Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Our Need for Immanuel, God With Us

Some people have asked the question over the years, "Why was it necessary for God to send Christ in order to redeem us?"  Calvin begins today a chapter in an attempt to answer this question for his readers.  It is pretty deep and it is still fairly early in the morning (only on my second cup of Coffee People's Organic, Extra Bold this morning) so I hope that I do these sections justice.  I think this is a very important chapter.

Calvin starts off by stating that only someone who is fully God and fully man could have served to bridge the gap between God and ourselves.  God decreed that this was what was best for us.  Our sin had caused a separation between God and man, therefore, "no man, unless he belonged to God, could serve as the intermediary to restore peace."  This man could not be defiled by sin, so no son of Adam could qualify.  Adam's children, "like their father, all of them were terrified in the sight of God."  Because no child of Adam would suffice, "it was necessary for the Son of God to become for us 'Immanuel, that is, God with us' [Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23], and in such a way that his divinity and our human nature might by mutual connection grow together.  Otherwise the nearness would not have been near enough, nor the affinity sufficiently firm, for us to hope that God might dwell with us."  Not only did he need to be God in order to bring God to us, he also needed to be man in order to bring us to God.  He needed to experience being human, experience temptation, experience death.  The writer of Hebrews stated, "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).  He does "feel our pain" because he did experience life in our form.

The task of restoring us to God's grace, "as to make of the children of men, children of God; of the heirs of Gehenna, heirs of the Heavenly Kingdom," was no small task and only the Son of God could accomplish it.  Only the perfect man, Christ Jesus, could be this mediator because he was both fully God and fully man.  He was able to live as man, but completely free of the bondage of sin.  In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul was writing about relationships between husbands and wives, but he was also writing about the church being the bride of Christ.  In it he wrote, "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:29-32).  Because Christ became man, he was able to join with us in the struggle of earthly life.  This bridged the gap between us and our Father.

Only because he was fully God and fully man could he have been perfectly obedient for us.  He had to be both because, "neither as God alone could he feel death, nor as man alone could he overcome it, he coupled human nature with divine that to atone for sin he might submit the weakness of the one to death; and that, wrestling with death by the power f the other nature, he might win victory for us."  Calvin points out that it is further assurance that Christ was the one because he was the descendant of both David and Abraham.  This is what had been promised in the law and by the prophets.  Christ was "clothed with our flesh" but he won victory over sin and death.  "He offered as a sacrifice the flesh he received from us, that he might wipe out our guilt by his act of expiation and appease the Father's righteous wrath." 

Tomorrow's reading: 2.12.4-2.12.7

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