What Does Faith Guarantee?

This post is the seventh and final look at the Holy Spirit-inspired theology of Thomas Aquinas. I hope that you have enjoyed the richness of his insights…

What does faith guarantee? The application of it results in unwavering hope:

Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality – faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]. Heb. 11:1 AMP

Hope is based on faith in things unseen. Aquinas puts it this way: …even when we have faith, there still remains in the soul an impulse toward something else, namely, the perfect vision of the truth assented to in faith…among the various teachings of faith there is one according to which we believe that God exercises providence over human affairs. In consequence of that belief, stirrings of hope arise in the soul…

After all, we could not have hope if we did not have faith in that God cares about us, and that His word is inviolate (where we search to strengthen that hope):

…by two unchangeable things [His promise and His oath] in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled [to Him] for refuge would have strong encouragement and indwelling strength to hold tightly to the hope set before us. Heb. 6:18 AMP

We exercise this hope in prayer – a necessary exercise in order to petition God for having our hope fulfilled. It is a divine conversation between His Spirit and our soul:

“Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.” Mt. 7:7 AMP

Christ Himself gave us a template for prayer content, (commonly referred to as the ‘Lord’s prayer’), for constructing a powerfully effective way to convey our hope to our Father, wrapped in our faith that Jesus, the Author and Finisher of that faith, so generously laid upon us.

We can bathe in our hope, assured in our faith that God can and will answer our prayers if we do our best to walk in His ways:

Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. Is. 59:1 NLT

The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. James 5:16 CSB

So, because prayer is so important, Aquinas offers his insights as to why Jesus choose His particular script for praying:

“Our Father in heaven…” Mt. 6:9 NKJV

Firstly, we consider God as our Father because we are His children:

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ… Rm. 8:16, 17.

And if we are also heirs, then there must be a divine endowment:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept in the power of God through faith for salvation… 1 Pt. 3 – 5. NKJV

If that’s not a hope-builder, I don’t know what it.

Approaching God as our ‘Father’ also brings a declaration of our intimacy with Him, which increases our hope through our prayer:

…He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…’For we are also His offspring.’ Acts 17:27, 28. NKJV

And we say ‘our’ Father as opposed to ‘my’ Father, so that our prayers include our brothers and sisters in Christ:

…we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Rm. 12:5 NKJV

In that same opening sentence, we include ‘in heaven,’ to remind us how BIG our God is, that there is nothing that He cannot accomplish. It also brings to the fore that our petitions must align with God’s heavenly words if they are to be answered. Finally, we recognize that our prayers come before God in heaven itself – where they stay.

“…your name be honored as holy.” Mt. 6:9 CSB

This being the second half of the first prayer sentence, is befitting the first of the Ten Commandments – to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. It is a demonstration of our reverential esteem for our Creator. It also reminds us to honor our ‘Great Commission’ by bringing the gospel to as many as we can – both by speaking it and by being a living example of the best holiness that we can muster, thereby glorifying God.

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Mt. 6:10 CSB

This is a petition of hope that we might share in the glory of God’s kingdom – the presence of which brings happiness and peace that transcends anything the world has to offer and is incorruptible and only made possible by forming a union with our Creator. It is an attainment of our divine perfection that is reflected in and eternal joy-filled life.

In that final state, we shall rest in immeasurable abundance, goodness and sanctuary:

“…all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.” Pr. 1:33 NLT

Thomas Aquinas rested with the Lord before he could finish Short Summa, (which would have undoubtedly contained the remainder of the Lord’s prayer), but the can be thankful for the blessings he left.

What he did leave us with was citations of these last two scriptures, which lovingly bolsters our faith and hope in that we can choose to be in God’s kingdom and He will make it so…

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” Lk. 12:32 NLT

I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place and I will do all my will. Is. 46:10 CSB

Goodnight and God bless.

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The Need for Christ

I hope that you are enjoying our foray through pieces of Thomas Aquinas’ Shorter Summa, this version being translated by Cyril Volkert, S.J. – this present post being the sixth in our examination.

The need for Christ actually began in the Garden of Eden…

Aquinas’ sets the stage: …man was originally constituted by God in such a condition that his body was completely subject to his soul.

Adam’s soul was a pure image of God, and thus his body was incorruptible – innocent before God, living in a harmony given by God. Aquinas’ refers to Adam’s state at this juncture, as ‘Original Justice,’ and it was to be promulgated through his successive descendants.

This however, was entirely contingent upon humanity’s continual obedience to God.

