Our role in calling into being the original intention of the Creator

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 2
The emerging message + reflections

Proverbs 8:1 and 22-31

Wisdom is described like a personality, and as the first of God’s works, involved in Creation.

1. Wisdom and folly can seem all too similar – and man’s wisdom can all too quickly turn out to be no wisdom at all. How do we recognise and choose God’s wisdom?

Psalm 104:26-37

Praise to God for His provision and His purpose.

2. Are we more inclined to point out how everything is going wrong, or how God is over all the affairs of our world, “renewing the face of the ground”? Which is more like agreeing with Him?

John 1:1-14

Introducing His gospel, John tells us how the Word who was with God before Creation, later chose to become a human being to show us God’s grace and also glory.

3.  What is your understanding and experience, expressed simply, to start to recognise the true light of Jesus (verses 9-10) and to receive Him and be born of God (verses 12-13),  and come into a new identity as a child of God (v.12)?

4.  Do you have a story of this kind of encounter with Jesus that you could share very briefly with another person?

Colossians 1:15-20

A quotation from a hymn of praise to Christ, Lord of creation and redemption.

5.  Knowing Jesus is an exciting discovery but also a call to His purpose, to reconcile to the Father the world that doesn’t know Him, before it’s too late. How do we identify that purpose and respond to that call?

Our role in calling into being the original intention of the Creator

God’s original design and intention, distorted by man’s pride and independence, remains the objective of His reconciliation.

As believers, we have experienced our reconciliation, and it is the source of our joy, whatever is going on around us. We know that God has this purpose, to reconcile all things to Himself so that they return to His good design in Creation.

Jesus, we learn, was involved in Creation, and we have life in Him – and a whole new identity in Him, as children of God. So we are not so powerless after all. The heavenlies, both good and evil, have to listen to our words and songs of praise and truth. The angels join in and the demons hide. The creation spirit at the heart of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is still creating and renewing. Jesus, in whom all things were created and hold together, is now risen and ascended to the place of all authority, seated in the heavenlies. His Spirit has been poured out on His church, and He is the active Head of His body of ‘little Christs’ or Christians, anointed ones.

Our oneness, our praise and worship, our declarations and words of blessing are what God is relying on to bring what is fragmented and disordered, back into His creation order. It’s another facet of the same plan He had at the beginning.

Everything holds together in Jesus

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1
Colossians 1:15-20

A quotation from a hymn of praise to Christ, Lord of creation and redemption

The first stanza of this poem or hymn proclaims Jesus as the regent of Creation; the second, as the Reconciler of Creation. The Cross is absolutely instrumental in the second, and the Church is where this is seen and experienced and mediated to others.

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

  • “The image of the invisible God” – this further explains the monogenes word of John’s gospel, meaning the only and unique and exactly similar Son of the Father, John 1:14

16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.

  • Jesus is the agent of creation. In another way, He is the objective of creation because everything has been created for Him. He became fully man; He must also be fully God if He is the recipient of creation.

17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

  • Not only does all hold together in Christ Jesus, He was before all things – in other words, He was before creation was. An early departure from truth, the Arian heresy, claimed that Jesus was the first thing created. In fact He was the creator of the first things, as clearly stated here.

18 And He is the head of the body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.

  • “The firstborn” alludes to the rights and privileges of the firstborn son of a monarch who would inherit the sovereignty. In Psalm 89:27 the expression is used by another psalmist of David:”I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.”
  • Paul explains elsewhere that the church is the Body of Christ, 1 Cor. 12:27. Here he states that Christ is the Head of that Body. We are not just a body of believers in Christ, but His Body submitted to Him and closely identified with Him in the way He modelled for us.

For further study, see Eph. 1:22-23, Eph. 5:25, 1 Cor. 12:20-30

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him…

  • Jesus not only shows God’s glory but more than that, all that God is is also in Him – the Spirit of God, His wisdom, His glory – and His power. The fullness of God in Jesus is saying that Jesus is fully God, Col. 2:9.
  • Christians have themselves come to fullness, Col. 2:10, but having gained a new identity in the One who is over all things. Thrones, powers, rulers and authorities, whether in the heavenlies, good or evil, or in the hierarchy of power on earth must defer to Jesus. As we willingly defer to Him, we gain a confidence not of ourselves, but in Him.

20 …and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

  • Jesus reconciles all things to Himself as the Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6 – reconciliation for believers as His friends and therefore friends of the Father, but a rather different reconciliation to Himself of those elements that are rebellious also. His reign of peace is anchored in the blood of His Cross – that is what it is about, our willing acceptance of what He has done, or our resistance or mocking of what He has done.

