Monday, December 8, 2008

What We Have Tasted

Enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come. (Hebrews 6:4-5)
Though the thrust of this verse goes in another direction, it gives us a brief but amazing picture of what it means for us to know Christ.

  • We have been enlightened. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). In other words, He reveals to us the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World (John 1:4-9). The Spirit reveals the things of God which would otherwise be unintelligible to us (1 Corinthians 2:9-14). Early Church Fathers saw in this a reference to baptism, the sign of initiation into the truth of the gospel and the body of Christ.
  • We have tasted the heavenly gift. To taste is to experience. We experience the heavenly gift. “Gift” means that it is not earned by us or owed to us. It is given freely to us as an act of divine grace and we receive it simply by faith. It is not of this age but of the next. It does not come from earth but from heaven. It is the kingdom of God breaking into the present age, the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Early Church Fathers saw in this a reference to the Eucharist, the Table of the Lord, the continuing sign of Christ’s presence in the world.
  • We have become partakers of the Holy Spirit. “Companions” of the Holy Spirit is how the HCSB puts it. This is divine fellowship with the One by whom we cry out joyfully, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). He reveals and works in us everything that belongs or pertains to Jesus (John 16:15). He brings forth in us divine fruits, the character of Christ (Galatians 5:22-23). He gives us manifestations of divine power by which He works miracles among us (1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Galatians 3:5). He ministers to us the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Father.
  • We have tasted the good word of God. This is the message of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, in whom all God’s promises to us are fulfilled in every way. No good thing does He withhold from us who have become the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (Psalm 84:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • We have tasted the powers of the age to come. The Greek word for “powers” is dunamis, often translated as “miracles” (for example, 1 Corinthians 12:10 and Galatians 3:5). It is the miracle-working power of God. It is not of this age but of God’s kingdom age now breaking into the world. It is the power of the Holy Spirit by which Jesus healed all who were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38). It is the power Jesus promised His disciples would receive when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8). Paul said that God is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
Though we live in this present age, as believers in Jesus Christ, we are part of the next. We are not relics of the past but agents of God’s coming kingdom. Jesus taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The tense of the Greek verbs speaks of a continuous action. We are not waiting for the kingdom of God to begin — it has begun already! We pray for it to increase until it is present in all its fullness. As John said, “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

Jesus also taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This has usually been taken to be a request to meet today’s need with today’s substance. But the Greek word for “daily” actually speaks of “the coming day.” What day is that? The day of God’s kingdom fullness, the day when His will is completely done on earth as in heaven.

We have tasted the bread of this present age and it does not sustain. There is no life to it. It is full of darkness and is already passing away. The provision we need is the substance of God’s kingdom, the will of heaven manifest on earth — the bread of that coming day. The prayer is that God give us that bread today. It is a prayer God has been answering ever since Jesus taught us to pray it and will continue to answer until heaven and earth are one.

God gives us that bread today so that we may experience, in this life, the heavenly gift, the good word of God, the powers of the age to come and fellowship with God by His Spirit. Christ gave His body and shed His blood — tasted death for us — that we might taste these things (Hebrews 2:9).