36. Jesus, the fullness of God

Meditations in Colossians: 36. Jesus the fullness of God

Col 1:19    For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,

We always try to pick up every significant word in our verses in these studies and so we should wonder at the link word, ‘for’. It flows on from the previous verse that concluded, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”  Perhaps we could change it to read, “in everything he might have the supremacy because God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” Because God’s fullness was in him, all these others things happened and he was shown to be supreme above all others. What other human being could claim to contain the “fullness of God”?

Which leaves us wondering, what exactly does that phrase mean? Let’s use that little cheat method I’ve encouraged you to use, of seeing what the various paraphrase versions or other translations say. The Living Bible says, God wanted all of himself to be in his Son.” The JBP version says, “It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live.” The Amplified Bible is more helpful;: “for it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him permanently,” which is interesting because I have a CD commentary which comments, For Paul “fullness” meant the totality of God with all his powers and attributes.”

Paul himself comments further on in this letter, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” (Col 2:9)  So, if God is good, then Jesus is good. If God is love, Jesus is love. If God is holy, then Jesus is holy. But we have to be careful, for other attributes of God the Father are that He is all powerful, all knowing, all wise, He is infinite, He is eternal and so on, and we have to ask, was Jesus all powerful, all knowing etc. and the answer has to be as far as the presence of the divine Son of God was in this particular body, and the Son was one with the Father and the Spirit, yes.

And yet there s a mystery here, how God can exist in a single human body and be God incarnate, God in the flesh. Clearly the body was limited in time and space (until after the resurrection) and there are indicators that suggest that the human person that was Jesus had limitations and had to rely upon the Holy Spirit. Yet he was God from conception and was still God when he ascended back to heaven, and he did not change in between.

So the human body clearly had human experiences and got tired and felt pain and anguish. Indeed I have suggested that when Jesus cried out on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” that was the human element or maybe even the divine element covered in sin that momentarily lost the sense of the Father and Spirit. That they were still there, I have no doubt because the Father would never turn His loving back on His Son, even when he was going through what he was going through. No, not even the Sin of the world that the Son was carrying would have made the father turn away, because He faces it in you and me, even as He did in Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Moses etc. throughout history.

So how could divine and human blend together? Why is it so difficult to understand and distinguish divine and human in this incarnation?  I think the best illustration I have heard of is the analogy of the Meal Offering of Lev 2.  It consisted of fine flour, representing the humanity of our Lord, and olive oil which stands for the Holy Spirit and deity. Each become blended together to become for ever one. The cake that was thus made was one cake, not two, although the two materials exist together so we cannot see them. In the same way the two natures – human and divine – exist together but not being observable. With the incarnation, the Son who had pre-existed in heaven with the Father, became man.

The Son, we have seen a number of times now, existed from before the Creation, begotten of the Father (coming from the Father) and with all His attributes. From all we have seen, the Son was God and the Son came into being at the will and pleasure of the Father, and with all of the Father’s nature. It was this nature, these powers and attributes that we see expressed in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospels. The physical side (the flour) experienced all that we experience as human beings – except  he did not sin: “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.” (Heb 4:15)

The divine side, expressing the nature, powers and attributes of the Godhead enabled Him to perform the signs and wonders etc.: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him.” (Acts 2:22) When the body was put to death on the Cross, God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24) Was it possible to distinguish human from divine? No, in the same way it is impossible to distinguish the flour from the oil in the cake.

Here’s a closing thought: “the church, which is his body, the fullness of him.” (Eph 1:22,23)  “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:12,13)  “you have been given fullness in Christ.” (Col 2:10) We said above that when it speaks of Christ being indwelt by the fullness of God it means the totality of God with all his powers and attributes. So if we have the fullness of Christ then we have access to all of God’s powers and attributes and the church has access to all of God’s powers and attributes. Ponder on that.

35. Sons of God Revealed

Meditations in Romans : 35:  Sons of God Revealed

Rom 8:19   The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

This is a tantalizing verse! I suspect most of us arrive at it, glance at it with an air of puzzlement and pass on rapidly to easier verses. Now there are immediately two ways of thinking of what this verse means: 1. It means the world is watching for us Christians to be revealed as we grow in Christ on this earth, or 2. It means that when we go to glory we will be transformed into something even more glorious (which Scripture does suggest). Perhaps we should add a third possibility: 3. The world is watching to see our transformation as we grow in Christ which will happen in large measure as we allow the Spirit to lead and teach us, but the fullness of the transformation will only come when we pass from this earth into heaven. This third option is what we believe the following verses show us.

