What is our primary, most important, overarching purpose in life? What would you answer? If the question was posed to the entire world in general, we may receive hundreds of various responses. However, since we are in a church with a pastor preaching a message, our answers would not be quite so diverse. After all, in church we are, hopefully, musing over thoughts about God and Jesus and helping others and so forth. Therefore our answers here in church might include: trying to be good, working hard, serving God, being saved, helping others, living for Christ, loving my family, doing what’s right, doing no harm, and so forth.
Most people, even Christians, are unfamiliar with the great preacher/theologian of the early eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards. If the name is familiar to you at all, then, most likely, you would probably only associate him with one famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” preached in 1741. I remember one time my son Christian remarked about this sermon because it was read/played at the high school one year as part of American History. He said it was “scary.” Let us begin with a short snippet of that famous sermon. [VIDEO]
Edwards was an intellectual, a philosopher, a pastor, a theologian, an author, and a revivalist. He is best known for his role in “The First Great Awakening,” a revival which spread throughout colonial America in the 1700’s. Many who have only read the one sermon will probably label him as an antiquated “fire and brimstone” preacher. However, he was so much more, and most of his sermons were far from this theme and tone. As a matter of fact, He was known to speak in a very quiet voice moving methodically from one point to the next. Edwards authored hundreds of books, and contributed greatly to our foundational Christian beliefs today.
Other than learning some history (which is an honorable endeavor) and a few facts regarding an important Christian theologian, what is the purpose of discussing Mr. Edwards? Our modern understanding of God is partly derived from Jonathan Edward’s inquisitive and analytical mind and holiness of heart (what a super combination!)
THE BEAUTY OF GOD
One truth that Edwards emphasized throughout (which was foundational to all of his other doctrines) was the “Beauty of God.” Now, this sounds rather strange to our modern church ears. We seldom speak of God’s “beauty.” We might be more comfortable with terms such as God’s majesty or splendor or His holiness or His glory. These are all befitting descriptions of our God.
So how are we exactly aware of God’s “beauty?” First, and foremost, Scriptures not only announce the truth of God’s beauty but occasionally attempt to describe that beauty, which is altogether impossible in our mere human languages. Yet, we are able to catch “glimpses” (and only glimpses) of His beauty or glory through the Bible stories and through its descriptive words about God or His characteristics or even His “appearance” though usually symbolic.