On Love, Death, Authority and Glory
For love is as strong as death, ... Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the LORD….Our God is a consuming fire. S.S. 8:6; Heb. 12:29
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments….Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” Jn. 15:13-14
"My Father is glorified by this, that you … prove to be My disciples. "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. Jn. 15:8-10
Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!" Jn. 21:19
“…Shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose (death) I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name." Jn. 12:27-28
But so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me…"Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, …"I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. Jn. 14:31; 15:1-2,4-5
"The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You … loved them, even as You have loved Me. "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. … and I have made Your name known to them… so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." Jn. 17:22-24, 26
Over the recent season, we have been tasked to come to an accurate perception of the love of God in clear distinction from the distorted perception of the world and humanistic church. In course of this, we also entered discussion on the meaning of God’s glory. We particularly saw how God’s glory is intrinsically defined by the divine union between Father and Son, whose love “fusion” emanates the brilliant consuming fire in the universe we call “glory.”
Today, we are enlarging on all of this by capturing together in one the “quadrumvirate” (group of four) pillar elements of the divine heart that are repeatedly explained together in Jesus’ teaching:
love, death, authority, glory.
These four elements are inseparably interdependent. And it is our separating out of any one of these from the rest that leads us into error in our understanding of the true nature of God, of our relationship to God and to one another.
To grasp this, I encourage a slow thoughtful reading of all the passages at the head of this article—almost all of which come from John. Give special attention to the network of the underlined words. See how these four concepts—which we will hereafter just call the “Quad”—are all interlinked in the heart and mind of the Lord…..
What did you see? Did you see how….
- Love is shown by death and obedience within God’s glory?
- Death is found in the sacrificial aspect of love and obedience to God’s glory?
- Obedience is measured by love unto death unto God’s glory?
- God’s glory is brought forth by love, death and obedience?
That is the interlock of the divine Quad we want to explore.
From this point forward, the purpose of this article is to put each of these four Quad elements into focus relative to the others, and to examine the problems in the church arising from tunnel focused isolation of each element apart from the rest.
Love in Check
As we have already “harped on” repeatedly, the grand mistake in today’s culture and the humanist / passionist church is in isolating out and magnifying the idea of love as its own self-standalone (“unconditional”) ideal. Love offers us the most intimately relational and positively experiential element in the Quad. It stirs up a warm and even romantic feeling. And so we latch onto it as the ultimate essence of good in God’s heart.
But whatever we may be believing or exhorting or practicing as to love, no love of God is in view where our proclamation and practice is not conditioned in context of sacrifice unto death, God’s authority through obedience (righteousness / discipleship) and the glory of the Divine Union.
Because we have already elaborated on the problem of isolated love in so many other articles, we will not give as much attention to it here, though we will yet discuss it a bit more later on in the conclusion.
Death in Check
But similarly, we need to appreciate this problem of isolation regarding the other three Quad ideals.
Let’s look for a moment at death. When we are speaking of death, we are really speaking of accepting loss and willingness to sacrifice, i.e., self-sacrifice and self-extinguishment. The element of death is an “enricher” of the other three Quad elements.
As despised and feared as death is, it has positive value in context of God’s love, authority and glory. On one hand, we must learn to embrace that value, not seeking to run from death altogether. But on the other, we must not become enamored of death apart from the other pillar elements.
Here is what I mean on both hands:
- Embracing Death’s Necessity
On the one hand, we all hate death, and we should. It is the result of sin that ideally should never have happened and was negatively warned of by God as sin’s price (“In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die.”). And so all the world is now subject to death and rightly in dread of it.
But despite this, God in His inscrutable wisdom has ordained death as an important and indispensable ingredient for the advancing and proving of His glory through love and obedience. Because this is so, death was in view before life was ever created…”the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.”
It is this “beforeness” of death that we are called to embrace for its necessity in the growing of love and obedience to the expanse of the divine glory. This is why the scriptures spend so much capital on expositing death’s purposefulness. Love is unto death and as strong as death. Obedience is unto death. And God is glorified in our death.
Death alone is meaningless. That is what Ecclesiastes shows us. But death related to God’s love, righteousness and glory is full of critical purpose to our existence. And it is this purpose we are repeatedly exhorted to embrace in our painful lives here below.
This purpose is first and above all exemplified in God’s self-sacrifice of His own Son to bring us into the divine union. Thus the centrality of the cross—the instrument of death—is ever put before us….take up your cross….death to self….faithfulness unto death…crucify the flesh….etc.
Therefore, when we consider God’s love, we must see it as self-sacrifice, and not a mere desire or good feeling. When we consider God’s authority, we must come to appreciate obedience as a dying to our own will, not merely as tasks to be fulfilled. And when we consider God’s glory, we must seek to grasp, however difficult, the necessity of death to the growth in display of the shining divine union.
- Correcting Death in Isolation
But this appreciation then brings us to the other hand, which is this: once we become persuaded of death’s value by way of the cross, we must never lose sight that death indeed has no value apart from love, obedience and God’s glory. We must never develop a morbid fascination with the cross or exalt the idea of death in itself. We must not isolate the preaching of the cross from its seat in the Quad.
