion herein that the light of day one was and is a created manifestation of the spiritual Light of God’s Glory, designed by God to be the spiritual foundation upon which the rest of Creation was built and specifically intended to edify and inspire man regarding the spiritual realities of life, is both rational and supported by the Word, and furthermore quite adequately accounts for why day one light was conspicuously set apart in the Creation narrative.

Thomas Coke said the light of day one of Creation “is the great beauty and blessing of the universe: like the first-born, it doth, of all visible beings, most resemble its great Parent in purity and power, brightness and beneficence. By beholding it therefore let us be led to, and assisted in, the believing contemplation of him who is light, infinite and eternal light, and the Father of Lights, and who dwells in inaccessible light.” [21]

So it is for each of you to decide for yourselves: 1) is the mystery of day one light indeed a mystery at all worthy of child-like, faith-driven belief? 2) if so, was day one light more than simply an archetype of material light? 3) if so, was day one light in any way spiritual in its nature? 4) if so, how and why, Lord? The purpose of this paper is to challenge the reader to contemplate these very questions.

 

CONCLUSION

First, Father God is light; the light of day one of Creation elegantly expressed the pure spiritual Light of Father God; and moreover this light’s separation from that day’s darkness established the moral, guiding foundation upon which the rest of Creation occurred, reminding mankind that he pursues all things created either in light or in darkness, in Him or not in Him, in good or in evil, in life or in death—and while here on this earth, we must continually choose between the two.
This is the grand Distinction of Creation.

Second, the light of day one of Creation was and is a lighthouse guiding our gaze toward the True Light that was coming into the world in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ; he who radiated on earth the Glory of the Father in heaven; the light of the world who reconciles us to the Father for eternity.
This is the grand Design of Creation.

Third, the light of day one of Creation is intimately connected with and thus made a part of the spiritual light of illumination that bursts forth in the hearts and minds of all believers at the moment salvation occurs, something God wants for all men.
This is the grand Desire of Creation.

And finally, the light of day one of Creation is the Alpha, and the Omega is the Eternal Light of the Glory of God in which all believers will live for eternity.
This is the grand Destiny of Creation.

~   ~   ~

God said, “Let there be light”—and there was light, indeed.                                                             Now, behold this light for all it was, for all it is, and is to come!

 

[1] by Patrick Lloyd—© 2016 the WORD runs deep publishing.

[2] Some scholars take the position that the first verse of the Bible depicts what is called the Original Creation of the Universe and subsequent to that came the seven-day Creation. Even if this two-part creation were true, however, the stars of the universe, including our solar system’s sun, were not made into lights or “lit up” by God until day four of the subsequent seven-day Creation.

[3] God has many other attributes. Love, light and spirit are the attributes of God that are pertinent to the discussion herein. The arguments made in support of the claims herein are consistent with and do not contradict the remaining attributes of God.

[4] For example, the division between heaven and earth, the waters above from waters below the sky, the seas from land, the day from night; the difference between “various kinds” of plants and trees, between the “greater light” and the “lesser light”; the distinction of seasons—summer versus winter and the transitional seasons; the distinctions re creatures—some to swim the ocean, some to walk the land, some to fly the skies; the relational distinctions between God and nature, God and man, man and woman, and man and animals.

[5] Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1957) p. 66.

[6] Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man: a Christian Interpretation (Westminster John Knox Press, 1996) p. 126.

[7] This last comment is merely a suggested possibility, but not a requirement for the hypothesis asserted herein to be shown true.

[8] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III/1, ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T & T Clark Ltd, 1958), p. 24.

[9] Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012) p. 27.

[10] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, John 1.1—5.

[11] It is interesting to note the contrast between Jesus and Satan—how Satan, who was not equal with God, did consider equality with God something to be grasped. Satan’s failed attempt to grasp equality with God is what led to his banishment to earth.

[12] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Genesis 1:3—5.

[13] Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 2 Corinthians 4.6.

[14] Sometimes suddenly and powerfully, like Paul’s Damascus Road experience, and sometimes incrementally and more subtly—however, always miraculously!

[15] Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, 2 Corinthians 4.6.

[16] Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012)  p. 125.

[17] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Psalm 36.5—12.

[18] Id.

[19] Even for those who subscribe to the Original Creation of the Universe, the stars of the universe, including our solar system’s sun, were not made into lights or “lit up” by God until day four of the subsequent seven-day Creation.

[20] Augustine believed the light of day one of Creation was spiritual in nature, De Genesi ad Literam, lib. 1, 100.3.

[21] Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible, Commentary on Genesis 1:3 (1801—1803).