Category Archives: Salvation by Faith

Why I Envy the Homeless—They Don’t Hear That “Little Voice”

My wife and I spent part of Monday at the Ventura County Fair. The fair grounds are adjacent to Ventura Beach and about a half a mile from the Ventura Pier, so after a few hours touring exhibit halls, looking at farm animals, and watching a pig race, we took a walk on the beach. As we walked, we passed several homeless people. Some were asking for money, others were sleeping under the palm trees, and still others were conversing with their friends. I felt something I often feel when I see homeless people: envy. No, I don’t envy everything about their condition, and I know that my envy is based on a superficial understanding of their condition. I envy their apparent carefree attitude.

Here is what I imagine it’s like: They don’t have to report to work or worry about a superior’s evaluation. The clock doesn’t control their lives. It doesn’t matter what time of day or what day of the week it is. The tasks they need to accomplish are simple. They are not obsessed with building a career or pleasing clients or producing a product. They are not burdened with social, family, or professional responsibilities. The expectations of others do not trouble their minds. They don’t seem to be worried about their appearance. The prospect of success or failure doesn’t shadow every move they make. Most enviable of all, I imagine that they do not experience this little voice inside their minds that never stops whispering, “Aren’t you supposed to be doing something? Have you fulfilled your responsibilities? What have you forgotten? Couldn’t you accomplish more? Have you done anything today that matters?”

Of course, I don’t really want to be homeless, and I would not trade places with them. I have what most people consider the marks of success: financial security, a job I love, good friends, professional respect, a wonderful family, a nice house, and reliable cars. And I don’t want to give these things up, and I don’t want to be irresponsible. And yet—here is why I am envious of the homeless–I have to admit that I have not learned how to deal with that anxious voice I mentioned above. It doesn’t want me to relax. It sets unrealistic expectations, and it keeps moving the bar. No matter how much I do and no matter how well I do it, the little voice is never satisfied. It never says, “That’s enough for today.”

Does anyone else experience the oppressive little voice? I’ve tried to deal with it by reasoning with it. I tell it that it expects the impossible. No human being can do every good thing imaginable and do it all perfectly! You need to find a healthy balance between work and recreation. “Good enough” is good enough! Things don’t have to be perfect to be effective. As reasonable and persuasive as these arguments sound, they are not completely effective in stilling the little voice…because the little voice doesn’t get its thoughts from reason, so it doesn’t listen attentively to reason. The little voice always finds a way to evade reason. It can always reply, “How do you know when you’ve done enough? Where is the “balance” between work and relaxation? When is it good enough?”

If reason and common sense fail to still the little voice, perhaps reason informed by faith can succeed? As a Christian thinker I am driven to explore the resources of my faith to deal with this problem, and I believe I find help there. But first we have to consider whether faith may actually contribute to the problem. What I mean is this. I am totally convinced by Paul’s argument that because of God’s grace shown in Jesus Christ we are accepted by God on the basis of our empty-handed and humble faith in Jesus. As far as I am aware, I am not trying to be good enough to earn God’s love and forgiveness. I know this is impossible.

But I do believe I am obligated to use my life, my energy, opportunities, my talents, and my time to do God’s work in the world. And the little voice won’t let me believe I am actually doing a good job of this. Perhaps, the little voice doesn’t accept Paul’s teaching that we are saved by faith and not by the works of the law. Or, it may fear that if I begin to think I am doing enough and doing it well enough, I will become proud and self-righteous. Or, it may think that if I relax I will become lazy and presumptuous.

In the coming weeks and months, I want to explore the teachings of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament for help with this problem—my problem. Here are some ideas that may be relevant: (1) We are responsible to God only for the assignments he gives us, and God does not give impossible assignments. (2) We may need to stop trying to evaluate ourselves. Instead, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. We are not good judges of ourselves. (3) God does not depend on me (on us) to accomplish his will. God will not fail just because you forget something. (4) Don’t expect to see the final result and value of your work in this life. Leave that to God. (5) God gives us work to do on a daily basis. Don’t expect God to lay before you a detail plan for your life’s work. It’s amazing what new and unexpected opportunities arrive with no advanced notice!

Yes, I envy the homeless for the carefreeness. But their carefreeness seems to be the result of their abdication of all responsibility. And I don’t envy that. What I really want is a carefreeness based on trust in God’s grace and power, a carefreeness in work and recreation, in friendships, in the routine business of life, and above all in acts of love for others.

