Never "Outside"
Tuesday after the Last Sunday in the Church Year
22 November 2016
There is no objective standpoint from which to apprehend, understand, or grasp God. There is no way to be outside of the God who encompasses all things so as to consider Him (Eph 1:23). Everything about the limitations of our existence keeps us from getting our hands around God. For example, we are limited by time. Temporally we are not eternal (duh). Could we just conceive of eternality? Can we go back in time sufficiently to establish a beginning for God? The idea is risible. The question that the Almighty addressed to Job needs to be asked of us: "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding" (Job 38:4). Simple answer: I wasn't there and I don't understand.
Critics of God's ways always presume that they can objectively stand back, consider God's actions and teaching, and understand them (Is 55:10-11). They ask with a reasonable tone of voice, "Let me see. Do I agree with God?" Such an attitude is like being critical of oxygen. The very breath you are drawing filled with oxygen is enabling you to think critically and form words of breath. Oxygen gives you the ability to criticize it. You can only think objectively about oxygen completely outside of it and without oxygen you know what happens. To be outside of God is to be without God. To be without God is not to be. No such standpoint is possible. Not even in hell (Ps 139:8).
God thwarts all our grasping after knowing and considering of God by His knowing and considering of us. We are trying to circumscribe the one who is circumscribing us. We cannot know Him apart from His knowing of us in Christ, the Son whom He loves (Gal 4:9). Thus our effort to know God is hopeless because God has made the effort to know us. Our effort to find God is laughed to scorn because He has made the effort to find us. Our effort to reveal Him to the world is shown to be worthless because He has made Himself known to us in Christ. Our knowing in part is only made complete by His complete knowing of us in Christ, who is the one who reveals the Father to us. We only know Him in Christ, never "outside."

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
"All existence owes its origin to God the Father. In Christ and through Christ He is the source of all. In contrast to all else He is self-existent. He does not draw His being from without, but possesses it from Himself and in Himself. He is infinite, for nothing contains Him and He contains all things; He is eternally unconditioned by space, for He is illimitable; eternally before time, for time is His creation. Let imagination range to what you may suppose is God's utmost limit, and you will find Him present there; strain as you will there is always a further horizon towards which to strain. Infinity is His property, just as the power of making such effort is yours. Words will fail you. His being will not be circumscribed. Or again, turn back the pages of history, and you will find Him ever present. Should numbers fail to express the antiquity to which you have penetrated, yet God's eternity is not diminished.
"Gird up your intellect to comprehend Him as a whole; He eludes you, God, as a whole, has left something within your grasp, but this something is inextricably involved in His entirety. Thus you have missed the whole, since it is only a part which remains in your hands; nay, not even a part, for you are dealing with a whole which you have failed to divide. For a part implies division, a whole is undivided, and God is everywhere and wholly present wherever He is.
"Reason, therefore, cannot cope with Him, since no point of contemplation can be found outside Himself and since eternity is eternally His. This is a true statement of the mystery of that unfathomable nature which is expressed by the Name 'Father:' God invisible, ineffable, infinite. Let us confess by our silence that words cannot describe Him. Let sense admit that it is foiled in the attempt to apprehend, and reason in the effort to define. Yet He has, as we said, in 'Father' a name to indicate His nature; He is a Father unconditioned. He does not, as men do, receive the power of paternity from an external source. He is unbegotten, everlasting, inherently eternal. To the Son only is He known, for 'no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him' (Mt 11:27). Each has perfect and complete knowledge of the other. Therefore, since 'no one knows the Father except the Son,' let our thoughts of the Father be at one with the thoughts of the Son, the only faithful witness, who reveals Him to us."

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 2.6
John 16:20-24

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (ESV)
Lord Christ, keep me in You so that I would know the Father. In You reveal His love for me, that I might never act as though I lived on the "outside." Amen.
For President Obama, that God would uphold him in every good deed
For Michael Golchert, that the Lord would grant him health and healing
For President Lawrence Rast and the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary, that the Lord would bless their labors
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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