The Garden of Obedience

Mark 14:32–42 [32] And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” [33] And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. [34] And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” [35] And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. [36] And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” [37] And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? [38] Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” [39] And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. [40] And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. [41] And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. [42] Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

 Obedience is a responsive action. It assumes that God has already acted on our behalf, and that our fitting reply is to follow his will. This is understood even in the basic commandments of God. The preamble to the ten commandments, intended to be the basis for obeying those commands, as we see in Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. The ten commandments are a response. To what? To a God who simply commands from on high? They are a response to God’s deliverance.

In both the OT and the NT, the category of words relating to obedience are often words related conceptually to hearing and watchfulness. Both concepts express the ideas of yielding to persuasion and submitting to authority. Commands “to hear” often express a general call to God’s people to follow God’s commands, whereas the visual words (signifying “to watch, to keep”) tend to focus on individual statutes as in the Garden of Eden. The first man was told to Watch and keep the Garden and was given a Command; “don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil.”

The biblical idea of obedience is a response to the actions and commands of God – hearing that leads to compliance with his requirements. The first Adam failed to watch out for enemies. He failed to keep what was given to Him by disobeying the word of God’s command. Adam failed to protect the garden by disobeying in the garden, leading to His hiding in the garden.

Paul comments on this passage in the book of Hebrews.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. [8] Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. [9] And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:7–9).

The only begotten of the Father prayed in anguish, was heard and yet still suffered death, that he might be taught fully what it means to obey. Every word of this passage is full of meaning. Without the dark night of the soul and its anguish of sorrow; no solace would be found in Christ’s suffering for us. Jesus prayed with tears, in intense grief and by showing forth this miracle of the incarnation, Mark encourages his readers to do likewise. Continue reading “The Garden of Obedience”

I Believe So That I Know

A child is told their toy is a red car by their doting parents. The child has no frame of reference for either the words, the concepts or the significance. Reinforced by repetition, the child who loves and trusts his parents, believes the object is a red car. His belief is the basis of his knowledge about toys, red, cars and numerical values. Similarly, our Father places in us the seed of knowledge about himself. That seed takes root and reaches up toward Him, seeking Him out like a plant seeks the sun. Understanding the connection between faith and knowledge is essential to evangelism, apologetics and discipleship. Faith is the basis of knowledge, not the conclusion of it. A person’s knowledge begins with faith. We believe before we know. This presuppositional framework is a design feature.

In The Light of the Mind, author Ronald H. Nash asserts that “Augustine makes it clear that man can know this present temporal, corporeal world only because he first knows the eternal, incorporeal, intelligible world of ideas that exists in the mind of God.”[1]

Man is born with seed-knowledge of God which sprouts upward within him searching for God, just as a plant shoots up in search of light while pressing roots down searching for living water. We see these concepts reflected in our pursuit of understanding in Jesus (2 Cor. 4:6; Psalm 1:3; Ephesians 3:17). The possibility for learning of the eternal God is only possible because human beings are born in possession of a seed of this truth (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Augustine argues that “before an architect builds an edifice, he must first have a model of what he intends to build. Similarly, God had a plan before he created the universe. His creation is patterned or copied after the divine ideas[2]…these rationes[3]subsist in God’s intellect.”

Marriage is one example of a created relationship that teaches eternal truths about the unity and diversity of the Triune God (Ephesians 5:32). But the idea that God creates things on earth based on a “copy,” in heaven is also seen in the building of the Tabernacle and the Temple which were copies of the true temple in Heaven (Hebrews 8:2, 9:24; Exodus 25:9, 40). Jesus is the greatest example of this poetic revelation. Jesus is the greater Adam, Moses and David. Kingship, priesthood and the prophetic office – are all types and shadows of the second person of the Trinity.

In Augustine’s theology, truth does not consist of abstract platonic concepts. Truth is personal; the person of God as revealed in Jesus Christ (John 14:6), the Logos of John 1. “Knowledge occurs when the personal God illuminates the minds of human persons to understand him and to understand the world he has made. So, Augustine maintains the Creator-creature distinction and makes our thoughts a servant knowledge, part of our discipleship.”[4]

In Anselm’s Prayer, the Proslogion, we see this connection between faith and knowledge expanded; “For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand. For I believe this also, that ‘unless I believe, I shall not understand’ [Isa. 7: 9].”[5]

Thus our faith is the basis or presupposition of all rational study.

How does this work? Faith is ontological. Luther wrote in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, “Where there is the word of God, who makes promises, there must necessarily be the faith of the person who accepts those promises.”

Faith lays hold of the promises of God, as if they are solid objects and historical dates within human history. Assurance is not established on reason, or science, but on the apprehension and acceptance of the word of God. Continue reading “I Believe So That I Know”

Newsletter 8-29-19

Saints,

Bless you all. Remember to pray for one another this week. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful, and you are all righteous in Christ, your glorious Lord. Look to Him. Cry out to Him. Appeal to Heaven on one another’s behalf.

May the end of summer be sweet and full of light and sunshine and ice cream.

Filling up the edges

Mark 9:14-29

In the house Jesus emphasizes the theological point of an incident. In this instance the final conversation relates to the central theme of the unit, for the epilogue qualifies the faith of verse 23 as the faith that prays.

In response to the inevitable question of why they had failed, Jesus explained to the disciples that such malign evil spirits can be expelled only by a full reliance upon the unlimited power of God expressed through prayer.

This response contains at least the implicit criticism that the disciples had failed because they had not acted in prayer and sincere faith.

Prayer is a sign of our humility and faith. Our prayer lives reflect whether we think we control our own lives. Whether we are self-sufficient and don’t need anything from one another or God.

Prayer is both a thermometer and thermostat. It heats up our spiritual lives and shows how hot they are.

The disciples relied on Jesus’ previous command and equipping. They relied on their previous success, forgetting where their success had come from.

The father was honest, damaged by the church’s failure, He turned to Christ and humbly stated exactly where he stood in relation to Jesus.

And Jesus responded. Continue reading “Newsletter 8-29-19”