Our world is a sinful, broken mess. Yet God uses people and things around us to deliver His grace. Is it weird that God uses lowly parts of His creation for His perfect purposes? Christian hip hop artist FLAME explains how God uses physical elements to deliver His good gifts. The following has been adapted from FLAME’s book, Extra Nos: Discovering Grace outside Myself.
Visible and Invisible Realities
The world consists of visible and invisible realities. We are multifaceted beings meant to interact with the diversity of life. This is a challenge for the contemporary Christian person. We believe we must first understand a thing before we can accept it as true. The truth or reality of a thing is not based on whether you can understand it. Nor how well you can process it, wrap your
mind around it, systematically categorize it, and explain it. Here, Luther’s famous advice is helpful. We use logic and reason the way God intended, as a servant. Not a master.
It is crucial to what it means to be a Christian to posture our hearts to embrace what God has revealed. We should ask God to work humility in our minds so that we may not be ruled by human reason but be rightly oriented and use logic as a servant. This is, indeed, the primary reason many struggle to receive the
grace Jesus established and designed for us in the Lord’s Supper. We have a fundamental problem with God using “stuff” from the material world to save. Yet in the person Jesus Himself is God’s attachment to the physical to accomplish His salvific ends. The eternal Son of God, who has always existed, took on human flesh.
The human person Jesus is both fully God and fully man. Wholly and truly God and wholly and truly man. One person with two natures. God the eternal Son Himself took on a physical nature and forever will remain the God-man, both humanity and divinity in the person of the Christ, Jesus.
Does God Use Physical Means to Apply Grace?
If God is okay binding Himself to the physical to save, then we should be okay with it too. We should be okay with Him using physical things in other manners to apply grace. If He wants to save, heal, or forgive using earthly means, we should recognize that as something God desires to do and has deemed right and good.
Imagine there was a blind man. Could Jesus cure his blindness simply by thinking it in His mind? Yes! But what if Jesus wanted to use means to restore the man’s sight? Using something as earthly as spit, dirt, mud, and a washing in the water at the pool of Siloam (see John 9:6–7)? Is Jesus now less glorified for using means? Does He not get all the glory because He chose to use earthly elements to accomplish His ends? Better yet, does this have to lead to idolatry and worship of spit, dirt, mud, and water? Not at all.
The blind man did right to not question Jesus or call Him to task over His insistence upon using earthly means to do what otherwise could have been done by Him simply thinking it. The blind man did right to merely receive God’s good gift by means. He trusted Jesus. Faith clings to the promise of God. He did not accuse the Lord of being ridiculous for suggesting such lowly things as a part of the healing. He did not get into an intellectual skirmish with the Christ over whether it was possible to cure blindness using such simple and meager means. He simply trusted Jesus’ word.
The Sacraments and God’s Visible Word
So it is with the Sacraments. They are God’s visible Word whereby He delivers His good gifts to us in a multiplicity of ways, all rooted in Jesus’ earthly ministry (incarnation, sinless life, crucifixion, and resurrection). There’s no competition or contradiction with faith alone. If God says, “Do this and receive sight,” this is how you receive God’s gifts. God uses earthly things to deliver, or hand over, the benefits of what Jesus accomplished on the cross.
These earthly things include the following:
- The death of the God-man on a real, physical, earthly tree
- The womb of a virgin woman to encapsulate the God of the universe
- Human preachers to preach His Word
- Human saliva, tongues, and vocal cords to do that preaching
- Physical sound waves that strike the eardrums of humans, who then believe the truth conveyed in physical traveling sound waves
- A physical book written by humans (though inspired by the Holy Spirit)
- Water to deliver life and cure spiritual blindness (Baptism)
- Bread and wine to “house” (in, with, and under) Himself to grant forgiveness (the Lord’s Supper)
- A new earth that will join the new heaven
The Holy Spirit uses the aforementioned things to save.
The devil fights in abundance to block and rob faith.
God gives in abundance to create and preserve faith.
Blog post adapted from Extra Nos: Discovering Grace outside Myself © 2023 Marcus “FLAME” Gray, published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
To learn more about FLAME’s faith journey, read Extra Nos: Discovering Grace outside Myself.