According to Neder, "Barth accounts for the transition from de jure [objective] to de facto [subjective] participation in Christ...with a Christocentric pneumatology and a theology of the resurrection of Christ" (p83). For Barth, our personal participation in the resurrected, glorified humanity of Jesus Christ occurs through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This participation, which is direct and free, is not limited to indirect means of grace (such as the sacraments). Though Barth viewed baptism and the Lord's Supper as important, he insisted that God is free and sovereign in bestowing his grace to us in direct, unmediated ways.
A key "place" where we must be tenacious in holding this view of God's grace is that of sanctification, which like all aspects of our salvation, Barth sees as a participation in Jesus' own life--in this case in his own sanctified humanity:
Both the old man of yesterday and the new man of tomorrow...is still the old and yet already the new, in complete and utter antithesis.... The vita christiana [life of Christ] in conversion is the event, the act, the history, in which at one and the same time man is still wholly the old man and already wholly the new---so powerful in the sin by which he is determined from behind, and so powerful the grace by which he is determined from before.... The old and the new man are simultaneously present (p85).Though our old man is dead in Christ, yet somehow it is still here with us. At the same time, though our glorification lied ahead of us, somehow the glorified new man is here with us (see Paul's comment in 2Cor. 5:17). Here we have Barth's understanding of the "now, yet future" sense of eschatology as it pertains to sanctification. Already we are new people in Christ, and yet we do not experience that newness fully this side of glorification. Indeed, our true (fully sanctified) humanity is at the present time "hidden in Christ" (see Paul's comment in Col. 3:1-4).
By grace, we experience this new man--this new creation of humanity in Christ. And thus, according to Barth, the good works we accomplish in this life are not our own, but a sharing in the good works of the resurrected, ascended, glorified human Jesus. Our obedience to God takes place not by our "own caprice, but by the will and touch and address and creation and gift of the Lord" (pp85-6). In short, we should not view grace as some sort of a "transferred condition," but as our direct participation in the life and love of the man Jesus, who, himself, is God's grace.
Our ongoing life in Christ--our "journey with Jesus"--is thus not about merely mimicking Jesus' past behavior ("What would Jesus do?" some ask); nor is it about merely "cooperating" with God's grace. Rather, in union and communion with Jesus we have actual (real) participation in the ongoing, resurrected, ascended, glorified human life and love of of our Lord and Savior. And that participation comes by and through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Jesus.
Barth's concept that participation in Christ is participation in the triune being of God is similar to the idea of deification (sometimes called theosis) taught by the Orthodox church and others, though Barth was careful to show that this participation realizes rather than replaces our humanity. Barth emphasized that as we participate in the glorified, humanity of Jesus, we will forever continue to be human. Indeed, it is that participation that makes us truly human. Here is how the apostle John put his understanding of this truth:
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1John 3:2).To that we add our grateful "amen," as we conclude this series looking at Neder's book. I recommend it to you highly.