April 19, 2017
The Incarnation and the Cross
Jesus Redeems the Whole World and the Whole Man
Theme: The world was made for the body of man, the body was made for the spirit of man (which doesn’t exist apart from the body), and the spirit was made for God.
God's ultimate objective in creating the physical order was to place man within it. We look around and see the majesty of creation, and we find ourselves asking the same question when David looked at the heavens in all their magnitude and then said, "What is man that Thou art mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:4).
While the Scripture gives us reasons for why man is created by God and important to God, skeptics of Scripture try to deemphasize the importance of mankind, and emphasize man’s evolution from animals. To understand that mankind is important to God, and that the physical order was made for mankind, we must think about two great questions:
- In what way is man unique in the universe, and
- In what way is man related to God?
There are three orders of creatures which have conscious life:
- The angels – About the angels, we know nothing except by revelation, but from revelation, we learn that they are exceedingly numerous, that they can act upon the physical order if they choose – though they are not dependent upon it for their existence – and that some of them at least have sinned against God. If the argument from silence carries any weight in such matters, they are not redeemable, for Scripture gives no indication of such a thing.
- The animals - A similar argument from silence suggests that the plan of Redemption does not involve them either because, though they do have bodies, they are not held to be morally accountable before God. Thus the angels are not redeemed because they have no necessary corporeal existence, and the animals are not redeemed because they have no moral accountability.
- Adam - Between these two orders of created beings stands man who has a corporeal existence, unlike the angels which render the Incarnation necessary to make his redemption possible. At the same time, the necessity for his redemption stems from the fact that he is morally accountable, unlike the animals. His possession of a body makes his redemption possible; the possession of a fallen spirit makes his Redemption necessary.
Man is, therefore, neither animal nor angel but a unique creature of God sharing something of both, the moral accountability of the angels and the dependence upon the physical order of the animals. He bears a relationship to God as a consequence of his uniqueness, which makes him higher than the angels. But this status which he may achieve, and for which I believe he was created, is possible only because he has a special kind of physical life, a special kind of mental capacity and a special kind of spiritual potential. And the Bible is deeply concerned with the history of all three (Shem, Japheth and Ham).
Mankind’s spiritual potential can be shown to be dependent ultimately upon his special kind of mental capacity, and this, in turn, results from his possession of a special kind of central nervous system which is only partly shared by the animals. It is, however, dependent upon the world in which he lives, the physical order of things in which he moves and has his being, the air he breathes with its special composition, the fluid which forms so large a part of his body, the temperature of his environment, the gravitational forces. So we move from God to the human spirit, to the mind, to the human body, to the world which he inhabits, and on out into a larger realm.
It seems impossible to create an adequate World View unless man is made the key or the end for which the world was made, and the world the end for which the universe was made. In short, God made man for Himself, the world for man, and the universe for the world. So we must begin with God Himself.
We have in the New Testament, especially in the Gospels, a portrait of what God is like. This much is certain. God loves man and seeks his company even at unimaginable cost to Himself; and for all our indifference, His delight is still with the sons of men. From Scripture, it is clear that God created man because He sought beings capable of entering into a unique relationship with Himself, a relationship that was to result from an experience which man was to undergo, an experience Involving:
- A Fall from a state of innocence to a state of conscious guilt, and then
- A Redemption to an entirely new level of virtue and fellowship with God as a direct consequence of that Fall.
The special relationship of mankind to God is "special" because it involves redemption.
It is apparent that angels worship God and rejoice with Him and in some sense form His "Court": yet Scripture implies that while angels may be in the company of God, they can never achieve the status of companions, for they neither comprehend nor respond to His love, knowing only of His holiness.
The only one way in which the love of God could be displayed comprehensibly was by sacrifice, a sacrifice in which God Himself becomes like His creatures in order to enter into their world, experience their kind of life, and finally assume their guilt and translate His great love into comprehensible terms by becoming responsible for the very sin which had been a necessary element of the experience.
We can have and do have, no other clear proof of the reality of God's love for man except that which was displayed at Calvary. And, if man had not sinned, there could have been no occasion for the Cross. It is foolish to speak of the love of God while at the same time ignoring the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ His Son. Apart from Calvary, the evidence of God's care for man is easily overwhelmed by the facts of history which suggest rather His total indifference. Scripture properly sees the key to all history is the ultimate revelation of God's thoughts towards Man, the death of Jesus Christ. It is comprehensible revelation, a revelation which is bound up in historical events occupying time and space in man's time-and-space world. It is the climax of divine planning and preparation.
To fulfill God's desire for the true companionship of creatures capable of responding to His love, no other being seems to have been possible than such as Man is. This being cannot be conceived without taking into account his unique capacities as well as the physical environment in which he lives out his life. These circumstances invite us to examine the relationship between man and the universe in this light. Mankind’s varied capacities require us to examine how God undertook to preserve man against destroying himself completely after he had sinned, while His purposes were being carried through to completion. The animals do not belong in the spiritual world as far as we know, and angels do not belong in the physical world, but man belongs in both, and thus is neither animal nor angel. He is unique because he is redeemable, and the mode of his redemption is the key to the universe’s existence.
See Appendix 21 – Why the Cross