Does this happen? Yes it does. Not frequently, and not in the at-large communities of the faith. But if you delve into monasticism, or Christian mysticism, or into more recent deeper life / holiness / sonship persuasions, you will find teachings and writings that have elevated death and the cross as standalone ends to be exalted in themselves.
Spirits of morbid bondage have been engendered under the weight of “heavy cross” teachings and inordinate emphases on “death to self” or "crucifying the flesh.” Such require correction and liberation. Paul warns us against the isolated esteem of martyrdom with these words: “If I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
In balance then, we must fully embrace death for its necessary value in the divine heart related to love, obedience and glory; yet we must not esteem it in any way apart from these. And to the degree that any and all of us deal with death at any level or in any dimension, let us ask the Father to bring forth the full realization of His love, authority and glory as a result of whatever loss and self-extinguishment we may be facing.
Authority in Check
Authority is an equally important element of the holy quadrumvirate. It is elaborated on throughout scripture including the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. For our purposes, we are using the word authority interchangeably with obedience, discipleship and righteousness. (We lately wrote on the prophetic burden for righteous love.)
So much hinges on the embrace of authority in our embrace of God Himself. There is no divine love apart from righteous obedient discipleship. Commitment to death defines the quality of obedience belonging to God’s love. And obedient submission is intrinsic to the glory union of the Father and Son.
But as with death, so with authority. Authority may either be rejected and absent from our concepts of love, death and glory, or it may be abused as a standalone virtue apart from them.
- Embracing Authority’s Necessity
Today in the church, many have had terrible experiences with wrong and/or abusive authority figures as well as out-of-whack teachings on righteousness, obedience and discipleship. Much injustice has been suffered in the name of authority, even by well-placed and well-intentioned authority.
Whether due to our latent carnal disposition to rebel or else to negative experiences with authority, many Christians in this present age of lawlessness have minimized the importance of obedient discipleship and behavioral righteousness relative to God’s love and His glory. Some of this is due to the elder church’s failure to express authority in terms of love, exemplary sacrifice and God’s glory.
Therefore the same twofold challenge remains. Authority must be embraced in our concept of God’s love and glory, and yet never apart from them.
That obedience, discipleship and righteousness are intrinsic to walking in God’s glory and love should be entirely self-evident from the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. You have to trip over these issues every page or two in the New Testament while reading about God’s love and glory.
Death factors in also. We are exhorted to obey “unto death.” Death speaks to the depth of commitment God is looking for and expecting in our submission. He is not satisfied with lukewarm lip service to superficial practices that appear to fulfil His commands. Our obedience must cost us our lives daily.
Thus we see the connection of authority to all the other members of the Quad. Verse for verse, the scriptural exhortations to righteous obedience are perhaps the most prominent among all the teachings pertaining to the four elements. And, except for the exhortations on death, they are least respected and engender the most offense.
It’s easy to see that we really just want to embrace God’s positively experiential love and glory without the demanding elements of authority or death. What else would the flesh want under the glory cloud? But God does not enter into meaningful lasting relationship with us without all the elements in play.
- Correcting Authority in Isolation
But finally, as to authority, we must balance out with the opposite exhortation. It is that authority must not be promoted in isolation. This is the error of legalistic judgmental Pharisaism. Devotion to God’s authority must be expounded in complete context of love’s caring redemptive attitude, the willingness to sacrifice oneself in death on behalf of the disobedient, and all unto expansion of the brilliant divine union.
Judgmental legalism reflects the absence of love, sacrificial death and glory where authority standards are promoted. Righteousness is preached and obedience demanded for the sake of its own impersonal merits. Rules are rules for the sake of the rules.
This was what Pharisaism was all about, serving as the featured point of conflict between the Lord Himself and the world. Jesus preached the Quad, while singling out for contempt the pharisaic isolation of authority from the rest of the elements. This was the outstanding abuse at that time, and remains so in certain segments of the body of Christ.
Glory in Check
Like the first three pillar ideals, the ideal of glory is deeply and inseparably entwined with the others. Yet it also can suffer from neglect and/or standalone abuse. It is possible for us to forget God’s glory in our considerations of love, death and obedience. And it is also possible to have a skewed concept of God’s glory in isolation from the rest. So we must bring perspective on glory as well.
The glory of God is understood and manifested as His holy Life energy characterized by brilliance. This brilliance is at the core of God’s own Essence, described also as all-consuming Fire (Heb. 11:29) and as Light (Jn. 1:4,9,14; I Jn. 1:5; Rev. 21:23).
From this we can see that when speaking of God’s glory, we may alternatively refer to His Being as brilliance, light and fire.
Beyond the fact of brilliance, the idea of glory brings God’s centrality of Being to bear respecting all the other Quad elements and to all other things. Such centrality is modeled for us in creation by the solar system, where all things revolve around and are attracted to the light of the sun. Ascribing spiritual centrality to God’s brilliance is what we mean when we speak of “giving glory” to God.
