Monday, December 21, 2020

Advent Reflections On How Jesus Grants Access To Three Sorts Of Life


      Life. What exactly is it? We can distinguish, in general, life from non-life by what something can do or not do. "Living" is an act. "Life", though, is wrapped in mystery. In the Bible, we are introduced to three sorts of life: God's Divine life; biological life and spiritual life. God's life is without beginning, without end and eternal. Biological life, as I already mentioned, is identified by what we see it do. Spiritual life is described in terms of "new birth" (John 3:3), "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17) and "imperishable seed" (1 Peter 1:23). 

        When we describe the very life of God Himself, we use the language of attributes and the names of God, since the very life of God - though incomprehensible to finite minds - yet is knowable in saving faith (see 1 Corinthians 2:9). 

        Biological life, if defined outside the framework of God the Creator and His creation, remains undefined. With God, life is described by extra qualities which gets closer to defining it. Meaningful. Significant. Valuable. Spiritual life, at first imperceptible, sprouts into faith, followed by good works and a God-ward orientation. In this post I want us to consider how Jesus Christ grants access to God's life, physical life and spiritual life.

Jesus Christ grants access to God's life

      Now that we understand the three sorts of life that the Biblical text reveals, how is it that Jesus Christ grants us access to all three? John 1:1-18 lays out the answers for us. First, the Son of God is credited with granting access to the Divine life of God Himself, since He Himself has pre-existed as God alongside the Father and the Spirit. John 1:1-2 explains:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God."

Before there was a "beginning", there was God alone. Before there was "Genesis 1:1", there was Isaiah 46:9-10 - 

“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’."

        God was not lonely before the creation of the world. Part of the Athanasian Creed states: 

"Nothing in this Trinity is before or after, nothing is greater or smaller; in their entirety the three persons  are coeternal and coequal with each other."

God did not create out of need. Rather, creation came about by God simply wanting it to be. The Son of God is that Person of the Trinity which makes accessible the very life of God. John 1:18 reminds us: 

"No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him."

     Never before Jesus was it thought possible to access the very life of God. God always communicated to His people "via media" (by means or methods). Hebrews 1:1-2 states about God's self-disclosure of Himself in the Old Testament: "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways."          

        Something transpired following the incarnation of the Son that made access to God a reality. Consider Jesus' words in John 14:8 "if you have seen me, you have seen the Father." The God who revealed Himself on top of the mountain (Exodus 19-20) and through a burning bush (Exodus 3) and by the symbolism of the Tabernacle (Hebrews 9:1-14) made Himself accessible through the frail frame of infancy. Even when the Son of God appeared as the "Angel of the Lord" or some other manifestation known as "theophany", such revelations were "dress-rehersal" for what would be the permanency of incarnation. Because of Jesus' incarnation, followers of Him have access to Divine life as Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:3-4,

"seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust."

More to the point, the writer of Hebrews states in Hebrews 10:19-20 

"Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh."

         This is big news! Why? To have access to God means He has already made the way of access to me! By His grace He calls me to Himself through Christ. As the old preachers put it: "His hand of grace reaches down to me, and I with a hand of faith reach up to Him." I take that quote to mean that in His grace, God grants me spiritual life wherewith I reach up and grab hold of Him through Christ (see Ephesians 2:8-9; James 1:17-18). Only Christianity claims such open access - minus ritual; minus performance; minus a priesthood. Jesus grants access to the life of God.

Jesus granted access to physical life

       John 1:3-5 describes the work of Christ at creation:

"All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."

         We understand that God is the Creator. As the Trinity, each Person of the God-head plays a role in the entirety of the creative drama. The Father is the One "from whom all things are made" (1 Corinthians 8:6) - The "Author" of all things. The Spirit is the One from which life itself manifests in all things that are alive (see Psalm 104:30) - "The Agent of life" in all things. The Son, however, is the Architect through which all things consist (see Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:3). 

         In as much as we clearly see Jesus depicted as being truly God - Creator, Redeemer, LORD - the truth of His incarnation brings a more direct level of access to "physical life". Put another way, He Who is the Architect behind the creation of physical life came to live as a physical man! John 1:14 still astonishes me when I read it,

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."

          The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 expounds on the significance of the incarnation of the Son of God:

"Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin."

           In granting access to a physical human life by becoming one of us, the Son of God provides the basis for how redeemed men and women can live the Christian life. In Jesus, I not only have access to participating in the Divine life of God (2 Peter 1:3-4), but also to His perfect humanity which is the basis for Christian growth and daily living (see 1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 1:27). This truth of access to Jesus humanity, made possible by the Holy Spirit, is called "union with Christ". Such a union is at the heart of our final thought in this post: Jesus grants access to Christian spiritual life.

Jesus grants access to spiritual life

            In this post we have observed how Jesus Christ grants access to God's life (since He by His divine nature ever remains God). We also noted how Jesus grants access to physical life - particularly redeemed humanity as the incarnate Redeemer by means of His human nature. The believer in Jesus has access to everything necessary for Godly living through Jesus. John 1:12-13 states concerning how Jesus is the source of spiritual life:

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."

        We then read later on in John 1:15-17 further truths about the spiritual life provided by Jesus:

"John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ."

             I find it interesting that John 1:12-13 and John 1:15-17 pivot on John 1:14. Why? In order for anyone to have access to the the spiritual life provided by Jesus Christ, they must be "born-again" (see John 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). In other words, a "miracle birth" called "regeneration" is necessary to the beginning of the Christian life. Any Christian's "miracle new birth" is made possible by the Holy Spirit's working. When you think about it, the unique "miracle conception" of Jesus in His humanity brought forth the most significant man in all of history. This miraculous conception of the humanity of Jesus provides, by analogy, a parallel to why the Christian life requires a "miraculous conception" in the believer brought about by the Spirit and the Scripture. 

       The Apostle John's inclusion of Jesus' incarnation (John 1:14) in the middle of reference to the "new birth" of Christians to spiritual life (John 1:12-13 and 1:15-17) is intentional. Truly, Jesus is central to everything in the Christian life and, whether people acknowledge it or not, is central to the meaning of life itself. Without Jesus' "miracle-birth", the Christian could never had experienced their own "miracle birth" to new life in Him. This connection is a Biblical one, as seen in what Paul writes in Galatians 4:19 - "My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you."

Closing thoughts

           We have observed how Jesus Christ grants access to three sorts of life that we find in John 1:1-18 and other passages:

1. Jesus Christ grants access to God's life.

2. Jesus Christ grants access to physical life.

3. Jesus Christ grants access to spiritual life.

Truly this is what makes Advent season so significant - true life, in its fullest, accessible because of Jesus!

No comments:

Post a Comment