Distinction but not Separation

“All things subsist together” (Colossians 1:17)

            Anyone who has read their Bible will have no doubt noted that there is in most parts of Scripture some overlapping: to take the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are, as I believe, independent witnesses. There are too many differences to maintain that they just copied from one another, or copied from a common source. Further, they have too much common material to argue that they must have been writing about different ‘Christs’. However, they so to speak touch one another.  There is contact if one may put it that way. There is not a gulf between each Gospel, or to use modern terminology, there is not clear water between them. Matthew touches John if we compare Matthew 11:25-27 with John 10:14/15; 12:38 & 13:3. It is not just that Matthew and John are just saying the same things in their own way, but that Matthew is saying certain things in a way that John could well have done. In Mark we have a couple of links with John in that both refer to pure nard (Mark 14:3 & John 12:3) and use the word Rabboni (Mark 10:51 & John 20:16). Luke says: “All... wondered at the words of grace which were coming out of his mouth” (Luke 4:22) while John says: “Never man spoke thus, as this man [speaks]” (John 7:46): statements which are in accord with each other. No doubt other similar compatible statements could be found if time was spent looking for them.

            In a recent previous article I stressed the need for clarity. However, one must consider that we should not compartmentalise Biblical subjects or the books of the Bible so much that each subject or book has no connection with other subjects or books. As to subjects it has I believe been well said as to thanksgiving: “We thank God for what He gives”, as to praise: “We praise Him for what he does” and as to worship: “We worship Him for what He is”.  However, no one would I think consider it right to analyse a brother’s prayers as to whether they were thanksgivings, praises or worship. They may well have elements of all these things. Paul and Silas when in the prison at Philippi were praying, but in doing that they were praising God with singing (Act 16:25), so that they were doing both the things mentioned in James 5:13.

            When one looks up into the sky and sees a beautiful rainbow it is obvious that it is made up of various colours. However, one would find it impossible to draw a clear line of distinction between the colours, because they merge into one another.  Light itself is white, but it can be broken down into the colours of the rainbow. Christ is himself light and we may say contains all the colours of the rainbow. Individual saints may perhaps display one or more of the colours, but it really needs the Lord’s people as a whole to adequately display the features of Christ. Consider Matthew 17:2.

            If we consider moral features we know that there are differences between mercy and grace. However, if we were to have an inquest on the events of one’s life as to whether they involved mercy or grace we might often find it difficult to determine whether they were one or the other, as they might include both. If we get relief from a malady we might well say it was the Lord’s mercy, but if we were given the strength to bear it we could well say it was  the Lord’s grace. As to the first we find that Paul experienced this in connection with Epaphroditusas we learn from Philippians 2:25-28. However he also experienced the latter in connection with his own thorn for the flesh as he says in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. We need both mercy and grace and both are available to us as we learn from Hebrews 4:16. They are both distinctive colours, so to speak, but they merge into one another, so that we find that they are often put together as where we get grace and mercy next to one another in such places as 1 Timothy 1:2 and 2 Timothy 1:2.  Paul also puts mercy and grace close together in Ephesians 2: 4-9. As Paul says effectively it is God’s love that underlies our blessings, whether it is his mercy lifting up the needy from the dung-hill or his grace setting him among the nobles of his people (Psalm 113:7/8). Good things are often listed together, but are always clearly separated from evil ones. Consider Galatians 5:16-26 and Colossians 3:1-15. Satan would like to mix them up; hence he transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). In 2 Peter 1:5-11 we are to have one thing in another so that Peter says: “In your faith have also virtue, etc.” The things mentioned are distinct but not separated, that is, there is no gap between them.

July 2012