Through All

In describing God, we might begin by saying He’s all powerful, infinitely so, as we say — omnipotent (Re 19:6): He does as He pleases (Ps 115:3); nothing is too hard for Him. (Ge 18:14) He’s the Creator, fashioning time and space ex nihilo, and gives us no indication that this was the least bit challenging for Him; it’s hard to imagine a more immensely powerful act.

Kerid Crater Lake, Iceland

We might also describe God as all knowing, omniscient: He is aware of and understands all things. (1Jn 3:20) He’s intimately familiar with all His works (Ac 15:18), not just that they exist, or will exist, but every detail about each one of them: every word that will ever be spoken (Ps 139:4); the number of hairs on every head (Mt 10:30), the names of all the stars (Ps 147:4), He might as well know every grain of sand by name. If He knows such things, it’s hard to conceive of something He might not know.

We might also claim that God is omnipresent, that He’s everywhere all the time. This may seem obvious, given the above; if God created time and space itself, perhaps it stands to reason that He’s ever present throughout all Creation.

Yet this doesn’t appear as easy to prove from scripture; a quick internet check reveals that the many scriptures offered to support this concept don’t quite get us there. What if God created everything to be self-sustaining and then stepped away to let it run all on its own? What scriptures apply here, not just that God is everywhere we are, but that He occupies every space, every possible location?

Scripture describes God the Father as above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ep 4:6) The idea of through all, as in permeating and surrounding everything in existence, seems to get at this idea, as well as above all, which appears to convey transcendence, beyond everything, higher than the highest, lower than the lowest, farther than the farthest, etc. How can one be above all and through all and not also be everywhere — omnipresent? Trying to decouple these phrases and what they convey seems academic at best.

This above all and through all is consistent with the idea that Christ holds everything together: by Him all things consist (Col 1:17), He upholds all things. (He 1:3) To be holding everything together, God must be present in some way, sustaining everything and giving it substance to continue to exist, beholding and observing (Pr 15:3), engaging everything and sovereignly controlling it all. (Ep 1:11)

Yet some might argue that God can’t be in Hell, that Hell must be the absence of God because God is Love. (1Jn 4:16) This may be the strongest argument against the omnipresence of God. What do we say?

What should we expect to happen if love and mercy actually are freely offered in Hell, with open arms and a tender call to repent? (Ro 10:21) Wouldn’t God’s love be continually and vehemently rejected by those suffering there? Wouldn’t the wicked continue to willfully choose their fiery end rather than repent and submit to God? (Re 16:11) and do so every moment for all eternity? (Pr 27:22)

Perhaps the problem in Hell isn’t God at all; perhaps the problem is Man. And perhaps the key to resolving many mysteries we see in God’s character and behavior lies here as well, in the Depravity of Man. (Je 17:9)

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Thy Commands Are Righteousness

God says all His commandments are righteousness. (Ps 119:172) Of course, all God’s commandments are righteous (138), yet together they also compose the complete definition of moral perfection. Removing or neglecting any one of God’s commands yields an inferior standard; each of His laws reveals a facet of holiness, departure from which defines sin. (1Jn 3:4)

This explains why we ought not neglect any part of Torah (Ps 119:6), because doing so diminishes its full scope and impact in our lives. (Mt 5:19) God is love (1Jn 4:16), and every word from Him faithfully testifies of and reveals His love. (Ps 119:86)

Every single law in Torah hangs on, is derived from, the Laws of Love for God and Man (Mt 22:40); these commands help us understand love and guide us to walk in love. So, for as long as Love is not perfected in us all (1Jn 4:17), not even one small nuance of the law shall fail, or be discarded, or made obsolete. (18)

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Of the Truth

Our orientation toward truth is fundamental; it defines what kind of people we are. In relation to truth, there are only two kinds of people: those who love the truth, and those who don’t.

Almost everyone who has ever lived is in this second group: those who don’t love truth. To them, truth is desirable when it suits their purpose, when it aligns with their agenda, when it gives them what they want. Otherwise, truth is a burden, a threat, an obstacle they intend to manage and work around, in which case a lie appears as a relief, preferred and most easily accepted.

