When Jesus was crucified the powers of the old age came to an end. Sin and death were crucified through his cross. The “god of this age” was overthrown. When Jesus rose from death the new creation arrived in him as new man.
These are not images of mere repair or gradual improvement within a broadly stable situation. The dying and rising of Jesus mark a radical break with what has gone before: its overturning, its revolution, its displacement. The old has gone; the new has come.
We do not hope that we might be made new one day. We are already new persons in Christ for he is the new man in whom we and all things are already made new. This alteration in the human situation has already taken place. We do not have to create the new situation. It has already come. This is what we know for sure because of the new man who is now with God for us.
Of course, this is not how we and all things now appear. Around us we see human life alienated from God. Within us we detect all sorts of chaotic confusion, corruption and uncertainty. Because of this, we so easily say that our true life hidden with Christ is unreal. Maybe it is just a nice idea. No! Christ is real. Our new life in him is real. He is the new man and we are the new humanity in him. All the stuff that goes on within us and around us is simply contradiction of the reality. And as God’s Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts we see beyond appearance to what is actual with God.
In Adam (the old man) humanity is ruined and far from God. For in union with Adam we all exist in the old order under the reign of sin and death. What is needed is a new beginning. And Jesus is that new beginning.
In Jesus’ death on the cross the old order was crucified. In his rising from death, as the new man, a new creation begins. The old order has passed away; all things have become new. For through Jesus’ death the old Adamic order of sin and death comes to an end. And in his resurrection the new order of righteousness and life begins. Jesus rises as the new man and in him we rise as the new humanity within an entirely new creation.
The Spirit of Christ brings this new man to us in living encounter and our faith in him is born. In faith, we now know that we have been crucified with Christ so that we no longer live in the old order. Our old life is dead. In faith, we now know that we live in Christ as he lives in us within the new order. Our new life (which is our real life) is with Christ in God. He is our life.
Since, then, we have been raised with Christ, we set our hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. For we have died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God. And we eagerly await the day when Christ, who is our life, appears, for then we also will appear with him in glory.
In Jesus we see our humanity as God intended it to be, for he is the true human. He was continually turned towards God as the one he called Father. He lived in the fullness of who God is with and for him. In this true human who was always with God and for God we see what we were made for. But right at the start of our history we rejected God’s purpose for us. And we continually rejected his purpose all through our history. We have turned from God and from our true humanity. We have lost our way.
Immanuel is God stepping into our history to find us. And being found we find God in him. Finding God we find our true selves. For Immanuel is our true self in God. In him we are now with God. We are as with God as we ever can be for now our lives are hidden with Christ in God. As those who belong to Immanuel, we are now living within the communal love we were created for.
We can never boast in ourselves as we share in this true human life with God because we have found it only in Immanuel. And we find it in him only because he has found us. In Immanuel God is with us. And in him we are with God just as God intended.
Before the world was made, God decided to be with us in communion and that is why he created. He did not create and then say, “I think I would like to have these humans in communion”. No! God is communion. He created us with the purpose of including within his own communal life those who are not God. And that is the purpose he pursued in time bringing it all to fulfilment in Immanuel, God with us.
Immanuel is the one man in whom the many will find communion with the Father in the Spirit. Not because God owes it to us. Not in virtue of any quality or capacity we have in ourselves. We are completely without claim or ability for this. It is all actual in Immanuel and in him alone apart from anything in us.
We turned away from God missing our destiny, treading underfoot our dignity, losing the gift of fellowship with him. Nevertheless, God himself intervened as man. Not just for man but as man. He is with us as one of us to bring us back to all God intends for us – His eternal purpose of union and communion in Christ by the Spirit.
God does not ignore what we have done to ruin ourselves. Nor does he simply hide from sight our tragedy. He gives himself to us in Immanuel to close the gulf for which we are responsible. “God with us” means more than God along side us helping us to do what God intends for us. It rather means God himself, at his own cost, and also on his own initiative, fulfilling his own eternal purpose for us.
Christ is our very life and in union with him we now share in his life with God. As Paul says, “Our lives are now hidden with Christ in God”. We are distinct from God, but we were never intended to be separate from Him. We are made to live in him as he lives in us.
Left to ourselves we do not have what we were made for. We do not share in the communal life in which we are meant to find our true happiness. We don’t even look for it. We are so very lost. The very meaning of our existence is gone. This is the human tragedy. But we are not left to ourselves. Immanuel is God giving himself to us in order to give us what we most need – inclusion in the life and love of the Triune Communion.
We cannot work our way to this life in God. It can only be given. And God gives it freely in Jesus, his Son. He is Immanuel, God with us so that we might be with him in God. Now the Father says to us, open yourself to this unsurpassable gift. You don’t have to earn your true life in God or jump through hoops to enjoy it. Just focus on Jesus as his Spirit brings to realisation in you this life with Christ in God. Only there do we find our true life hidden with Christ in God.
