Coram Deo is about living every moment of our lives before the face of God–in his presence, under his authority, and for his glory–whether in the sanctuary, in the home or in the marketplace and the public square.
That being the case, we have chosen the term Coram Deo for an exciting new training opportunity from the DNA. We have captured the DNA’s best teaching and carefully condensed it into a set of video presentations and readings. Organized into a 12-week interactive course with other students or a self-study at your own pace, this is the same teaching you would receive at a five-day Vision Conference, the DNA’s flagship training program.
This post is the final in a series that unpacks the biblical idea of Coram Deo. (The entire paper is available here.)
Paul encourages us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23). Whatever you do means just that. Gerard Manley Hopkins said in a sermon, “To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dung fork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should.” In a slightly different vein, Mother Teresa has been quoted as saying, “We do not do big things; we do only small things with great love.”
This is the great recovery of the biblical theology of vocation wrought by Martin Luther and the Reformation. This is a discovery that can transform our lives and work today.
The great Dutch theologian, pastor, educator, and prime minister Abraham Kuyper spoke with passion to the church in the Western world to renew the vision of her call and to return to her first love. Written at the dawn of modern secular materialistic culture, Kuyper’s clarion call is just as relevant to us today:
No sphere of human life is conceivable in which religion does not maintain its demands that God shall be praised, that God’s ordinances shall be observed, and that every labora (work) shall be permeated with its ora (prayer/worship) in fervent and ceaseless prayer. Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science, he is in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of his God, he is employed in the service of his God, he has strictly to obey his God, and above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God.”
There are not two worlds to live in, nor two types of lives to live. All of life, including the hours of my work, is to be lived coram Deo, for the advancement of God’s kingdom, for the glory of the Lord of heaven and earth.
Clearly, living coram Deo means that we are not to make a separation between the sacred and the secular. The secular dwells in the presence of the sacred. The secular is infused with the sacred But as the Reformers understood, there is a realm of distinction that we are to make. This distinction is between living a consecrated and living an unconsecrated life. A consecrated life is the life lived coram Deo, in worship, soli Deo gloria. A consecrated life is one that glorifies God. It is one that models God’s glory as a person lives under the lordship of Christ, who himself represented God’s glory on earth. A consecrated life is a life dedicated to God in all its parts. It is sanctified! An unconsecrated life is one where a person functions as a Christian only in the religious part of life or when it is convenient. One person may be a godly auto mechanic while another is an adulterous evangelist. One may be a godly farmer while another is a corrupt pastor.
To be consecrated is to be “devoted or dedicated to the service and worship of God.” We worship God in our work as we connect the whole of our lives to his divine purpose, a redemptive purpose expressed throughout Scripture as the kingdom of God. The biblical concept of work is that a person’s work is his or her unique contribution to God’s kingdom. As we explored in the previous chapter, our occupation is the place where we are deployed to occupy ourselves “occupying territory” for Christ and his kingdom. This is the principal business of the Christian’s life.
In the midst of a fallen world, we are to seek to live moral lives. In the midst of injustice and corruption, we are to seek justice. In the midst of cultures that are often brutal and uncaring, we are to love mercy. In the midst of power and arrogance, we are to walk humbly with God. We are, in some small way, to be incarnations of Christ in this broken world. Our place of work is to be where we put flesh on our prayers, “Let your glory be over all the earth” (Ps. 57:5) and “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Kingdom life and principles are to be brought to bear in the midst of our life and in the sphere of society where we work.
Leland Ryken captures the radical effects of this biblical view of work in Redeeming the Time:
Obviously this view of work renders every task of intrinsic value and integrates every legitimate vocation or task with a Christian’s spiritual life. It makes every job consequential by claiming it as the arena for glorifying God, and it provides a way for workers to serve God not only within their work in the world but by that work [italics added].
This is the call each of us needs to hear today: that it is possible to live an integrated life of value and purpose in which we serve God by our work in the world. It is possible to live a life of consecration rather than separation.
Missionary to India E. Stanley Jones has captured the kind of people we are called to be, the kind of people we long to be, in The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person. He writes that our occupation is framed within the wonder of the kingdom of God:
That kind of person sees God, not in a vision, but sees God working with him and in him and backing him. He sees God at work everywhere. The universe becomes alive with God—every bush aflame with him, every event full of destiny, life an exciting adventure with God. You see him at work in you, in events, in the universe. He talks with you, guides you. You work in the same business, in the same occupation—the Kingdom. And it is the most thrilling, exciting business and occupation in the world. All else is tame and inane—dull. Here you are working at the biggest job, on the biggest scale, at the most worthwhile task, at the greatest outcome—the kingdom of God on earth [italics added].
When we understand that all Christians are to live all of life coram Deo, we understand that we are all in Christ’s mission force. We are all missionaries!
- Scott Allen and Darrow Miller
Adapted from LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day, chapter five “Coram Deo: Before the Face of God” pp. 55-68. Copyright © 2009 by Darrow L. Miller, Published by YWAM Publishing, a ministry of Youth With A Mission, P.O. Box 55787, Seattle, WA 98155-0787. All rights reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews.
 Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998), 200.
 Kathryn Spink and Mother Teresa, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations, Prayers, Mother Teresa of Calcutta (New York: HarperCollins, 1983), 74.
 Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1942), 52.
 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. “consecrated.”
 Ryken, Redeeming the Time, 104.
 E. Stanley Jones, The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1972), 159.