Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

July 29, 2005

The Presence

We saw in Paul's prayer for the Ephesians that his ultimate goal for them was fullness. More precisely, that they be "filled with all the fullness of God."

I said that this word, fullness, has everything to do with the presence of God. I defined fullness as "the full realization of Christ's living presence in the church or in the individual Christian."

In his letter to the Ephesians, at the end of chapter 2, Paul puts it this way:

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
So the preaching of the Gospel is for the purpose of building a temple--a dwelling place for God. God once had companionship, communion, with Adam and Eve, and walked with them in a garden; but he cast them out of his presence, due to their selfishness and sin, and ever since then His purpose has been to restore that communion.

The book of Exodus ends with God's lengthy and detailed directions for the building of a kind of portable sanctuary in which he, God, might dwell among them. Moses builds it, and God dwells there. It is not, however, as before, in Eden. There, God walked and talked with Adam in a kind of intimacy that is only again seen in the intimacy that Christ has with the Father. No, in the case of the Israelites, his presence is awesome, and yet not intimate. Nevertheless, it is His powerful and guiding presence. The last line of Exodus is:

For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, but fire would be on it at night, in plain view of all the house of Israel, in all their journeys.
Now leap ahead to Ezekiel. The people of God are living in exile in Babylon, due to their persistent and fervent idolatry. And God gives to his prophet Ezekiel an elaborate vision of a restored kingdom, with Jerusalem as its capitol. The key distinction of this kingdom will be the presence of God. The last line of the Ezekiel is:

The name of the city from that day forward will be: 'The Lord is There.'
Finally, there is John's vision of the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, with its streets of gold, its river of life running from the throne of God, on which sits a wounded and yet reigning lamb, and a voice cries,

"Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them."
Indeed, the story of the Bible is the story of God's restoration project. He is not restoring a human kingdom. He is not restoring, in the final analysis, your personal health and well-being (your "heart"). He is restoring a people among whom he might dwell.

As Christians, we live on the very crest of this supernatural wave. We are the first fruits of this new creation. To us he has given His Spirit in power. Our savior is called Emmanuel, "God with us," and we are to go forth in his name, empowered by his Spirit within us, doing his work, being his representatives, his "bond servants." Amazing. It will be a life of labor, even at times of sorrow, and yet it will result in the praise of God for his marvelous and invincible plan.

And this is why the Ephesians, as God's missionary representatives, need the Spirit to dwell in them in power, need a keen understanding of the love of Christ for the world, need to be filled with all the fullness of God.

For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord's will is. And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. [Eph 5:17-21--all translation from NET Bible]


Blogger John said...

Excellent post Bob, I have linked this at Scotwise!


11:46 PM  

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