The inclusion of all humanity in Christ

As we look through the lens of a Trinitarian, incarnational theology, the central truth of the gospel comes into clear focus, declaring that God the Father, through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, has reconciled the world (including all humanity) to himself (see 2 Cor. 5:19). In Christ, through the Holy Spirit, all people are forgiven, accepted and included in God's triune love and life. This central truth is unpacked by Baxter Kruger in The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here than You Ever Dared to Dream. I recommend it highly.

In the book's appendix, Baxter offers quotes that speak to a Trinitarian, incarnational understanding of the gospel. Here are a few of them, and for others, see the relevant quotes page on this blog.

From Paul S. Minear, Images of the Church in the New Testament:
In the context of his statement [2 Cor. 5:17] Paul located this transition from the old to the new at a single point: the death of all men in Christ's death for all, and the living of all men for him who was raised for all. To the apostle, what had happened in Christ simultaneously transformed not only the status of creation but also the vantage point from which its recreation must be viewed.
From Thomas F. Torrance, Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ, ed. Robert T. Walker:
In all that, Christ was on the one hand so one with God that what he did, God did, for he was none other than God himself acting thus in our humanity. And therefore there is no other god for us than this God, and no other action of God toward us than this action in which he stood in our place and acted on our behalf. On the other hand, he was so one with us that when he died we died, for he did not die for himself but for us, and he did not died alone, but we died in him as those whom he had bound to himself inseparably by his incarnation. Therefore when he rose again, we rose in him and with him, and when he presented himself before the  face of the Father, he presented us also before God, so that we are already accepted of God in him one and for all.
From Thomas F. Torrance, Space, Time and Resurrection:
With the birth and resurrection of Jesus, with Jesus himself, the relation of the world to God has been drastically altered, for everything has been placed on an entirely new basis, the unconditional grace of God. 
From George Hunsinger, How to Read Karl Barth:
When God comes to humanity in the history of Jesus Christ, humanity at the same time is brought to God in that history objectively. It is not faith which incorporates humanity into Jesus Christ. Faith is rather the acknowledgment of a mysterious incorporation already objectively accomplished on humanity's behalf. "One had died for all; therefore all have died" (2 Cor. 5:14). That all have died in Christ (and been raised with him) is the hidden truth of humanity as revealed to faith. Our true humanity is to be found not in ourselves but objectively in him. God's real presence to humanity in Jesus Christ (revelational objectivism) is paralleled by humanity's real presence in Jesus Christ to God (soteriological objectivism).
From William Still, Towards Spiritual Maturity:
We must not think of our salvation as less than a complete exchange, for there is nothing good in fallen Adam, he is totally and incurably corrupt in all his parts and passions. There is therefore no hope for him; death is the only "cure," for it is by death only that Adam can be saved from his fallen self and become a new creation. This is what Christ has done for Adam. He took his place, not only as his Substitute to take way his sins, but as his Representative to crucify his fallen nature, that in his sinless body he might slay an remove the old, and by his resurrection replace it with the new.
The ground of this truth is in Romans 6:3-8. There, Paul repeats the truth verse after verse in varying forms of words: we are "baptised into his death"; "we are buried with him by baptism into death"; we are "planted together within the likeness of his death"; "our old man was crucified with him"" "he that is dead has been justified from sin"' we are "dead with Christ." Could anything be more plain? Paul says that when Jesus died, we died with him.
From Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology:
Frequently the old man is taken in an individual sense and the crucifying and putting of the old man as the personal breaking with and fighting against the power of sin.... But we shall have to understand "old" and "new man," not in the first place in the sense of the ordo salutis, but in that of the history of redemption; that is to say, it is a matter here not of a change that comes about in the way of faith and conversion in the life of the individual Christian, but of that which once took place in Christ and in which his people had a part in him in the corporate sense described above.
From Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology:
Lutherans generally treat the doctrine of the mystical union anthropologically, and therefore conceive of it as established by faith. Hence they naturally take it up at the later point in their soteriology. But this method fails to do full justice to the idea of our union with Christ, since it loses sight of the eternal basis of the union and of its objective realization in Christ, and deals exclusively with the subjective realization of it in our lives, and even so only with our personal conscious entrance into this union. Reformed theology, on the other hand, deals with the union of believers with Christ theologically, and as such does far greater justice to this important subject. In doing so it employs the term "mystical union" in a broad sense as a designation not only of the subjective union of Christ and believers, but also of the union that lies back of it, that is basic to it, and of which it is only the culminating expression, namely, the federal union of Christ and those who are His in the counsel of redemption, the mystical union ideally established in that eternal counsel, and the union as it is objectively effected in the Incarnation and the redemptive work of Christ.

Comments

  1. Ted,

    Thank you for reminding humanity of who they are in the Union of Jesus.

    We can never ever do that too often.

    Stay well, my friend,

    ReplyDelete
  2. Like Baxter says, I'd rather be guilty of overestimating the impact of Jesus than underestimating Him!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear Ted, I am very intrigued by Trinitarian theology, but I am not ready to embrace it. I was hoping you could give me your opinion on a couple things:

    Why would Paul warn believers against being partakers with the "sons of disobedience" if everyone is already a child of God? (Col 3:6, Eph 5:6)

    Why would he say that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus if everyone were already in Christ?

    Why would Paul say that we received the Holy Spirit by hearing with faith (galatians 3:2) if everyone has the Holy Spirit?

    I like the idea of seeing unbelievers as children of God who just don't know it yet, but I just don't feel that I can justify it biblically. Thanks for your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Daniel. Thanks for your post, and for asking some very important questions. I think in some of what you state, you are getting an inkling of the answer. Scripture does make a distinction between two types of union and each type impacts our humanity. The first type of union is what theologians refer to as the "hypostatic union"---the union of divinity and humanity in the one person of the God--man Jesus Christ. Because Christ is both the divine creator of all humanity, and now human himself, he represents us all---in his "vicarious humanity" he stands in for us all. He is our High Priest and thus whatever he does, whatever he accomplishes in his humanity, we are included. So when he was baptized all humanity was baptized in him, when he died all humanity died with him, and when he rose and ascended all humanity was implicated in what he did. This is what Paul is getting at when he calls Jesus the new Adam and when he says that God reconciled humanity to himself in Christ. In that sense, all humanity is included. Then there is another type of union, which Paul refers to as "union with Christ" this is the union that involves the work of the Spirit who unites believers to Christ in a spiritual union. It is these believers who are filled with the Spirit, who are born from above, who are children of God is the full since. So in our thinking about the relationship of humanity with God, in Christ and by the Spirit, we do make a certain type of distinction between non-believers (I like to refer to them as "pre-believers" or "not-yet believers"), and believers---those who are reconciled to God in Christ but don't know it, and those who are reconciled to God and are living into that reconcilitation by the Spirit, in faith as part of the body of Christ (the church). In GCI's publication "Equipper" we will be publishing a series of articles that will go into detail concerning what I've sketched out here. The introduction and part 1 of that series will be publised in the April issue of "Equipper" on Monday, April 3. You'll find it at https://equipper.gci.org/. I hope you'll check it out and if you have further questions, you can post them in the comments section on those articles. Thanks for checking in, and may the Spirit guide our studies on a wonderful topic! God bless.

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