Paul—Persecutor, Apostle, Martyr

The following are the words I shared this morning with the University Church of Christ, where I attend. They fit quite well, I think, within this year’s theme of “love not the world.”

Aristotle’s description of the Great-Souled man

In his works on ethics, Aristotle describes various human qualities, virtues, and personality types. The one I find most interesting is what he calls the “Great-Souled” character. In modern translations, the Greek word for “great-soul” (megalopsychos) is often translated “magnanimity,” which derives from a Latin term that also means great-soul. But in modern English the word magnanimity means (excessive and unexpected) generosity.  And that is not what Aristotle means.

Aristotle says the Great-Souled (G-S from now on) man “seems to be the one who thinks himself worthy of great things and really is worthy” (EN 4.3). He is capable of great deeds and knows he is capable. He deserves great honor and knows it. He possesses great energy and ambition. He is willing to suffer greatly for a great cause. In Aristotle’s words, the G-S man “is unsparing of his life, since he does not think that life at all costs is worth living.”

But his great failing is measuring his greatness by what his country or city or community values most. Aristotle says that honor is the greatest of all external goods (EN 4.3). So, above all things, the G-S man seeks the honor and glory he thinks he deserves. And since he knows he is worthy of great honor, he is prone to be intolerant of insult and to explode in great anger when deprived of the honor he knows deserves. (For more on this subject, see Jacob Howland, “Aristotle’s Great-Souled Man,” Review of Politics, 64.1 (Winter 2002): 27-56.)

Paul as the Great-Souled Man

My assignment today is to survey the career, character, and message of Paul the Apostle. By any measure Paul was a great man. But I think we can gain greater insight into Paul by viewing him through the lens of the G-S character type. That’s what we will do this morning.


From Acts, we learn that Paul was a citizen of Tarsus. Tarsus was the capitol city of a region called Cilicia in Asia Minor (Modern Turkey) and a regional center of learning. It was home to several famous Stoic philosophers contemporary with Paul. We are pretty sure that Paul came from a moderately wealthy family, because only people of some wealth could become citizens of Tarsus. In Acts 22, we learn that, though he was born in Tarsus, he was brought up in Jerusalem and studied under Gamaliel, the most famous Rabbi and teacher at that time.

Paul describes himself in Philippians as a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (3:5), that is, ultraorthodox and extreme. And in Galatians, chapter one, he describes himself this way (1:13-14):

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

Paul was a highly talented man and very ambitious to do great things and receive great honor. But he sought to do great things as measured by what the sect of Pharisees considered great. And his ambition for greatness among the Pharisees led him to become a persecutor of Christians.

The Persecutor

Paul viewed the rise of Christianity as a great threat to Judaism and to his community. For Paul, Jesus was a deceiver and his disciples were heretics! After all, Jesus was tried in the Jewish Court, convicted of blasphemy, and crucified by the Romans as a rebel. He could not be the messiah as the Christians claimed! Paul was outraged at this insult to God, the law, the temple, and Judaism—and to himself!

Paul is first mentioned in Acts as participating in Stephen’s murder and then as the designated inquisitor to arrest disciples in Damascus and bring them to Jerusalem to stand trial. Acts 9 describes him as “breathing out threatenings and slaughter.” He was the Great-Souled man at his worst.


But Saul, the Great-Souled man, met Jesus on the road to Damascus. What an unlikely convert! And what a transformation! The chief inquisitor becomes the apostle to the world for all time! What he took as blasphemy, he learned was God’s deep truth. What before looked like weakness now appears as divine power! Human folly has become divine wisdom. Shame becomes glory and insult honor. Everything in Paul’s world has been turned upside down.

His former great cause, his great ambitions, and his great accomplishments, he now considers “as garbage” (Phil 3:8) compared to knowing Christ. His legal scrupulousness, his sincerity, and his zeal for God’s honor, he now calls “the flesh,” mere human pride in oneself (Phil 3:3).

But Paul has not ceased to be the G-S man. All his enormous energy and ambition was brought into the service of Christ. He is still capable of great things and knows it. And he knows how to brag about it, as you can see in 1 Cor. 15:9-10:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

And in 2 Cor 11-12, he gives two chapters to “bragging” about his work:

Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.

