Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saphir: teaching the unity of God

Saturday, July 25, 2009
    Feast of James the Apostle

    “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
    When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
    —Mark 12:32-34 (NIV)

    In the absence of so many vital points—the spiritual understanding of the Law, and the consciousness of sin, the unity and all-sufficiency of Scripture, and the expectation of the Messiah—we cannot wonder that the idea of God, as it lived in faithful Israel of old, was also obscured. Instead of the living, loving, self-manifesting God of the Old Testament Israel now took hold of the abstract idea of the unity, or rather the unicity, of God, as if that were God. Before—when they lived in communion with God, when God was known to them as a Person, speaking, acting, blessing, who had chosen them, who was educating them, and who was going to fulfill His promises—they declared, in opposition to the idolatrous nations that surrounded them, that this God of Israel was one God, that there are not many gods; but when they lost communion with God, in order to show what distinguished them from the nations of the earth, and especially from Christians, they emphasized that God in Himself was only one Person, and not as He is revealed to us in the Scripture: Sender, Sent, and Spirit. It is the boast of the modern Jewish synagogue that their great mission is to testify to the world the unity of God. But it is a striking fact that the Gentile nations who have, since the dispersion of Israel, been converted from idolatry, have been influenced, not by the synagogue, but by the congregations of Jesus Christ, and were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost... It is one thing to believe in justification by faith, it is another thing to be justified by faith; and so it is one thing to believe in God, who is One, and it is another to believe in the numerical abstraction, in the mere idea of unicity.
    ... Adolph Saphir (1831-1891), Christ and Israel, London: Morgan and Scott, 1911 (see the book)

Quiet time reflection:
    Lord, You are not remote from Your creation and Your people.

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