Monday, December 14, 2009

"The Man Upstairs?"

I recently read an anecdote of an historical figure I greatly admire and respect in which the man referred to prayer by saying that he needed to "talk to the man upstairs."

I have always considered this phraseology to be unintentionally disrespectful and not in line with Biblical authority. My reaction to the respected figure was therefore one of disappointment. It remains so until this moment, but I have been thinking about the matter in somewhat different terms since reading the anecdote.

"There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).

In the present tense, the Apostle Paul refers to our Lord as "the man Christ Jesus." There is a glorified humanity in Heaven, the Mediator through whom we access our Heavenly Father, and by whom we have confidence that we are received and heard. He sits at His Father's right hand as both God and man, and "ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 1:13; 7:25). This eternal mediation for us requires eternal humanity, and thus our Lord permanently enrobed Himself with our nature. Such condescension is one of the greatest expressions of Divine love, that the Son of God who had forever existed in the limitless infinity of the spiritual took upon Himself the limiting and finite garb of time and humanity. "Great is the mystery" declared the Apostle Paul of the fact of the Incarnation (I Timothy 3:16). There is no mystery, however, concerning the motivation that inspired it - "the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge" (Ephesians 3:19).

I don't expect to ever be comfortable with the terminology of prayer that addresses "the man upstairs." However, it is a fundamental Biblical doctrine that there is a man in the Heaven, "the man Christ Jesus." Perhaps some who use the terminology are inadvertently referencing the blessed truth of such grace, particularly if they mean no disrespect. Most importantly, we worship the God who became man without relinquishing His divinity, and who brought the Infinite and finite together in Himself, and in us.

"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."
(Hebrews 2:14)

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