As you can see, Paul is still willing to suffer greatly for a great cause! And like Aristotle’s G-S man, “He is unsparing of his life, since he does not think life at all costs is worth living.” But Paul now measures greatness and glory and honor by another standard. It’s not the well-being of the city or the nation or of any other community or interest group or academic guild or profession or business or institution. Jesus Christ crucified and risen is the standard for human greatness, wisdom, and honor. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). He is what God would look like if God became a human being. And the Christian Great-Souled person wants to be as much like God as possible, which means to become as much like Jesus as possible. Listen to Paul’s words from Philippians 3:10-11:

 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Paul’s Gospel, Teaching and Theology

Paul’s message, teaching, and theology are shaped by his character and his experience on the Damascus road. He learned to his total surprise that he did not know himself or God; indeed, he learned that instead of loving God he hated him and that instead of being perfectly righteous he was the worst of sinners! And yet God chose him, called him, forgave him, and bestowed abundant grace and mercy on him. This experience humbled Paul and made him infinitely grateful. Hence…

Paul’s message was cross-centered and Spirit-empowered. It urges us to respond to God by trusting in the unbounded mercy and grace of God shown in Jesus Christ.

The Cross.

It should not be surprising that Paul’s gospel centered on the cross. Listen to 1 Cor 2:1-5:

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Before Paul’s conversion, the cross was the thing he hated most about Jesus and his followers. But meeting Jesus in the heavenly vision revolutionized his understanding of the cross. Now he sees it as a window into the heart of God. The law gives some insight into God’s justice, but the cross reveals a deeper justice, the secret of divine love. And it shows the way we must live in order to become like God.


Grace is the favor that moves God to extend mercy to us. Paul never ceases to be amazed that God loves him, that God looks on him with favor and extends his mercy to him. Paul knows from experience what happens when you measure yourself by a human standard and think that God also uses that standard! It leads to self-righteousness, blasphemy, and persecution. For all his legal righteousness and zeal for God’s law, Paul discovered he still needed infinite mercy! And Paul’s gospel shouts that we have no claim on God. If God favors us and accepts us, it is because of his sheer grace and mercy! Never ever think there is another reason! Paul makes this clear in Romans 3:21-24:

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Speaking of Faith and Trust…

Paul didn’t request a meeting with Jesus on the Damascus Road, and he knows that he didn’t deserve the mercy and forgiveness given him. But he believed the heavenly voice and trusted in God’s mercy. The gospel Paul preached is about the surprising thing God has done for us; it’s about his favor and mercy and forgiveness enacted in Jesus. The gospel urges us to believe and trust in God’s grace.

Faith is our acknowledgment that God’s is way ahead of us and that we want to catch up. It is our confidence in God’s love and mercy. Faith is our first positive response to God’s offer of salvation; it’s not the cause but the effect of God’s grace. Every other response to Jesus flows from faith and trust.

Faith is not some great, noble, and difficult act that sets us above others. No, not at all! Faith is the humblest, poorest, most empty-handed act we can do. It puts no confidence in our power or wisdom or goodness. It renounces all such claims and acknowledges that God alone is holy, that Jesus alone is Savior and Lord. It looks down on no one. It compares itself to no one. For it keeps its eyes fixed on Jesus.

The Unity of Jew and Gentile

Isn’t this amazing: Jesus called Paul the Pharisee, the ultraorthodox enforcer, to be the apostle to the “unclean” gentiles! And Paul took that mission with great seriousness. He resisted every attempt to force gentile Christians to keep the Law of Moses. In Christ, everyone, Jew and gentile alike, relates to God by faith and trust in God’s grace bestowed in Jesus, not by keeping the law. Paul sees the church as the fulfillment of the OT prophecies about the nations of the world coming to faith in Israel’s God and flowing into Jerusalem.

And the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ is one of his major concerns throughout the letters to the Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. You can see this issue surface especially in Romans, chapters 1-3 and 9-11. No one, gentile or Jew, can make themselves acceptable to God by keeping the law! So, Jews should not look down on gentiles because they don’t keep kosher or observe Sabbaths and other holy days! And gentiles must not look down on Jewish believers because they observe the law or because most Jews did not accept Jesus as the messiah. We are one body in Jesus Christ, as Paul says so eloquently in Galatians 3:26-29:

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

What makes us acceptable to God? What makes us children of God and heirs of the promise given to Abraham? On what basis should we accept each other? Everyone, Paul says, who in faith has been baptized into Christ is our brother or sister. They are God’s children, acceptable to God, heirs of the promise. We are united to each other in Christ, Paul says, so get used to it!

