Tuesday, June 30, 2015

God Will Be All in All

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)
The day is coming when God will be “all in all.” It is the consummation, the culmination, the ultimate fulfillment of the gospel. God will not just be all in some, or some in all — he will be all in all. But before we talk about what that means, let’s take a moment to realize what it does not mean.

First, “all in all” does not mean that God will become his creation, or that the creation will become God. In another letter, Paul says, “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36). Everything that has been created comes from God, through God and for God. This does not mean, however, that everything is God or that God is everything. God remains God and the creation remains the creation. Creation reflects the glory and attributes of God, but it is always dependent upon God. Its existence is not inherent within itself but is purely a matter of God’s creative love and sustaining grace.

Second, “all in all” does not mean that we somehow lose our own identity in God. God has always existed as the divine community of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. None of the Three ever lose their own identity but each remains who he is, ever and always. Likewise, when God becomes all in us, we do not lose our identity. God remains who he is; we remain who we are.

So what does “all in all” mean? In 1 Corinthians 15, we see that there are some things that are to be destroyed: all dominion, authority and power — and death. This is not the destruction of persons, human or otherwise, but of the evil that influences kings and cultures and is behind all the oppressive structures that afflict humanity. Their power, even the power of death, was broken at the cross of Christ. They will not prevail against the purpose of God.

“All in all” means that everything will be in perfect alignment with God. What cannot be brought into line with him — dominion, authority, power and death — will be destroyed. But everything God has created will be reconciled to him. Notice the all-inclusive nature of what Paul says about Christ in his letter to the Jesus-followers at Colosse:
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:16-20)
This is what the cross and the atonement is about: reconciliation. Everything that has been created by God, whether in heaven or on earth, is being turned back to God, brought into proper relationship with him through King Jesus the Messiah. This is God’s pleasure and purpose, and no dominion, authority or power, not even death itself, can stop it.

“All in all,” then, is about everything and everyone — all creation — being restored and brought into fellowship with God. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Fellowship of Light

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:3-4)
Fellowship, intimate relationship with God, is what salvation is all about. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). “Eternal life,” which is the life of the age to come, is not merely something that is gained by knowing God, it is knowing God, and knowing Jesus the Messiah, who is himself life. Knowing God is the essence of eternal life.

John and his associates experienced this fellowship with God, but he also wanted those to whom he ministers in this letter to experience it, too. And he wanted to experience it together with them, for our fellowship with God unites us together in holy community with each other as well. It is in this community that we find our joy complete — loving God and each other, and being loved by God and each other.

That is why John writes this letter. Yet there is an issue he must address and it has to do with light and darkness: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 5:5). “Light” is about what is good and true and just. Darkness is about what is evil. John the Gospeler writes:
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)
Darkness is incompatible with light, evil is incompatible with good, for light overcomes darkness and good overcomes evil. When we have fellowship with God, he will not lead us into darkness but into light, and into good, not evil. John brings out an important implication:
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7)
Our “walk” is our manner of living. If we profess to have fellowship with God, who is light, yet we practice sin and live in darkness, our claim is hollow because we are not living it out. The truth of our relationship with God is not just theoretical, something to know, but it is also practical, something we do. In John’s day, as in our own, there were people who thought it was sufficient to know or believe certain things about God, and if one had this knowledge, one knew God. But John shows us that if we are not living out the truth, we do not know God.

Now, our fellowship with God is not based on what we do but is revealed in what we do. A life marked by what is good and true and right — in a word, by godliness — is not the cause of divine fellowship but the fruit of it. When we have fellowship with God, even our doing is a gift of his grace. So if we walk in the light that God is in his very being, our fellowship with him becomes evident.

It is not only our fellowship with God that John has in mind. It is also very much about our fellowship with each other. The body of John’s letter is about how walking in light and keeping God’s commandments demonstrates that we truly know God and share in the divine life he brings. God’s commandments are here summed up very simply as faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and loving one another (1 John 3:23). If we have no love for each, we are living in darkness. But when we walk in love, we show that the life of God, the life of the age to come, is at work in us.