Those who want to believe what suits them don’t love the truth and seek it out, regardless how it might impact them. Once the lie is offered with any chance of being correct, they grasp on to it and hold it close. They must then love darkness rather than light, because they’ve not aligned themselves with truth (Jn 3:19), but hold the truth in unrighteousness, angering God. (Ro 1:18)

Those who love the truth obey and follow the truth at any cost. It becomes our only way; we know no other. We know no lie is of the truth (1Jn 2:21), and all truth is consistent with all other truth. So, we can accept no real inconsistency in our world view — we permit nothing in it that doesn’t align with all reality as we perceive it.

It’s a narrow way, often lonely — any step to the side is indeed treacherous. It’s better not to know the truth, not to even come this way, if we aren’t going to obey it. (1Pe 2:21) Yet the effort eventually leads us to God, so we end up with God, in God, aligned with Him Who is the Truth, because all truth, all reality, points to Him. (Ep 4:21)

For example, the complexity of Creation proves there’s a Designer. Contemplate the odds of a single useful protein forming by chance, even if all required elements happen to be present in the same space, intermingling with each other, and manage to assemble themselves in some random way. The odds are comparable to that of two people blindly selecting the same atom from among all the atoms in our Milky Way galaxy. And protein is just one element of an irreducibly and incredibly complex machine at the base of all life forms. The fact of a Designer is clearly seen, being understood by us all, and easily verified. It is the beginning of the way, and even this first step sets us in rare and precious company.

Given a Creator, Who evidently made us all in His own image, one reasonably expects some ancient religion to reveal Him. Nothing compares to Torah, not even close. The very existence of Israel is infallible proof that God is real, and that He has openly revealed Himself to the world. Yet, who’s been focusing on knowing the God of the Old Testament? This next step separates us even further, alienating us from the more popular religions of the world.

Following Torah leads us to the Jewish Messiah (Ga 3:24): the only Man to predict His own death and resurrection, pull it off exactly as predicted by Hebrew prophets hundreds of years earlier, and have the fact verified by hundreds of eye-witnesses, who were all willing to die rather than live out of step with this fact: it cost them everything. People make up lies all the time, but they aren’t willing to die for what they know is a lie. The Resurrection of Christ is the most provable fact of all history. And this step isolates us yet more, pitting us against most all of the Jews. (Ro 11:28)

The incarnation of Christ is indeed the ultimate singularity, putting the resurrection in perspective: divinity piercing the human domain for a sovereign purpose. This triggers the tooltip And this leads us to Who Jesus is, why Jesus died, and for whom He died — that He might bring us to God. (1Pe 3:18) And so, we’re home at last.

We know we’re of the truth, at home in Christ, when we walk in love, and also in truth (1Jn 3:18-19), seeking the ultimate welfare of all, yet unwilling to live apart from the truth, even a little bit, even to spare those who are deeply offended by it.

Thus, in being of the truth, though we seek the world’s good, we invariably find ourselves in the crosshairs of the world’s hatred of truth; to avoid the truth they must ultimately mock and dismiss us, or eradicate and overcome us — we shouldn’t be surprised if the world hates us (13), just as it hated Him. (Jn 7:7)

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What Manner of Love

The Apostle John encourages us to behold the love of God, to study His love and contemplate it, to recognize what kind of love this is, to try to comprehend how immense and immeasurable it is. How profound and unfathomable is it to be called a child of God? (1Jn 3:1)

The key to perceiving God’s immense love lies in recognizing what God does, how He demonstrates His love and acts it out: He lays down His own life for us. (1Jn 3:16) He does this for us while we’re still His enemies. (Ro 5:10) This is amazing love indeed!

The Passion of the Christ

If we dare to dig a bit deeper, we contemplate the kind of death He chooses to die for us: it is perhaps the most painful and humiliating kind of death – Roman crucifixion. (Php 2:8) It’s brutal beyond comprehension, yet in itself a hideous metaphor, a window into something utterly profound.