We must accept those whom God accepts, on the same basis God accepts them. It matters not your tribe, your nation, or your social status. It makes no difference whether your skin in pink, white, black, brown, yellow, or purple. It doesn’t matter where your ancestors lived, in the North or South or East or West. Young or old, educated or ignorant, rich or poor, from the city or from the country…It makes no difference. Languages don’t matter! In the church, every day is Pentecost! In the church, only one thing matters: how you stand with Jesus Christ. Do you rely on him completely as Savior? Do you give yourself to him utterly as your Lord?

The Spirit and the Law

To some people Paul’s talk of divine love, grace, and mercy, his insistence of faith as the proper response to grace, and his seeming criticism of the Law of Moses implies that we don’t need to make any effort to be good or to do good in the world. Apparently, Paul heard this kind of objection often. For in Romans, chapters 6-8, he responds to it at length. In 6:1-4, he says:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Where do we get the power for this new life? Paul’s answer is very clear: from God’s Spirit, which lives and works in all who are united to Christ! Listen to Romans 8:1-4:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c]And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

In faith, receive and trust in the power of the divine Spirit to change us, to transform us into new people. Through the Spirit’s power we become people who really do love God and our neighbors, who reject the way of the world, and allow the Spirit to place the life of Jesus into our spirits. You can’t do it. I can’t do it. The Law can’t do it for you. But the Spirit can.

Four Lessons

What can we learn from Paul, the Great-Souled man?

First, we need a Damascus Road experience. We need to encounter Jesus crucified and risen from the dead. We need to learn to see ourselves differently…not as those who “seem to be worthy of great things and really are worthy.” We need to stop measuring greatness by human standards and seeking honor from human beings. Ask yourself how much your search for acceptance, recognition, attention, honor, and glory from other people drives your life? What about us academics? Do we seek honor from our peers or from God? What about students? What about you professionals? What a difference it would make if we sought honor and glory and acceptance from God alone, and in relation to human beings sought only to do them good.

Second, we need to adopt God’s great cause, which is bringing the whole world into conformity with the pattern of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the place to start is with yourself. That is what Paul did.

Third, we need to understand that in union with Christ and through the power of the Spirit we are capable of great things and we will be made worthy of great honor. We do not have to be slaves to anger, greed, lust, pride, and a host of bad habits. You can be transformed into a patient, loving, disciplined, generous, and wise person. We can be a light in the darkness. There is no greater accomplishment than becoming like God as God is seen in Jesus. And there is no greater power for good in this world than living such a life. No one acting as a warrior or persecutor or politician or academic can do such great things or deserved so great an honor.

Fourth, don’t delay. Resolve today to place your biography, character, and experience—no matter what it is!—in God’s hands. Do what Paul did. In faith, accept God’s grace and make that clear to everyone by submitting to baptism into Christ. God used Paul to do great things and he can use you! God alone decides what things are truly great and deserve honor. And you don’t have to be extraordinary in the eyes of others to do them.

I will conclude with the words of Jesus in Matthew 20:25-28:

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

What Has FAITH Got to Do With Salvation?

In recent essays we considered how God deals with three aspects of the sinful human condition through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Jesus enacts God’s forgiveness in his dying on the cross, and in the resurrection of Jesus by the power of the Spirit, God heals the damage and death sin causes. The power by which God raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us to a new life free from the power of sin. But how does God’s work in Jesus Christ affect us here and now?

In addressing these questions we must keep two things in mind. (1) The New Testament sees Jesus Christ not only as the Savior but as the first truly saved human being. His action is not only divine but also human. His acts of obedience were not only righteous as divine but also as human. Jesus Christ was one of us as well as one of the Trinity. Hence we can say that one of us, flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, lived a righteous life completely pleasing to God. With God all things are possible! What God did for Jesus he can do for us through Jesus! (2) The New Testament sees the salvation that God enacted in and through Jesus as the realization of God’s eternal plan for creation. Jesus’ human salvation, that is, his deliverance from the deadly consequences of sin (other people’s sin) and his glorification, happened to him alone. And it happened to Jesus before the end, before it happens to the rest of creation. Jesus is the first of a future, new humanity.

