Tuesday, 30 March 2010

by grace through faith: part 5

I think it is time to expound what I mean by the statement that ‘faith is right response to revelation’. Just what do I mean by revelation? The NT speaks from time to time of ‘mysteries’, the Greek word really means ‘secrets’. The words and phrases ‘mime’ and ‘keeping mum’ all derive from the basic idea that a mystery was an unspoken secret. In the ‘mystery religions’ of the 1st century the word was used to mean secrets which were revealed (there’s the word revelation) to initiates to the mystery religions. As the initiates passed from one degree to another they were allowed to hear new truths; the modern day Freemasons work on the same principle. So a NT mystery is not mysterious but an unspoken secret. Such secrets can cannot be discovered by effort or piety but can only be revealed to those who commit themselves.

What I mean by revelation is the way in which a ‘truth from God’ or if you prefer ‘a word from God’ is somehow ‘heard’ in the inner man. This does not come by education or personal effort although it is frequently linked to some earlier obedience. Let me illustrate what I mean by reference to the best known parable of all; the man who had two sons. Luke 15:11-32. It is a wonderful story and will be told as long as time lasts. Jesus introduced the story with the words “a certain man had two sons”. It is important to remember that although we call this story the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus described it as a story about “a man who had two sons”. It is important to notice the context of this teaching too. Jesus told this story in answer to the murmerings of those who accused him of ‘receiving sinners and eating with them’ Luke 15:1

Each of these sons had a moment of revelation. The younger son’s moment is captured in the phrase ‘he came to himself and said...’ Luke 15:17. Truth entered his darkness. It was a moment of revelation. He was given a moment’s respite in his desperate slide and in that moment he heard truth. The truth came from his own lips but the revelation was a gift of God to him. His response to that revelation was manifold. He accepted the revelation and determined to act on it. Not only did he determine to act on it but he carried out his resolve. The result of that faith was that he was reconciled to his father who greeted him with a kiss of welcome and lavish gifts.

The elder son’s moment of revelation is captured in the behaviour and the statement of his father to him. The elder son was ‘not willing to go in’ (Luke 15:28) as a result of his anger. He judged his father’s action as being unfair and refused to be part of the homecoming. The next statement is full of pathos; "he would not go in so his father came out". This is ever the heart of God, always willing to ‘go out’ to those who will not ‘come in’. And not only did he go out but he pleaded with his elder son. The Greek word is ‘parakaleo’ and can be translated comforted, pleaded, encouraged. The tragedy of this story, and we need to remember why the story was told, Luke 15:1, is that the father’s pleading goes unanswered. The father’s behaviour is a revelation and so are his words; “"And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” Luke 15:31. We are bound to ask why the elder son had never received his father’s blessing and gift and the answer is surely that the elder son never asked for it. James 1:6.

As the parable ends its lasting images are of a reconciled sinner in the father’s embrace and reinstated in the family home, and a self-righteous law-keeper who never really knew his father outside in the cold. Revelation is a necessary prerequisite to genuine biblical faith, but ‘faith is right response to revelation’. Without right response the younger son would still be in his pig sty and without right response the elder son excludes himself from the generosity of a father’s heart.

1 comment:

Robert Wurtz II said...

I was thinking about how response to revelation is hindered by the wrong attitude of the one brother against the other. It is a theme we have seen before; Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? (Matthew 20:15) It is not that he wanted the blessing of his father as much as he begrudged (resented) his brother getting it. As our Lord told the religious leaders, they shut up the Kingdom against man and did not go in themselves. I think this pattern is found when folk undermine God speaking to hearts by revelation. They think they are standing for truth by questioning esoteric or subjective experiences; but they are really just hindering God's process of bringing revelation that He might bring about reconciliation.