Christianity 201

December 11, 2016

The Incarnation of Christ…For Atonement and More

by Russell Young

The Christmas season is upon us and with it the celebration of God’s gift to humankind–the incarnation of the Son of God– the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, the fullness of God’s gift is seldom recognized.  God became flesh and dwelt among us. The great gift that the Father gave the world was not merely an appropriate propitiation for sin, but a means of destroying “the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8 NIV) in all his practices and with all of his effect.

It is true that Christ came to reveal God to humankind, and that he came as a propitiation for sin, but he also came to return those who would accept his ministry back to the image in which humans had been created…into the likeness of God. (Gen 1:27; Rom 8:29)

Satan’s evil work is not brought to completion by a person’s redemption from his or her past sins, but will be destroyed when he is no longer able to exercise his power or influence in the lives of those who are believing. Redemption from sins committed while under the jurisdiction of the first covenant (Heb 9:15) did not accomplish a person’s deliverance into the kingdom of God; it did not destroy the work of the devil.  Paul wrote, “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Gal 3:14 NIV) The incarnation of our Lord allowed for his perfect sacrifice, redeemed believers from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13), and provided them with the Spirit so that they might gain victory over the practice of sin through his enlightenment, leading and power. The Spirit is the presence of the Lord in the believer (2Cor 3:17, 18; Col 1:27) and it is the Spirit who provides for the believer’s eternal salvation.  “[F]rom the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess 2:13 NIV; Titus 3: 5─6)

The Lord had to be incarnated so that he might truly know the human condition.  Knowing the temptations that afflict humankind allows him to mediate for them and to make them acceptable for the kingdom of God. (Rom 15:16)  “[H]e had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a faithful high priest…because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted. (Heb 2:17…18 NIV) He not only knew the human condition through experience, he also suffered through it and became victorious over it.  Now as Spirit he can use this understanding to provide victory for those who are undergoing suffering through temptations. This understanding should provide encouragement that each believer can overcome ungodly attractions but it also needs to cause the person undergoing temptation to be sober of thought and of heart knowing that his or her judge will be the very one who had already won victory over the temptations that plague them and he is in them. It is through the knowledge gained as the Lord walked this earth in the flesh that he is able to defeat the devil’s work in the believer. “Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NIV)

A limited perspective of the need of Christ’s incarnation will result in failure to give him the glory, honour, and love that he deserves. Christ came into the world to end the first covenant and to allow access to the New Covenant (Heb 9:15), the covenant of the Spirit, so that God’s righteous, eternal kingdom could be established through his life in the believer.

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:40 NIV) The knowledge that the Lord gained through his incarnated life is available to enable believers to refrain from causing sin and from doing evil by succumbing to temptation in their time of need. The Lord will hand over the righteous kingdom—the completed creation–to the Father when Satan’s influence has been removed.

The baby in the manger was not just a baby, but God come in the flesh to redeem a lost world and a helpless people for himself.  In the Christmas child lies all hope for humankind, and all hope for the completion of God’s creation plan.  In him is the source of righteousness, the end of strife and pain and death.  Through him a holy people will be found, made suitable for God’s presence. Through Christ the devil and his lies and deceit will be brought to nought for those who are in him and who are obedient to his calls upon their lives.

The believer should not be content to relish the thought of what Christ did for him or her, but should humbly kneel before him and glorify him for what he is doing each day that he or she draws breath.  Christ is not only the atonement for sin, he is the life that provides eternal hope. The trinkets of Christmas should not be allowed to displace the wonder of God’s mercy and of his priceless gift of the babe whose birth is the hope of the world and should be the true cause of celebration and the true celebration.

eternal-salvation-russell-youngCheck out Russell Young’s book now in print and eBook — Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

August 23, 2012

If There Isn’t Mystery, It Isn’t Really Faith

Some people want everything in Christian theology to be cut and dried; as neat as a pin. You have to wrap up all your loose ends in the final scene before the credits roll, or they get quite perplexed.