How, then, does what God did in Jesus affect us? How do I begin to experience the salvation that Jesus experienced? First, consider that the salvation described in the New Testament involves objective and subjective elements. Salvation involves the whole person, and our existence is comprised of conscious and unconscious dimensions. God could forgive (that is, not take revenge for sin’s insult) and prevent the worst consequences of sin from running their course even if you were unaware of it. But you cannot stop sinning and come to love God and your neighbor without consciously willing to do so. Salvation involves liberation of the will, so that we truly will God’s will above our own private interests. Or, let me put it another way: no one can be saved apart from their own knowledge and will, without their own active participation. You cannot unwillingly or unconsciously love God or become holy or experience glorification.

The New Testament message proclaims that we can enjoy the salvation that has appeared in Jesus Christ. It is not meant for him alone. God unites us to Christ and we join ourselves to Christ so that his qualities become ours and we enjoy the salvation he experienced. (Note: God’s grace always precedes and empowers our action, but our act is really ours.) God has demonstrated in Christ that he does not want to take revenge on us. Instead he wants to heal and liberate us. And the power for this healing and liberation is at work in the sphere of Christ and the Holy Spirit. And we need access to that power and presence.

The most basic act by which we join ourselves to Christ is faith. It’s not love or obedience or repentance or any other subjective act of our wills. Of course, faith implies all of these virtues, but the New Testament places the priority on faith. Faith is such a rich concept that I can only begin the plumb its depths. There is a mysterious side to the act of faith because, apart from the preaching of the gospel and work of the Spirit, faith in Christ as Savior and Lord would be impossible. But I want to concentrate in this essay on the visible, human side of faith.

For many reasons, faith is a fitting human response to God’s work in Jesus Christ. (1) Faith is an act of knowing. It embraces the apostolic testimony to Jesus Christ as the truth. By believing the apostolic witnesses, it gains access to the knowledge that God raised Jesus from the dead and to other aspects of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. This knowledge enables us to think of God, pray to God, obey God, and direct our love to God as we see him in the face of Jesus Christ. The act of believing is already the beginning of our transformation. It changes what we think of God and allows us to direct all our energies toward the true God. God is always near, the risen Jesus Christ fills the universe, and the Spirit is closer to us than our own spirit whether we know it or not. But in faith we come to know his true identity and the true depth of his love for us.

(2) The act of faith is acknowledgment. Faith acknowledges its poverty, its total dependence on God for everything good. Faith is not an adventurous act of human discovery, a brilliant insight into the nature of things, or an exceptional act of righteousness. It is a humble admission that God is God and we are not and that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord; we cannot save or rule ourselves. (3) Faith is affirmation. The act of faith not only admits that God is God, it joyously affirms this and celebrates it. Faith affirms that the distinction between the Creator and the creature is good and right. The believer finds his/her joy in being a creature given existence by the Creator and a sinner saved by the Savior.

(4) Faith is an act of trust. It takes the promise of the gospel as certain. In faith, we embrace the word of Jesus Christ as completely reliable. We believe he will forgive us, heal us, and purify us. He will deliver us from death. (5) Faith is an act of certainty. Faith embraces Jesus Christ wholeheartedly and confidently as the truth about God and human destiny. Hence it inspires bold action. It gives rise to courageous acts of love, forgiveness, repentance, obedience, grace, and holiness.

(6) Faith is an act of uniting ourselves to Jesus Christ. In saying this I am returning to the theme of the first half of this essay. If we are to benefit from Christ’s salvation, we must be united to him and receive the divine power at work in him. Jesus Christ is not merely a historical figure about whom we have some information. He is alive. In the power of the Spirit, he is present and active everywhere. But Jesus speaks to us today through his words and deeds that are remembered and preached by his apostles. By believing, we know he is alive and available to us. We know who he is, what he is like, how much he loves us, and what he has promised us. When faith listens to the words of the gospel, it hears the voice of One alive and present.

By the time you read these words of mine, my act of saying them will be past. Nevertheless by reading them you will be joining your mind to my mind, your heart to my heart. Even when we read the words of someone long dead we have a feeling of understanding and knowing them. But Jesus is not dead; he is alive. His words remain his living voice. They are not echoes from the past but trumpet blasts in the present. And through his living voice we have fellowship with him, mind to mind and heart to heart. In this conversation we find ourselves united to him through faith. In view of these thoughts perhaps the words of John may take on a meaning we had not perceived before:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3).