The Giver and the Gift – Stuart Johnson

There are many people who struggle to try and find a certain thread of truth in the gospel.  We are warned about winds of doctrine (Ephesians 4:13-15) in Scripture. In reality, there appears to be a gale blowing bowling people over with doctrines of this and that.  Many of us can easily be confused by coercions of well crafted arguments.  So much so that we might try and cling on to one ministry and minister to gain some clarity of our Christian life.  The gospel is often narrowed down to a point of view.  How do we know whether or not a particular point of view is consistent with the truth that originates outside of us.  Outside of us?? Yes!  The gospel was birthed in the heart of the Father, Son and Spirit before the foundation of the world.  It was their dream and the dream they wanted to share with people they created.  Thus the ownership of the gospel lies in Their hands alone.  It is subject to Their Self-interpretation.  It is not up to us to read into what is revealed.  It is up to us to submit and learn from what is disclosed to us.

Yet, when we start to see the enormity of what has been disclosed to us, what we do see is like a mere drop in the entire ocean of truth.  The truth of God revealed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ is far too big for us to contain into our feeble and limited minds.  Whenever each ministry tries to present this truth, it is only a mere fraction of a facet of a multi-faceted diamond.  When we see this truth it gives us some idea of what the rest of the diamond might be like. However, trying to guess what is on the other facets is like trying to guess what is in the next galaxy.  This means we can only focus on what is within sight.  As the wisest of humanity’s wisdom is no match for the mere basics of the knowledge of God, anything that goes beyond what is disclosed in Jesus Christ is guessing in the dark.

The only way we are going to understand our faith is to turn to the Author and Finisher of our Faith, Jesus Christ.  He is the only human being in the entire human race who lets Himself be loved to the uttermost without first trying to figure out whether or not He is worthy of it.  He is the only One who lives in freedom without first trying to figure out what freedom is.  He is the only One who knows how to live in peace without first trying to figure out what this peace is.  He is the only One who fully knows the Father and fully knows Himself.  There is no other human being on earth who has this level of the knowledge of God as the God who became Human and dwelt among us.  The gospel is synonymous with Jesus Christ.  So when we talk about the gospel we are not talking about how and when.  We are primarily talking about Who & Why.  As Athanasius would say, we need to ask the right questions and the right question to ask is: “Why have you, being God, become Man? (Athanasius De Decretis 1).

If we truly say Jesus Christ is God who has become Man, then we draw the very same conclusions regarding the implications of such an event as was held by the ancient church.  When we look to Jesus Christ, He is the One who was in counsel with the Father and the Spirit as they planned the event of the incarnation before the foundation of the world.  This is the mysterious One in whom the whole cosmos was created by His own hand, where it consists and is held together.  The One who was there before we existed is now appearing before the very eyes of those He had been chosen to be the womb for His Incarnation.  The nation of Israel were asking the wrong questions.  They had witnessed miracles that had not ever been done before in the whole history of the world.  These were clear signs that supported all that Jesus claimed Himself to be.  Yet, the Jews could not see past who was before their very eyes.  The questioned the clear sign this man was indeed God.  Even in clear view of the signs of God’s handiwork being indeed also the handiwork of Jesus Christ they continually challenged God with, “Why do you being a mere man make yourself equal with God?” (ibid)

We approach God with humility and ask the right question, “Why have you being God become man?”  This has far reaching implications that goes far beyond our horizons and out of our sight.  Just like Jesus said to the woman who was caught in adultery and after the accusers had been silenced and left, “I do not condemn you, either. Go and sin no more.”  Straight away there is the tendency to source the Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil as we interpret this according to the Law.  She must stop being bad and start being good!  The Person that stood before her eyes was the Lord of Glory, the Tree of Life, God who had become Man, Jesus the Christ, an event that could not be undone.  He was and still is the living, breathing New Covenant of God and humanity together.  “Woman! Can you truly see who is before you or are you still blinded by sin?”  This condemned woman had God stand beside her as an advocate and friend.  We look to Him and see in Him that nothing stands between us and God because the sin that has blinded us has been taken away.  Do we truly see Jesus Christ for who He is as an ally to all human beings?

