Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More Spiritual Than God

Sometimes we can try to be more spiritual than God. Now by spiritual, I do not mean more holy. But I mean more focused on the internal and the immaterial, rather than the external and the physical. God created the physical world (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 42:5: John 1:3). He created us as beings of body and spirit (Genesis 2:7; Psalm 8:4-8; 139:13-16). God became a man to redeem us from our sins (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18). And our goal is the resurrection of the body (Romans 8:11; Philippians 3:20,21; 1 Corinthians 15:1-28). We are not to confuse Biblical spirituality with the minimizing of the physical (Colossians 2:20-23; 1 Timothy 4:3-5; Titus 1:15). Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the area of the sacraments. While unwilling to do away with them because God has commanded them (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Acts 2:38), we can relegate them to the incidental, just one more thing God has commanded us to do.

This can be a reaction to a real danger. We can go through the external motions of following God without the inner reality (Malachi 1:10; Isaiah 66:3-4; Matthew 6:1-18). Scripture makes it clear that we are saved by faith in Christ (Romans 4;4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Philippians 3:9). Therefore, the reality of the sacraments is based on faith (Romans 4:11,12; Acts 16:30-33; John 6:47-58). It is this faith, rather than the person administering them or the exact mode or theory of the ordinances, none of which is taught in Scripture, that is the issue. They are a sign and a seal of that faith (Romans 4:11). This makes them, not one more act of obedience, but the recognition and celebration of what God has done. And while the external act means nothing apart from the inward reality (Romans 2:25-29; 9:6-8; Jeremiah 4:4), it is not to be despised. Now I want to be clear that the focus of faith is not on our own feelings, but on Christ and what He has done for us (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). If we turn to Christ and rely on Him, we have faith (1 John 5:11-13; John 3:16; Romans 3:21,22).

Now Scripture makes it clear that the ordinances are the normal expression of belonging to Christ (Acts 10:47,48; 16:14,15; 20:7). Now I find it interesting that those who make the sacraments secondary come up with other physical actions as expression of faith, such as walking an aisle or raising a hand or saying a prayer. Now I do not want to condemn any legitimate expression of faith, but it should be noted that these acts have the same possibility of abuse as the ordinances. People can go through the motions and not really mean them. Since we seem to naturally choose physical acts to express our faith, might it not be better to reemphasize the acts God originally commanded? For the physical part of us is something God created and is part of who we are.

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