Application

When we start to really ‘get’ who Jesus is, and who we are in Him, a lot of things, including the nature and purpose of His church come into focus.

He is the head of His body, the church so that He might have supremacy, show what God is like and reconcile to Himself what doesn’t like, what God is like. Which is where we come in.

This church is not struggling, and neither are we. There is a confidence, as well as a fullness, of being His, and being part of His purpose. There’s an awakening to this He wants to bring about, because He needs us, in a different but real way to our needing Him.

For reflection or discussion

Knowing Jesus is an exciting discovery but also a call to His purpose, to reconcile to the Father the world that doesn’t know Him, before it’s too late. How do we identify that purpose and respond to that call?

The Word of God, from the beginning the True Light

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 31
John 1:1-14

Introducing His gospel, John tells us how the Word who was with God before Creation, later chose to become a human being to show us God’s grace and also glory.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

  • “In the beginning” as in the Bible’s opening verse.
  • The Word, logos, is a phrase that expresses what God is like – creating, revealing, saving. All of this is in the person who is described as “the Word”. All of this is in another form of God’s self-revelation that we call the word, or the Bible.
  • In Jewish thinking the word of God was the principle by which all things are governed by God, and the law of God He gave them to be their guiding life principle.

For further study: Psalm 33:6, Psalm 119:89, Psalm 147:15,18, Deut 32:47

2 He was with God in the beginning.

  • Meaning before Creation.

3 Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

  • We may not readily see Jesus as a creator. This tells us that He was –  note the “He was” –from the beginning God’s agent in creating everything that exists: “The world was made through Him, v.10.

4 In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

  • This is the life which the Word is seen as imparting at Creation – John makes this a very significant word, using it 36 times in his gospel, twice as much as any other book. The light that comes from this life, is first, the very essence of our being made in the image of God. There is also a second aspect of light as the general revelation of God – God can be recognised by anyone in His works, His providence and in the way nature ‘speaks’, Psalm 19:1-12 – a revelation which came into clearer focus with the coming of Jesus in human form.

5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

  • “Overcome” could equally be translated understood: the darkness has not understood it. Probably a combination of both meanings is intended. At Creation, the light prevailed. At the coming of the Word in the person of Jesus, the light prevailed, and the darkness didn’t understand it. Choosing the Way of Jesus, such as love and grace, in the face of darkness is an effective strategy because the darkness does not understand it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John.

7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through Him all might believe.

  • “Believe” is another important word for John; his purpose was to draw hearers or readers to belief in Jesus, and he uses the Greek word for believe about 100 times.

8 He Himself was not the light; He came only as a witness to the light.

  • John had an interim role, to create awareness of the light and show people its source.
  • The gospel writer John makes the distinction that John the Baptist, despite his impact at the time, came as a lamp, John 5:35, but “not the light”.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognise Him.

  • See verse 5 above in the “understood” dimension.
  • The relationship of the Messiah Jesus, the Son of God, to the world is an emphasis of John’s writing. He uses the word for “world” over 100 times in his gospel and letters; by contrast, Paul, who was sent to the Gentile world, uses that word only 47 times in all his writings.

11 He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.

  • Or “to that which was His own [the Jewish nation and heritage], but [the people who were] His own people [around Him].

12 Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…

  • “Receive Him… believe in His name…”:  two ways of describing turning and welcoming Jesus, trusting Jesus and submitting to Him.
  • John’s gospel explains that the believer becomes God’s child, but only Jesus is God’s son. Paul describes believers as sons – specifically God’s sons by adoption.
  • Children of God, who have in a sense themselves “adopted God” as a Father through giving their lives to Jesus have, in the words of one commentator, “been given a new openness to, and relationship with, God that was not theirs [from] their natural birth.” What was fuzzy and hard to grasp in the natural, becomes clear as a direct result of the new spiritual birth.

13 …children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

  • A new and necessary spiritual birth which John explains more in John 3:3-8.

14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

  • Without ceasing to be God, Jesus let go of His divine nature to take on flesh – incarnation – one of the most amazing assertions ever to be put in so few words.

For further study and reflection: Philippians 2:5-8

  • “Only” in English understates the sense of monogenes, “one of a kind, unique” in the sense of being a Son who has all the attributes of the Father, who is exactly the same.
Application

John used the most straightforward vocabulary in the NT in writing the lead in, and in many ways summary of, his gospel account.

