Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/theophilus-on-the-nature-of-god/

Hebrews 5:12-15 reads:

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,
13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.
14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

I once heard Dr. Horner (TMC) observe that the words of Hebrews 5:14 underscores the argument: the word for “good” in this text is not the normal “agathos” but the word “kalos” which is typically used for “beautiful” or perhaps “useful”. It can be used as “good”, but it is not the common word choice. The next word “evil” is the Greek word “kakos”. Thus, the difference to distinguish, good and evil, is distinguished by a single letter: k-a-l-o-s versus k-a-k-o-s. It will take the greatest work to tell the two apart.

The draws a connection between what can be known about God and the capacity of the knower. Yet, rather than anchoring the capacity in intellectual ability, the writer locates a capacity in moral sensitivity. Autolycus, an idolator, has confronted Theophilous of Antioch on ground that the God of the Christians cannot be seen. He takes the position of Hebrews 5:14 to its furtherest extent and contends a man overwhelmed in sin can see nothing of God:

But if you say, “Show me thy God,” I would reply, “Show me yourself, and I will show you my God.” Show, then, that the eyes of your soul are capable of seeing, and the ears of your heart able to hear; for as those who look with the eyes of the body perceive earthly objects and what concerns this life, and discriminate at the same time between things that differ, whether light or darkness, white or black, deformed or beautiful, well-proportioned and symmetrical or disproportioned and awkward, or monstrous or mutilated; and as in like manner also, by the sense of hearing, we discriminate either sharp, or deep, or sweet sounds; so the same holds good regarding the eyes of the soul and the ears of the heart, that it is by them we are able to behold God. For God is seen by those who are enabled to see Him when they have the eyes of their soul opened: for all have eyes; but in some they are overspread, and do not see the light of the sun. Yet it does not follow, because the blind do not see, that the light of the sun does not shine; but let the blind blame themselves and their own eyes. So also thou, O man, hast the eyes of thy soul overspread by thy sins and evil deeds. As a burnished mirror, so ought man to have his soul pure. When there is rust on the mirror, it is not possible that a man’s face be seen in the mirror; so also when there is sin in a man, such a man cannot behold God.

Do you, therefore, show me yourself, whether you are not an adulterer, or a fornicator, or a thief, or a robber, or a purloiner; whether you do not corrupt boys; whether you are not insolent, or a slanderer, or passionate, or envious, or proud, or supercilious; whether you are not a brawler, or covetous, or disobedient to parents; and whether you do not sell your children; for to those who do these things God is not manifest, unless they have first cleansed themselves from all impurity. All these things, then, involve you in darkness, as when a filmy defluxion on the eyes prevents one from beholding the light of the sun: thus also do iniquities, O man, involve you in darkness, so that you cannot see God.

But be careful to note what Theophilus says. He does not proceed from the proposition that a sinful man cannot see God to the conclusion that therefore one must first clean himself (morally) so that he can see God:

For God is seen by those who are enabled to see Him when they have the eyes of their soul opened:

This is no different than the Savior’s explanation for why some cannot see the beauty of Christ:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:44. However, the language of Paul in Ephesians 1:15-18 more likely stands behind the particular statement of Theophilus:

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,
16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

What then of the sentence which contains the clause, “unless they have first cleansed themselves from all impurity.” Again he is working within the realm of Scripture:

4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

James 4:4-9. Now, it is true that Christians easily fall off into antinomianism (salvation is of grace,therefore our moral actions are meaningless and unnecessary) and legalism (our salvation depends upon our personal efforts). Theophilus however seems untroubled by this problem. He attributes the whole to God’s work and calls one to holiness.