November 25, 2002

God’s Special Presence

Category: Theology - Liturgical :: Permalink

That we do in fact enter into God’s special presence in the midst of his gathered congregation must never be slighted or forgotten. True, God is present everywhere. But his omnipresence is not what I am referring to here. God has promised to be present with his people in a special sense when they gather on Sunday.

The one who skips church for the golf course or shopping mall or state park may not argue from God’s omnipresence to justify his not being in church. Sure, God is present on the golf course, just as he is present in hell. But this general presence of God doesn’t do the people in hell much good. God is present in heaven and hell, but he is not present in the same way in each of these locations. That is the difference.

Even if we cannot define it precisely, God is present in a special sense when his people gather as the church on the Lord’s Day. He is present there for us. This is the place, the location where he gathers his people around the Word and Sacraments. He has promised to be there for us when his people gather.

It is not so much that God was not present in, say, Damascus, when the pillar and fire led the people of Israel out of Egypt or when his presence filled the tabernacle upon its completion; rather, the Lord was at these appointed places in a special, life-giving way. Similarly, it is not that God is absent from the food court in the mall on Sunday; rather, he has promised to be present in a special way, the way of salvation and blessing, at the Communion Table in church. He has not promised to be in the mall on Sunday for you. Actually, he may be present there against you so that you could very well experience his judgment and curse, rather than his promise of blessing, life, and salvation.

Moreover, when we are in God’s special presence every week, receiving from him his promise through his Word and Sacraments, we can go forth out of church into the world with the full assurance that God will be with us and for us wherever we may be during the week. Without being in the Lord’s special presence we have no assurance of his omnipresent help in every situation and location. See Gen. 3:8; 4:16; Exod. 33:14-15; Deut. 4:37; Deut. 12:7, 18; 14:23; 15:20; Judges 18:6; 2 Kings 13:23; 17:18-23; Matt. 18:20; 1 Cor. 5:4; 11:18ff.; etc. (Jeffrey J. Meyers, The Lord’s Service [St. Louis: Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church, 1999], p. 45n8. I’ve added some paragraph divisions for easier reading).

Posted by John Barach @ 4:44 pm | Discuss (0)

Leave a Reply