The Love of God and Our Spiritual Transformation

Galatians 5 refers to the acts of the human flesh, that is the acts that come from our sinful nature. Here is how Paul puts it:

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

What we need, more than we realize, is the gift of repentance. Repentance does not come readily to us. The reason is that so few of us fathom the real problem of sin. This problem is only disclosed to us though Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Repentance for sin is possible. But it is only possible and appropriate “where there is a personal relationship” (His Life Is Mine, 42). We must encounter the living triune God in order to experience the “fear of the Lord.” But we often mistake this fear because we turn it into an end, or goal, and then talk about the fearful God. (Many forms of Reformed theology do precisely this, intended or otherwise!) We must be regularly reminded that “perfect love drives out fear.” There is, in this divine encounter that I write about, a paradox. We fear in order to love and to be loved. At one and the same time we experience tremendous fear but that fear, if it has its perfect way in us, brings us to eternal love, so long as the work in us is that of the Holy Spirit. In the words of the Orthodox monk-theologian Sophrony, “An exquisite flower unfolds within us: the hypostasis–persona” (His Life Is Mine, 42-3). This quotation needs some explaining.

With every passing day I am more acutely aware of the limitations of human reason. I cannot advance one iota in the kingdom of God by human reason. God is the only means we have to access the higher knowledge that we need in order to be saved.

Think back to God’s revelation to Moses. He said that he was “I AM.” This name itself is a door into the knowledge of the Absolute Being who is wholly un-originate. All of Israel looked for this God as she sought to live in the light of God’s covenant mercies. But for us who are Christians the focal point of the universe, indeed of all human history, is the God-man Jesus Christ. He did not repudiate the shadows and types of the Old Testament but rather unfolded their significance to us by “bringing new dimensions to all things–infinite, eternal dimensions. . . . With the coming of Christ all was changed: the new revelation affected the destiny of the whole created world” (His Life Is Mine, 19).

What is the great mystery that Jesus made known to the world? The short answer is Love. But the more theologically sophisticated answer, which helps us better grasp the nature of this true Love, is that God, who is Love, is a Hypostatic  Being. What does this mean? Simply put, God is One, but three persons in One; i.e. the Holy Trinity. Because this One God in three Persons is eternally love (this could not be true without a trinity of persons) then Jesus reveals to us the Hypostatic Being that no one could see or grasp before the Logos came into the world to reveal God fully and finally.

So when Archimandrite Sophrony says “an exquisite flower unfolds within us” and refers to this flower is the “hypostasis” this is what he has in view. Note that he links this idea of Trinity to personhood. Hypostasis is a philosophical term created by the Church Fathers to interpret this divine revelation. In 2 Corinthians 11:17 we have a word that is translated “self-confidence,” or assurance. This is the same word as hypostasis. In Hebrews 1:3 the Son is described as “the express image of his person,” thus the person of the Father. This technical word describes the personal dimension of God’s Being. The addition of the word persona simply expands this idea to remind us that God is not simply an individual but a full and whole person. In salvation we become full and whole persons.

When our view goes beyond the confines of the earthly realm, into heavenly realms where Christ is seated on a throne, we begin to see the power of his all-cosmic sufferings for the world. Thus Sophrony concludes: “And the Christian who has received the gift of the love of Christ, for all his awareness that it is not yet complete, escapes the nightmare of all-consuming death. Christ’s love, during the whole time that He abode with us here, was acute suffering. . . . He lives the tragedy of all mankind; but in Himself there was no tragedy” (His Life Is Mine, 38-9).

When the Spirit grants us the knowledge of the hypostatic from of prayer (that is prayer formed in us by the triune God rooted in the love within the Trinity) we can begin to emerge from “the prison cell of selfish, individualism into the wide expanse of life in the image of Christ [and] we perceive the nature of the personalism of the Gospel” (His Life Is Mine, 40).

Our real persona, our personhood as it now is in Christ, is not determined by managing sin or by completing courses in human reasoning. We become fully human when we enter into his love. “Love is the most profound content of his being, the noblest expression of his essence. In this love lies likeness to God, Who is Love” (His Life Is Mine, 43).

This is the fruit of the Spirit. Hypostatic love creates in us a persona that surpasses all human comprehension. We grow into our great salvation and become more and more like him in love.

Arguments, cultural debates about politics, scientific and philosophical knowledge of the Bible, none of these will not make us truly mature. God is a secret God thus he has secret depths. God, not man, is the Alpha and Omega. We must have more of the life of God, sharing in his divine nature, if we would grow up into our salvation. “Man’s godlike quality lies in the mode of his being. Likeness in being is the likeness of which the Scriptures tell” (His Life Is Mine, 43). This likeness is nothing more, or less, than God’s love.

Next: Through Love We Are Joined with God

 

 

This entry was posted in Biblical Theology, God's Character, Orthodoxy, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.