But is there not the worst of all dangers involved in such teaching—the danger of spiritual pride?” If there be, are we to refuse the spirit for fear of the pride? Here there is no possibility of comparison with one’s neighbor, for no one knows what the white stone contains except the man who receives it. Here is room for endless aspiration towards the unseen ideal; none for ambition. Relative worth is not only unknown; to the children of the kingdom it is unknowable. Each esteems the other better than himself. How shall the rose, the glowing heart of the summer heat, rejoice against the snowdrop risen with hanging head from the white bosom of the snow? Both are God’s thoughts, both are dear to him, both are needful to the completeness of his earth and the revelation of himself.
“God has cared to make me for himself,” says the victor with the white stone. “What matter whether I be called a grass of the field, or an eagle of the air? A stone to build into his temple, or a Boanerges to wield his thunder? I am his, his idea, his making; perfect in my kind, yea, perfect in his sight; full of him, revealing him, alone with him. Let him call me what he will. The name shall be precious as my life. I seek no more.”
PRIDE AND THE STRIVING OF THE FAVORITE
by Dave Roney
Whatever the “white stone” is, I think it no actual stone at all: As are words themselves, the stone is a symbol, standing for a true reality; if that be the case, then no more than is the word “stone” a real stone, neither is a real stone the reality our Lord intends but is a simple way for Him to relate to us a truth. What is real, or actual, in the verse is the “new name,” unique to every son and daughter of God, given by our Lord to each of the Father's children. But again, although He shall actually whisper a heretofore undisclosed name for His brothers and sisters, that name itself, and though it be a real and meaningful name, is itself yet a symbol of something real which it represents.
The figure of Lady Justice is portrayed as blindfolded, and in a world filled with broken people we understand why this is—but the Justice of God can never be blindfolded, must always see all things clearly from the beginning, is, then, Justice such as the world cannot now apprehend, only by shades and degrees approach to. And the giving of the white stone is the Justice of God; it is His evaluation, made fairly, made without the imparting prejudice of favoritism; in the world a father may, often does, overlook the failings of his child because it is his child and dear to him; not so with our God—He will render to every man according to his works.
Therefore, to accord this white stone, inscribed with a new name, a name known only between our Lord and the particular child of the Father, is a thing deserved, given without reservation, the signatory of accomplishment earned. There is, in contemporary theology, a dominant branch which teaches that the redeemed man has no true righteousness, that all his righteousness is Christ's, and that righteousness is imputed to the man. Thus, the man is in himself adjudged to be morally bankrupt. It is said by these that all a man's righteousness, be he sinner or saint—there is no differentiation made—is as filthy rags. But this dogma runs contrary not only to the simple teaching of Christ and the Apostles; it runs contrariwise, and abrasively, destructively so, to common sense. Every man's works shall be tried as by fire, and this unearthly stone will have been individually crafted, forged in the great Fire which is the heart of God.
And though this is not the place to digress into that doctrine, I will say that I want none of imputed righteousness but to have as my own real righteousness; that this is the plan of God for me, for all, to stand on our own legs and actually, really, do the things of Christ—and if a man is obedient to God, does it by his own free will to do the Will, could that be counted to him as anything less than true righteousness? It is the very core of His command; “Be ye holy for I AM holy” (1st Peter 1:16). So our righteousness is not imputed to us, that is, is not credited to us even though we do not actually have it; neither is it imparted to us, as a gifting of God, but is the result of our pursuit after God with all diligence, faithfully, obediently, confessing our sins, surrendering our will—by doing righteously, a man is then righteous. Or, if you like, by their fruits you shall know them, know who and what they actually are—whether or not, that is, they are righteous or unrighteous.
Some may think me brazen here, arrogant, filled with pride to have such an attitude, to hold to such a belief; let a man think as he wills to think, I make no attempt to convince him otherwise:
“But is there not the worst of all dangers involved in such teaching—the danger of spiritual pride? If there be, are we to refuse the Spirit for fear of pride?”
In my mind's eye I see the entire scene described by our above verse, and freely apply the metaphor as a mystical reality by my imagination, for by it I see more clearly than should I not. I see the Lord and me sitting on a rock, in a meadow, with trees and flowers abounding, a blue sky overhead, a gentle breeze wafting; He has His arm around my shoulder, draws me close, kisses my cheek and whispers in my ear; He is giving me my special name, known forever by only Him and myself, with His other hand He is slipping into mine a small white stone with the name blazoned upon it, scribed in fire by the finger of His Father and mine. I close my hand upon the stone and it disappears, somehow becoming a part of me, its substance spiritual, entering into my holy of holies, my heart.
