21. THE PRESENT VICTORY
I want to discuss the present victory that is available to Christians. This victory is a benefit of salvation and could be listed in the format of the previous section, but such a presentation would detract from the emphasis that this subject requires. For the victory that Christians have available is directly related to the issues of suffering and negative pain and hurt that is the central concern of this entire essay.
A. The Blessing of Abraham
The first eleven chapters of Genesis are a depressing portrayal of the early history of humanity. In the twelfth chapter, the tenor of the book changes as the story of Abraham and his family begins. God singled out Abraham and began to work in his life. In the midst of the sin and heartache of the human race, God offered blessing to Abraham and his family. There was no obvious reason for God’s doing this other than His own gracious nature. However, though God’s grace and blessing are evident, it is also evident that God blessed in order that Abraham might be the instrument of blessing the whole world. In God’s call to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), God states that as a result of His blessing on Abraham, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3b)
Thus, as God reached into the world and poured His grace into Abraham’s life, He began to bring a process of blessing the whole world. In the continuing story that is followed through the rest of Genesis, again and again, we encounter individuals, the descendants of Abraham in most cases, who have the hand of God on their lives and who experience God’s grace and blessing. At the same time, we see the nations that surround these individuals to be caught in the general human condition of sin and death.
The story of Genesis concludes with the story of Joseph. Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob (also known as Israel). He was also the great-grandson of Abraham. Joseph had a series of difficulties and setbacks, some of his own making. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, ending up down in Egypt. He got in trouble with his master and was put in prison. Finally, because he was able to interpret dreams, he was favored by the Egyptian Pharaoh and was made prime minister. In this role, he was able to lead Egypt and the whole area through a famine. He also rescued his own family from famine and brought them to live in Egypt in a place of adequate food and security. Hence, we see how the work of God in Joseph’s life enabled him to become a savior for his people and even the nations that surrounded them. He embodied, in a limited way, the promise of God to Abraham: “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
B. God Rescues People
The situation at the end of Genesis provides the background for the book of Exodus. The action in Exodus took place centuries after Joseph. By that time, the Hebrews or Israelites were slaves. Under the leadership of Moses, God powerfully rescued the Israelites slaves by the dramatic Exodus through the Red Sea. Here, we observe the characteristics of God’s intervention in human affairs: God moves with power to rescue people from their predicament.
In the remainder of the Old Testament period, God’s moved into the midst of the human condition again and again. In most cases God used human instruments—God-ordained leaders—to bring about his purposes. In the early days, these leaders were “charismatic.” That means that they were raised up by God on an “ad hoc” basis to provide leadership and to carry out God’s purposes. Men and women like Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and Deborah were servants of God’s work in the world.
In the person of King David, especially, the purposes of God for the nation of Israel were set in motion. He is the third of the “big three” of the Old Testament—Abraham and Moses completed that triad. Abraham was the patriarch by which God established His people. Moses was the instrument of God’s redemption of those people from slavery. Moses also was the leader at Mount Sinai where these slaves were formed into a free people. Finally, David consolidated the people in the land of Israel, providing the military leadership that was needed to overcome their enemies and bring them to a period of rest and peace. His son Solomon would further consolidate and build an empire and provide the Temple for worship.
C. Visions of the Kingdom of God
In this brief history of Israel we see that God reached down in among the nations of the earth and provided a hope for a solution to the human condition. In the cradle of civilization, the Middle East, that chunk of land bridging Africa, Asia, and Europe, God planted a people as a statement to the world. He gave them the Mosaic Law as a vision for a Kingdom of God, an outline of human righteousness and holiness. Again and again, He demonstrated His willingness to rescue them, to protect them, to discipline them, to nurture them as His very own.
Yet, the history goes on. After Solomon, the kingdom broke in two. Each fragment then devolved into lower and lower states of immorality and injustice. It became evident that God relied less and less on the office of king as an instrument of His Kingdom. Instead, He used the prophets—men like Elijah and Isaiah. The prophets warned of disasters that were coming because of the people’s sin.
