We can settle many doctrinal disputes by understanding Biblical paradoxes. One definition of a *paradox is “a statement that seems contradictory, unbelievable or absurd but may be true in fact” (*Webster’s New World College Dictionary).
The following is an example of a paradox.
Christmas will come before New Year’s Day.
New Year’s Day will come before Christmas.
At first glance, this seems like a contradiction. However, both of the aforementioned statements can be true in their respective contexts. From the perspective of our experience, Christmas will always come before New Year’s Day. At the time, I am writing this article it is November 3. So Christmas is fifty-two days away (stay with me, don’t panic). Yet, New Year’s Day is sixty days away. Thus making statement one, a statement of truth. From the perspective of the calendar, however, New Year’s Day will always come before Christmas. Christmas is December 25 and New Year’s Day is January 1. So from the perspective of the calendar New Year’s Day will come three-hundred-sixty days before Christmas! Making statement two true as well.
We can see a Biblical paradox contained in one verse in 2 Corinthians.
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 New King James Version
We as believers never stop to think how absurd this passage would look if we just looked at it from a natural standpoint. There is something we can see, but do not look at. There is something we cannot see, and you can look at. The “not seen” things, however, in this passage can be seen with the eye of faith on a spiritual plane, although, they cannot be seen with the natural physical eyes. The things that “are seen” are the natural circumstances that are contrary to God’s Word that are subject to change if we don’t focus on them (or “do not look at” them). Thus, the paradox is resolved.
We cannot always readily see Biblical paradoxes in one passage, but we have to examine them topically throughout the whole body of scripture pertaining to the subject. This is how we will explore the paradox of the three levels of God’s presence.
1. God’ Omni-presence.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. Psalm 139:7-10 New King James Version
We see from this passage that God’s omni-presence permeates the universe. Everyone experiences this level of God’s presence. No matter who you are or where you go God is there.
2. God’s Indwelling Presence.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11 NKJV
Those who have made Jesus the Lord of their lives and are Spirit filled only, experience this second level of God’s presence. The instant we accept Jesus, we are recreated in our spirit man enabling us to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 1 Corinthians 6:19 New King James Version
3. God’s Manifested Presence.
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 NKJV
The third level of God’s presence is His manifested presence also known as His Glory. This is where God manifests Himself in the seen realm from the unseen.
Now that we have defined the three levels of God’s presence, we can see how they apply in our daily Bible study. There is much division in the body of Christ that I believe stems from a lack of understanding of these three levels. Please understand, I do not mean to be critical; the whole purpose of this study is restoration.
till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… Ephesians 4:13 New King James Version
I heard someone express his disapproval of someone praying, “Lord, be with Brother So-In-So”. His complaint was that Jesus said He would never leave us or forsake us. That is true in His indwelling presence. He is in us whether we feel Him or not. He is also right there in the unseen realm in His omnipresence. I believe however from my experience that when someone prays, “Lord be with them”, they are speaking of God’s manifest presence. If a person is dealing with emotional heaviness, for example, God can manifest Himself as Joy.
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:ll New King James Version
This must be talking about God’s manifest presence. As we have established, God is everywhere. If this were talking about God’s omnipresence, then everyone on earth, including every sinner would be joyful. If this passage was talking about God’s indwelling presence, then every Spirit-filled believer would always be joyful. Have you ever known a grumpy Christian? Have you had a “bad hair day” since you were saved and Spirit filled, (you don’t have to answer that).
If someone has experienced loss in some area, God can manifest Himself in comfort.
Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. Acts 9:31 New King James Version
But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 1 Corinthians 14:3 New King James Version
We can discern from the passage in 1 Corinthians 14:3 that God is speaking of His manifested presence. Because prophecy itself is referred to as one way God manifests Himself.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 1 Corinthians 12:7 New King James Version
Note the word “manifestation”. The Greek Word translated “manifestation” in the New King James is the word “phanerso”. It means to shine forth or to manifest in exhibition and expression.
Prosperity also is a result of God’s manifested presence.
The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household.
Now it was told King David, saying, “The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. 2 Samuel 6:10-12 New King James Version
And God prospered Obed-Edom and his entire household. Message
The ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament represented God’s manifest presence.
The LORD reigns;Let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim (on top of the Ark of the Covenant); Let the earth be moved! Psalm 99:1 New King James Version
Healing is also in God’s manifest presence.
Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Luke 5:17 New King James Version
These are just a few benefits that flow from God’s manifest presence.
I have also heard ministers criticize people who refer to us “coming into the presence of God.” Also, “let’s invite the presence of the Lord into this service.” (To eliminate this concept you must throw out volumes of scripture, especially in the Psalms. Psalm 100 just to name one. Be careful about doctrines that take precedent over the written Word of God). They contend that God is everywhere, why would you come into His presence or invite His presence. Another minister, when a prayer was offered to invite God’s presence, replied, “He came in when I came in. He is in me!” Not realizing that although God is everywhere and in us, His manifest presence is not automatic. There are churches all over the country filled with Spirit filled believers, but it is painfully apparent that God’s manifest presence is nowhere near there. It is as if they have a “Do not disturb” sign hung on the door to God.
Just for illustration purposes, I will refer you to the Christmas/New Year’s paradox mentioned earlier. It would be silly for people to fight over whether Christmas or New Year’s Day came first. The people at the “First Church of Experience” contend that Christmas most definitely comes first. To deny this fact is heresy. Yet across town at the “The Believer’s Fellowship of The Calendar” they uphold the fact that, contrary to experience, the calendar says that New Year’s Day is first and that is good enough for us. I know this sounds silly but it is the same as arguing over the way people refer to the presence of God.
So how do we get the manifested presence of God in operation? There are many principles, but I believe the greatest key is in Psalm 22.
But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3
So if you want to get God’s manifest presence in your life, determine to be a person of praise. Both individually and corporately, when we praise we can expect God’s manifest presence to come forth in demonstration.
indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 New King James Version