Worship as Death and Resurrection
February 18, 2023
When Moses asks to see Yahweh’s glory, God tells even this beloved, familiar servant: you cannot see my face, for no man shall see me and live (Ex 33:20).
And yet Yahweh called upon Israel to “seek his face” (1 Ch 16:11; 2 Ch 7:14). He said, “Seek my face,” and the psalmist responds, “Your face, Yahweh, will I seek” (Ps 27:8).
Are two different things meant by this?
Yes, and no.
Yahweh was telling Israel to seek his pleasurable countenance (“may his face shine upon you”), which could only happen through faith and faithfulness — living in a spirit of repentance and true worship. He wasn’t saying he would literally show his face to them.
To be sure, God is not a man and doesn’t have a “face” in the sense that creatures do. In that sense, it is impossible to “see God’s face.”
And yet … there is a face he could have shown Moses if he wanted to destroy him. There is a mysterious truth there about the incomprehensible God who is not embodied like we are.
But Israel could not see that face and live. That’s why in the tabernacle and temple, only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and only once a year, and only in a cloud of smoke.
We approach the mystery in Revelation 1. John is “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” i.e. the Day of the Lord, divinely admitted into the church’s worship even while alone in exile. The glorified Jesus, the son of man who is the son of God, with eyes like a flame of fire and a voice like the roar of many waters — the visual form of this God who cannot be seen without the one seeing him dying as a result — Jesus speaks to John, and when the apostle turns and sees him, he “fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev 1:17). But Jesus lays his right hand on him, and describes himself as the living one who has indeed died, but is now alive forevermore (1:17–18).
There is a sense in which when we approach God in Spirit we do die, in order to be raised up. The Day of Yahweh is the meeting place, the day of death and resurrection.
Worship in Spirit and truth means worship in the heavenly Spirit who unites us to God and one another in the heavenly worship which John witnesses in Revelation. And it is in “truth,” i.e. the Truth, Jesus (I am the way, the Truth, and the life, Jn 14:6). We die and are raised with Jesus again and again in worship.
When God calls us to worship, he calls us to come and die — and to come and live.
Exchanging the Glory Theopolis Podcast Interview
January 7, 2023
Last week, Peter Leithart of the Theopolis Institute interviewed me in connection with my book, Exchanging the Glory: Idolatry and Homosexuality in Romans 1 (2022 Athanasius Press, Theopolis Explorations series). This interview is available on these podcast platforms:
Spotify — https://open.spotify.com/episode/2kXl2sk5UG6nuLOFVzYaYy
Apple — https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-theopolis-podcast/id1148175126?i=1000592768187
SoundCloud — https://soundcloud.com/user-812874628/episode-607-idolatry-and-homosexuality-with-tim-gallant
False Humility Regarding the Lord’ Supper
December 28, 2022
… to be sure, it sounds very humble to say, as many Anglicans have, “We have no theory. We just believe Jesus’ words, ’This is my body’ without positing any further explanation.” But this is not really a humble or neutral response. It is in fact an audacious claim about Jesus’ communication to His disciples in
the Upper Room. It is a claim that Jesus was deliberately saying something His disciples could not understand; that, in fact, they did not understand it; that Jesus offered no further explanation to alleviate their incomprehension; and finally, that the disciples said nothing to express their bewilderment on this occasion. For that is what we are commenting on: not a ritual or a miracle yet. Even if it might turn out
to be those things on further investigation, we will only discover it to be so by first examining Christ’s words as an utterance, an act of communication. If our account of the meaning of Jesus’ words renders
them incomprehensible to His disciples, or renders the disciples’ reaction a non sequitur, then we may be sure that we have not understood Him correctly.
— Matthew Colvin, The Lost Supper
New Video Section
November 21, 2022
For those who hadn’t noticed, I have started making short videos explaining various things about worship, the Bible, Christian discipleship, and so on. These are posted on YouTube, Rumble etc. I have now also added a video page to my web site where they’re all collected in one place.
Jacob the Unfeigned Character
October 2, 2022
Talk about irony. Jacob repeatedly gets pegged as “the deceiver.” Supposedly, he was all about treachery and lies in order to gain advantage. Which is itself a misreading of the Genesis text, but that’s beyond my scope here.
The interesting thing about the description of the characters of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25:27 is that Jacob is described as “a tam [Heb] man, dwelling in tents.” The word tam is frequently rendered as “quiet” or “mild” but that is doubtful. More commonly it stresses completeness or blamelessness. But even more fascinating is that the LXX (Greek version of the OT) renders it ἄπλαστος, which means unmoulded and even unfeigned, i.e. true and transparent.
In other words, pretty much the opposite of the stereotype.
Laying on of Hands
September 17, 2022
There is an interesting sequence in Numbers 8:10–12. The people of Israel are to lay their hands upon the Levites, so that Aaron can offer them to Yahweh as a wave offering. The Levites in turn are then to lay their own hands upon two bulls, and offer one for a sin offering and the other as an ascension offering, to make atonement. Thus laying on of hands ties together threads both of representation and of vocation.
One of a myriad of texts both familiar and less familiar that I’m looking at in connection with next month’s Zoom class for Theopolis.