Originally, Israel stood out among the nations of the world as the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. Its story was counter-cultural and against the general drift of human history. But, in its later years, Israel succumbed to those tendencies and, as a result, it became a victim of the history of the Middle East. Its northern fragment was destroyed by the Assyrian Empire. The southern fragment, called Judah, was defeated by the Babylonian Empire and carried into captivity in 586 BC. In the centuries that followed, David’s land enjoyed very little autonomy. It would be a vassal of Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Rome.
Despite their downhill history, in the midst of their horrific defeats, and in the period of their anemic “comeback” after Babylonian exile, Hebrew prophets, poets, and essayists continued to reveal a vision of the Kingdom of God. This was a people that had begun in the most hopeless of circumstances as slaves in Egypt. God could bring them back from captivity. God could rebuild the Temple. God could establish a reign of righteousness and holiness. The hope of David’s reign would remain as a standard of hope for these people.
D. Jesus Brings the Kingdom
What I have just described is the history of the people to whom Jesus came. And when He came, He brought once again a vision of the Kingdom of God. His first recorded sermon was: “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”[i] In The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus prayed: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”[ii] So, the Kingdom comes when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Or, the Kingdom is the manifestation of the will of God on earth.
The earth was intended to be the domain of the human race. In Genesis 1 and 2, God placed the responsibility for and authority over the earth in the hands of humanity. The fall into sin, the power of the devil, and the Law of Sin and Death have dethroned the human race. Instead of earth being a domain in which to reign, it has become a place of frustration and disappointment. Those men who have had authority placed in their hands have generally perverted it and showed themselves to be subjects of the devil.
But, when the Kingdom comes, people are set free from the Law of Sin and Death. They are released to joyful freedom and victorious living.
In Matthew 12, Jesus cast out a demon. His enemies claimed that He exorcised the demon by the power of Satan. But Jesus contradicted them. His claim was that He cast the demon out by the power of the Holy Spirit. And that event was a sign that the Kingdom of God had come.[iii] In that same passage, Jesus explained that His exorcism was an act against Satan, whom He called “the strong man.” And, He said, it was necessary to bind the strong man in order to plunder his goods. In other words, part of the mission of Jesus was to defeat the devil in order to “plunder” him. Obviously, the goods of Satan include the souls of people. So, when the Kingdom of God comes through the power of the Holy Spirit, Satan is defeated and people are set free.
You can see evidence of the work of Satan in people’s lives everywhere. We could list all sorts of destructive patterns that people fall into—drugs, alcohol, illicit and perverted sex, abusive relationships, patterns of quitting jobs or marriages, poverty, poor education. Generally, these patterns are vicious cycles that people feel trapped within. A man gets in trouble with the bottle. That creates poor work habits. So, he gets fired or is threatened at work. That pushes him to fight with his wife, who threatens to leave him. That makes him more depressed and he drinks more. This prison that he is in will only be broken open by spiritual power. The Holy Spirit can reach down and grab this man as he hears the word of God preached or witnessed to. The Spirit can catapult him over the walls of his prison into a place of hope and freedom. I know, because it happened to me.
E. The Holy Spirit Power of the Kingdom
What is the nature of this power of the Holy Spirit? We can look at the Old Testament examples. The Exodus from Egypt is the greatest of these. Those examples are helpful, especially when we consider them holistically. For example, the Exodus must be paired with the experience of the Israelites at Mount Sinai. There God formed them into a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” We then understand the Exodus to have catapulted them into the Kingdom of God.
But I think that to understand the power of the Spirit we should also observe the most important event in all of human history, the Resurrection. And we should keep in mind that the Resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of THE Resurrection. That is, Jesus’ Resurrection is the “first fruits” of the great Resurrection of the future. First fruits were the earliest grain heads to ripen. They were a welcome promise of the harvest to follow. So, Jesus’ Resurrection is God’s great headline: RESURRECTION COMING.
