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The many and the one
Bible Speaks
Rev. L. Althouse

December 10, 2006
Background Scripture: Hebrews 1.
Devotional Reading: Luke 1:46-55.

It has not previously occurred to me that Colossians 1 (last week’s passage) and Hebrews 1 (this week’s) deal with essentially the same theme, although in very different language.

That common concern was to present Jesus Christ as the supreme and self-sufficient revelation of God. Both these portions are a response to a particular historical concern: the lure of teachings about God that claim to be equal to or surpass the revelation of God in Christ.

It is quite unlikely that these two letters were written to the same church, so this concern was probably not limited to the Colossians. The common threat addressed by these two letters was the influence of certain teachers claiming to possess superior knowledge of divine matters through revelations purported to come from angelic beings, “the elemental spirits.”

Therefore, both writers of these two letters specify that the revelation of God in Christ is superior to any angelic revelation. Speaking of God’s Son, Hebrews says, “…having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs. For to what angel did God ever say, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee?’”(1:4,5)

No more angels?
This problem may seem ancient and remote. Of all the things that might concern us in the life of the Church today, angelic revelations would be at or near the bottom of a long list. But the absence of that problem is more apparent than real.

While angels are hardly mentioned today, much energy, time and concern today is absorbed by disagreements over what Christ desires of us. Some of us see abortion as a self-evident priority for Christians, while others are just as certain the Christ condemns capital punishment. Both camps claim Christ as the source of their stand, just as American Christians were bitterly divided over slavery.

I cannot resolve these impasses for others, but for myself I return to the God I find in the Jesus of the New Testament.

He is the only yardstick by which I can measure who and what God is and what he requires of me. And I acknowledge that you may not see and understand Jesus as I do, although those differences may not be as sharp and monumental as we assume Yet, despite possible differences, when we both approach Jesus as God’s Son and our Lord, I think we can both see enough of God in him to walk and work together. Living as close to Christ as we can is of far more importance than possessing the “right revelation” about him.

All too often our “right revelations” are manifestations of our prideful egos, while it takes humility to walk closely with Jesus. He did not give us verbal teachings to cover all or even the major challenges of life; what he has given us is the spirit that was the source of his teachings and his own life.

Carnegie Simpson says, “The fact of Christ does not indeed show us everything, but it shows us the one thing we need to know - the character of God. God is the God who sent Jesus. In other words, God must be like Christ.” And, I would add, Christ must be like God.

Knowing and doing
Many think of God as an abstraction, such as “love,” “truth,” “goodness.” The God we meet in the person of Jesus Christ is not an abstraction, but a living Spirit that can guide and direct us. I realize that, by now, “What would Jesus do?” has become a commercialized and trivialized cliché, but it is a question that I ask myself whenever I am undecided by a situation or challenge confronting me. The question, of course, is not so much a question of knowing what Jesus would do, as it is a matter of doing what in my heart I know Jesus would be and do.

As Hebrews puts it, there have been and still are “many and various ways” God has spoken to our forebears and speaks to us. I give thanks for those many and various revelations. But first, last and always I am dependant upon the conviction that God has supremely spoken to us by his Son, who “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.” (Heb. 1:3)

This farm news was published in the Dec. 6, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

12/6/2006