John’s gospel is more theological and less narrative than the other three. The prologue shows this intention: the rest of the gospel develops the theme here of how the eternal “Word” of God, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Son of God, with God in the beginning before the Creation “took flesh” to minister among men so that all who turned to Him and believed in Him could be saved.

More literally, he pitched His tent among us. Think like Jews who saw God’s presence as being located in the tabernacle. Now He has moved to camp out with us.

The words we read here are simple – life, light, witness, glory – but grow in the gospel into awesome, transforming truths.

John demonstrates that God’s most profound truths are also very accessible – such that intellect and logic are often barriers at first. As Matthew later wrote, Matt. 18:3 “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

For reflection and discussion

3. What is your understanding and experience, expressed simply, to start to recognise the true light of Jesus (verses 9-10) and to receive Him and be born of God (verses 12-13),  and come into a new identity as a child of God (v.12)?

4. Do you have a story of this kind of encounter with Jesus that you could share very briefly – what you might tell someone at a bus stop – with another person?

Choosing to hear the voice of wisdom

We are using the C of E lectionary readings, which differ from the Revised Common Lectionary passages this week.

Proverbs 8:1 and 22-31
Psalm 104:26-37
John 1:1-14
Colossians 1:15-20

MONDAY, JANUARY 29
Proverbs 8:1 and 22-31

Wisdom is described like a personality, and as the first of God’s works, involved in Creation.

1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?

  • Wisdom and reading on, from 9:13 Folly, are both given personalities and speeches. Both offer a similar initial appeal to the “simple” or undiscerning – but with very different outcomes.
  • The next 20 verses set out why wisdom is good (or better), being trustworthy, true, hating pride and arrogance and leading in awe of the Lord. The next part of the discourse is like a hymn of praise setting out the long history of the Lord’s wisdom.

22 “The Lord brought me forth as the first of His works, before His deeds of old;

23 I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.

  • Wisdom is described in the same terms as the Word of God: present from the beginning and therefore eternal.

24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water…

  • These verses are sometimes taken to be a description of Christ; better, to take them to show wisdom’s role in creation, alongside Christ as the divine Word (John 1:1-5).
  • Wisdom is not a person, but it comes from a person, namely God Himself, and does not exist outside of God. The highest expression of wisdom is Jesus Christ, Col. 1:15-17, 2:3 and this wisdom is an expression of His character and nature.

25 …before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth,

26 before He made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth.

  • When God set about creating the world, Wisdom – His wisdom – was already operating.
  • Verses 24-26 reflect the account of the Creation:
    v.23 and day one, the earth;
    v24 and day two, water; and
    vv.25-26, day three, the land.

For further study, compare these verses with the Creation account, Prov. 8:23-26, Genesis 1:1-13.

27 I was there when He set the heavens in place, when He marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,

28 when He established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,

29 when He gave the sea its boundary…

  • “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb?” See Job 28:8-9.

…so the waters would not overstep His command, and when He marked out the foundations of the earth.

30 Then I was constantly at His side.

  • Where is this argument going? In v.27 above “I was there…” and v.30 “constantly at His side”, so reading ahead to v.33 (not shown) “listen to my instruction…” “…for those who find me (wisdom), find life and receive favour…”
  • If Wisdom and the Word of God are not exactly the same, here it is shown that there is a close affinity. We could hear the Lord saying, “those who find Me, find life…”

I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in His presence,

31 rejoicing in His whole world and delighting in mankind.

Application

It sounds at first as if ‘wisdom’ is a poetic name for the Lord, but it turns out that wisdom has been formed and fashioned, playing its part in Creation and in every aspect of God’s purpose subsequently.

Knowledge is one thing; how to use that knowledge is where wisdom comes in (which is also helpful in understanding the spiritual gifts, word of knowledge and word of wisdom, 1 Cor. 12:8).

This is a description of the outflow of the heart of God, particurlarly the part that knows how the world was created and therefore how everything works.

It is also (by context) a description of how we are constantly presented with choices, with encouragement to choose God’s way rather than the alternative.

How do we receive God’s wisdom? By having the humility to know we need it – and to ask for the Holy Spirit to give us His wisdom, with the intention of receiving and using it, rather than reverting to our own ideas, James 1:5-8.

For reflection or discussion

For further study: read on into Proverbs 9, beyond 9:13.

  1.  Wisdom and folly can seem all too similar – and man’s wisdom can all too quickly turn out to be no wisdom at all. How do we recognise and choose God’s wisdom?