Divinely Complete
Monday of Advent 2
11 December 2017
Christology and justification have some relationship with each other. They are not disconnected doctrinal monads. For example, our Lutheran Confessions will often argue for the sufficiency of God's grace on the basis of the divinity of God's Son, Jesus Christ. The argument runs this way: if Christ is God, then the payment for the sin of the world which He offered would be sufficient to save all sinners and every sinner. This argument was used against the false idea of work righteousness. Sinners are completely justified through the work of Christ, because Christ is God. Any attempt to diminish the complete sufficiency of justification through the work of Christ alone would be to call into question the full divinity of Jesus.  What kind of God cannot fully save those to whom He has promised salvation? What kind of righteousness is delivered which is insufficient or incomplete, so that it would have to be supplemented by the effort of mere humans? 

An error in justification would imply an error in Christology.
We shouldn't be surprised at this argument. The Bible never talks about the gift of righteousness in the presence of God apart from the work of the One who gives that gift and has earned it by His meritorious suffering and death on the cross of Calvary. There cannot be justification apart from the divine Word's testimony about the One who grants it to us through his work as Savior. The channel in which this argument was constructed began with the clear presupposition that Jesus is fully divine. With some notable exceptions, the sixteenth century church had absolutely no difficulty with that teaching. Christology was very little in contention between Roman Catholics and Lutherans. Therefore, the argument from Christology to the sufficiency of justification was an argument that was intended to hold water with the Roman Catholic opponents of the Lutheran confession.

In the previous millennium the early church found itself in controversy, not about grace and salvation, but about the person of Christ. Therefore, we see the ancient church fathers arguing from the sufficiency of salvation and the completeness of divine grace to the divinity of Jesus. The Lutheran argument was completely turned around by the theologians of the early church. John Cassian (c. 360 - 435 AD) argued that if His grace is sufficient for the sins of the whole world, then Christ must be God. Grace is both sufficient and complete and thus can only be a divine gift. No mere human, himself bereft of grace because he cannot manufacture it, could bestow it upon the world. The very incarnation has as its goal to deliver grace and truth (Jn 1:14) and without that incarnation there would be neither.

The remarkable thing about the incarnation is that in it the mighty God has clothed himself in the weakness of the flesh, in such a way that he is both fully divine possessing all divine attributes and fully human possessing fully human weakness. In his human nature Christ obtains all the benefits accruing from his divine nature for those of us who, made brothers by his incarnation, are in need of all of his divine help. He bears our nature for our good. In him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily and thus the grace conveyed to us humans is sufficient for all humans and every human. The grace He delivers is divinely complete, because He is completely divine.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Cassian
"I want to say somewhat more on the divine grace of our Lord and Savior from the Holy Scriptures. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the Apostle Peter refuted those who thought that when they received the gospel they ought still to bear the yoke of the old law: He said, 'Why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will' (Acts 15:10-11). The Apostle certainly speaks of the gift of this grace as given by Jesus Christ. Answer me now, if you please: Do you think that this grace which is given for the salvation of all men, is given by man or by God? If you say, 'By man,' Paul, God's own vessel, will cry out against you, saying: 'The goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared' (Tit 3:4). He teaches that this grace is the result of a divine gift, and not of human weakness.

"Even if the sacred testimony was not sufficient, the truth of the matter itself would bear witness, because fragile earthly things cannot possibly furnish a thing of lasting and immortal value; nor can anyone give to another that in which he himself is lacking, nor supply a sufficiency of that, from the lack of which he admits that he himself is suffering. You cannot then help admitting that the grace comes from God. It is God then who has given it. But it has been given by our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ is God.

"Let us see what the gospel of God thinks about this same grace of our Lord: 'grace and truth came by Jesus Christ' (Jn 1:17). If Christ is a mere man, how did grace and truth come by Christ? How did he have in Him divine power, if, as you say, there was in Him only the nature of man? Where does this heavenly largess come from, if His is earthly poverty? For no one can give what he does not already have. Since Christ gave divine grace, He already had that which He gave. No one could endure a diversity of things that are so utterly different from each other, as to be at the same time suffering the wants of a poor man, and also to show the benevolent generosity of a bounteous one." 

 John Cassian, On the Incarnation of the Lord, 2.5
Titus 3:3-11

We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (ESV)
Lord Christ, the ineffable richness of Your divinity grants us the full richness of the forgiveness of our sins. Grant us in these Advent days to set our hearts at rest by this gift, that we might look forward to Your second coming with joy and anticipation, who once came in the incarnation of Mary. Amen.

For John Hatteberg, who is gravely ill, that the Lord of life would comfort him with His promises unto John's strength of faith and certainty of eternal life in Him

For all preachers who are preparing God's people to be prepared for His second coming, that the Lord born of Mary would strengthen them in their labors

For all who travel, that they would be kept safe by the Lord who sends His holy angels to guard and guide us
Art: JANSSENS, Jan  The Annunciation (17th c.)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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