For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles-assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
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Completely For Us
Thursday of Pentecost 5
17 July 2014
What God the Word becomes in time He becomes for us. He becomes man, not to produce some essential change in His divinity, but to produce some change for us. His divinity is not diminished by His becoming man, but our humanity is raised. Although the Bible often uses the terms of "becoming" and "being" of the eternal Son the Bible always means that our nature has become something for our sakes. In fact, in several places the Bible explicitly says that the Son became something "for us." For example, Paul says that Jesus Christ "became wisdom from God for us" (1Co 1:30 Gk). The becoming adds nothing essential to His divinity, because His divinity is not in a state of becoming, but rather for us He becomes the wisdom of salvation. The Son condescends to offer Himself for our need, substituting Himself as Lord of all to become the servant of all. And, of course, He does this for us. In Himself He has no need of becoming any of these things. He is, according to His divine nature, in need of nothing. This is what it means to be God: to be complete in Himself.
Seen in this light, the activity of God's Son in the world is all done and accomplished for our good, that we might be redeemed from sin and death. Being clear about Christology again enables us to be clear about salvation. Imagine! Knowing Christ means that we will know salvation. Duh.
In Matthew 22:23-33, Jesus was challenged about the resurrection by the Sadducees through their silly question about Levirate marriage. He silenced them with the blunt statement: "You are wrong" (Jesus fails to be PC again!). Then Jesus quoted Exodus, in which God says to Moses, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Mt 22:32) four hundred years after the death of these men. How could God call Himself the God of dead people? If God was willing to name Himself to us using the names of the Patriarchs, it implies that the Patriarchs were not dead, but lived on. God is the God of the living, not the dead. So much for the Sadducees denial of the resurrection. We have a living God who makes alive His people, so that Jesus says to Martha: "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (Jn 11:25-26). But as I thought about this unique name for God, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," I was struck by God's willingness to be denominated by the names of mere creatures. His name is "the God of these people." He is not God by Himself. He is God for them! We hear echoes of this when He calls Himself Immanuel, "God with us" (Mt 1:23). I wondered how many of the so-called gods of the ancient Near East bore the names of their devotees. I could think of many kings who were named for the gods of the ancient world, like King Nebuchadnezzar, named for the god of wisdom, Nabu. However, I couldn't think of any gods who were named for their worshipers. We have a God who desires fellowship with us so deeply that He chooses to be named with our names. That is how much our God is "for us." The God who condescends to take our name upon Himself, so much is He for us.
Athanasius of Alexandria
"Being Himself the Word, the Son of God is truly Lord of all. However, we once were subject to the slavery of corruption and the curse of the Law, then by degrees fashioning for ourselves things that were not, as says the blessed Apostle, we 'were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods' (Gal 4:8), and, ignorant of the true God, we preferred things that were not to the truth. Afterward, as the ancient people when oppressed in Egypt groaned, so, when we too had the law 'engrafted' (Jas 1:21) in us, and according to the unutterable sighings (Rm 8:26) of the Spirit made our intercession: 'O Lord our God, take possession of us' (Is 26:13 LXX). Then, as 'He became our dwelling place and refuge' (Ps 91:9) and a 'God and defense' (Ps 59:16), so also He became our Lord. He did not then begin to be, but we began to have Him for our Lord. Therefore, God being good and Father of the Lord, in pity and desiring to be known by all, made His own Son put on a human body and become man, and be called Jesus, that in this body offering Himself for all, He might deliver all from false worship and corruption, and might Himself become of all Lord and King.
"In this way, His becoming Lord and King is what Peter means by, 'He has made Him Lord,' (Acts 2:36), and 'shall send Jesus Christ' (Acts 3:20); as much as to say, that the Father in making Him man (for to be made belongs to man), did not simply make Him man, but has made Him in order for Him to be Lord of all men, and to sanctify all through the anointing. For though the Word existing in the form of God took a servant's form, yet the assumption of the flesh did not make a servant of the Word, who was by nature Lord; but rather, not only was it that emancipation of all humanity which takes place by the Word, but that very Word who was by nature Lord, and was then made man, by means of a servant's form was made Lord of all and Christ, that is, in order to sanctify all by the Spirit. As God, when becoming a God and defense (Ps 59:17) and saying, 'I will be a God to them' (Gn 17:7) does not then become God more than before, nor then begins to become God. Rather, He then becomes to those who need Him what He always is, when it pleases Him, so Christ also being by nature Lord and King everlasting, does not become Lord more than He was at the time He is sent forth, nor then begins to be Lord and King, but what He always is He is made according to the flesh; and, having redeemed all, He becomes again the Lord of the living and the dead. Henceforth all things refer to Him, and this is David's meaning in the Psalm, 'The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."' (Ps 110:1). For it was fitting that the redemption should take place through none other than Him who is the Lord by nature, lest we should name another Lord (even if created by the Son) and fall into the Arian and Greek folly, serving the creature rather than the all-creating God."
Athanasius of Alexandria,
Four Discourses Against the Arians, 2.15
Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
For Mamisoa Randrianasolo, who will be undergoing surgery, that the holy angels would watch over her
For the St-Onge family, that the Lord of life would grant them health and every blessing
For Charles Wokoma, that the Christ, the Lord of the church, would grant him the means to sustain his ministry and teaching in Nigeria
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2014