But we must remind ourselves that back in verse 17 we read, we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Now when we think of Christ’s life on earth it did comprise both suffering and glory. It was only partial glory and Jesus himself indicated it as such, but the fact was that some saw his glory as he ministered and worshipped him. The fullness of his glory is not yet complete because although he was glorified through his death and resurrection, there is a greater glory to be revealed a) when we see him in heaven and b) when he returns and every knee will bow before him.  This receiving glory is thus a partial and gradual thing but, as we said previously, as we enter into the ‘Father’s business’ and share with Jesus in it, we will experience both suffering and glory.

But what an amazing picture: the creation, the world, all of what we would otherwise call ‘nature’ waits expectantly for us to be changed and enter into a greater measure of our sonship.  Do you remember at the Creation, the Lord gave this mandate to man: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen 1:28) Man’s first act of ‘ruling’ or presiding over as God’s agents, was to name all the creatures: “So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.” (Gen 2:20).

However this was followed by the Fall and with that came upset. Man and woman became self-conscious (Gen 3:7), fearful of God (Gen 3:10) and self-justifying and blaming of others (Gen 3:12,13). Further consequences were enmity between mankind, Satan and God on the earth (Gen 3:15), increased difficulty in childbirth and a dominating husband role (Gen 3:16), and the earth running wild to make food producing more difficult (Gen 3:17-19). Previously all creatures had been vegetarian but from then on the ‘food-chain’ that we observe among creatures prevailed. Some suggest that spiritual forces were released that meant shifting of tectonic plates, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods as well as disease and sickness and plague. All of these things came about as a result of the Fall.

The primary reason for what is referred to as the ‘curse’ is that God stepped back and left the earth to mankind to rule. The withdrawal of His presence meant the withdrawal of His life and blessing and yet, the Bible tells us, God was aware of and took account of all these things even before making the world, because giving man free will was essential for him to be fully human, with all that that meant. From before the creation itself, the plan of redemption was there in God’s planning and that was necessary because of the Fall and its effects. So with the Fall we have disruption to the way the earth works and the way mankind work; both are not how they were originally designed to be.

But then comes Jesus and the possibility of salvation, of redemption, and suddenly the earth is starting to be populated by men inhabited by God. The process is dramatic (new birth) but also slow, steady and continuous throughout the human life (sanctification). Suddenly it is a new day with these new God-empowered, God-directed ‘sons of God’, men and women energised by the Holy Spirit, coming to bring something new to the earth. Where they shed light, darkness falls back.

But it is never without resistance for Satan and his minions and the powers and principalities of darkness, press in on those sinful men and men who have not heard of a new way, or who have heard and refuse it.   And so a battle ensues and change is slow, but down through church history these men and women inhabited by God have been slowly revealed for what they are – saints. Twisters, connivers, cheats, thieves, prostitutes, murderers, traitors, abusers, all hear the words of the Christ and are transformed and another ‘son’ is revealed, another light bearer walks on the earth. They struggle to understand who they are, they are slow to understand the wonder of being ‘a son’, and they cannot comprehend the wonder and the potential of who and what God has made them to be. But the world looks on and wonders at every new birth. How will this one develop? What will they contribute to this world to bring light that dispels darkness, what will they say and do that actually changes the world?

Yes we, you and me, are being revealed. Gradually bit by bit we are changing and the likeness of Christ is being seen through us: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18) Hallelujah!

125. Peace with Jesus

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 125. Peace with Jesus

Mk 6:50-52   Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. 

Sometimes in Scripture that are very graphic instances that speak immense truths. This is one of them. Without any beating about the bush, and it is very simple, when Jesus comes aboard your life he brings peace – always!

Of course this is the second of two incidents on the lake. Previously we saw Jesus calm the storm on the lake (4:39). It was a similar thing. Once Jesus was awake, peace was brought. Matthew tells us that on this occasion Peter got  out of the boat and joined Jesus walking on the water (Mt 14:29) but Peter doesn’t bring glory to himself and so omits that as he guides Mark on what to write.