- Embracing Glory’s Necessity through Understanding Its Nature
But is that all God’s glory is about—centrality of brilliance? In our recent commentary on “The Meaning of Glory,” we began understanding that, no, God’s glory is comprised of much more than this. It is comprised at its core of the relational divine union of the Father and Son, a union that is further comprised of what? You guessed it—love, death and obedience!
So through the previous article, we were already seeing the deeply personal, relational nature of God’s glory through Father / Son union. We described it as a fusionary supernova. Union and unity are thus also central to the meaning of glory. God’s glory expands through the developing unity fusion among the believers as already exists between the Father and Son.
And so, since that unity is based in the core “command” to “love one another,” and that to “die” for one another is the chief expression of such love commanded, we see how glory necessarily embraces love, death and obedience.
Conversely, we must equally realize that love, death and obedience must always and forever and without exception embrace God’s glory. The centrality of the Father / Son supernova and the purpose of its expanse must be embraced every time we are talking about love, or death, or obedience. All love must be in and for the glory of God. All sacrifice also. And all obedience. Thus Paul says, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
So, if God’s glory is not central to our love, or to our sacrifice or our obedience, it fails the test of answering to the love of God, to sacrifice that pleases God, and to obedience that God desires. Without the glory of God, we become central to our own love, sacrifice and discipleship. A huge no-no.
- Correcting Glory in Isolation
But now, even as we have covered the problem of neglecting the glory of God, we must also deal with the problem of exalting it in isolation from the other ideals.
The problem of isolating God’s glory from the Quad begins with our deficient concept of glory as nothing but brilliant centrality. We always talk about glorifying God merely in sterile terms of acknowledging His greatness, an acknowledgement to which we are duty bound. This concept is not much different than the Muslim concept of “Allahu akbar!”, i.e., “God is the greatest!” (So there! Take that!)
Such an impersonal concept is all the Pharisees understood when they swore at the man who had been born blind, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner!” (Jn. 9:24) They might have just as well shouted, “Allahu Akbar!”
This dead misconception of glory is also responsible for the gnawing bothersome thought in our human hearts, “Why does God always want to get all the glory all the time? That’s like just so much unabashed self-centeredness.”
(As a twelve year old, I had an unsaved friend ask me that very question: “Isn’t God just a self-centered egotist by demanding to be glorified? What’s the difference?”)
These ideas of impersonal self-centered “greatness” falsely caricature the glory of God. But they exist because our concept of glory is divorced from the Quad. God wants to correct our attitude and beliefs in ascribing greatness to Him.
Summing Up the Quad in the Mission of Christ
The Son came in obedience to demonstrate the love of God through death unto the enlarging of His brilliant glory union with the Father—a union to be extended by reproduction within and among His reborn Children. This is the full meaning of the words, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…..”
God gave through death. The Son obeyed the Father unto death. All this was love. And the ultimate result was that God was glorified—i.e., the holy divine union by which the entire universe was created and is held together was manifestly expanded into a new creation of regenerated spirits.
The young pastor of the local church we attend recently preached the following insightful remarks,
Jesus did not die for people but for the Father who loved people.... We can only become the extension of Jesus Christ if we do not act for the sake of people but the sake of the Father who loves people so much that He sent Jesus to die...We need to walk in obedience to the Father so that people can benefit....
He has it right. This was the mission of Christ.
So, in light of all we have been saying, can we see what Jesus did not come to do?
1. He did not come to “love on people.”
2. He did not come to exalt self-sacrifice and martyrdom.
3. He did not come to lay down a set of rules to be obeyed.
4. He did not come to ascribe objective greatness to His Father.
These are the ideas we arrive at when we separate out the core elements of the divine heart from one another. And the corrupt errors of humanist passionism, morbidity cultism, Pharisaism and Islamic-style praise flow from them.
We know Jesus came bearing the heart of the Father toward us. And we know that each of these elements belongs to that Heart. Yet not one of these in itself expresses His heart. And apart from the rest, each leads to a corrupted sense of relationship with the Father convincing us we are “doing God’s service,” when in truth, we are quite distant from His heart.
It will be tragic to wake up on the other side to find that God was not in your unconditional loving of people, that He was not in your sense of self-sacrifice for the Gospel, that He was not pleased with your obedience to Old Covenant laws or New Testament principles, and/or that He never recognized your ascriptions of “Gloria Patria.”
The Father desperately longs to bring us into the wholeness of the Quad. It is very hard to overstate this desire when we see how much time was spent and space given in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles to explaining the inter-networked relationship of these divine heart elements.
The more we meditate on these things, the more the Holy Spirit will do to bring us into the perfection of their totality. Isn’t that after all what we are after—the complete heart of God in the image of Christ?
That is what this ministry, anyway, is all about. And I offer this teaching to the body of Christ as a grid for our self-examination on the road to our perfection.
A toast to expanding the Father’s love, death, authority and glory in all of us,
New Meadow Neck, Rhode Island
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created December 18, 2017