Tuesday, January 23, 2007

WIC Bible Study and 'Theophany'

As I was reviewing the "Digging Deeper" questions for this week's "Treasures of Faith" Bible Study, I was prompted by the Day 6 question about Hebrews 10:19-25 to post what I hope would be an encouragement to others. Here is the passage of scripture:

  • Hebrews 10:19 "Therefore, brothers (and sisters :), since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

    23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

I find it interesting that the author of Hebrews starts by saying that we should have confidence to approach God, to enter the Most Holy of Holies. Of course, that confidence is only confidence in the cross of Jesus Christ - the mercy seat of the Almighty Creator of Heaven and earth. Because, without His mercy upon us, we would be doomed if we saw God's face. The Old Testament tells us, without Christ, no sinner can see the face of God and live and also that all have sinned, there is no one righteous. In those days, there were only a handful of people who ever saw God's face (and lived): Abram, Jacob, Moses, and Job. And each of these only because of God's mercy on them. A "Theophany," according to Webster is:
a manifestation or appearance of God to a person.

Such theophanies, or appearances of God, only occured on very rare occasions, to very a select few prior to Christ. Today, in light of the Christ's life, death on the cross, resurrection and and ascension to the right hand of God, we now have access to the very face of God in Jesus Christ every day and all the time!

And when we meet together in our small groups to study God's Word and to lift one another up, this is the God-ordained "Theophany" that the Hebrews author is speaking of. We have the awesome privilege to enjoy God and share God with one another. Jesus said:

  • Matt 18:20 "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (emphasis added)

The first article of the Westminster Catechism says that the chief end of man is to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever." What better way to depict the glory of God to a desparate world than by spending time in His presence with His people? And what better way to enjoy Him than by sharing Him with one another in a small group Bible study?

I was hoping these thoughts might encourage our "meeting together" again this Wednesday as we listen to Sharon Betters's third teaching and then at the end during our small group.

Blessings! dlw

1 comment:

Deb said...

Someone from our church added a fairly severe rebuke to another blog site criticizing my application here, so I thought I would expound and clarify.

First, with regard to the context of MATT 18:20:
" For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
This scripture is sandwiched in between the section on going to the unrepentant brother (or sister), ie, church discipline, and the unmerciful servant who refused to forgive others, even though he had been forgiven much.

I see this verse, in its context, being very much about God's gift of the body of Christ to the community of believers for ministering the sacraments, prayer, building one another up, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation.

As a single person, I appreciate this passage very much and the way in which it is commonly used to spur others to pray and meet together. Also, because I'm a single person, I know all too well the outcome of extended separation from the body and how -impossible- it is for us to be truly discerning (re: pastor B's sermon) even in prayer apart from body life. If my prayer is only relegated to my personal prayer closet, it is only a matter of a short amount of time before the rest of you are wanting applying Matt 18:15-18 to me!

Similar passages:

Eccl 4: 12 "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

Hebrews 10:24"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Secondly, when discussing the concept of Theophany, it is probably very important to understand that the discussion of OT saints seeing God face to face was rare, but also the occurance increased as the temple was built to annual by the priests. Then when Christ was born, God became flesh, a theophany that was readily accessible, but only in a single location at any particular given time. Once Christ ascended into Heaven, His Holy Spirit was made manifest to us, in us and is Christ omnipresent. We recognize this. But the real question is: can a person can be a Christian on a desert island? If God has ordained the means of preaching the Gospel, it will most likely take the presence of another person to administer God's Amazing Grace. And God has also ordained the Body of Christ as the primary means for administering the sacraments, discipline, forgiveness, reconciliation, love, etc. So, I REALLY don't think that I've taken this passage out context or taken any liberties by trying to spur others on to share time in small group study and small group prayer. This is God's ministration to us and we are so, so privileged to have access to it! May you appreciate it too! In Jesus' Holy Name!