KNOWING AND KNOWING GOD
The frame through which we interpret the Bible, form our view of God and of ourselves as agents in His salvation, conditions how we will think of Christ, of ourselves and the nature of our life in God.
KNOWING WHAT WE KNOW
This is to say that we need to interpret God through God’s view of God, meaning that we seek to understand Him through what He has done and what He has revealed about Himself in His relationship with Israel and by coming into the world as Messiah and the Christ of God. So how do we know what we know about God?
WHERE TO START?
Martin Davis following Thomas Torrance is helpful in here. “In regard to the knowledge of God, the "primary task" in epistemology is "to focus our attention on the area where God is actually known and seek to understand that knowledge in its concrete happening, out of its own proper ground, and in its own proper reference to objective reality.” (1) We don’t impose our pre-conceived grid on it. We don’t make things up and we don’t change the gospel given to us by Jesus and the apostles to align it with any divergent interpretation arising from supposedly ‘inspired’ sources.
If we interpret the Bible through the law and our post-cross life as moralism – the law’s fellow traveller - our view of God and self will be different to God’s view of Himself and us and that which He has accomplished for us.
THE ‘GROUND OF REALITY’ IS TRINITY
The pattern of things – the undergirding reality in which we live – is who God is in His nature: Three persons one God, and what Christ did for us by being incarnated among us – namely ‘Made the two one’ achieving reconciliation between God and man in His person and by so doing, drawing us into the His life in God – fellowship with the trinity (John 14.23).
In the person of Jesus God is joined to us and we are joined to God. Atonement has been made that involves forgiveness of sins and grafting into the Holy Family in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them’ John 14.24 NIV.
LIVE FROM WHERE YOU ARE PLACED
Godliness starts with our being rooted in God’s being. It is not found in moral probity or capering about with spiritual gifts. These have an agency of spirit and life when we are incarnated with God. But in themselves they are not alive. They take on reality when they are the life of Christ expressed as us. The fruits of the Spirit are effects of Christ come in our flesh. They are not stand-alone things we do to earn Christ. It’s not a work. It’s agreeing with our sonship in our being.
If Christ has not come in our life – then religion has – and we have a bubble without much substance.
CHRIST OUR LIFE IS THE PATTERN
Thomas Torrance observes that, “Once we have got hold of the basic clue or gained some anticipatory insight into the pattern of things, we set about re-examining and reinterpreting all the data, putting them together under the guidance of the basic insight we have discovered until the full coherent pattern comes clearly to view… Once the insight has put us on the track of that discovery, something irreversible has taken place in our understanding: a pattern of truth has been built into our minds on which we cannot go back, and which we cannot rationally deny.”
This pattern of truth accords with the mind of Christ. It’s our ability to create the meaning that is real because we are part of the God who is Reality.
HAVING LEARNED TO SEE
Torrance implies that once we have seen that the new and living way is Christ our life, we cannot go back to the niggardly mode in which the law presumes to be our life because the cross [to our mind] has not significantly changed our life in God. Just added Jesus to it. The latter is as misguided as it is a popular in its moralism and its belief that all we have to do is rub Holy Spirit oil into the legalistic old covenant doctrine in which we have always believed. But that’s not your inheritance. Your inheritance is that because you have been made one with Christ, you are one with Christ, our Father and Holy Spirit.
One would hope that no informed person would impose the law/moralism on the privileges of the post cross age. But many are not as informed as one would hope having not read the new testament or much of the Bible or when they did read it, they read it through the lens of the law rather than the Jesus Lens.
Others have been taught a legalised christ with a legalised gospel and a Jesus who helps you earn acceptance with Himself by victories over sin. But that’s not the truth. His life is your life and He is becoming your life as the real you as you journey with Jesus to the culmination of all things.
Here is an excerpt from the Nicaean Creed. “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us..”
We see that Jesus Christ is God in you. The mediation of Jesus Christ into the Believer is direct. Christ in us mediates the fullness of God into our being. Christ mediates the oneness that characterises the oneness of the trinity. Jesus makes this oneness our oneness. He is our reconciliation. We are of course not gods. But we are sons and daughters. One with God we are revealed as ourselves. In Jesus’ Kingdom you get to be who you are. Not a clone of someone else.
Reject and repent of the burden of self-salvation that is implied in wide-spread Arminian* formulations of the Christian life. Thomas Torrance warns against this glass half empty kind of Christianity would have it that, “All that God provided was the possibility of salvation for all in the cross, and that each person has to translate that general possibility into actuality in their own case. But that is to land in Arminanism and to teach that ultimately everyone is their own saviour, in so far as they have to co-operate with Christ for their salvation. But if all that has been done in the death of Christ is the creation of the possibility of salvation, then who can be sure of their salvation, since everything depends in the last analysis on human weakness?”
Uncertainty and non-rest in Christ is the essence of all false gospels. Any gospel in which Christ is added to, is not His Gospel. The ultimate Sabbath is Christ our life.
* The core of Arminianism is that you ‘earn Christ.’ It’s not known by this name but it’s what a lot of Christians strive to do. It’s an un-gospel that is often expressed in words like ‘Keeping close to Jesus’ which is a subtle a legalism as one can get.
(1) MARTIN DAVIS - God for Us!. T. F. Torrance and the Relationship Between Epistemology and Ontology.