But, there is a second foretaste of the coming Resurrection and coming of the Kingdom of God, and that is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit is referred as an “earnest” or “guarantee” of our future in several places in the New Testament.[iv]
Paul in several places refers to “hope.” It seems obvious that he understands hope in a “technical” way. That is, he is not simply writing of ordinary hope. He ranks hope as one of the “big three” of the Christian experience.[v] This Biblical hope is the hope that the Holy Spirit, God’s down payment on the future, brings to us. So, as the Holy Spirit dwells within us, fills us, and works in us, He is preparing us for the future.
In one respect this is not a totally positive experience. Paul describes a “groaning” within us as we yearn for God’s future.[vi] Part of that groaning may be manifested by a certain discontentment with our present world. We, and all creation, are not satisfied with This Present Order of Existence or The Way Things Are. We know there is something better. The Spirit of God within us brings us hope for the future.
F. Three Manifestations of the Spirit
At the same time, we also experience the future in this present time. We experience the future Resurrection Kingdom by the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit is especially manifested in the lives of Christians in three ways.
· We experience the power of the Holy Spirit in evangelism.
· We experience the power of the Holy Spirit in deliverance.
· We experience the power of the Holy Spirit in ministry.
The most explicit of all promises of the power of the Holy Spirit is for evangelism, which is found in the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8, as follows.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
The power of the Holy Spirit enabled people to preach the gospel and witness one-on-one throughout the early years of the church. The result was that people were convinced and convicted of their need of a Savior and of the truth of the gospel. That anointing of the evangelistic work of the church continued throughout the history of the church so that the gospel has spread around the world.
Accompanying the work of salvation is the power of the Holy Spirit to deliver people from the power of Satan and evil spirits. In some cases, these people are held in “strongholds” that must be battered down through spiritual power. Paul described the kind of spiritual warfare that such deliverance involves in the following passage:
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world [or of the flesh]. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
I Corinthians 10:4
In many cases, deliverance directly accompanies the salvation experience. Often we focus much attention on this aspect of salvation because it is so dramatic. Someone may be delivered from alcoholism, drugs, illicit sex, lying, gambling, or hating. Sometimes people are delivered from a set of acquaintances that have a corrupting influence.
In some cases deliverance occurs in the lives of Christians who, though they have accepted Christ, find that they are still caught in destructive patterns. Will power and instruction are not always sufficient. These strongholds resist the Kingdom of God and must be destroyed through prayer and the power of God.
I had been serving the Lord for a number of years, but I continued to smoke. I had tried a number of times to quit. I had used devices that were supposed to help me cut down. I had chewed a nicotine gum. (This was before the era of the products that are now available.) I was unable to quit. One Sunday, the pastor spoke on the anointing from God. He gave a call to pray at the altar. I came down and a man placed his hand on my back and prayed in tongues.[vii] I went home and waged a week-long battle with cigarettes. I was surviving on three or four a day. Sometimes I would raid the butts in the ashtray of my car.
I went back to church the following Sunday. That evening I described what had happened to me. The pastor asked for others who had battled cigarettes to gather around me and pray. They did so. I did not feel anything. However, from that moment on I have never smoked another cigarette.
I think that there are other forms of deliverance that may be more profound than deliverance from bad habits. Again, generally these accompany salvation or may occur quietly and gradually over a period of deepening discipleship. In other cases, there are crisis experiences, yet the exact nature of the deliverance is not immediately visible. The final results, however, are evident in the lives of those people who have been set free. They are free from pettiness, triviality, and constant bickering. They are free from fear
and insecurity. In short, they are liberated from the very things that dominate so many people’s lives.
The third focus of the power of the Holy Spirit is ministry. Jesus described this work in a person’s life as follows.
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” [John comments:] By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.
