I am speaking the truth in Christ- I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit- that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son." And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad- in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call- she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.(ESV)
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Beam Me Up, God?
Thursday After the Baptism of our Lord
16 January 2014
Fans of the sci-fi television program, Star Trek, have always been fascinated by the ability of the show's characters to beam their molecules around the universe through the remarkable powers of the "transporter" of the Enterprise. From that fascination the phrase, "Beam me up, Scottie. There's no intelligent life down here!" passed into popular usage. The transporter was especially useful when the characters of the program found themselves in a tight spot; under attack from implacable aliens on some hostile planet. Just before the worst was about to happen Captain Kirk would call to be beamed up. Whew, saved by the transporter again! Some Christians treat the divinity of Jesus the Christ in just this way, as though the personal union of the two natures in Christ was an on-again, off-again thing, as though the Father of Christ beamed up the Son of God just when something terrible was going to happen, leaving only the humanity behind to suffer conception, birth, humiliation, suffering and death. Talk about being "left behind!" Christ, God's Son, is thought to be beamed in and out of the picture as necessary.
The result of this thinking is that the personal union of the two natures in Christ becomes an impersonal disunion. In this way when Christ dies, only the man Jesus dies on the cross. Before dying the divine nature of Christ was beamed up or medevaced out of harm's way into heaven, where He would be beyond the reach of shameful suffering and degrading death. This peek-a-boo divinity of Christ would then be saved. If this were true, then we would not be. If He is saved, we are not. For if a mere man dies on Calvary, there can be no hope of salvation for the other mere men. If a mere man can redeem us, then we should be able to redeem ourselves.
No, in his mercy God has seen to it that His eternal Son is inseparably joined in the personal union with His human nature, born of Mary, so that in that true union He redeems the world by paying a ransom in blood sufficient for all sinners. An on-again, off-again impersonal disunion would never bring to bear the fullness of the divinity into the lists to defeat sin, death, and the devil for us. If a mere man can do the job, why call Him God? No, He is and remains God of God, who for our salvation came in human flesh. He does not exit the scene when suffering comes, but embraces it and takes it into His person. How comforting it is to know that when our suffering comes, He will never abandon us, nor will He just "beam us up." He bore the fullness of suffering in His person that we too might suffer and thus become like Him; whole and integrated.
"All grace, power, might, divinity, and the fullness of actual divinity and glory have ever existed together with Christ and in Christ, whether in heaven or on earth or in the womb or at His birth. Nothing that is proper to God was ever wanting to God. For the Godhead was ever present with God, nowhere and at no time severed from Him. For everywhere God is present in His completeness and in His perfection. He suffers no division or change or diminution. For nothing can be either added to God or taken away from Him, for He is subject to no diminution of divinity, just as to no increase of it. He was the same person then on earth who was also in heaven, the same person in His low estate who was also in the highest, the same person in the littleness of manhood as in the glory of the Godhead.
"And so the Apostle Paul was right in speaking of the grace of Christ when He meant the grace of God. For Christ was everything that God is. At the very time of His conception as man there came all the power of God, all the fullness of the Godhead. For from it came all the perfection of the Godhead, which was His origin. Nor was that human nature of His (Rm 9:3-5) ever without the deity as it received from deity the very fact of its existence. And so, to begin with, whether you like it or not, you cannot deny this: that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, especially as the archangel declares in the gospels: 'The child to be born will be called holy- the Son of God' (Lk 1:35). But when this is established then remember that whatever you read of Christ you read of the Son of God. Whatever you read of the Lord or Jesus belongs to the Son of God. You recognize a title of divinity in all these terms that you hear uttered, as you see that in each case you ought to understand that the Son of God is meant. Prove to me, if you like, how you can separate the Godhead from the Son of God."
John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation, 2.7
Lord Jesus, You have become a complete and integrated person through the personal union of Your divine and human natures. Grant that we might accept the cross and suffering that come to us, that we might receive Your rescue in their midst. Help us to be persons who are whole and integrated in accordance with Your good and gracious will. Amen.
For President Obama, that he would be strengthened in every good deed
For Victor Atsinger, Sr., who is recovering from surgery, that he would experience complete healing
For the believers in Christ in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Nicaragua, that they would be strengthened in their faith and confession
For Victor Atsinger, Jr., who is suffering from cardiovascular problems, that the Lord would guide the doctors and other health professionals to bring him therapies that will be effective
Art: MEMLING, Hans Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)
© Scott R. Murray, 2014