Saturday, November 19, 2011

A God-Summary, Summarized

In him we have deliverance through his blood—the forgiveness of trespasses—based on the great riches of his grace, which he’s made to overflow abundantly to us in the form of every kind of wisdom and insight, just as he has made the mystery of his will known to us, based on his purpose that he publicly displayed in Christ. This was a divine plan for the fullness of the times, to ‘sum up’ all things in Christ—things in the heavens and things on the earth, in him.
Ephesians 1:7-10

I was reading Ephesians and felt the need to share my sense of wonder. Paul says that in Christ, God “publicly displayed his purpose” (Eph. 1:9). This mirrors similar language in Romans 3, where Paul tells us that God “publicly displayed” Christ as “an atoning sacrifice accessible by faith, in order to display God’s righteousness” (v. 25). And what is this purpose? It is “a divine plan for the fullness of the times, to ‘sum up’ all things in Christ—things in the heavens and things on the earth, in him” (Eph. 1:10). Moreover, this purpose was specially displayed to us, to sinners who have received the gospel. His abounding grace, Paul says, has overflowed to us not least in the fact that he’s revealed to us this mystery of his will for the world in Christ. So my question is, do you in fact look at the world around you as it is “in Christ”? If God’s purpose is to “sum up” everything in this universe in Jesus Christ (anakephalaiosasthai—literally, to ‘put under the heading of’), are we endeavoring to regard it in the light of that purpose?

This claim is astonishing enough already, without much further comment. A human being, in whose identity the whole creation is supposed to be somehow contained? What sort of a person is this?! The truth is, this man is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation (Col. 1:10), the one whom the whole fullness of deity inhabits bodily (2:9). He is the true son of God where Adam failed to be—true because he is not simply son of God, but God the Son, utterly obedient to the will of his Father where all else have gone astray. The universe was made for his lordship, his headship.

And look at how he exercises that lordship, that headship. How and where do we find all things summed up in Christ, revealed most truly for what they are in him? We come to a cross, to a bloody instrument of torture, to which this man has been affixed—by the very creatures whom God made through him and commanded to represent him in the creation! What sort of a God is this, who accepts crucifixion from the hands of his creatures? What sort of a man is this, who perishes under the weight of evil, the only words on his lips “Father, forgive them…” and “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?” This is the identity of our God, most truly displayed! This is God joining us in our god-forsakenness, our godlessness, being for the world that which you and I have refused to be—God's image, God's glory, God's loving presence.

At the cross, we find the prolepsis of what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 1:10, the Son of God bearing all things within himself: all the world’s evil, all the world’s shame, all the world’s guilt, and all the world’s violence—and emerging victorious from the empty tomb, drawing with him all those who have faith in God into newness of his life, and all those who do not into the eternal judgment of death, the final fruition of their tireless efforts to be god for themselves. Thus the cross is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, the place where God’s judgment against the world is unveiled and carried out. Yet by bearing it in himself, Jesus made this self-sacrificial act the most fundamental expression of God’s identity to the creation. (Truly, he is the image of the invisible God!) God has said to the world, in the crucified and risen Messiah, ‘I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE, over and against all of your violence and blasphemy, your efforts to make yourselves god and to usurp my creation to suit your own ends; yet I will give you the same life I intend to offer the whole creation, if you will turn from your rebellion and share in my suffering.

That is our God, friends. I don’t really have any comment of my own on to add on the matter, just an irrepressible need to share my astonishment.

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