Jesus describes the Spirit-empowered ministry of the Christian as “streams of living water.” He had just said that the thirsty can come to Him, Jesus, to drink, to quench their soul-thirst. But then He describes the believer as having a stream of water gushing out of himself! That is the Jesus Creek that can quench the soul-thirst of others. The water of that Jesus Creek is the Holy Spirit, whose ministry is to administer Jesus to individual personalities and situations in the here and now.[viii] But Jesus, in His grace, has made us instruments of this ministry of the Holy Spirit to others. And our ministry is a ministry of blessing, of refreshing, of encouragement and hope.
The New Testament refers to these ministries as “gifts.” They are referred to in three lists, found in Romans 12:6-8, I Corinthians 12:7-11 (also called the “manifestations” of the Spirit), and I Corinthians 12:28-31. Another set of gifts of leadership are listed in Ephesians 4:11.
I would make the following observations about these spiritual gifts:
· Gifts are not natural talents, though they may make use of such talents.
· The lists of gifts are not exhaustive lists, but, rather are suggestive lists. Other gifts may be manifested.
· Gifts are for blessing people. They fulfill the call of Abraham to be blessed to be a blessing (see Genesis 12:3).
· Exercising a gift (especially the more quiet kinds of gifts) is remarkably easy to do and easy to receive. For example, I have observed people with an administrative gift who could enable people to come together and get things done with such grace and gentleness that people walked away from their task full of joy.
G. The Church: Institution or Instrument of the Kingdom?
Jesus predicted a new entity that would come into being after His earthly ministry. This incident is described as follows:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
In this brief statement about the church, Jesus described it in powerful terms.
First, the church came into being by revelation. Peter, I believe, spoke for the assembled apostles, who were the foundation of the church. He spoke of the pivotal Person in all of history and spoke the cornerstone of the teaching of the church, which is that Jesus is the Son of God come in human flesh. That cornerstone teaching was revealed to him from God.
Second, the church was built on a rock. What is the rock? Is it Peter? In one respect it is Peter. It also can be said to be the apostles of whom Peter was spokesman. But, it seems obvious that the rock is also the confession of Christ that Peter has just made. Jesus chose to announce the founding of the church at the crucial moment of Peter’s confession. Numerous other incidents involving Peter are mentioned in the gospels, but on none of those occasions did Jesus announce the founding of the church. So, the church is built on the Apostles, who had revealed to them the Person of Jesus, the Son of God.
Third the church storms the gates of hell and breaks in. We receive the words of Jesus in two ways. We can picture hell (a more common term for Hades) attacking the church, or we can picture the church as a battering ram against the gates of hell. Certainly, both images hold true in our experience. At times, the church is a safe haven where people can find rest and peace from the ravages of the world that is dominated by Satan. At other times, the church, through its ministries, invades the strongholds of Satan and breaks down the doors and rescues the souls that are trapped there.
Fourth, the church liberates captives and captures the unruly. Jesus handed over the keys of the Kingdom. Keys are authority. Keys enable one to move from building to building, to put some things off limits and to provide access to other things. So, the church is able to liberate subjugated people who have always believed that things must always be THE WAY THINGS ARE and have never heard of The Law of the Spirit of Life. At the same time, the church can banish those wicked behaviors and patterns of life that have been so destructive.
The United Methodist Church aired a television commercial numerous times in recent years. The brief scenario shows two boys jumping a fence and slipping into a church. The church is empty, and it is seems to be during a weekday or Saturday. In the basement there is a pool table, which is the attraction for these kids. Then, as ominous music plays, someone enters the room. The boys are scared spitless. Then, the camera closes in on the face of a man wearing a clerical collar. The pastor explains that, since they are trying harder to get in the church than anyone else, he has something for them. So, he gives one of the boys the key to the church.
This commercial was a real incident. That incident was the beginning involvement in the church of the two brothers and their family. One of those boys is a prominent United Methodist pastor today. He credits that key and the friendly work of that pastor to turning his whole family around. What a great example of using the keys of the Kingdom!
