As a sit with my coffee this morning, I can’t help but reflect. (Now that I have finished it turned into something much longer than expect.)
Biblical Christianity (as opposed to biological/cultural or religious/institutional) is unique from other religions at several points. (Yes there are also points of connection, but that is for another discussion.)
Some religions are hopeless, that is they have no assurance that if the “faithful” do what they are told, that they will assuredly receive their intended reward.
Other religions are purposeless; the goal is so intangible that it may hardly be called a reward.
Other see the reward as an obligation on God’s part–He must bestow it on them, they were better than others.
For most religions the rewards is in some way proportional to the acts of goodness that an individual does.
In biblical Christianity the reward is freely given. I don’t think there are too many instances when a gift given by a human being is actually totally free. We love to give gifts, but we may ask (even if never verbalized), “What will I get in return?” We give proportionally–that is the value of the gift indicates the depth of relationship. I don’t give the paper boy gold and diamonds and I better not give my wife gift certificates to a fast food restaurant.
God promises to give us the most costly gift, the most unbelievable reward not based on our proportional value, but based on His unrestrained generosity.
The reward is more than a place without end (heaven, as is often conceived) but relationship without end (more another time).
But God’s unrestrained generosity can never be at the expense of His nature and priority. That leads to another uniqueness.
This may be a bit of a caricature, but most religions and most forms of Christianity have man as the center of attention. True or biblical Christianity maintain the focus on God. Not simply by stating that the goal is the worship of God, but by allowing the worship of God to dominate, control and motivate everything else.
God’s priority is not the reward of individuals, but His own glory. More specifically, God’s priority is that people from every tribe, nation, ethnic group, language group, people group would proclaim His glory (1 Chronicles 16:8-26 serves as a wonderful summary) not by coercion but conversion.
God’s priority then leads to the reward, but is based on another uniqueness.
For God to accomplish His priority and provide His unrestrained reward required a sacrifice of unimaginable worth.
While God desires to be blessed and desires to bless man, there is a barrier. God’s holiness and man’s sin can not coexist. God can not simply overlook sin–it must be dealt with. The only way to deal with sin is justice and justice requires payment. The payment for sin–death. Romans 3:23 and 6:23 are very clear that all mankind are under the just penalty of death because of their sin.
But God has provided a way through the unthinkable–the sacrifice of His own Son. The only one who could meet the standard of God’s holiness, the only one who did not deserve the penalty, the only one who was as righteous as God–became the sacrifice for mankind (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (ESV)
For the priority of God, His glory, to provide for the reward of mankind based on the sacrifice of Jesus, required Jesus to become a man.
The mystery of the incarnation boggles my mind. (This is why we have to invent big words: hypostatic union, theanthropic person)
While countless pages have been written about the incarnation, how God could become man is still a mystery.
God is infinite Man is finite God is Spirit Man is corporal God is omnipresent (present everywhere simultaneously) Man is just present in one place at one time
Man is natural God is supernatural
Man is a sinner God is sinless God never lies God is holy (unique, distinct and sinless)
In the incarnation, God had to bring the person of Jesus (or the Second Person of the Trinity) whose eternal nature was divine together with a human nature.
In contemporary theology we try to use mathematical statements–Jesus is 100% man and 100% God. But there are aspects of God and aspects of man that can not coexist. So how is the God-man actually the God-man?
While we must allow for some degree of mystery, we know that for the sacrifice to have been legitimate Jesus must have been man. For the sacrifice to be acceptable to God Jesus must have been God. Neither nature could be so radically changed as to change the fundamental being. But the fundamental being could not be in conflict.
As a matter of fact, it took a number of Church Councils to deal with this issue
Council of Nicaea 325 Christ is fully divine
Council of Constantinople 381 Christ is fully human
Council of Ephesus 431 Christ is a unified person
Council of Chalcedon 451 Christ is human and divine in one person
And the debate has continued (8th c. adoptionist controversy, 16th c divine spark theory, 17th and 18th c the kenoticism–Jesus emptied himself of all divine attribute, currently–it’s just a myth).
Philippians 2:7-8 makes it clear that Jesus took or added the human nature to His divine nature in such way that it did not diminish His deity or damage His humanity.
Biblical Christianity is unique not because I am a Christian, but because God has made it so.
He has done the impossible through the incarnation, to provide the improbable–a reward based on the death of His own Son, for His ultimate glory.
Stand in awe
Bow in humility
Share with boldness