When Adam and Even broached God’s commandment not to eat the forbidden fruit, they transgressed the purpose of the prohibition, which was to remain obedient to God. The fruit itself was just the symbol of obedience, as long as it remained uneaten.

The affixed outcome was that our first parents were both exposed to evil and generated it themselves through their actions.

Satan was the agent behind their downfall. He, who had already succumbed to sin, was jealous of the high position that God held Adam and Eve in – whereby they possessed ultimate love, peace, happiness and immorality. But the devil also knew that they had been given free will. Thus, they had the potential to sin. Knowing this, Satan made preparations to thrust a spiritual dagger into God’s heart.

He promised Eve great, heretofore unknown, knowledge that would place her on a high station – supposedly level with God Himself. She then succumbed to her pride and covetousness, and fell under his sway.

Adam did not have the luxury of feigning ignorance. He was intimately acquainted with God and His dictates. He purposely transgressed them to feed his pride and covetousness as well.

In the very moment that they disobeyed God, their flesh was cut loose from the perfection of their soul and became corruptible, beginning the battle between the flesh and the spirit – ultimately resulting in death.

Moreover, they were separated from God and became more vulnerable to the devil’s suggestions.

All of these traits were handed down to all of us, and sin became rampant. Gone was the blessing of ‘Original Justice’ – replaced by the corruption of the ‘Original Sin.’

Unlike other sins, this original sin cannot be removed by man alone, regardless of the vigor of his repentance.

Yet God loves us so much that He made a way for our redemption, so that we may be reunited with Him. First, because God is just, He must mete out justice for sin. Someone had to pay for our sins. And so, God sent a part of Himself in His Son for HIs children’s justification and redemption:

No one has gone up to heaven, but there is One who came down from heaven, the Son of Man [Himself – whose home is in heaven]…so must the Son of Man be lifted up [on the cross], so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life [after physical death, and will actually live forever]. For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes and has decided to trust in Him [as personal Savior and Lord] is not judged [for this one, there is no judgment, no rejection, no condemnation]… Jn. 3:13 – 18. AMP

Aquinas adds this: …divine Wisdom, who had made man, took to Himself a bodily nature and visited man immersed in things of the body, so that by the mysteries of His bodily life He might recall man to spiritual life. Furthermore, the human race had need that God should become man to show forth the dignity of human nature, so that man might not be subjugated either by devils or by things of the body.

Jesus is our ideal example of everything God meant us to be.

That Christ took upon Himself our likeness is born out in the demonstration of His having had a soul, which displayed human-like moments of fear and sadness:

He was hated and men would have nothing to do with Him, a man of sorrows and suffering, knowing sadness well. Is. 53:3 NKJV

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour.” Jn. 12:37 NKJV

And yet Jesus is unique, because He possesses a soul, body and is part of the Godhead, (His divinity). He came to make us (those who willing choose to be) one with Him, through His salvation. God imputed to Jesus His divinity, whereas Mary imparted His human nature.

We see the divinity expressed in Christ through His miracles and His omniscience. Remember that Jesus is the Word of God:

For the word of God is living and powerful…and is a discerner or the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Heb. 4:12, 13. NKJV

In His humanness, Jesus had to be the perfect sinless Man, to be suitable as the Source of our salvation:

He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness]. 2 Cor. 5:21 AMP

His divinity also conferred upon Him His veracious wisdom and the grace of His Father, to make us pleasing to God, as well as to be unified with Him.

…Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Cor. 1:24 NLT

…Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge [regarding the word and purposes of God]. Col. 2:2, 3. AMP

Going back to the fact that Jesus had to be sinless, He would have to be free of the ‘Original Sin’ as well. And that original sin was passed down to us by the seed of Adam through the seeds of all men:

…through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation… Rm. 5:18 NKJV

Therefore, Christ could not appropriate any flesh instigated by the corrupt seed of man. Thus, God, who is the creator of all nature, supernaturally appropriated Jesus’ flesh through the Holy Spirit. As well, that flesh had to be appropriated from a woman, as she is the flesh-giver in maternity. And not just any woman, but one untainted by the male seed – a virgin – energized to conceive by the Holy Spirit:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son… Is. 7:14 NKJV

In order for Mary to be the perfect vessel for Christ, she herself would have to have been sanctified before the Holy Spirit stirred her flesh to bring forth life. Aquinas asserts that she must have been sanctified when she was in the womb, similarly to the prophet Jeremiah, which God revealed to him when He called Jeremiah to preach:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you…” Jer. 1:5 NKJV

God is ultimate justice. His charge against man demands ultimate and pure justifying satisfaction. That can only be satisfied by the sacrifice of one on His level, and there is only one – Jesus. God had to offer a part of Himself (Christ) to exact payment. Jesus willingly took on a mortal body to do so – to become potentially ‘sin-like’ (yet sinless):

There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death…by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us… Rm. 8:1 – 4. ESV

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us… Gal. 3:13 NKJV

Jesus stepped up to endure the sufferings that we rightly should have to endure – even death, though He Himself was faultless. He chose to die so that we might live a godly life, and to show us that there need be no fear in dying, because He’ll be waiting.