But the realm of faith is never quite so tidy. Some things have to be, as we say here, “consigned to the realm of mystery.” C. Michael Patton listed five key areas at Parchment and Pen recently. As usual you’re encouraged to read things at source — they have a graphic that suits this well — so click through to The Five Great Mysteries of the Christian Faith.

As I do the math, there are five great mysteries in theology:

1. Creation out of nothing (ex nihilo): How did God create being out of non-being? Being transcendent in relation to the universe (above all time, space, and matter), the reason for God’s being is necessary (hence why we often call him the “necessary being”), so his existence does not require a cause-and-effect answer. Yet where did he get the “stuff” to create all that there is? It could not have come from himself, as that would place him in our universe of time, space, and matter. Then we would just be looking for the really real God. The same is true if the “stuff” was outside himself. All that there is must have come from nothing as a rational and philosophical necessity. All other options are formally absurd. While creation out of nothing is not formally absurd, it is a great mystery or paradox.

2. Trinity: We believe in one God who eternally exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This would only be a formal contradiction if we said we believed that God was three Gods and one God or if we said we believed he was three persons and one person. But to say that the Trinity is one God in three persons is not a formal contradiction, but a mystery.

3. Hypostatic Union: We believe that the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, is fully God and fully man (at least since the time that he became man). We don’t believe that he is fifty percent God and fifty percent man, or even ninety/ten. Christ is everything that God is and has eternally, even in the incarnation, shared in the full divinity of the one God, yet he is everything that man is forevermore. Whereas the Trinity is one nature with three persons, Christ is one person with two natures. This is indeed a mystery, but has no earmarks of a formal contradiction.

4. Scripture: We believe the Bible is fully inspired of God, yet fully written by man. God did not put the writers of Scripture in a trance and direct their hand in the writing of Scripture (often referred to as “mechanical dictation”), but he fully utilized their personality, circumstances, writing style, and mood in producing the Scriptures. Another way to put it is that the Scriptures are the product of the will of God and the will of man. Mystery? Yes. Contradiction? No.

5. Human Responsibility and Divine Sovereignty: God is sovereign over the entire world, bringing about his will in everything. He does as he pleases in heaven and on earth. There is not a maverick molecule in all the universe. He even sovereignly predestined people to salvation before they were born, while passing over all others. Yet man is fully responsible for all his actions. There will be a judgment of the unrighteous one day in which God will hold people responsible for their rejection of Christ. How could there be a judgment if people were doing only what they were predestined to do? I don’t know. But I do know that they are truly responsible for their actions and rejection of God.  This is a mystery beyond any human ability to solve, yet not a contradiction.

Are there more than these? Most certainly. But in theology, these are the biggies. These are the big pieces of our puzzle that are missing. Why are they missing? I don’t know. I just know they are. God chose not to tell us. I will ask him when I get there. But I will try to trust him until then. After all, don’t I have to borrow from his morality in order to judge him for leaving the puzzle unsolved? I think I will pass on that.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with trying to solve these, and I think everyone needs to get into the ring and wrestle with these issues. But church history has seen that whenever these are “solved,” heresy or serious aberration is always the result. Unfortunately, many continue to opt not to let these mysteries remain. Often with good intentions, Christians have found “solutions.” But these “solutions” normally have to distort God’s revelation to do so. Preferring a settled logical system, many find pieces of another puzzle and force it to fit. The result is an obscured and inaccurate, sometimes even damnable, view of God.

Where God has left the puzzle pieces out, so should we. He knows what he is doing. Let’s just thank him for the pieces we do have and worship, for now, in the white mysterious area. Hand firmly over mouth is a good theological posture sometimes.

Let’s see if I can get you a verse here . . . Got it!

Deut. 29:29
“The secret things [missing puzzle pieces] belong to the Lord, but the things revealed [present puzzle pieces] belong to us and our children forever.”

Oh, and one more (my default NT go-to verse in these matters):

1 Cor. 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Keep the original design. It’s good stuff.

~ C. Michael Patton

Scripture portions quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green because the Scriptures have LIFE!