Sharing in Jesus' knowing, believing and obeying

This post continues a series reviewing Christian Kettler's book, The God Who Believes - Faith, Doubt, and the Vicarious Humanity of Christ.  For other posts in the series, click a number: 124.

In the last two posts, I've shared quotes from Christian Kettler's book, "The God Who Believes," in which he discusses Jesus' believing, knowing and acting on our behalf. Here are more:

Lest we misunderstand, this does not mean that there is not a place for our own believing, knowing, and acting. According to Kettler, "Because Jesus believes for us does not exclude the imperative for us to believe!" (p. 71).  However, Kettler notes that "we do not initiate our knowledge of God" (p. 71). Jesus is the only human who truly knows God; and he shares, by grace, that knowledge with us. Thus the faith that saves us, is Jesus' faith, not our own. And his faith is grounded in his intimate knowledge of the Father. And so we know God, because Jesus knows God and shares that knowledge with us. Thus Kettler quotes Karl Barth: "We must not only believe in the risen Christ. We must believe with the risen Christ" (p. 72).

"But," some might retort, "don't we know God because he is revealed to us in Scripture?"  Kettler responds by noting that, "The Bible has no authority of its own. The Bible has genuine authority because Jesus reads it with us today" (p. 73, referencing Ray Anderson). Kettler continues: "Knowledge of God, divine revelation, is essentially discovered in the humanity of Christ, the 'real text' of revelation" (quoting T.F. Torrance).

The key point in this is the vicarious (representative, substitutionary) humanity of Jesus. The eternal Son of God became one of us in order to stand in for us - to have faith for us, which as noted above is grounded in his intimate knowledge of God for us. The same can be said about our obedience.Our Christian discipleship (growth in Christ), which leads to our transformation, "is more than 'The Little Engine That Could': 'I think I can...I think I can...' Christ loves before we love...Then we can enter with him into the practical movement and consequences of that faith and love" (p. 76). Our obedience is our participation in Jesus' loving and living.

Kettler continues: "We are brought to God to worship, adore, and serve [Him], participating in the deep 'Abba' experience of the Son, his immediacy and intimacy with the...Father...a relationship that we have been unable to live" (pp. 80-81).

Jesus' lordship in all this, "Is not the lordship of an arbitrary sovereign, but a lordship that grants us the grace of participation in the intimate union between the Father and the Son through the Spirit, the 'condition' the Son creates for us (John 17:10, 18-23, 26; Eph 3:16-17)" (p.82). "Such a 'sweet exchange' the act of God's grace. Grace is not simply the reality of salvation, but just as important for the knowledge of God. Just as we have no ability to save ourselves, so also, we have no ability to know the Holy One of Israel (Exod 3:4). As Torrance reminds us, the knowledge of God is neither based on nature (Roman Catholicism), nor on our own subjective piety (Protestant liberalism, and I might add, American evangelicalism). God provides the One from the human side who already knows God. This is an act of God's grace as much as salvation is" (p.83).

But if God knows/believes/obeys for us, then why should we participate?  Kettler answers: "Having received [all these graces from God]...means that a wellspring of gratitude can now flow forth" (p.85).  Along similar lines, and now concerning our participation in the faith of Christ, Kettler asks, "What is faith in Christ...if the faith of Christ is significant? Here is not a continuation of Christ's faith by our imitation, but a genuine following of Jesus. Such following is an actual following Jesus down his road, but realizing that he always goes before us. He is the 'pioneer' (Heb. 12:2), the Kit Carson, the Daniel Boone of our faith. So walking behind him is a genuine walking, a genuine faith, but not without him going first...He replaces our attempts to blaze our trails, even to help ourselves. Still, we are enabled to then walk the trail. We are enabled to actually have the knowledge of faith, yet it is faith in the 'exchange of status' between us, the 'sweet exchange' of his life for ours" (p. 85).

"We share in the intimacy of relationship in the Son's knowledge of the...Father through the Spirit. This is our 'adoption' as sons and daughters of God (Gal 4:4-7). Through this participation we are genuinely connected to, but not identified [confused] with the Son. Just as God's deity was not obliterated when he became human, so also our humanity is not destroyed as we participate in the vicarious humanity of Jesus. No longer is our salvation to be seen in terms of an ordo salutis, an order of salvation in which Christ is only an instrument that leads to our acts of justifying faith and sanctifying works. It is Christ who has beome for us 'wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption' (1Cor 1:30). Sanctification is not to be seen as only 'our part.'" (p. 86).

"'Following Jesus' means not to [merely] imitate...but to be with him. To be with Jesus is to take up one's cross, to deny oneself, yet not apart from his cross and his self-denial (John 12:26)...Karl Barth's words are encouraging: 'It is good to be with Jesus and not elsewhere. This is good because there God Himself is good for us'" (p. 90).



Anonymous said…
Hi there!

I am fascinated by these posts, and I feel there is an attempt in these post to articulate a way to obedience. This is good.

Yet, all too often obedience defaults to the historical Jesus and His minstry of 2000 years ago to those of 2000 years. Therefore, attempts to copy this Jesus easily place us away from our present and into a realm that is not ours.

However, obedience does find its place in our present if we look to the present Jesus, as defined by Paul and John. This look is profound as it works out as Paul says in telling the Corinthians to not look to Moses but to Jesus:

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NIV)
16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

I suggest that this present Jesus works transformation wonders in our lives if we but look at Him as we live our often messy modern present.

The best to you always!

J. Richard Parker
Ted Johnston said…
Thanks for your commment Richard.

I too am helped by Kettler's excellent presentation of the content and implications of the continuing, vicarious humanity of Jesus.

As you note, this understanding of Jesus and his life, speaks directly to our obedience to God. That obedience it not a formulaic, wooden, legalistic rule-keeping, but a real participation in the ongoing loving and living of Jesus, in the Spirit, within our world.

This ongoing love and life of Jesus is creative and flexible, but proceeds in certain "patterns" (or call them "rhythms" - and Barth speaks of them as the flow of water within a certain river).

We see these patterns operating in the Gospel narratives that describe Jesus' ministry while he was on the earth.

We see the same patterns expressed through the ministry of the early church described in the book of Acts and in the Epistles.

And now, the Holy Spirit forms, empowers and leads the church to participate with Jesus in the same patterns of his loving and living in our contemporary world.

And thus I see the Gospels as an excellent source for understanding Jesus and the patterns of his loving and living in that particular cultural context. Our context, as you note, is different (culturally). However, it is the same Jesus - living out the same patterns; and always inviting and facilitating the real participation of his followers with him in his ongoing mission and ministry - in the Spirit, from the Father.
Ted Johnston said…
Ted Johnston said...
Regarding our participation, as the church, in the patterns of Jesus' ongoing mission and ministry, you might find of interest the January issue of GC2 equipper at