Adam sinned at the tree, Jesus was hung on one. When He died, His body-soul connection was severed; His body was indeed dead. However, both were still connected to the Spirit of Christ. Jesus’s soul then descended into hell:

“…so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Mt. 12:40 NKJV

Aquinas states that Jesus was freeing all the people in hell that were there solely because of the stain of the ‘original sin’ – establishing Him as the Savior of the living and the dead.

Christ was risen glorified and immortal. His sufferings brought us grace which means the atonement of sins for those who accept Him as their Savior.

Our glorified Savior showed Himself to many after His resurrection, where He was seen, touched, conversed with, shared meals with, passing through walls, and brandishing the scars of His impalement upon the cross.

What Christ’s followers gain, is freedom from the first death (body-soul separation) and from the second (separation from God, which is solely for those who refused Christ). Thus, we get both a physical and spiritual resurrection from the gift of Christ’s life, given for us, rendering us justified and sanctified.

Jesus is a lot bigger than we think:

“No one has gone up into heaven, but there is One who came down from heaven, the Son of Man [Himself – whose home is in heaven].” Jn. 3:13 AMP

Christ is like His Father, ever-present, everywhere. He was in heaven, hell and on the earth simultaneously.

At the end of time, all peoples are brought before the judgment seat of Christ – whose authority to judge is given by God:

“…He has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is a Son of Man [sinless humanity, qualifying Him to sit in judgment over mankind].” Jn. 5:27 AMP

Christ will appear in all His glory – a joy to His saints, a harbinger of dread to those that rebelled against Him. Everyone will answer for how they conducted their lives. Those who lived a life of faith will be with Jesus, rewarded for how they advanced the kingdom. The faithless will be sifted out for eternal punishment – never to see God, Jesus, or any goodness forever.

Jesus is with us in every aspect of our lives. All the good is found in Him. We need Christ…

Goodnight and God bless.

The Resurrection of Humankind

At the outset, I want to remind you that we are still looking through the lens of Thomas Aquinas’ interpretations of certain fundamental scriptures – this time, taking a glimpse of his views of our final destination.

Let’s begin with his premise:

Reunion with the body is requisite for the soul’s perfect happiness…the will cannot be perfectly at rest until the soul is again joined to the body. When this takes place, man rises from the dead.

Thus, all souls will be reunited with their bodies. Souls themselves are immortal and incorruptible, as they are incorporeal in their nature. And seeing how their bodies all degenerate to dust in death, the bodies cannot ‘rise’ in and of themselves for that body-soul reunion. It requires the resurrection power of God.

When this is accomplished, all the original people are resurrected for their date in eternity. In order to live out the eternal life, the body must be changed to become imperishable:

The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption…the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Cor. 15:42 & 52, 53. NKJV

This is true for everyone who has ever lived. Aquinas’ suggests that an incorruptible body no longer has the need for what sustained the corruptive, e.g. food, clothing or reproductive functions. Yet I will take solace at the prophet Isaiah’s Holy Spirit-inspired picture of one facet of heaven:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. Is. 25:6 ESV

(What can I say? It’s my human side.)

Given how God is making all this happen, the risen bodies will have no defects – no missing limbs, no blindness, disease, etc. (Is. 35:5, 6.)

At this point however, comes a great ‘sifting’:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:’” Mt. 25:31 – 34. NKJV

Those on the right hand of Christ are the children of God – those who accepted Christ as their Savior and did their best to live like He did. They will be rewarded with the ability to see God revealed in His essence, in the best understanding their finite minds can grasp the Infinite.

God’s children will be in the presence of ultimate goodness and love. All sorrow will be driven away, and they will live in perfect harmony, happiness and in complete satisfaction.