Where is room for pride in this setting? This is love perfected, then in man as it ever is in God; it is not only fear which perfect love casts out, but pride as well, and every lingering fog of darkness, of sin, of brokenness. What shall He whisper in the voice of the Divine love bird? Will it not be “Well done My good and faithful brother, in you I am well pleased!” The Father is smiling, the Dove descending, the child embracing and being embraced by his Jesus. Where is pride? Away with it, with the very notion of it—we have no more room in our hearts for it than does the Lover of our souls. He is the self-forgetting, sacrificing, serving God of Love Whom we endeavor to be like.
Pride is the corrosive, destructive, slaying, nemesis of humility, the deadly poison of the spiritual; the One Who is The Humble hates it, has never a trace of it in Him; pride is contrary to His nature, therefore ours: It is parcel to the “old nature” which we first introduced into ourselves by avenue of our self-willing. Pride does not come in a single form; but pride always has this one thing at its head, it is selfish self-centeredness striving to be self satisfied, which is self aggrandizement, for what we have done or accomplished or are, and by extension applies as the same false self-authentication when another whom we champion rises to some achievement in which we delight. At even the trace of “I will this” (and the myriad ramifications of it) it rises up in a man and is more than mammon, as I think, the root of every evil and ill which befalls and ensnares our kind.
In a recent article titled What Makes God Proud, John Piper, one of the leading theologians of our day, wrote that “As risky as it sounds, does this not really mean that God might actually be “proud” to be called my God? Fortunately this wonderful possibility is surrounded (in Hebrews 11:16) by reasons: one before and one after.” His analysis is overreaching; in His mind God is more like Piper than Himself (he believes in what must be a very humanish god), he therefore attributes to God human qualities which are quite unlike Him. The verse he refers to says “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” which Piper extrapolates to mean that, since God is not ashamed of us He is, therefore, proud of us. This is an unwarranted stretch. It was Lucifer proud, not his Maker—find anywhere in the Writ where pride is attributed to God; it is not there.
If ever was a father who could be imagined to be proud of his son it would be our Heavenly Father for His only begotten Son, yet of the Son the Father's highest commendation is simply “well pleased.” Or, one might justifiably understand the Divine phrase to mean “I AM fully satisfied with My Son.” God is either pleased or displeased in all things; and, again, we must not for understanding of this use our human experience as the lens. When God is pleased it is in a dimension beyond our understanding, incorporating all which is good and glorious, the good and glorious being themselves the substance and also to our eyes the reflection of Who and What He is. C.S. Lewis, quoting MacDonald, wrote in “Mere Christianity” (pgs. 202-3) this:
“And yet – this is the other and equally important side of it – this Helper who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty… Every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in grown-up son. In the same way, he [George MacDonald] said, ‘God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.'” (Italics mine for emphasis)
In 1st Cor. 9:24 the Apostle uses an earthly example to teach a divine truth when he says “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” Among men is competition one with another, thus in the Olympiad of St. Paul's day there was only one runner to receive the olive wreath; not only that, but only the best runners could enter the competition, all others must be spectators. And, the ancient crowd in the hippodrome might salute their champion yet upon a whim or prompt call for the last runner to be set upon by the wild beasts. But in God's race there is no competition, it is as though every person is running on the track of life by himself, at the end of which stands our Lord holding a white stone. He is also running beside each of us, step for step, laboring as do we, panting, sweating, with us.
Why do I say these things? Laurel wreaths are in the eyes of God a form of wood, hay, and stubble; they will be consumed—the white stone speaks of that which is incorruptible and will not pass away. He is running with us? Yes, but in this manner; He calls all to take upon themselves His yoke, for it is easy, and His burden, for it is light—and this is how He is running with us in our race, doing what we are doing because, yoked together with Him, we are doing what He is doing, the twain as one. And can you see that He is not carrying us but we are actually running on our own legs toward the prize, His and the Father's, as well as the Spirit's, “high calling,” evidenced and rewarded by the “white stone” and the private, personal, unique, name scribed on it?
We shall at the end of our race fall into His waiting arms exhausted, threadbare and worn, and the Just God, Who is utterly fair, will say to us “Well done my good and faithful servant—in you 'I AM' is well pleased!” Our race, our labor, our striving for the mastery, is no imputation of righteousness but is real, it is ours, we will have done it not only in Christ, but with Christ, and He with and in us; even as the Father and the Son are “one,” so also we are coming toward, approaching, striving to be, one with the Son and, that most pleasing to God, one with the Father as well.
