Coram Deo - The Presence of God

I remember my parents standing in front of me and saying, in stentorian tones, “Just what’s the big idea, young man?”

Instinctively I knew they were not asking me an abstract question about theory. Her question was not a question at all—it was a thinly veiled accusation. Her words were easily translated to mean, “Why are you doing what you are doing?” She was challenging me to justify my behaviour with a valid idea. I, of course, had none.

What will you say when someone asks you a similar question, “What’s the big idea of the Christian life?” They are interested in the overarching, ultimate goal of the Christian life.

To answer this question, you could fall back on a theologian’s prerogative and gave him a Latin term. You could say, “The big idea of the Christian life is Coram DeoCoram Deo captures the essence of the Christian life.”

It would be true but what does it mean?

Coram Deo literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live Coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.

To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze.

To be aware of the presence of God is also to be acutely aware of His sovereignty. The uniform experience of the saints is to recognise that if God is God, then He is indeed sovereign. When Saul was confronted by the glory of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, his immediate question was, “Who is it, Lord?” He wasn’t sure who was speaking to him, but he knew that whoever it was, was certainly sovereign over him.

Living under divine sovereignty involves more than a reluctant submission to sheer sovereignty that is motivated out of a fear of punishment. It involves recognizing that there is no higher goal than offering honour to God. Our lives are to be living sacrifices, oblations offered in a spirit of adoration and gratitude.

To live all of life coram Deo is to live a life of integrity. It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God. A fragmented life is a life of disintegration. It is marked by inconsistency, disharmony, confusion, conflict, contradiction, and chaos.

The Christian who compartmentalises his or her life into two sections of the religious and the secular has failed to grasp the big idea. The big idea is that all of life is Christian life or none of life is. To divide life between the Christian and secular is itself a sacrilege.

This means that if a person fulfils his or her vocation as a shop worker, attorney, or homemaker Coram Deo, then that person is acting every bit as a witness for Christ as a soul-winning evangelist. It means that David was as obedient when he obeyed God’s call to be a shepherd as he was when he was anointed with the special grace of kingship. It means that Jesus was every bit as obedient when He worked in His father's carpenter shop as He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Integrity is found where men and women live their lives in a pattern of consistency. It is a pattern that functions the same basic way in church and out of church. It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.

Coram Deo ... before the face of God. That’s the big idea. Next to this idea our other goals and ambitions become mere trifles.

Scriptures for Further Study: Matthew 24:13Romans 8:31-362 Corinthians 4:7-16Hebrews 6:9-12; 10:35-39

This article is an edited version of an article by R C Sproul which was originally published in the October 1987 issue of Tabletalk magazine from Ligonier Ministries.

Mission

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Vision

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