Holiness, Glory, Mission

1. Conviction: that God’s purposes in mission for the church in Perth at the local, national, and global, level are tied to an explosion of intercessory worship.

2. Hypothesis: that the union of the vertical (worship) and the horizontal (mission) comes through a revelation of the glory of God in Christ.

3. A Key Biblical Example: The Call of Isaiah

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people…” (Isa 6:1-9)

a. the context: temple as place of worship; smoke = divine glory cf. Isa 4:5; Rev 15:8 and is the immediate consequence of the seraphim’s songs of praise.

b. the expression “the Lord of hosts” communicates that Isaiah has entered the glory cloud and is participating in the divine council cf. Jer 23:18, 22; Amos 3:7.

c. the centre of the scene is the proclamation of God’s holiness: holiness is glory concealed, glory is holiness revealed.

d. even though “the whole earth is filled with God’s glory”, in this atmosphere Isaiah does not feel so filled, rather he feels ritually unclean, unfit for the presence of God and self-condemned.  He turns radically inward.

e. he is ashamed of the loss of the glory of God cf. Rom 3:23, deeply aware he is unable to communicate God-likeness he cannot join in the proclamation/praise of the holy angels. (n.b. tongs  even seraph’s hands cannot touch the vessels/sacrifices of God.)

f. God acts in sovereign grace.  The coal from the sacrificial altar has the power to atone for his rebellion and transforms the prophet into a true worshipper (John 4:24). Holiness must first evoke guilt in order to bring cleansing and forgiveness (which is not the same as release from inhibitions).

g. freed from self-consciousness Isaiah is commissioned as part of the heavenly council. The “who will go for us” involves God in partnership with the angelic host declaring his glory in all things (e.g. Ps 89:7; 1 Ki 22:19-22; Dan 4:13 etc.; Mark 13:27). Such worship is not something reserved for a special place, but is to penetrate every place.

i. taken into the divine council and the glory cloud the prophet goes forth to proclaim the Word of God. Sensing his indebtedness to the redeeming and restoring power of God he is filled with overwhelming joy. “But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.” (Jer 23:22).

j. those touched by God desire nothing higher than the communication of his glory. “Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!”(Ps 72:19). Participation in the glory cloud always leads to witness.

4. All is Fulfilled in Christ

a. John equates the impact of the ministry of Jesus with the call of Isaiah, “Isaiah said these things [Isa 53:1, 6:10 cited in John 12:38,40] because he saw* his glory and spoke of him.”(John 12:41)

b. in Johannine language Isaiah saw the glory of the Word in his holiness as a Son who essential communicated the glory of his Father:

i. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God πρὸς τὸν θεόν “face to face”/”look to,” and the Word was God”  (John 1:1) Jesus sees the Father/is in the presence of the Father (John 17:5) in eternity.  This is a statement about complete intimacy in God.

ii. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen* his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  In the ultimate act of holiness, the Son separated himself out from heaven to God to enter into our humanity in order to destroy sin. The revelation of the holy act of Incarnation is the manifestation of the glory of God as Father and Son – something that the Old Testament prophets could not see cf. 1 Pet 1:10-11.

c. it is Jesus, not our  acts of worship, our worship experiences or our efforts, that is our focus. The centre of the adoration of Jesus is the ultimate act of the cross. Cf. the material in Rev 5 discussed in the last teaching, Prayer and the Prophetic Presence of God.

5. Intercessory Worship and Mission in the New Testament 

“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers… 2 While they were worshiping the Lord [Jesus] and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” (Acts 13:1-2)

a. this text is a model for any church in a city that desires to be a sending church

b. as the church sets itself apart to God in worship-prayer, it lives true to its identity as the holy Bride of Christ, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:25-27; Rev 19:8).

c. consequently, the Holy Spirit commands the church “set apart for me” apostles for the work of mission in proclaiming Christ.  This is a partnering with the Spirit in his essential ministry, “He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14-15)

d. in the experience of the church, this is an intensification of God’s holy presence (root word qdsh means “to cut” i.e. separate out) and so a participation in his glory.

e. to send forth in the power of the Spirit is to be united with Jesus in the holiness of his sacrificial service, “Sanctify them  in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent* me into the world, so I have sent* them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:17-19)

f. under such conditions of manifest holiness, glory will be radiated into the world (Acts 13:48; 15:9; 2 Cor 3:8ff; 4:4 ff; 8:23; 1 Pet 2:12etc.)

g. to communicate and effect participation in the glory of God is the ultimate purpose for all mission cf. Isa 43:6-7 “I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth,7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”” 

6. Living Out the Reality of Mission in All Things 

a. all reality by its nature proclaims the power and eternity of God who created and sustains it (Isa 6:3; Ps 19:1f, Rom 1:20)

b. this is true not only of the Father and Spirit but of the God-man Christ Jesus (John 1:3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:3)

c. through the atonement all reality has been sanctified/hallowed to God in Christ ,“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Col 1:19-20).  This means that his glory can be revealed to all in every place, “glory is holiness revealed”.

d. Jesus blood takes us/keeps believers in the constant presence of God wherever they may be in the world (Eph 1:3; Col 3:1-3; Heb 10:19-22, 12:22-24)

e. given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18), Jesus manifests the truth of the divine glory through the church’s proclamation of the gospel of God’s kingdom come with power (cf. Eph 1:22-23)

f. to proclaim and communicate this glory in all things is the reason for mission

h. Christians confidently go into the world sanctified in the presence of God in Christ, who is presently filling all things (Eph 4:10)

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