Fourfold Message on Three Levels

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Here, then is a fourfold message— two events (Christ’s death and resurrection), as attested by two witnesses (prophets and apostles), on the basis of which God makes two promises (forgiveness and the Spirit), on two conditions (repentance and faith, with baptism).

It is not enough to ‘proclaim Jesus’. For there are many different Jesuses being presented today. According to the New Testament gospel, however, he is historical (he really lived, died rose and ascended in the arena of history), theological (his life, death, resurrection and ascension all have saving significance) and contemporary (he lives and reigns to bestow salvation on those who respond to him). Thus the apostles told the same story of Jesus at three levels— as historical event (witnessed by their own eyes), as having theological significance (interpreted by the Scriptures), and as contemporary message (confronting men and women with the necessity of decision).

— John Stott, Acts: The Bible Speaks Today, KL 1338-1347, emphasis original.

Death, When It Met Him

Athanasius, answering the question why Jesus, having become incarnate, had to die a public death like crucifixion (instead of just dying and being raised privately):

For as it was not fitting for the Word of God, being the life, to inflict death himself on his own body, so neither was it suitable to fly from death offered by others, but rather to follow it up unto destruction, for which reason he naturall41pyhgxginly neither laid aside his body of his own accord, nor, again, fled from the Jews when they took counsel against him. But this did not show weakness on the Word’s part, but, on the contrary, showed him to be the Saviour and Life; in that he both awaited death to destroy it and hasted to accomplish the death offered him for the salvation of all. And besides, the Saviour came to accomplish not his own death, but the death of men; when he did not lay aside his body by a death of his own—for he was life and had none—but received that death which came from men, in order perfectly to do away with this when it met him in his own body.

Now, death must precede resurrection, as it would be no resurrection did not death precede; so that if the death of his body had taken place anywhere in secret, the death not being apparent nor taking place before witnesses, his resurrection too had been hidden and without evidence. Or why, while when he had risen he proclaimed the resurrection, should he cause his death to take place in secret? or why, while he drove out evil spirits in the presence of all, and made the man blind from his birth recover his sight, and changed the water into wine, that by these means he might be believed to be the Word of God, should he not manifest his mortal nature as incorruptible in the presence of all, that he might be believed himself to be the Life?

— Athanasius, On the Incarnation, para 22.

What Makes Life Worth Living

41pyhgxginl…taking pity, I say, on the race of men, inasmuch as he is good, he did not leave them destitute of the knowledge of himself, lest they should find no profit in existing at all. For what profit to the creatures if they knew not their maker? or how could they be rational without knowing the Word [and reason] of the Father, in whom they received their very being? For there would be nothing to distinguish them even from brute creatures if they had knowledge of nothing but earthly things. Nay, why did God make them at all, as he did not wish  to be known by them? Whence, lest this should be so, being good, he gives them a share in his own image, our Lord Jesus Christ, and makes them after his own image and after his likeness: so that by such grace perceiving the image, that is, the Word of the Father, they may be able through him to get an idea of the Father, and, knowing their maker, live the happy and truly blessed life.

— Athanasius, On the Incarnation, para. 11. (emphasis added).

Credible Witnesses

41pyhgxginlOr how were his disciples to have boldness in speaking of the resurrection, were they not able to say that he first died? Or how could they be believed, saying that death had first taken place and then the resurrection, had they not had as witnesses of his death the men before whom they spoke with boldness? For if, even as it was, when his death and resurrection had taken place in the sight of all, the Pharisees of that day would not believe, but compelled even those who had seen the resurrection to deny it, why, surely if these things happened in secret, how many pretexts for disbelief would they have devised? Or how could the end of death, and the victory over it, be proved unless challenging it before the eyes of all he had shown it to be dead, annulled for the future by the incorruption of his body?

— Athanasius, On the Incarnation, para. 23 (emphasis added)

For to None But Himself

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Yet some things there are that they cannot see, neither alone nor taking counsel together; for to none but himself has Ilúvatar revealed all that he has in store, and in every age there come forth things that are new and have no foretelling, for they do not proceed from the past.

— Tolkien, The Silmarillion, 6.

 

 

 

The hidden things belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29 CSB).

The Devising of Things More Wonderful

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Then Ilúvatar spoke, and he said: ‘Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.’

— Tolkien, The Silmarillion, 6.

“You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people” (Genesis 50:20 CSB).

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28 CSB).

Seeing and Loving

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To be sure, God cannot be seen in this life, but he can be known and loved in this life in the one who comes from his bosom in the Spirit. Knowledge of the God that Jesus makes known is knowledge that yields love. Such love is coterminous with sight. So Thomas: “And this is the ultimate perfection of the contemplative life, namely that the divine Truth be not only seen but also loved.”

— Christopher Holmes, The Holy Spirit, 208.

 

 

Look Out of Your Window

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Everywhere we look in the world around we should see God. This is very likely contrary to the way we were taught in school. Mechanism reigned supreme! What caused rainfall: why rain bearing clouds were driven higher by mountains—or was it that they dropped lower as the land fell away? I can’t remember, but it was all a matter of cause and effect. River valleys were the result of the movement of glaciers, weren’t they? Or was it water-erosion? Well, Psalm 104 has lovely news for us: whatever ‘tools’ He may or may not have used, God the Creator did it all. Mechanistic explanations of rainfall may well be clever, and speak to us of the wisdom and art of the Creator, but how much more splendidly marvellous it is to say that ‘He waters the hills from His high rooms’! Talk about the food chain? Who set it up but the transcendent God who cares whether lions get their meat? Look at the dark clouds massing and approaching. The Creator is walking towards us. Sentiment tells us we are ‘nearer God’s heart in a garden’—how true, for the garden of Eden shows us He loves horticulture—but His heart is also in sunrise, seed time and harvest, wind, storm, earthquake, thunder. No aspect of ‘nature’ is without the immanent God, just as no part of nature is big enough to contain Him who is exceedingly great, clothed with splendour and majesty, the giver of life and the giver of death, controller of oceans and tides, providing crags for wild goats and foliage for little birds. It is because it is His world that we can live in it with easy minds. We cannot see what may come over the hills tomorrow, but we do know that whatever happens will happen in His world where He rules and reigns (Psalm 121:1-2), and where nothing happens without His say-so. Learn it, my friends, learn it! Learn to look out of your window and see your God.

— Alec Motyer, Psalms by the Day, 293.

What He Really Came to Admire

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Just as with political conservatives, he found himself liking evangelicals. They were eager to debate him and defend their beliefs, yes, but they were also inviting him out to dinner or a drink afterward. That’s what he really came to admire: the combination of deep and sincere convictions, which doctrine-waffling Liberal Christians had set aside, and a willingness to defend those convictions in polite debate wrapped in the warmth of “the justly famed tradition of Southern hospitality.” Declared Hitchens, “I much prefer this sincerity to the vague and Python-esque witterings of the interfaith and ecumenical groups who barely respect their own traditions and who look upon faith as just another word for community organizing.

— Larry Taunton, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, 88.

We Have a Saying

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“Don’t worry,” he said. “We are rejoicing in Christ. We have a saying, ‘When you are persecuted, thank God that you have not been thrown into prison. If you have been thrown into prison, thank God that you have not been beaten. If you have been beaten, thank God that you have not been killed.'” He paused, and smiled again, “And if you have been killed, thank God that you are with Him in heaven.”

— Turkestani Christian
(David Garrison, A Wind in the House of Islam, KL 2274).