As we look to each human being, we can only see them as an icon of the New Covenant.  No matter how despicable they may be, they are together with God in Jesus Christ.  Their union with God is ratified in Jesus Christ.  We cannot set the criteria for what makes anyone a child of God.  It is only God who has decided this in Christ.  We cannot pass judgment on anyone according to what we believe is right and wrong.  It is the blind leading the blind and it leads to death.  Right or wrong, each human being is a reminder to us of the union of all humanity with God in the very Person of Jesus Christ.

With Jesus Christ as the centre and source of all the ways and works of God, we have a point at which we can all glean our knowledge of God.  The more we point to Him and the more we seek Him the more we begin to understand what Life is truly all about.  This still leaves us with questions of which the answers may not be clearly disclosed in the Person of Jesus Christ.  As we endeavour to find ways of gaining clarity on certain subjects we have to proceed with caution.  We cannot turn to our own darkness to try and work out those answers that are not clearly disclosed by the Light.  It is not as if the Light is hiding it from us.  God in all His glory has disclosed Himself fully in the Person of Jesus Christ.  We have been glorified with Him but we have only scratched the surface on the meaning of what it is to be glorified with Him.  Jesus Christ is the only one who has been glorified since before time began.  We are all in the dark and it is the Light of Christ that shines on us, in us and it is His Light that shines out of us.  Even though He is out of our grasp, He leaves something within our grasp. No matter how educated we believe ourselves to be, no matter how eloquent we speak or what honour has been bestowed on us by mere human institutions, the manner in which we endeavour to fully describe God is limited by our defective language.  When we get a glimpse of who God truly is, we are left speechless in our attempt to describe Him for fear that we might misrepresent Him (Hilary De Trin. 2.6-7 & 11).

The scientific fields have much to offer to the field of theology.  As we see the enormous advances in the various fields, we have to remind ourselves that it is Jesus Christ who is the rule of faith and He alone guides us in our theological studies.  Jesus is the only One who knows God because He is God who comes to us being none other than who He naturally is in His Person and work.  In recent times, we have seen astonishing advancement in many fields giving us unimaginable gifts to humanity.  As we look to the future, humanity’s knowledge is set to progress at an even more astonishing rate.  Put all this knowledge together and use it to try and gain insight into the nature and character of God is still limited by the capacity for our mind to fully describe who He is.  As we gain insight into the mystery of God revealed, we are still limited by our defective language.  Our words with all good intentions are not able to encapsulate all that God is.  This does not mean that He is out of reach.  On the contrary, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.  Our logic, our reasoning and our intelligence is not even on a par with God’s foolishness (1Cor. 1:25).  The knowledge of God must take into consideration there is always far more we don’t know.  It is the same regarding the knowledge of our human psychology, anatomy, physiology and all the complexities of our nervous system.  We can only make claims on what we know about it with consideration there is far more we do not know.

When it comes to the ways and works of God, we are dealing largely with mystery.  It is not until God had made Himself plain in the Person and work of Jesus Christ that we began to peer into what God is like.  There is no other place other than Jesus Christ that helps us to understand the mystery kept hidden through the ages has now been disclosed.  Jesus Christ discloses as much of Himself to every human being without partiality.  It takes enormous self discipline on our part not to drift from what is disclosed and to wander into the stormy waters of speculation.  It is here we are in danger of creating an idol to fit in with our premise and logical dot points.  There maybe things we see of God that are not clear to us.  There maybe things of God we suspect but cannot put clarity to it in a way we hope.  Sometimes we want something to be true because we fear too much that it might not be.  So much so that some are willing to wager the very gift they have been given if they cannot hang on to what is merely speculation.  Sometimes we are so concerned with the gift we have been given that we lose sight of the Giver.  When we lose sight of the Giver we lose sight of the reality that the Giver and the Gift are One and the same.  Jesus Christ is the One who is both the Giver and the Gift who cannot ungift nor ungive.