Shall every person eventually receive this white stone? Our Lord says it is for those who “overcome,” and of that I am sure; what overcome means I am not sure. My supposition is that it will happen, not for every person in the same moment, for some perhaps only after eons of time. I do not know; but by the time that time itself as we know it ends on some far date, by then I believe every person will have overcome that which he or she must overcome.
It will be no imputed overcoming but actual accomplishment, done by the overcoming person. And since every person is uniquely individual, that which one man may needs overcome will not be exactly what any other needs overcome; and the white stone is different for every person, as is the name on it. It may be that the uniqueness of the new name reflects not only the uniqueness of each person, but of each individual's specific overcoming as well.
Will every person receive a name which no other person has? I do not know, perhaps not—He only says that no other person knows the name. Whatever the new name is, it will be the dearest, most personal, to that person given it—in this world a mother may name her daughter Mary, and though there are millions of Mary's in the world, to that one mother, and to that one daughter, in a manner of speaking, there are no other Mary's—to that particular mother her Mary is special above all other Mary's. And so it might be with us and our Lord. He says the name is known only to the one receiving it; does He mean eternally so, or will a day, or an heavenly event, come forward when each person will announce to their brothers and sisters their private name? Perhaps—God is not a God Who conceals but is ever revealing more of Himself to us; it may be that we shall share our new name with our fellows, and rejoice one for another as we hear those names. I do not know.
I understand the words of our Lord in this verse from a mystical perspective; it is a method of expressing truth which demands imagination to be employed; by it mundane thoughts and commonly accepted understandings are often challenged, set in a higher plane, the spirit of a man freed to take its flight into the upper regions of God's truth, God Who has said some of His mind to us and given us minds to contemplate and understand His, to speculate, and even to adorn His words to us by our humble and Spirit guided attempts to better understand and communicate:
“I use the word mysticism as representing a mode of embodying truth, common, in various degrees, to almost all, if not all, the writers of the New Testament... A mystical mind perceives that the highest expression of which the truth admits lies in the symbolism of nature, and the human customs that result from human necessities, and so prosecutes thought about truth by dealing with the symbols themselves after logical forms.”
Therefore, take what is said by both God and man and find in the symbolism of words and objects the truth those words feebly attempt to express; feeble by God due to our limitations (He can speak no higher to us lest we be bewildered) and feeble by man who sees only dimly. And no two of us understand the words of either man or God in precisely the same manner. No two alike, yet all in One—and every one special, the favorite of God.
Thus we, each and all, strive for the mastery; we run in a common race but on individual tracks, never in competition with one another—each of us is especial in the eyes, mind, and heart of God, as though we were His only child, viewed by Him, in fact, after His manner of relationship with His only begotten Son. In a way far beyond our ability to understand it, we are each His favorite after the manner that Christ is His favorite—for, each of us, even as Christ Jesus, are one of a kind, unique, incomparable to any other. And it is by no false sense of pride that we understand how precious we are to Him our Father, and to Him Who washed us, and continues to wash us, in His own blood, and to the motherly loving help and guidance of the Spirit of God. Let us search even deeper into this mystery of Godliness if we are able; it is a plumbless, shoreless, ocean of Love, in the face of which we humble ourselves with gladness and joy, looking and longing for the Day when we finally see our Jesus face to Face...
What's In a Name?
by Dave Roney
No utterance coming from the lips of the creature is able to fully expound upon what first begins in and rises up out of the heart. I do not know, but I suppose the same may be true even of God: For, what He has to say in the Scripture, being first an oral, then a written, word of Him to us, could not adequately express or explain Him, was then made clear by a higher, living, Word; the very Son of the Most High being, as set forth by St. John, “The Word.” In the above verse the Greek has the definite article before “name;” it is τὸ ὄνομα (“the” name), indicating its specificity, that it is not to be confused with any other name but applies to only a single Person. To amplify on this specificity, and also to draw attention to the exalted nature of The Name, we read in Revelation 19:12 “...and He has a Name written that no one knows but Himself.” Is it written for Him on a Divine “white stone” even as the Lord will give to us (Revelation 2:17)? I do not know; I think in any case the “stone” is a metaphor which seeks to bring down a thought which is, for now, too glorious and too high for us.
