For us men and for our Salvation . . .

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There has been a long standing belief regarding who it is Jesus Christ died for.  In the Nicene Creed in the clause regarding the reason for the Incarnation, it says For us men and for our salvation . .  The whole reason the Word became flesh was for our sake.  It has often been implied that Jesus Christ came to die for the Father.  Why did He need to die for the Father?  Some say it is the righteous nature of the Father that demands it.  On the contrary, as Baxter Kruger has said time and time again, Jesus Christ did not come to change the Father, He came to change us.  He came to bring us back to where we ought to be.  We were the ones who were in desperate need of which no one other than the intervention of God Himself could fulfil that need.  The Father was not in need.  The entire work of our salvation was carried out by the Father, Son and Spirit all for our sakes where Jesus Christ is the one who stood in our place and on our behalf so the promises of God could be realised. In Jesus Christ we see the everlasting arms of God stretched out to the entire human race from the pre-eternal counsel of God before the foundation of the world was laid down stretching to the consummation of the ages when all things are wrapped up.  At each step of the way we see the glory of God disclosing His innermost being of love.  To fully understand who it is that Jesus Christ died for the whole of history from one end to the other needs to be taken into consideration if we are to fully understand the context for which He died.

After the Day of Pentecost the disciples received the Spirit of Christ bringing to actualisation the meaning of the whole life of Jesus Christ and the implications for the whole human race.  They realised they were not abandoned but adopted into the life of the Father, Son and Spirit.  With the Spirit of Christ within them they were able to look at the Scriptures in a whole new light and see all that happened is precisely what they testified to.  There was a fixed centre from which their interpretation was drawn from and nothing else and no one else besides could add, change or take away from their intended purpose.  The mystery that had been kept hidden through the ages and has now been made manifest in Jesus Christ.

The intended purpose of God creating humanity was for incorruption.  However, due to our transgression we became corrupt.  Even though we brought this corruption upon ourselves God had already destined Himself before the foundation of the world, out of His sheer loving kindness, to appear to us as one of us and bring us back to where He intended us to be.   Is it not in God’s nature to allow the prize of His creation to whom He gave it existence to plummet head long back into non-existence? As humanity was headed to ruin, should God in His goodness allow such a thing to happen us?  Even before the foundation of the world God had accepted His own demise. So, true to the nature and character of God, He who has always been invisibly present to the whole earth, now becomes visibly present to humanity while remaining invisibly present to the whole earth.  Through the womb of the Virgin Mary God makes Himself visible to the human race by taking on a body that is in likeness to our nature so that death can be conquered and life restored to us.  Did Jesus need to conquer death and have life restored for Himself?  Was God in a dilemma?  Instead He fills all things everywhere even when He is made man.  In the Incarnation, Jesus Christ became one with us all so that in Him death could be conquered once and for all for our sake and on our behalf.  When He became flesh there was a stay in execution of the judgment of death.  He lived His life where death had no choice but submit to the power of Christ.  At the right time, Christ died for us to put death to death once and for all.  As He was crucified, we, in union with Him were crucified with Him.  When He died, we, in union with Him had death put to death in Him.  As death had no power over Jesus Christ and the grave could not hold Him down, we, because we are in union with Him, death also has no power over us.  As He rose from the dead, we, in union with Him, set free from death’s grip on us, also rose from the dead with Him.  As Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, we, in union with Him, also ascended to the right hand of the Father and are seated in Him.

We are told in Genesis how it is that corruption had entered the human race and the consequences of this corruption.  Some people will try and debate whether or not this has any relevance in a world as modern in our thinking today.  I think it is important to take this event from God’s point of view giving us a perspective of why it is God created all things.  We know God is love so it is out of His very being God created out of nothing all things as we know it today.  We can see the whole of creation as a manifestation of God’s glory.  If we take glory as the manifestation of the intrinsic nature of God on full display this act is one of free and sheer philanthropy.  When humanity was created, God created them for united fellowship with Him.  Some people try to concern themselves with “how” God created rather than the underlying and overriding theme of love that is throughout this story.  From God’s point of view, we were given the privilege of carrying “their image,” in reciprocal union with them.  After Adam and Eve are created we know creation is very good.  They had fellowship with God.

