Rob Sturdy: The Knowledge of God in the Christological Thought of John Owen

20 12 2011

The essay below is about the knowledge of God in the Christological thought of John Owen.  Thanks again to Colin Burch for graciously reviewing this essay!   Footnotes and bibliography are at the bottom of the paper in case you want to chase anything down.

How do we know God?  Can we have an experience of God?  Can we be in relationship with him?  These questions will no doubt be familiar to the philosopher and theologian.  But perhaps that vocation most intimately familiar with such questions is the pastor, whose responsibility it is to provide adequate and honest responses to such questions.  The 17th-century Puritan, John Owen, was a man who at one point or another found himself occupying each of the roles of philosopher, theologian, and pastor.  Yet it was the last decade of his life, which he devoted to the pastoral ministry, that he engaged the above questions with the most depth and attention.  Owen concluded that knowledge of God depended upon an infinite condescension of God towards his creatures.  This condescension in the theology of John Owen took the form of a covenant, whereby man learns who God is by virtue of his covenant relationship with God.

Owen notes that two things are necessary for a proper revelation of God to a finite creature in the context of a covenant.  First, that “all the properties of the divine nature…be expressed in it, and manifested to us,” and second that “there be, therein, the nearest approach of the divine nature made unto us, whereof it is capable, andwhich we can receive (emphasis mine).”[1]  As will be shown, a simple covenant between God and man is insufficient for the type of revelation which Owen describes in the above quote.  For a full and proper revelation of God, Owen believes that God himself must draw as near as possible, so near in fact, that he must become a man himself.  This happens in the person of Christ, whereby the divine Son of God assumes the human nature unto himself.  Christ being fully God is the nearest manifestation of God imaginable.  Christ being fully man is the nearest manifestation of God which is nevertheless fit for the human capacity.  Owen believed that it was the rational, human mind of Christ which ultimately accommodated the knowledge of God to the capacity of human comprehension.  This paper will argue that it is only through the mediation of the human mind of Christ that full communion with God is possible.  This will be done by examining the transcendence of God, his condescension in entering into covenant relationship, and the full manifestation of his glory through the Triune God’s covenant with the person of Christ. Read the rest of this entry »





Horatius Bonar: Three Reasons to Fear Not From the Risen Jesus

19 12 2011

access his commentary here

I am the LIVING One.

Thus should the passage be read—’I am the first, and the last, and the living

One.’ Throughout Scripture the name of the Messiah is associated with life. He is—Jehovah—the I Am—the Being of beings—the Possessor of all life—the giver of all life—the living and the life-giving One. His association with death is only transient—and that for the purpose of overcoming death, and bringing life out of death. He is the PRINCE of life—He is the LIGHT of life—He is the BREAD of Life—He is the WATER of life. Everything connected with LIFE is linked with Him; for as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself.

The words, “I am living One,’ would remind John of the many things which he himself had narrated, and of the many words he had recorded concerning Christ as the Life; for he, of all the evangelists, has brought this great truth before us. It was as the Living One that He said, ‘the Son quickens whom he will’ (John 5:21). ‘He who believes in me has everlasting life. This is the bread that came down from heaven, that if a man eats of it, he shall not die. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever. Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life’ (John 6:50-54).

Ah! Truly it was the living One who spoke such words as these; and it is as the living One that He utters them still. We fall at His feet, like John, as one dead! He lays His right hand upon us, and says to us, “fear not; I am the living One;’ it is not death, but life, that I have come to bring; and in beholding the glory of the living One, it is life, not death, that you should look for!

I WAS DEAD.

Or, more literally, ‘I became dead,’ I laid down my life. His word of cheer to John, then, is; ‘Fear not; I am He who died.’ The words here remind us of those of Paul—’Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is Christ who died.’ Yes; it was with the Christ who died, that Paul had to do; and it was with the Christ who died that John also had to do, though, in the blaze of the glory that now dazzled him, he seems to have lost sight of this. To this, however, the Lord recalls him, in order to reassure him. He takes him back to the cross, and reminds him of what he saw and heard there. He sends him to the tomb, that he may again look upon the dead body of his Master.

And thus reminding him of the cross and tomb, He reproves his present terror, and makes him feel how unlikely, how impossible it was that any amount of ‘glory, and honor, and power, and majesty,’ such as that with which he was now surrounded, could alter the relationship between them, or make Him less the Christ whom he knew so well on earth; less the SAVIOR whom, as a sinner, he needed then, and needed still—less the LAMB of God that takes away the sin of the world—or make himself less the disciple whom Jesus loved—less the trusted one, to whom his Lord had confided that most precious of earthly deposits, His mother, when dying on the cross. It is as if He had said, ‘Fear not; I am the SAME Jesus whom you saw die upon the cross, whom you saw lying in Joseph’s tomb. Yes, fear not! I was dead.’

I AM ALIVE FOR EVERMORE.

‘Though I died once, yet I die no more—death has me no more—death has no more dominion over me—I LIVE forever!’ To have died, and yet to have triumphed over death—no, to have triumphed over it by dying, so that never again could death approach Him—this was the truth by which the risen Christ comforted His affrighted apostle. In DEATH He showed Himself the Lord of life! In LIFE He showed Himself the Lord of death! In dying, and living again, He showed Himself all that a sinner needs to give him boldness in his dealings with Him. This ever-living One, with whom death has now no more to do; this ever-living One, between whom and everything pertaining to death, a great gulf is fixed—He it is with whom we have to deal, in the great transactions of life and death.

He is made our Melchizedek—Priest and King—’after the power of an endless life;’ and the life which he possesses forever is something more than what He possessed before His death, or could possess simply as God—it is “resurrection life”, which only He who died could have, and with which He was filled for us in consequence of having died. That which we need, both for body and soul, is RISEN life, resurrection-life, the life of Him who has risen! And it is this that He so specially announces here when He says, ‘I am alive for evermore!’

Here John abruptly interposes his hearty and joyful “Amen!” as if this announcement were the one which he most rejoiced in, and which at once woke up an echo in his bosom. He hears the words, ‘I am alive for evermore;’ and appreciating something of the might import of these words, and looking forward into that long eternity, during which he was to be partaker of all the life which this risen One possessed, he exclaims, with eager gladness, ‘Amen!’

A sentiment like that which we always find used in the Old Testament in reference to kings—’Let the king live forever. Amen.’ It was in the eternity of this risen life of Christ that John rejoiced—in that same eternal life of the risen One let us rejoice, adding our Amen to that of the apostle, and saying, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives!’ Oh blessedness unspeakable! Oh consolation beyond all others! To be told that, in a dying world like ours, there is a living One like this—One all made up of life—One whom death can never touch—of whom no one can ever bring to you the tidings, “He is no more!”

No amount of death in us can affect Him, or prevent us receiving His endless life. Our death is swallowed up in this boundless life; so that, where ‘death’ has abounded, their ‘life’ abounds much more. This is the tree of life, whose leaves are health, whose fruit is immortality. Let us gather round and under this great ‘Plant of Renown’; from it to draw present life to our souls, and the assurance of resurrection to ourselves, and to all who have slept in Jesus!