Wisdom and Maturity
September 2, 2022
As I am preparing to teach my Theopolis Zoom class (“Infancy and Maturity in the Messiah’s Kingdom”), I have been reflecting on the integral relationship between maturity and wisdom.
Wisdom is not simply knowledge. It is true that biblical wisdom has as its core the intimate knowledge of God’s Word. But in Scripture, experience with conflict seems to be a key element in applying that knowledge in mature wisdom. Wisdom arises within the context of conflict and suffering. This is the pathway to maturity.
We can see this in the juxtaposition of Adam and Jesus (the new Adam). Adam in some ways is created as an adult but has no life experience, and therefore he is not just “given the car keys.” The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (a function of mature wisdom) is withheld from him. When conflict arises in the form of the tempter, instead of growing through applying the word he has received, he waits to see what will happen to Eve, and then grasps for something for which he is unprepared.
In the case of Jesus, immediately upon his baptism he is driven into the wilderness to be tempted by the serpent. As with Eve, he cites the word of the Father, but in his case that word trumps what the tempter has to say. This is part of the process of conflict and suffering by which he is “perfected” (i.e. matured and completely prepared for his task; the Hebrew and Greek words carry similar ranges in this regard). This often does not sound right to us (“Jesus didn’t need to undergo such a process! He’s God!”) — but it’s what we are explicitly told in Hebrews 2:10 and 5:8–9.
Do you want to grow up in Christ? Learn the Word, and face conflict and suffering in faith and faithfulness.
Theopolis Zoom Class Further Details & Info
August 29, 2022
As I’ve noted earlier, I am slated to teach an online class (via Zoom) for Theopolis this fall.
The title of this class is Infancy and Maturity in the Messiah’s Kingdom.
Here is some of what I hope to cover:
- The Vocation & Pathway of Maturity
- Epochs & Ages
- Growth Models & Apocalyptic Maturity
- The Great Infancy: Kingdom as New Birth
- Unexpected Infancy in Maturity
- Of Such is the Kingdom: Infant Inclusion
My goal in part is to help students see familiar biblical passages in a new light that shows how various apparently unrelated things actually belong together.
You can now sign up for this class. Theopolis has a registration page here.
Theopolis Zoom Class: Infancy and Maturity in the Messiah’s Kingdom
August 6, 2022
I am pleased to announce that I will be leading a Zoom class this fall for the Theopolis Institute. The class will run every Saturday from 1–3 pm, from October 15–November 19, 2022.
All baptism is paedobaptism; all communion is paedocommunion. The paradox of the Messiah’s kingdom is that its goal is maturity, and its mode is infancy.
In this course, we will do much more than ground a defense of paedocommunion (participation of baptized children in the Lord’s Supper). Exploring and integrating familiar biblical themes, we will discuss the surprising connections between infancy and maturity, the equally surprising contrasts between infancy and immaturity, and union with Christ as the sole ground of sonship. Maturity is both a Spirit-formed process, and a gift of the “apocalyptic” Christ (we’ll explain that mysterious phrase when we get there!).
Keep an eye on this page for more info:
Killing and Getting Dressed
July 24, 2022
It’s interesting that in the contrasting lists in Colossians 3, the contrast is not between mortification and giving life, but between mortification (3:5) and getting dressed (3:12). I suppose the reason for this is that while we must kill the deeds of the old man, we do not in fact give life to the marks of the Spirit. That life comes from God himself.
Of course, the mortification section does also speak of divestment/getting undressed (apekduomai) of sin, 3:9. This is a link not only to the contrast of being dressed in vv 12ff, but also to what the Messiah accomplished on the cross, where he accomplished the removal (apekdusis, stripping off, undressing) of the body of the flesh (somatos tês sarkos), 2:11. We can mortify the old man, because the elements of the stoicheia were put to death in him; and we can strip off the old man, because the Messiah has already stripped off the body of flesh. Our mortification is an outworking of the accomplishment of Jesus on the cross.
Another interesting feature in Colossians 3 is that in both the “sin list” and the righteousness” list there is one articular item (something like a the rather than just a general reference to a characteristic) that gets explanation/epexegetical treatment. In 3:5, Paul refers to tên pleonexian (the covetousness/avarice), “which is idolatry,” and in 3:14, he climaxes the virtue list with “above all, tên agapên (the love), which is the bond of teleiotêtos (completeness, maturity, perfection). It’s fascinating to ask whether those two particular characteristics are intended to be specifically contrasted. Certainly, covetousness or even idolatry is not the first thing that comes to mind when we are looking for a contrast to love. Yet there are ways in which it is an apt juxtaposition. Pleonexia seeks its own, while agape seeks the other. Moreover, in comparing the old fallen kosmos, we note that the action of Adam and Eve is one of pleonexia, whereas in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul describes agapê as the eternal virtue, and thus (as here) the hallmark of the new creation (the heaven-and-earth kosmos).
It would also be pertinent to discuss Philippians 2, which implicitly contrasts the grasping of Adam over against the obedient loving service of the Messiah Jesus, whose self-giving is the very embodiment of agapê (cf Phi 2:1).
I do wonder whether we reflect deeply enough upon the matter of covetousness or avarice. As Paul himself says, it is form of idolatry and it stands in definitive antithesis to the new creation.