Then we find sin entered through deception.  We were created in their image like someone who goes for a sitting for a painting and are modelled after the object.  We had a built in concern for others rather than ourselves.  We were modelled after perichoresis which is a free mutual indwelling of giving and receiving in love knowing the source of our goodness lies in the intrinsic goodness of God.  After the fall our psyche shifts from centrality in God to self-centredness and an ugly pride.  We have lost sight of the original image and the painting has now become damaged. There is an element in us that has the tendency for an extreme self concern rather than a concern for our fellow human beings.  “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a stark reminder of what we are as a result of the the disobedience of Adam.  Because of the decision Adam made, the whole human race has been brought into this terrible decision and have suffered the consequences ever since.  This extraordinary self concern which is so apparent in our society throughout human history indicates that something went wrong and the Genesis event explains it, from God’s point of view.  Something happened and God allowed it to happen to fulfil His aim and meaning for creation in the most perfect way.  Sin can be described as a personal disposition of conflict, dissension, rebellion, a turn against love, self-will and egocentrism.  The will of God brings life and love into our beings while any other will takes away life and love and leads to death.  Having lost sight of God, humanity is totally lost as to understand His true nature and character and therefore we are not capable of understanding His will.  It is God who has to intervene to show us the way.  Athanasius says because the painting is damaged the original image has to come for a new sitting so the original painting can be restored to its original glory.

This brief overview of what happened at the fall gives us the foundation for our understanding of why it is that God had to intervene by clothing Himself in the flesh of man and undoing what happened when sin entered the world.  We can see throughout the Old Testament God’s cry against the injustices of this world. We even see how the consequences of sin is affecting all aspects of human life.  On the one hand we see incredible acts of kindness in many and various ways in this world but, on the other hand, we also see many acts of horrendous injustices towards our fellow human beings.  Nothing much has changed since ancient times.  We know it is due to the inexplicable nature of sin and Genesis shows us in its narrative where it all began.  In Romans 5 and 1Corinthians 15 Paul uses Adam’s act of disobedience as having universal negative consequence while the righteous act of God as the man Jesus Christ as having superior universal consequence.

Romans 5.18-19

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

1Cor. 15.21-22

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 

The coming of Jesus Christ means God has stepped into our condition and has undertaken a complete reversal of our state of affairs bringing us from death back to life.  We were brought from a way of being that leads to death to a way of being that leads to eternal life.  The Genesis story of where things went wrong is interwoven throughout the incarnational event. Even the prologue of the Gospel of John touches on Genesis, In the beginning . . . Is there any need to change it into another narrative?  I do not believe so.  Sometimes some people believe we have something to offer to the gospel story.  This has been the problem from the very beginning as the church entered into the ancient world. As the gospel was delivered to the ancient people, the heretics would go with their own version of events in the hope that there would be a blend of ideas.  They would say there were problems with what the Christians were saying according to the latest ideas produced by the school of thought at the time.  In this world of academics Christians were offering some strange but interesting ideas.  As far as Christians were concerned these heretical ideas were the opposite of the gospel, what the academics would call the antithesis.  Others in the academic community wanted to negotiate a blend of the Christian idea and the academic idea together, what the academics would call a synthesis or blending of ideas.  The church would not have this because they rightly believed they represented the reality given to them by God Himself through the apostolic witness.  The church understood clearly that one could not manipulate the Person of God disclosed in Jesus Christ to fit their own ideas.  The apostolic tradition preserved the integrity of what was handed to them from the very beginning.  This is what we should endeavour to do to this very day.

For as long as we understand the Incarnation is not a theory but the reality of who it is behind creation has stepped into creation to disclose to us all who He is in Himself, then we can stand with the original witnesses giving the very same testimony.  There is no other way of explanation that is necessary.  No other human being with their own ideas can stand with God and say anything different  or try and change what has already been said.  The gospel is not a theory.  It is an account of a real event by the real God who disclosed to us all what is real about Himself.  Sometimes people will try and harness this event and, using particular strings of proof text, will try and make it appear it validates their own theoretical ideas.  Only Jesus Christ validates Scripture as all of Scripture points to Him.  When we focus on Him then it witnesses with the Spirit of Christ within us.  It affirms our adoption as children of God, co-heirs with Christ.  It opens our eyes to the reality of family, community, camaraderie, fellowship and all those activities that bring about unity.  Jesus came for us and for our salvation.