Just as Jesus brought the Kingdom through His ministry, He established the church to continue that ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is liberating for Christians to understand the church as an instrument of the Kingdom of God. When we recognize that our role is to be channels of the Jesus Creek into the lives of others, we do not worry so much about the church as an institution. “Buildings and Grounds” committees become less important and Sunday School and Vacation Bible School become more important. Who will be Chairman of the Board becomes less important than who will deliver a pie to a bereaved couple.
H. The Big Picture and God’s Present Victory
The theme of this book is that God has won a great victory in Jesus Christ. We are no longer defeated by The Law of Sin and Death. Rather, we have entered into the resurrection victory of Jesus. Someday, that resurrection victory will be fully manifested. Sin and sickness and sorrow and death will all be gone. That is The Big Picture. It is bigger than our little-picture scenarios of life as we hope it will be. Our little picture may be disrupted by sickness, disappointment, financial reversal, or death. We may want God to fix our little picture. But God wants us to accept His solution, to enter into His Big Picture.
When we commit ourselves to The Big Picture, we accept God’s great future in The Resurrection. We also accept GOD’S GREAT PRESENT through the Holy Spirit. We join the A Team and become channels of the Jesus Creek into people’s lives. We understand that the work of the Holy Spirit through us is continuous with God’s great future. The Holy Spirit is bringing resurrection victory into our lives and into the lives of others through us.
There is a constant temptation for Christians to get sucked back into little pictures. I think this is especially true in the midst of prosperity. We need to renew from time to time our commitment to the Lord and recognize when our priorities are not in correct order.
Another challenge to our commitment to The Big Picture is trouble, especially profound loss. We hear expressions such as “My whole world was shattered” or “My world fell apart.” In the context of this section, we need to understand the following about the God and His Kingdom in the midst of trouble:
· God loves us. He has sent Jesus to die for our sins and bring us to Himself.
· God feels deeply our loss and the pain that loss brings to us.
· God, in fact, felt that pain from the very beginning of time.
· God sent Jesus into the world to bring an end to human suffering, include the pain that trouble and loss bring.
· The great redemptive plan of God comes against the suffering of this world.
· The Holy Spirit is able to bring comfort and ultimate victory over suffering.
I. Alienation from the Way Things Are
We are passing through a strange land. In Hebrews 11, Abraham is said to have “made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents…For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”[ix] He was in the promised land, but he was a stranger. He was in this present order of existence, The Way Things Are, but he also knew, by faith, that someday
this would all be different. He lived in a tent, but someday God would build him a city.
As we live in the world, but are not of the world, we understand Abraham’s heart.[x] We know things are not right with the world. Our lifestyles are not dictated by cultural trends, for we are called to be holy people. So, we live counter-culturally, as we are committed to God’s Big Picture. We are members of the A Team, as we called to minister to others.
With this kind of perspective, trouble and suffering become streams to cross and not swamps to get bogged down in. We certainly feel the pain. We grieve at the loss of a loved one. We are hurt by financial reversal or by strains in relationships. However, in our suffering, we maintain a sense that we are going somewhere. Suffering is something we eventually get over because the trajectory of our lives is toward God’s great future.
22. THE BIG PICTURE
I remind you of the illustration that I used very early in this essay, the illustration of the collage. My illustration was that we might see one part of a collage that does not seem to fit. We would be tempted to remove that one part. But we might be too hasty in making that judgment. This haste would result from not seeing the complete collage. We would not understand the collage until we saw it completely. We needed to see the big picture.
I began all of this discussion with what a friend of mine calls “the negatives.” Generally, he means the suffering of this world, but he would include some things that may be more in the realm of disappointment or frustration than in the realm of suffering. From there I moved to a discussion of the Biblical understanding of sin as the underlying cause of all those “negatives.” I have tried to develop an understanding of this present order of existence. This present order has two causes: God’s creative action and The Law of Sin and Death. The result is a mixture of blessing and pain.
In the midst of this present order of existence, or The Way Things Are, we experience, from time to time, pronounced pain and suffering. The horror of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 is one example. These occasions bring us to question God and wonder why He allows such a thing to happen.
