Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The God Who Speaks

“You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.” (1 Corinthians 12:2 ESV)

I think this is a remarkable verse because of all the things that Paul could have said that would have captured the impotence of the idols he chose their muteness. Obviously those idols were blind, and unfeeling, unthinking, and a host of other things that differentiate them from not only God but even men but it was their silence that Paul focuses on.

There is a special emphasis in the Word of God placed upon the act of speaking. God spoke the world into existence, His revelation of Himself was given through prophets who proclaimed “thus saith the Lord”, and finally Christ Himself, the perfect image,  holy savior, and fullness of the revelation of God to mankind is known as “The Word”. Our God is a God who speaks.

Philosophers and scientists have still not been able to fully explain why it is that human beings can communicate through the kind of language that we do. The way we learn language and the patters that we develop from the earliest age do not correspond well to the current theory that complex language evolved from the grunts and squeals of animals. What is more, there is no way to explain how information can be conveyed from one mind to another through the use of sounds or even symbols without encountering many significant difficulties. How is it that I can assign the same significance to a particular grunt as you do and then be able to identify, differentiate, decode, and evaluate your thoughts within a fraction of a second? Think about it, we do not speak the way we write. Words do not emerge from our mouths as separate entities; rather native speakers spew forth a continuous string of sound that our minds recognize as distinct words. When we are speaking we do not say I am going to the store later today. Depending upon our accent we are much more likely to say I’mgointothestorelatertoday yet people seem to have little problem understanding what is said. What is more, no two people actually sound exactly the same or even pronounce words the same way but those sounds are still usually interpreted properly. Human language is so incredibly complex and difficult and yet it remains incredibly effective and powerful.

Scientists and philosophers may continue to argue about how this is possible but the theologians already have the answer. The divine Word or Logos is the light that lighteth every person. Being made in the image of God we have the necessary structures as part of the architecture of our minds to be able to communicate this way. We were designed to have fellowship with God and one another and language is integral to that process. One of the defining attributes of fellowship is communication. God does not rely upon the religious experience of the mystic or the conceptual framework of the philosopher but rather reveals Himself in words.

The theological liberals who have made action the basis of their religion or the neo-orthodox who have made encounter the foundation for theirs have both missed the mark. The Words of God cannot be separated from who He is because this is the way that He has chosen to reveal Himself. It is by the foolishness of preaching that God is saving the world.  Even Christ, who is the perfect revelation of God, places a special emphasis on the revelation of God in words. He instructs the disciples with words even telling them in John’s Gospel “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63) and the great confession of Peter is “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Later when Christ is praying to the Father before His crucifixion He says “I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” (John 17:8).

We serve a God who speaks. This speaking did not cease with the close of the apostolic age. I do not mean that God gives unique revelation today but through His word He continues to speak directly to all those who believe. It is one of the great mysteries about the scriptures that though they were written long ago to people in far away places when we read them or hear them preached it is truly God speaking personally to us. Through the Holy Spirit those words transform us and shape us. The Word of God is alive and is active. These are not just ideas or concepts but through the working of the Spirit they are literally the sustaining and life-giving food of the spirit. This is why it is so important that preaching and teaching be done directly from the scripture. We do not worship a mute God. I pray that if today you are feeling disconnected or distant from God or if you are seeking to know Him better that you would take up and read. Those ancient words were proclaimed and recorded with you in mind. They are for your benefit and I pray that your spirit would drink deeply from them.

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