I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Incarnation and Christ's Solidarity with Us

One thing that I think we too often miss during the Advent season is that the incarnation revealed Jesus’ incredible solidarity with man.  In the incarnation Christ left his abode in eternal glory, “who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man” (Nicene Creed; cf. Phil. 2:5ff; Heb. 2:6—18).  The divine Word took to himself our human nature and a reasonable soul and dwelt, or better, tabernacle among us (Jn. 1:14).  Indeed, in Christ we have the one and only Immanuel, that is, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).  Additionally, because of the incarnation, and Christ’s solidarity with us therein, the reverse is also true, “that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, as the head, will also take up to himself, us, his members” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q 49). 

Christ assuming human nature was necessary for several reasons.  For one, “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3).  It was man that rebelled against God, so it was in man that the just punishment for sin must be meted out.  “Because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned, should likewise make satisfaction for sin” (HC, Q 16).  Secondly, his assuming our nature made Jesus a most gracious, empathetic High Priest, mediating on behalf of us his people; and, because he stands as our Advocate before the Father, we may approach the throne of grace with assurance and confidence (Heb. 4:15—16; 1 Jn. 2:1).  In a word, Christ, by taking on our nature, became our faithful Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5).  Thus, by means of his humiliation in the incarnation, Christ Jesus is the “one who is very man, perfectly righteous; and yet more powerful than all creatures; that is, one who is also very God” (HC, Q 14).  In Christ, we have our God and our Man, and the perfect union of these two; thus, in him, the solidarity between God and man is perfected! 

Finally, the incarnation is the grounding for Jesus’ resurrection.  And, of course, if Christ be not raised, then our hope and faith and gospel ministry is a sham (1 Cor. 15:14).  Jesus is that man through whom the resurrection of the dead comes (vv. 20—23).  “The resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection” (HC, Q 45), that is, “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).  Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Cor. 9:15). 

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