When the author of Revelation says to us that “...no one knows [The Name] but Himself," it is understood that His Father is excepted; for it is the Father Who has given Him the Name, and not He Himself. The Holy Spirit is likewise excepted, for as a man speaks by his breath, so also does the Father speak by His Breath, and that which breathes out from Him, even as the Son was sent out from Him, is His Spirit. Thus, only God in full Triunity knows The Name which the Father has given the Son.
Of the Divine Attributes there are two types, those Communicable and those Incommunicable. As to the former, these are those which God shares with His creatures; the latter include those which He can not share with another. Among His Communicable Attributes are those such as the Divine Love, Patience, Wisdom, Righteousness, etc.; these He freely lavishes upon us; these are the ones by which He is able to share with us the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:4). Of those Attributes which are Incommunicable, such as His Eternality, Omniscience, Omnipotence, etc., He cannot share, for they lie solely within His domain. What is in The Name which He has bestowed upon His Son? It is, I think, a summation of everything about our Lord crystallized into a single word. Why is it that only Jesus knows The Name? It may be that it is so intensely personal that, for its preciousness, He will not allow another to enter into it; but I think that not the case. Rather, it is because and since it includes all which there is to be exhaustively known about Him, the height and width and breadth of which only God can comprehend, which the creature shall forever be approaching but never fully ascending to an understanding of it. And there is a significant difference between comprehension and understanding.
Thus The Name is utterly beautiful and glorious; we shall, be and by, hear it come from His lips; we will adore it even though it shall remain far above our ability to comprehend. It is at the sound of this Name that every knee shall bow, in praise and worship, doing so willingly and in sheer ecstatic adoration, and every tongue freely and gladly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of our Father. Now, one may ask how this has to do with our passage, drawn from Revelation 2:17; “I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” I now hope to set forth my understanding of it.
We are made in the image of God, therefore look forward to that great Day when we shall be like Him, when we, seeing Him as He actually is, shall melt from our former modes and become like Him in every way. Then, those Communicable Attributes of the Godhead shall become fully alive within every breast, shall blossom in never abating bloom, shall fill us, all in all, without any adulteration. That which is good for God is likewise good for man; all which applies to Him applies to us; when He says to us that by His great and precious promises He has “enabled you to share His Divine nature” (1 Peter 1:4) it is now that we are able to “escape the world's corruption caused by human desires,” now in part, substantially, but then in perfect whole. And if it be true that we are actually created in His image, and what applies to Him applies to us as well, then does it not follow that if the Father has bestowed upon His Son The Name which no one knows but Himself, that His Son would be eager to bestow upon His brothers and sisters A Name which no one knows except the one receiving it?
We note that The Name is not given to the Son by His Father from all eternity, but in time and after He has accomplished all the Will of His Father, after He has declared “It is finished!” And though, unlike us, nothing of ill report is to be found in this great Son, it still remained that He must finish His course before that coronal, The Name, is accorded Him. So also concerning each of us and our new Name; we must finish our course, be changed from glory to glory, become exactly like Christ Jesus throughout our entire being; “For now we know in part... but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” The day is coming when we shall receive from our Lord this new Name; we cannot receive it now, for we know but little of what shall become fully evident in us, which is our life in Christ: It shall be accorded to us when we shall utter in truth “It is finished,” and the former things shall pass away.
So then, I say, even as The Name of our Savior contains all the fullness of the Godhead set to a Breathed Word, so also shall we receive A Name spoken by Him Who washes us, and continues to wash us, in His Own precious blood; A Name which includes all the glories of the Divine Nature perfected in us. The Name, both that of the Lord and us, as our special Name, is glorious beyond our present ability to understand; it is intimate, lovely, filled with perfections untold, brimming with the Divine Love which has been poured out upon us. We shall forever be unable to comprehend The Name of Jesus; not so with our new, individualized, Divinely personalized, Name; it shall reflect all which God has accomplished in us. And though the end result for each of us shall in some respects be the same, the path to it, our experiences, the depths from which we have been saved, our faithfulness in this life, many things to be sure, cause that no two of us shall have the same new Name, nor will any other than the individual so named and his or her Lord be able to know it. We will be marvels one to another.
In my imagination I see a scene in Heaven, which admittedly could never occur, concerning these things; in closing, I set forth the envisagement only to draw attention to the intimate relationship which exists between God and man: On earth, our Lord said in His tenderness, “And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, As you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me'” (Matthew 25:40). See in your mind's eye the Father giving The Name to His Son, and saying to Him “I have given You The Name out of Love; if You give A Name to even the least of My children in love, You are doing it unto Me.”