My contention has been that the Christian answer to that question is that God has done something about all such occasions. God has provided the answer to The Law of Sin and Death. That answer is The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. That new principle is that God provides a COMPLETE, RADICAL, ETERNAL ANSWER TO ALL SUFFERING. That answer is the resurrection. That answer is a complete answer, not a piecemeal, partial answer. It is not a bandaid that stops the hurt momentarily but that cannot solve human mortality.
I have observed that many people, INCLUDING MANY CHRISTIANS, just are not impressed with all of this that I have just said. I am convinced that what I have outlined in the previous pages is an accurate statement of the Biblical understanding of God’s solution to the human condition. I can understand that people who do not embrace the Christian viewpoint would be unimpressed. But I am distressed that many Christians do not draw comfort and consolation from the very gospel that they believe saves them. Instead, they grasp at various fads and false versions of wisdom that—guess what?--fail to look at The Big Picture.
First, I want to re-emphasize the thesis that I have been hammering at. My point is this: THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST IS GOD’S ANSWER TO ALL HUMAN SUFFERING, THEREFORE, OUR SOLACE AT ALL TIMES RESTS IN OUR BELIEF AND TRUST IN JESUS CHRIST. There are some consequences to this thesis, including the following:
1. God’s solution is a radical solution that is nothing short of a change in the whole order of existence. He is not content to make minor changes in our present order of existence.
2. This means that we, as individuals, must want such a change in the order of existence. We must “let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.”[xi]
3. This says that we must desire a very radical new approach to life, that we no longer will be tied so tightly to this present order of existence that we cannot think in eternal terms.
4. Such a new way of thinking requires repentance of us. We must repent of always looking for short-term gains. There are three evil categories that are destroying American society today: sensuality, materialism, and substance abuse. These are all attempts to grasp at short-term gain. To embrace God’s plan of salvation is to reject such evil.
5. Finally, we must recognize that God calls us into a partnership with Him in His work. That is, God is calling us to be on the gospel team. As we embrace The Big Picture, we are called to bring others into a saving knowledge of Christ and to minister to one another as we continue our pilgrimage to God’s great future.
Another way of saying all of this is that GOD IS CALLING US TO BE PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER THAN OURSELVES. I am convinced that this is a basic human need. Totalitarian regimes, cults, and any number of other destructive human
organizations have taken advantage of this. When we enter into God’s salvation, we become part of God’s great activity in human history that will one day bring us into a new order of existence.
When we experience pain, reversal, sadness, and devastating loss, we, as Christians, must deal with the question: “Has God failed, and, if that is so, has all that I have believed in and hoped for been put in jeopardy?” I have tried to develop the point that no “little picture,” no matter how awful it may be, can render invalid The Big Picture that I am a part of. It may make me sad or anger me or disappoint me temporarily, but it does not change the fact that God has won the victory.
I want to quote two positive affirmations of these ideas. First, I quote from the famous hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul,” by Horatio G. Spafford:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.[xii]
Second, I quote extensively from Romans 8:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God…And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? …Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all of these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor any thing else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:18-39, in part
I believe that the deep faith that is expressed in these two affirmations is the faith of people who have been through a few things. They are not new converts. They have seen “sorrows like sea billows roll.” But they are convinced that God has done something so profoundly in Christ that enables them to live in this present order of existence without succumbing to it.
[i] Matthew 4:17
[ii] Matthew 6:10
[iii] Matthew 12:28
[iv] II Corinthians 1:22, 5:5, Ephesians 1:19-14
[v] I Corinthians 13:13
[vi] Romans 8:18-27
[vii] Speaking or praying in “tongues” means to use a language unknown to the speaker under the power of the Spirit.
[viii] See the work of the Spirit that is described in John 14-16.
[ix] Hebrews 11:9-10
[x] John 17:15-19
[xi] Martin Luther. “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as found in The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989) #110.
[xii] Horatio G. Spafford, “It Is Well with My Soul” in United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989) #377.