But here on the water, Jesus’ first instinct is to reassure the disciples t hat they are not seeing a ghost, but it is him.  And then he simply climbed in the boat with them – “and the wind died down.”  Coincidence?  No, it is just God exercising His authority over His world in the form of His Son. I am convinced that many of us today, in reality, have lost the belief, which the Bible shows so clearly, that God moves in His world and that includes what we refer to as “nature”.

But much of the time, it isn’t so much that Jesus has to speak peace, but where Jesus is, is always a place of peace because God is always in a state of total peace. He is not upset or in a state of upheaval. He knows everything and has absolute power to do whatever He wants, and so He is at absolute peace. When comes with His Sovereign Presence, peace comes with Him. There may be a storm raging in the rest of the world, but where He manifests His Presence, there it is peace. It is like being in the eye of the storm except wherever He then moves, that peace goes with Him cutting through the storm in whichever direction He goes.

This is one of the reasons to advocate the so-called Quiet Time in the morning, so that whatever stresses and strains confront us, as we bring them in prayer to the Lord, as we pray His presence invades our presence and before we know where we are the peace that passes all understanding is there. it isn’t just that “He knows”, it is His very presence that has drawn near (Phil 4:6,7)

23. To Jeremiah

“God turned up” Meditations: 23 :  To Jeremiah

Jer 1:4,5 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Most human beings at some time, be it ever so fleetingly, ask the question, “Who am I?” Some people go through life struggling the whole time to find out who the ‘real’ them is. We have self-awareness or self-consciousness and this seeks to put us in a framework of living and give us meaning. Some of us might start from, ‘I am a son (or daughter)’ and that may not be good news in their life context. Others might say, ‘I am a mother (or father)’ or we might go on to define ourselves by our job or career or special title. We like to know who we are.

Jeremiah was a relatively young man when God turned up. We don’t know how the Lord came and spoke to Jeremiah; he simply records, “The word of the Lord came to me.” That phrase crops up a number of times in Scripture and unfortunately no one defines it. Somehow the sense of God speaking to him came. You know you are hearing from outside you when what comes cuts right across your natural thinking. Jeremiah obviously recognises who it is speaking to him, and he queries what he is apparently hearing: Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” (v.6). He feels too young and he feels inadequate as a speaker. I have had similar ‘conversations’ with the Lord where the content of what comes is completely contrary to anything I would naturally think.

Given time to think about this, I suspect that Jeremiah would have felt strangely comforted and assured by these words. “Before I formed you in the womb.” We would normally think of being formed in the womb as a natural product of the coming together of our father and mother, of something that automatically happens after conception, natural growth, but the Lord lays claim to involvement in Jeremiah’s formation. Perhaps in the reality of eternity we will learn something that Scripture hints at – it isn’t just a ‘natural process’ but a God process.

But it goes on, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” i.e. even from before conception God knew Jeremiah, knew all about him, who he would be and what he could do. God knows our potential from the very makeup of our genes, from the very things we inherit from those who went before us, and He knows what He can do with us. It’s not only nature plus nurture; it’s nature plus nurture plus God! And God knows that possibility before it happens. When we doubt our capabilities when the Lord appears to call us to a task, remember these things; remember that He knows your makeup and your past and He knows what you are capable of with His help. Oh yes, when God calls it is with full knowledge of who we are!

Indeed He carries on, “before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Now remember that this isn’t because of Jeremiah’s natural abilities because we’ve seen already that Jeremiah doesn’t feel much about his capabilities. We saw the same thing in Moses’ calling; he too felt utterly inadequate: “Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Ex 4:10)

The Lord had an answer for Moses and He has an answer for Jeremiah: “But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, `I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.” (v.7,8) The crucial element of this instruction is found in the words, “whatever I command you.” Put another way, He is saying you say what I will give you to say. It’s not down to you. I will provide the words. To Moses the Lord had said similar words: “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Ex 4:12)

Jesus similarly told his disciples not to worry about being persecuted: “do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mt 10:19,20). In other words when we are on God’s business we are to simply trust Him to provide the words we will need. He will provide!

Thus when the Lord turns up and calls Jeremiah, we see these most important things. First, the Lord knows us completely and He knows what he can do with us, what we are capable of with His help and guidance. Second, what we are to do isn’t down to us; it is down to Him for He has plans for us and also has the grace to enable us to do what He’s called us to do. Perhaps Paul caught something of this when he wrote, “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10) Let’s be reassured as we step out in God’s calling on our lives. We know who we are – God’s people on a mission!