The fierce agony in God’s physical death is symbolic of His spiritual suffering: the reality of its depth and breadth lurks in the separation imposed by our sin within the very Trinity itself. As He voluntarily accepts the penalty of our sin and fully identifies with us as sinners, as He becomes our sin, the Son is forsaken by His Father. (2Co 5:21) This causes a deep separation, an annulment of the infinite, loving communion between Father and Son. (Mt 27:46)

This may very well be the most intense kind of suffering possible: separation from God within God himself. It is certainly well beyond any possible form of physical or emotional suffering, and it’s endured by the infinitely precious Holy One, Who deserves it the least.

Yet God suffers this willingly for us — for anyone, for all who come to Him. (2Pe 3:9) The totality of God’s personal suffering is thus multiplied by His suffering personally, in person, for the multitudes. His suffering surpasses that of every other living thing, in both degree and scope, in both depth and breadth; it’s infinitely more than anyone could ever suffer, even for eternity, even if God only experienced this vast suffering for a few dreadful hours, many years ago.

We might presume this was indeed merely a one-time occurrence, buried in the distant past, such that God has now put this atrocity behind Himself and moved on, seeing it as only a distant memory.

The problem with such sentiment is that it presumes God is bound by time when He is not; He is ever present in every moment of time. Duration means nothing to Him; past, present and future are meaningless in His timeless experience. (Jn 8:58)

Anything God experiences, He experiences infinitely and forever. God never stops experiencing anything which He ever experiences. So the unthinkably painful separation between the Father and the Son is something they live with even now, to this present day; they will live with this anguish continually, and forever.

God has voluntarily entered into an eternal suffering from which they will never escape, and which they have always known. (Re 3:18) Father, Son and Holy Spirit have chosen to suffer for us like this from eternity past. It is almost like God is forever going to Hell for us Himself, giving up His eternal safety and welfare for us, taking your place, suffering in my place.

Who would you give up your eternal welfare for? Who would you burn in the flames of Hell forever for? If you would do it for anyone, would you do it for an enemy?

Doesn’t this change everything?

What has God done, my dear friend? Do I really think I have any clue how much He loves us? and whom He loves? Is it even for the worst of us?

What does my mistrust of Him look like now? In the presence of such love? What is my complaint now, my uncertainty, my selfishness, my fear … it is all a lie, darkness fleeing the Light. (Jn 1:9)

If I could keep the taste of this wonder in my spirit, let the fragrance of it dwell within and permeate all that I am, the very first glimpse of this immense, divine passion, truly, would it not begin to fill me with all the fullness of God? (Ep 3:19)

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Bound by the Law

The New Testament (NT) makes many references to Mosaic Law, Torah, repeating and reinforcing its commands. The Tanach (Old Testament) was the only inspired scripture in the days of the Apostles, who were zealous of Torah their entire lives (Ac 21:20); they quoted it often in their teaching, and based all of their doctrine upon it.

Some seeking to diminish the relevance of Torah today claim that only commands specifically called out in the NT are still relevant. This standard is, of course, arbitrarily imposed on scripture: it is not in scripture itself. Still, it’s enticing to those looking to ignore some part of Torah (Ps 119:6), unaware of the eternal consequences. (Mt 5:19)

The primary problem with this view is that Christ openly refutes it early in His earthly ministry, explicitly addressing this error and affirming the eternal validity and relevance of Torah in precise, unmistakable language. (17-18) Once we understand this, if we’re observant, we find the entire Tenach reinforced and upheld by apostolic teaching.

For example, Paul says we’re bound by Mosaic divorce laws (Ro 7:2-3, 1Co 7:39), and claims a law governing the treatment of oxen is intended for us all, instructing us in financing Christian ministry. (1Co 9:9-10) He commands us to avoid all uncleanness (Ep 5:3), which must include the types of uncleanness specified in Leviticus, and Peter appeals to gentile believers to live in holiness (1Pe_1:15-16) because God commands Israel to be holy. (Le 20:7)

Paul tells us the entire Tenach is given to thoroughly equip all believers to live godly lives. (2Ti 3:16-17), so the idea that some part of Torah is obsolete, or no longer relevant, is foreign to apostolic thinking; they rejected this error decisively and consistently (Ac 21:24), along with the apostle Paul. (Ro 3:31) The error took hold in the Church many decades after the apostles moved on to Glory, and persists quite widely until the present.

