The Ultimate Reality
Although I am a missionary secretary, the subterranean stream of my life-interest for thirty years has been flowing in the direction of what to me is total truth. Big words, and perhaps I should qualify them by a definition that “only the truth which edifies is truth for you.” After I had been a servant of Christ for twelve years on the foreign and home fields, I went through a strange phase of a kind of intellectual awakening. It seemed as though my heart had outpaced my head, and the time had now come when my understanding must catch up with my love. It was a painful phase at the beginning. I had to learn the dialectical truth that the way to clarity is through confusion. For a year I went through the strange experience of questioning whether there was a God at all (God forgive such presumption!), and found myself in the strange situation of knowing and loving One of whose existence I was uncertain! Though I decided that if He was the Big Illusion, I would be a little illusion along with Him! But what it did for me (which makes me sure that it was God who took me that way) was that it put passion into my faith. I must know. I must have sure grounds, even if those sure grounds were to be quite sure I could never be sure, but that I could and would believe!
That passionate pursuit has never left me, except that it has brought me in my old age (65) to the calmer waters of an understanding which does appear to me to be the heart of the matter and the heart of the Biblical revelation. For several years now I have been occupied in sharing what I have seen (God’s seeing in me, I trust), with many others in conferences, churches, house groups, etc., and it seems to ring the bell in many hearts; nor have I found reason to change the mainstream of the message, though different aspects come clearer all the time. I have put it in print three times, in The Law of Faith, The Liberating Secret, and The Deep Things of God; but I don’t know if every writer on the things of the Spirit has the same problem—no sooner have I completed one manuscript than I see this and this and this which could be put so much more clearly, or whole areas of insights which should be added. And that is the reason for this little book. I feel like the automobile dealers who must produce a new model each year! I should add also that, though not a wide reader through lack of time, nor having the powers of concentration of a true student, I have delved and burrowed in various directions where I have met with authors, past and present (mainly past), who have struck me as germinal, writers “piercing even to the joints and marrow,” and not merely proffering odd Biblical tidbits. They might make a strange array if I mentioned their names.
It seems as if we have to put things in extremes, in absolute terms as the Bible often does, to get truth to register in our consciousness. And I find there is a basic “extreme” which had to dawn as a fixation in my own spirit. I find equally that with hundreds of my fellow-believers whom I contact, few seem really to have “seen” it. Those who have not are hungry, not basically satisfied, negative and self-condemning in their outlook. Those who have know that they have “come home.” They have reached ultimate reality, and though they may wander from the road as we all do, they know where to return to, and how. I have to add too, though hesitatingly because ministers cannot all be teachers as well as evangelists and pastors, that in a great many evangelical churches the gospel of salvation is magnificently presented, seekers are led to Christ; but the totality of the gospel, the gospel in its ultimate category, is by no means so clearly presented, nor maybe even understood by teacher as well as taught. It is evidenced by exhortations to Christian living being mainly challenges to pray more, give more, witness more, surrender more. The emphasis is predominantly on the active dedication of the Christian to his Lord, and to a much less degree on the dynamic remoulding of the believer by His Lord.
The extreme, the absolute, the revelation of which so totally re-oriented my own life, was the fact, so plainly and repeatedly stated in the Scriptures, that there is really only One Person in the universe, and that is God Himself. To say that sounds exaggerated, because we immediately counter it with the seemingly obvious alternative fact—that we also are persons. Yes, that is true in a purely secondary sense; but the trouble is such a totally distorted concept of the function of the human self has captured and blinded the world since the Fall that the only way to destroy the false and replace it by the true is by almost throwing out the human self on the rubbish heap, and only restoring it to its proper place when we have restored the right perspective.
The way I saw it was when it suddenly dawned on me that the Bible does not talk about God having a lot of separate gifts and graces with which He would endow me (though a surface reading of the Scriptures might appear to say He had); but it continually says that God Himself (Father, Son, or Spirit) is, not has, so and so. What you have is not you, but merely possessions you can share with others. What you are is you, and you cannot take parts of yourself and share them with others. The Bible says, God is love, God is light, Christ is our life, Christ is the power of God, Christ is the wisdom of God, Christ is our sanctification; the Bible speaks of God our hope, our peace, our exceeding joy; (the peace of God, for instance, in its hidden meaning for those who have eyes to see it, is really God our peace; and the same is true of each attribute of God, which might read as if it was just some “thing” He shares with us, but in reality is He Himself as such within us): and the ultimate being “Christ is all and in all” for the believer, and “God all in all” in the universe.
It was the exclusiveness of God which confronted me. I had been looking for a lot of gifts and graces to improve me as a servant of Christ. The answer I received was “Nothing doing. There are no such ‘things’ for you. These things are not things at all, they are all the characteristics of a Person, and only one Person in the universe. They never can be yours. They are not available to you, nor attainable by you.” That shook me, and I needed a shaking—from this mistaken concept of the position and function of the human self. I cannot be thankful enough that I was given to see this absoluteness, this exclusiveness of God. I say again, it may sound extreme, it may not even be all the truth (in the sense that we are also persons), but once and for all I had to get out of my system the idea that ultimate life is I alongside God, God alongside me. No. Life is just GOD. Not God first, but God only.
What about things and people then? If God is the All, what are things and people? The nearest we can say, as the Bible says, is that they are the means of the manifestation of God. Everything is a form of God, a manifestation of God. The visible is made out of the Invisible, as Hebrews 11:3 says (Moffatt translation). “That’s a bit dangerous,” a preacher said to me recently. “You mean that God made everything.” No, I don’t, I mean more than that human analogy by which we say that an artist is here and his picture there, two separate entities, or a carpenter here and his table there, and so in that same sense we say that God is there and His creation here. This is a different relationship. We must bridge that gap of illusory separation. We must say that everything is God on a certain level of manifestation. It is God revealing Himself in the variety of His wonders. We see God in the beauty of colors. We hear God in the harmonies of music. Nowadays we know that all the infinitude of material objects have one invisible origin. What is that origin? The scientists say that probably man can never penetrate beyond the atom to its source. But the believer can. It is a Person. Paul said it two thousand years ago when he wrote, “By Him all things consist (stand together).” Faith can know what human reason never can. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.” The Word is God. He is the Word. Open our eyes then, and wherever we see things, we see Him in one form or another.
But is that not pantheism? How absurd—that God is a thing, or God is a color, or God is a sound? No, God is The Person. A person is not a thing, but things are forms of Him. “The whole earth is full of His glory”: He “fills all things.” How can we but worship—everywhere—not the thing, but Him in the thing.
And people? Now we come nearer home. Paul was bold to say of all humanity, redeemed and unredeemed, that “in Him we live and move and have our being.” That is a strong statement. Not just that He made us and in some sense we have a derived but separate life He has given us. No indeed. All men are in Him. Their natural life, their thinking and acting, are expressions of Him. It is impossible for any created being, of this world or any other, including the devil and his angels, to be out of God. All are “in Him” eternally, He is the hidden root of their lives, the hidden Self behind their selves. Separation from Him is an impossibility.
For many years after his retirement as General Secretary of the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, Norman Grubb traveled extensively sharing the truth of our union with Christ. He was the author of many books and pamphlets, a number of which are available through the Zerubbabel Book Ministry. Norman P. Grubb entered the Kingdom at 98 years of age.