Experiencing the mysterious self-revelation and self-communication of God

“I can’t explain it,” someone says after the worship service, “but I just know that something happened today while we were [fill in the blank here – singing, praying, testifying, listening to the sermon, etc.], and I had the distinct sense that God was in it, and that I could almost feel His presence!”

It might have been during a particularly dramatic service, or surprisingly, it might have been in a ‘regular’ meeting in which nothing particularly dramatic had been presented. Or perhaps it was in a prayer meeting, or in small group, or even while reading or praying alone at home, or while talking about God with a friend over coffee. Or a person might experience such feelings in the course serving and attending to the needs of others.

What happened? Was it just our imagination – just emotions? And since we can’t seem to explain exactly what occurred, was it real, or just a warm fuzzy feeling? We like logic and want to be sound-minded. Shouldn’t we be able to describe what happened?

Well, no, not always.

What we may be experiencing is the mysterious self-revelation and self-communication of God to us in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. Some of the greatest Christian minds of our time (Barth and T.F. Torrance) remind us that that when we know the love of God through the grace of Jesus in the communion of the Holy Spirit, we know far more than we can actually grasp or express. And such knowing may occur as we actively participate in mission and worship, as Elmer Colyer points out in How to Read T.F. Torrance (2007, Wipf & Stock Publishers).
For Torrance, we know God through evangelical (from the Father through the Son in the Spirit) and doxological (in the Spirit through the Son to the Father) participation in the gospel.

Torrance argues that the Holy Trinity can only be known evangelically and doxologically, in a transformative encounter with the love of God through the grace of Christ and in the communion of the Holy Spirit which includes personal faith, thanksgiving, worship and prayer, first in the vicarious humanity of Christ and then in us (p. 287).

In Torrance’s theology God is intrinsically knowable, for the Word of God incarnate as Jesus Christ inheres in the being of God. Yet this self-revelation and self-communication of God to us through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit is an astonishing and inexhaustible mystery.

God does not simply reveal a proposition about God to which we assent. What the living God gives to us is a Self-revelation and Self-communication through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit which reconciles us, redeems us from our sin, and radically transforms us from unbelieving, self-centered and ungrateful sinners into children of God.

God does all this only through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit who unites us to Christ in Christ’s oneness of being, knowing and loving with God the Father so that we share at least in some degree in God’s own self-knowing and self-loving. Torrance describes this as a kind of ecstatic passion, for what we know of God is an inexhaustible mystery, the inexhaustible mystery of the Trinity so replete in depth and breadth of content that we cannot master and capture it within the confines of our concepts. We come to know far more of God than we can tell.

In all of our theological inquiry into the Trinity, Torrance contends that we have to acknowledge this implicit, informal, inarticulate, inexhaustible element (which is cognitive but not reducible to propositions) of God’s self-revelation and self-communication through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit which engenders our faith, love and worship, and which ought always to keep our statements and concepts open to the inexhaustible mystery of the triune God (p. 288).


Jerome Ellard said…
Good stuff, Mike! A Trinitarian understanding of worship is wonderful! Liberating, enriching and so much more dynamic than I ever thought it could be! Are you going to be at the conference?
Mike Hale said…
Thanks Jerome. Yes, I'll be there, as will Higher Ground.

Appreciate your comment here, and, Amen - it is astonishing, liberating and humbling to know that the Living Lord has encountered us on his own terms and in ways that are both experiential and actual, and in Spirit has, as Andrew Puves says, 'enfolded us into the Father-Son relationship.'

Words fail us as we try to describe the ways in which God graciously imparts himself to us. But in worship we are blessed to both take part in and point to the loving communion that is so much more than mere statement and concept.
Mike Hale said…
You might be wondering who this Mr. Puves guy is....well, as some have guessed, there was a missing 'r' in the hastily typed comment, and the reference is actually to Andrew Purves.

His book "The Crucifixion of Ministry" has been a blessing to many, and his latest book "The Resurrection of Ministry" has just been released. I think his material is quite encouraging for all types of ministries, including for worship leaders, and I plan on sharing some of his latest insights in coming days.
fecrisfella said…
Jesus is our Worship Leader.
In my old church, we call the person that "leads" the Praise and Worship Group the Worship Facilitator. Together with a small group, Praise and Worship Team, he/she encourages the full participation of the congregation during the worship through singing.
The Worship Facilitator and the members of the small group pray and even fast sometimes in choosing the songs for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. That moment is the beginning of worship that is carried on to the following church service that weekend to be joined in by the believers.
We believe, and we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ as we approach the throne of God the Father and we know that the Father sees Jesus not us for we are covered by His Precious Blood.
It was difficult at first for me to sing the song with lyrics "We lift up our holy hands..." because I didn't quite understand or grasp that we are not worthy of His presence neither worthy to call Him Father until we believed in His Son. When we believed and accepted His Son as our Savior,and when the Father looks at us at the time we worship Him, He sees not us , but He sees Jesus. That "self-revelation and self-communication" was manifested in me during a praise and worship service through one of the songs that says, " When He looks at me, He sees not what I used to be but He sees Jesus". Praise God! Thank you, Father!