Even so, Paul asserts that Torah will be the universal standard by which Christ shall judge the world, stating that the entire world remains under its authority. (Ro 3:19) Yet, he also asserts that believers are under grace and not under Torah (Ro 6:14), raising the ultimate question: is the believer then free to sin, to violate Torah?

This is equivalent to asking if we’re required to stay within the protective guardrails of a canyon’s precipitous overlook. Only those with a death wish would even ask the question.

The answer is obvious, and Paul answers clearly: No (15), we’re not free to sin. Believers are not only obligated to obey Torah (16), we’re given a new nature which delights in Torah (7:22) and enables us to obey it. (Ro 5:21)

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On These Two Hang

As Christ explains the greatest commandment in God’s Law (Mt 22:36), He identifies it as loving God supremely, with everything we are and have. (37-38)

He adds that the 2nd most important command is similar: loving others as we love ourselves. (39)

Christ then says something striking: On these two hang all the law and the prophets. (40)

We do well ponder carefully what Christ means here; He is evidently describing the foundation of morality, how it all works, the principle interconnecting all moral precepts, the key to understanding the entire body of Scripture, as well as the essential nature of God Himself, and how we rightly relate with Him. (1Jn 4:16b)

For one law B to hang on another law A would mean A supports, is aligned with, and gives proper orientation and context to B. B derives its importance and relevance from A. So, Christ is telling us that the laws of love for God and Man uphold all the other laws of God and give them their relevance, importance and weight. (Mt 23:23)

Christ is saying all the commandments of God, every single law in Torah, and everything the Prophets say about them, derive from, are supported by, and reveal the Law of Love. Thus, to omit or neglect any law of Torah is to sin against Love.

It’s no wonder then when we find Christ emphasizing that those disobeying even what we think might be the least important commands of Torah will be least in His kingdom – for they’re ultimately violating Love. (Mt 5:19)

We can now more clearly see why it’s an error to try to divide up Torah into moral, civil, and ceremonial dimensions: since all of Torah is about Love, violating or dismissing any part of it is immoral (Ja 2:10) – the very definition of sin. (1Jn 3:4) God doesn’t give His people commands merely to make us distinct and different, or to distract or encumber us: all God’s commands are righteousness (Ps 119:172) — windows into what it means to love God, ourselves and each other.

So, we shouldn’t be asking if some obscure law relates to Love, but how: the goal of every nuance in Torah is to enable us more fully in Love (1Ti 1:5); those who miss this don’t yet understand Torah. (6-7)

Saying then that some of the laws in Torah are just for the Jews and not for all of us is really saying some part of Love isn’t for all of us; that God wants only the Jew to have the fullness of Love, that some dimension of Love is only for Israel. It’s really saying God loves the Jew more than the Gentile, and expects the Jew to love more, and to walk in a more complete definition and sense of His love than anyone else.

But God isn’t partial in Love (Ro 2:11); our national identity is irrelevant as it relates to Love (Ga 3:28); He’s making us all into one in Him (Jn 17:20-21), perfecting His love in us. (1Jn 4:12) God isn’t divided (1Co 1:13), and doesn’t divide His body up like this. (1Co 12:27)

The entire body of Torah is complete, perfect (Ps 19:7), consummately revealing Love, as well as the perfect character of God. If we add to His laws, or take anything away from them, for ourselves or for anyone else, either in our teaching or way of life, we’re obscuring the definition of Love. (De 4:2) So, again, it’s no surprise that Christ says Torah, in it’s entirety, will outlast Heaven and Earth. (Mt 5:18)

Love is for Jew and Gentile alike, for you and me alike. Love is the fulfilling of the Law (Ro 13:10) and the fulfilling of the Law is love — what it means to love God and others: it is to keep all His commands. (1Jn 5:3) There’s no difference between obeying God’s law and loving God and others: we can’t distinguish between them. Those who aren’t keeping all of God’s commands aren’t walking in love; they’re not walking with God as they should. (1Jn 2:4-5)

Let’s not leave any part of Love out of our lives, out of how we’re loving God, ourselves and each other. Anything other than obeying all of God’s law isn’t the fullness of Love.

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