John adds that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, and this is very important, for it is this that enables us to walk in the light and share the life of God together with each other. For we are yet learning to walk in the light and live the life of love, and we often fail or fall short. But there is no condemnation in Christ, who manifested the love of God and gave himself up to the cross for our sake.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Drawn Up Into the Divine Dance

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
Our fellowship, says John, is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus. The Greek word for “fellowship” is koinonia, and speaks of partnership and participation, of community and what is shared in common.

The Trinity is its own community, its own koinonia. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have joyful and eternal fellowship with each other. Early Church Fathers referred to their relationship as a perichoresis, a divine interpenetration or interweaving with each other. Three persons, perfectly united in One — God.

How is it, then, that we could even begin to have fellowship with the Three-in-One? What could we possibly have in common that would enable us to enjoy partnership and participation with God? The answer is found in Jesus the Messiah. 
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. (1 John 1:1-2)
John and the apostles experienced him in his humanity. They could see him, hear him, touch him — he was as real to them as they were to each other — yet they came to understand that he is the Word of life who was from the beginning, who was with God and, indeed, is God (John 1:1). They recognized him both in his divinity and in his humanity, the two perfectly joined together in one — Jesus the God-Man.

Our fellowship with God, however, is not simply that Jesus participates in human nature with us. It goes much deeper than that: Through Jesus the Messiah, we participate in the divine nature.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4)
The Greek word for “participate” here is koinonos, from which comes koinonia, the word for “fellowship.” In Jesus the Messiah, we who were created to be like God in the first place now share in the divine nature — he gathers us up into himself. By his divine nature, the life of Messiah at work in us by the Holy Spirit, we participate in holy community with God, drawn up into the divine dance of the Three, to enjoy loving fellowship with them forever.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Random Thoughts

More thoughts culled from my random file. About divine love, relationship with God and new life in Christ. Some have come to me in moments of quiet reflection, some in interaction with others. Many have been tweets and Facebook updates. Some have been posters. Offered as “jump starts” for your faith.
  • The sacraments (e.g., baptism and communion) are not merely outward signs of an inward faith but the outward signs of an inward grace. Though our faith in Christ may often be weak, the grace of God towards us is always strong.
  • Discipleship is learning to live in the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • Eschatology is not about the end of the world but about the end of the age. It is about the new creation, which has already begun for us in Jesus the Messiah.
  • A new twist on an old saying: Pray as if everything depends upon God. Work as if everything depends upon God.
  • Fear is at the root of all kinds of issues, and it is a terrible bondage. It is an “orphan” spirit, desperately looking for, and never finding, a father. However, God has not given us the spirit of fear that leads us into bondage again but the Spirit of Adoption by which we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). And when God’s love is perfected in us, it casts out fear. When we fear, it is because we are not trusting in the love of God.
  • We were conceived in the divine love and fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • At the cross, God did not pour out his wrath on Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ poured out the wrath of God on sin, death and the devil.
  • In King Jesus the Messiah, all are made new. Come to him. Trust him. Follow him.
  • We are created for greatness, though it often comes in ways that seem small and insignificant — but that is because we have gotten things upside down.
  • If God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, how in the world could anyone ever be insignificant?
  • Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Do thou likewise. Therein lies greatness.
  • All that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son. The Spirit reveals them to us — and we are caught up into divine fellowship.
  • God is Love. Love pours himself out for others. And so Love fulfills all.
  • God is love. In God, there is one who loves, one who is loved, and one who is the love between them. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • There is not a soul in this world who does not long for the glory and presence of the Lord. Many just do not realize it yet.
  • God is love, and a consuming fire. He burns away everything that cannot be loved.
  • The love of God never gives up on us, never ceases to work for our good. Even in hell, God is love.
  • The Christian life is infinitely impossible to live on our own — but intimately available to all in Christ who is our life.
More random thoughts …