Their bodies will also take on spiritual qualities:

…it is sown a natural body [mortal, suited to the earth], it is raised a spiritual body [immortal, suited to heaven]. 1 Cor. 15:44 AMP

The children of God are thus prepared for their new environment, which is also incorruptible:

“Behold, I am creating new heavens and a new earth…be glad and rejoice forever over what I create…” Is. 65:17, 18. AMP

However, things don’t bode well at all for the people who refused Jesus as the Lord of their life, those who rebelled against God:

“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Leave Me, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (demons)…these [unbelieving people] will go away into eternal (unending) punishment…” Mt. 25:41 & 46. AMP

This is what Aquinas called the ‘final wretchedness,’ the end result of the practices of unrepentant vice – leading to ultimate unhappiness, completely and eternally separated from God, deprived of all goodness and love.

When death occurs, our souls are eternally ’set’ in the condition that it was in that moment – either for good or for evil.

Those who are condemned will still want to indulge in their vices, but that will not have that satisfaction. Moreover, they will be aware of the heavenly status of the children of God, even though they have no hope of ever reaching it.

Jesus illustrated this in a parable about the ‘rich man and Lazarus.’ Lazarus was a beggar who laid at the rich man’s gate begging for scraps of food. The rich man never came to his aid. When they both died, Lazarus went to heaven and the rich man to hell. Lazarus was comforted in the bosom of Abraham, but the rich man was tormented by fire. The rich man called out to Abraham for comfort, and Abraham answered:

‘…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, no can those from there pass to us.’ Lk. 16:26 NKJV

Judgment is forever as is the torment of the condemned:

“…look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched.” Is. 66:24 NKJV

“Wail, for the day of the LORD is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty…every man’s heart will melt, and they will be afraid…their faces will be like flames.” Is. 13:6 – 8. NKJV

The bodies of the condemned will feel pain, but remains corporeally intact, so that the process is continual. This eternal torment, which is fire-like yet does not consume, produces an agony which is spiritual in nature.

There is a hell folks. God has warned us about it for thousands of years. God is not about hurting people; it about His inviolate word and the part of His essence that is pure justices.

It sure makes a great case for staying on the right side of Him, yes?

Goodnight and God bless.

Can You Dissect God?

I think not, in a total sense. He is infinite in every way. We are finite on this earth:

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Is. 55:9 NKJV

Yet, God loves us so much that He gave us a huge picture of Himself (in the Bible and in His Son), which we can use. It takes a lifetime and more to get to know Him as well as we can. But that’s okay, because God wants to keep a running conversation with us so that He can continue to reveal Himself. (Joel 1:13; 2 Th. 3:1)

Some people throughout history, have devoted themselves to the pursuit of this increased knowledge – creating dissections of God and His designs, at least as far as a human can perceive. These people were and are deep thinkers, always waiting upon the Holy Spirit for revelation.

One such individual was a Christian monk in the 1500’s by the name of Thomas Aquinas (or Saint Thomas Aquinas for those of the Catholic persuasion).

I am not a fan of church denominations, but I believe that God will bless all who seek Him – especially those who whole-heartedly press towards Him. Tomas Aquinas was such an individual.

Today, we’re going to dip ourselves into the depths of his theological dissections to further enrich our understanding of God, as he understood, through his Holy Spirit inspirations – written in his book Aquinas’ Shorter Summa; a 1993 edition based upon a 1947 translation by Cyril Vollert.

Aquinas begins by examining the existence of God. He calls Him the ‘First Mover’ – the highest God that moves all other things; but concerning Himself, He is immovable.

“For I am the Lord, I do not change…” Mal. 3:6 NKJV

If God is immovable, then He exists just as He is, without change. Therefore, He is also eternal. There is nothing else He needs to be for Him to be complete; He just is. And if He just is, then He is outside of time: past, present and future exist simultaneously for Him.

If God is complete, then He is pure and indivisible. Thus, there is but one God.

‘I am the First and I am the Last; and there is no God besides Me.’ Is. 44:6 AMP

And if God is indivisible, He cannot have component parts, e.g. a body. He is pure Spirit.

“God is spirit [the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind]…” Jn. 4:24 AMP

If He is limitless, God is infinite, as well as is His power.

Given (through your faith) that God created and maintains the entire universe, He also must exist in a state of pure action; and that action is defined as existence.

Observing all of creation, we can see portions of God’s perfection in those creations. Thus, it is a given that God must contain the totality of His perfection, i.e. our God is perfect.

If God is infinitely powerful and perfect, He cannot make mistakes. And if infinite, He cannot be defined by His finite creations.

If God is perfect, then He is perfectly and most highly intelligent. He doesn’t have to cogitate, because He exists in a state of complete simultaneous understanding. God knows all things.

Finally, everything that we have seen about God is what comprises His essence. And God (this ‘first mover’) brings that essence to bear, through His will.

Whetting your appetite. To be continued…

Goodnight and God bless.