Applying the First Fruits of Faith to Day-to-Day Life
There are aspects of the Christian faith that we do not spend enough time considering, partly out of the need to focus on the major theological and cultural battles of the day, and somewhat because we just don’t spend the time we need to contemplating all the blessings which come from our effectual calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification through the decree of the Father, the work of the Son, and the application of it by the Holy Spirit. Our allowance of the busyness of life to get in the way of enjoying the fullness of God’s mercy and grace can cause us to miss the totality of the awesomeness of our new life. The Larger Catechism questions before us are an example that should help to redeploy our attitude to something helpful for the day-to-day life you lead. Here are the Q/A’s for today:
Q. 82: What is the communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A. The communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is in this life, immediately after death, and at last perfected at the resurrection and day of judgment.
Q. 83: What is the communion in glory with Christ which the members of the invisible church enjoy in this life?
A. The members of the invisible church have communicated to them in this life the first-fruits of glory with Christ, as they are members of him their head, and so in him are interested in that glory which he is fully possessed of; and, as an earnest thereof, enjoy the sense of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, and hope of glory; as, on the contrary, sense of God’s revenging wrath, horror of conscience, and a fearful expectation of judgment, are to the wicked the beginning of their torments which they shall endure after death.
We’ve earlier touched on the difference between the visible and invisible church. But as a little bit of a reminder the concept is not any more complicated than what the words themselves describe. The visible church is the one we can see, and the invisible one is known exclusively to God. In other words the former is the expression of the kingdom of heaven here on earth and the latter is what is colloquially known as the elect. There are benefits to be sure to even reprobates who are members of the visible church, however, nothing can be compared to the blessings which come to those who are truly united to Christ by faith alone.
A hallmark of our understanding of the gospel is that there are now and not yet aspects to the covenant of grace. We truly experience the Sabbath on the Lord’s Day in the 1-in-7 day of rest, yet we know that it is merely a foretaste of what that spiritual (and physical) mercy will be like in the day to come. The same is true concerning the glory we have received in Jesus. There is a portion of God’s word in 2 Peter 1:2-4 that our eastern orthodox friends misunderstand, but helps us to better get what the catechism is bringing forward. Peter writes:
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
When the Apostle Paul warns the Corinthian Christians of the danger of sleeping with prostitutes he is functionally teaching the same thing, “. . . Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!”. The first fruit of the glory of our Lord that is shared with us is His presence. We know that in the new covenant God does not dwell any longer in the Holy of Holies. The Bible testifies that His residence is now in His people, the temple of the living God. What we make of that truth makes all the difference in how we live out the faith gifted and granted to us by grace.
Go back to the second catechism question for a moment. One way we describe the Lord’s Supper is by using the term “communion”. We understand that to mean that when believers eat of the bread and drink of the cup we are “communing” with and “feeding” upon Christ. The reason why we believe this to be so is because our doctrine of the sacraments is informed by what we know of God’s interactions with us in this life, and in the hope and earnest assurance we have for the life to come. It’s part of the reason why the apostle warns us so heavily in 1 Corinthians 11, and why any faithful church will properly fence the table. These things have a real effect on our experience of the Christian life. It’s like we cannot expect to be physically healthy if we don’t eat properly and exercise. Taking pills in order to get out of work is not going to fit the bill. Acting as if our unhelpful gluttony is beside the point will only lead to more and more problems.
The same is true of our spiritual life. There are no shortcuts to embracing the blessedness of the gospel promise in Jesus Christ. We must be in the word, in prayer, and in worship if we hope to receive the benefits promised to us in our Savior. We are called to put the old man to death and live in the new man, to put the hand to the plow and not look back. No one is going to do that for you. Here is why these catechism questions before us today are so important. We have to trust and believe that the goal is worth the running of the race. That only comes if we rightly comprehend why Jehovah God is to be preferred before the idols offered by the devil.
We must “. . .enjoy the sense of God’s love. . .” and desire it from the standpoint of remembering that our salvation is all of Christ and none of us, and because of that our foundational desire is to be in Him always. Rest in your communion with the Lord, and see your future in Him.
Here’s something more to consider:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church