The Biblical Character of our ‘Secular’ Callings.
By Duncan Roper
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews begins by saying that ‘In many ways and by
many means God spoke in ancient times to our ancestors in the prophets; but at the
end of these days he spoke to us in a son.’ Given that the author was writing to
what we today would call a Messianic Jewish community, the emphasis upon the
divine character of the person of Jesus is significant, and this is made clear in the
rest of the first chapter as it attests to the scriptural superiority of Jesus as the
incarnate son of God. In chapter two the focus moves to the significance of the
humanity of Jesus and the redemption of the human race wrought in him.
The writer achieves this by drawing upon the words of Psalm 8 as they reflect upon
the general Biblical background of the idea of humankind made in God’s image.
Thus, after writing ‘You see, God didn’t place the world to come (which is what I
am writing about) under the control of angels,’ the author points to the content of
Psalm 8, as it asks and answers the question as to the status of humankind in the
overall scheme of things:
What are humans, that you should remember them?
What is the son of man, that you should take thought for him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels,
You crowned him with glory and honour,
And placed everything under his feet.
The writer to the Hebrews then goes on to say: ‘When it speaks of everything
being subjected to him, it leaves nothing that is not subjected to him. As things
are, however, we do not yet see everything subject to him. What we do see is
the one who was, for a little while, made lower than the angels – that is Jesus –
crowned with glory and honour.’
In these and the words that immediately follow them, the writer of the letter to
the Hebrews lays before us the purpose of the redemptive work of God in
Christ. It is nothing less than the fulfilment of God’s purpose in creating the
world and establishing the rule of his Kingdom through the loving and faithful
service of those creatures whom he made in his image. We, the human race,
however, have turned our hearts away from God and, as a consequence, sin has
had dominion within and without us, frustrating the realization of God’s rule
through our ongoing rebellious hearts and our mis-rule of God’s creation.
However Jesus, through his criminal, humiliating and painful death and
triumphant resurrection from the dead, has opened way to rectifying all of that.
At the same time, he reminds us, as sons and daughters of Adam, not to get
ahead of ourselves! Jesus may have conquered the root power of sin and death
shedding abroad the grace of God in all the world. Nonetheless, these powers
are still alive and well. We would therefore do well to reckon seriously with
them, learning to draw upon the riches of Christ Jesus in our hearts as we do
daily battle with them.
The final fulfilment of God’s plan for the humankind made in God’s image, is
therefore within the future context of the new heavens and new earth, a creation
fully restored from the powers of sin and rebellion against his just and righteous
rule. For many centuries, however, the ideas of Christian life in this world were
shaped by Greek ideas of the divinity of the heavens [Aristotle’s ‘fifth’ (ie not
earth, water, air or fire) essence comprising the matter of the bodies above the
sphere of the moon] or the divinity of the Platonic forms (that relate to our
immortal souls) transcending the cosmos of our sense experience altogether.
This was in spite of the fact that the Bible makes it plain that our human destiny
is not to be found in this kind of heaven, but in a fully redeemed new heavens
As it happens, this is more or less the emphasis of the secular world in which
we now find ourselves. The major differences between the secularist vision and
the Biblical one are (a) that creation still awaits the fullness of its redemption in
Christ, and (b) that this secular world, along with all other human worlds, still
suffers from the pride, arrogance and plain evil wrought by humankind, even in
the best of our intentions.
Our hope for the present living in this world is not therefore first and foremost
in our own wisdom and skills, as important as these are. For even our human
wisdom and skills need to be honed and purified by the very grace of God that
has been revealed to us in the coming of Jesus Christ.
In this respect, our basic contact with the secular world that we now inhabit is
the reality of God’s creation in the form of the various offices that we exercise
day by day. As spouses, parents, children, teachers, gardeners, plumbers,
carpenters, landlords, tenants, computer experts, robot designers, bus drivers,
artists, scientists, philosophers, garbage collectors, politicians, lawyers and
pastors of congregations, both secularists and Christians, together with the
members of other faith communities, share in many such God-given tasks that,
in the proper sense of the word are ‘secular’ in these of a calling to serve God
faithfully in the care for, management and unfolding of the God-potential for his
However, whenever, we meet a man beating his wife (partner) claiming the
right to do so by saying ‘She’s my wife (partner)!’ the answer is simply ‘That’s
why, before God, it’s your responsibility to care for her, so stop it!’ We need to
learn how to see the need for all the offices just mentioned (and more besides)
transformed by the grace of God as we allow him to do his work in our hearts.
This is a mockup. Publish to view how it will appear live.