Even before anything was made, the God who is Love wanted to be with us in loving relationship and we with him. That communal purpose of Father, Son and Spirit finds fulfilment in Immanuel. He is the one that the Triune One set apart to be God with us and we with God in communion.
So Immanuel, “God with us”, is not just any event that may be called an act of God. All that God does moves towards this unique act. Not one act of God along with others, but one for the sake of which he wills and works all other things. For Immanuel, “God with us” is what God decided to be, in his Son, before there was a creation. Yes, God makes communion with humans the goal of his own life.
The Westminster catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man”? The answer, “man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever”. In this post, we are rather asking what is the chief end of God? The answer is, Immanuel, God with us and we with God within the communion of love. The whole purpose of God is about this unique man and us in him. For in His free decision to elect his own Son as Immanuel, God determines humans for Himself having first determined Himself for humans as human.
This “human” God fills me with wonder! Truly, I want to glorify him and enjoy him forever!
Before God even created humanity he only wanted to be God sharing himself with us. And he wanted us to be with him in the deepest union and communion. Indeed, who we are as humans is inseparable from who we are with him.
That eternal purpose became actual in Immanuel. He is God with us sharing our humanity so that in him we might be with God sharing all the Son has with his Father in the Spirit. As Paul says our life is now hidden with Christ in God. The Father’s unique Son has united himself to us in our humanity so that we might be united with him in the Spirit. And in that living union we are now with God.
You might react saying all that is just an ideal. The reality is I live far from God and God seems far from me. Nevertheless, the reality is Christ as God with us and we with God. True, our daily lives often contradict this reality. Even so, the reality is God has united himself with us in our humanity so that God really is with us. And the Spirit of Christ has united us to Christ so that we are with God in him. Furthermore, the indwelling Christ is now expressing his own life with God in and through us. No matter how much our lives contradict the reality we know that God is with us and we are with God. Let’s live in that reality in union with Christ by his Spirit so that the reality may come to daily realisation in us.
God’s eternal purpose is to be with us as one of us in Jesus and for us to be with him in Jesus. That is what God has always wanted. For he does not will to be God without us.
But we turned away from God’s design for us. We defied his will for us and in so doing ruined ourselves. But God kept to his purpose pursuing us in love to make us his own in Jesus. He is Immanuel: God with us faithfully fulfilling his purpose for us.
We might say that in Immanuel God happens among us. He is being-in-action, the dynamic reality of the presence of God with us in history. This is who God is. God with us as he really is in this event of Immanuel.
We do not start our thinking about God with general observations and speculations about a static divine being. We always begin with God himself in this unique event – God happening dynamically among in human lowliness to bring us to himself where we belong according to his own purpose
That is why we are to think of God in terms of act and relationship, rather than abstract substance. He cannot be described apart from his actions and ongoing active relations. The only God we may speak about is the God who came among us as one of us – Immanuel. He is the unique act of God himself in human flesh. He alone is God as human acting in the presence and power of the Spirit of God – the event of Immanuel.
When considering divine election is our starting point a shadowy decree that decided the eternal destiny of individuals before human life even began? Or do we begin with Jesus, the Father’s chosen one?
Within God’s eternal life, the Father elected his own Son to be the man in whom God is with us and for us. The Son was also chosen as the man in whom we would be with God and for God. That eternal decision became actual when God came among us as Jesus, the chosen man.
The Father’s chosen one is truly God with us and for us in love. He comes as God loving us in spite of the fact that we do not love him. He comes as God making our lot his own: taking fully to himself our flesh, our judgement, and our rejection. This chosen one is also the new man with God and for God on our behalf. In union with him we share in all that he is and has with his Father in the Spirit.
Our thinking on election begins with Jesus, the Father’s chosen man, and from him we look backward into the eternal will of God that is identical with who Jesus is for us and who we are for God in him. That means our inclusion, as God’s elect, does not rest upon a shadowy decree in the eternal will of God. Our inclusion rather rests fully on Jesus, the Father’s chosen one, since we are elect only in him.
Jesus is one with his Father sharing fully in the divine life. He is also one with us since he became one of us. But does he share fully in our human existence?
Paul tells us that Jesus “became sin” for us. He is fully one with his Father and without sin and yet he penetrated into the deepest depths of human existence in its awful estrangement from God. He moved into the very pit of our alienated humanity even becoming sin with us and for us. He did so, in order to bring us back to God.
This is deep oneness.
Jesus arose from death and returned to his Father. Does he remain deeply one with us? Yes! Jesus was raised from death and we were raised with him into newness of life as his new humanity. He is seated in heavenly places and we are seated there with him. Our lives are now hidden with Christ in God. We are so deeply one with him all that happens to him happens to us.
This is deep oneness.
Jesus became one with us so that we might be one with him in communion with his Father. And he pours his Spirit out on us to make actual this purpose of communion in us. The Spirit, as the Spirit of Christ, takes us into the loving communion of Father and Son. The Spirit, as Spirit of the Son, puts the ‘Abba, Father’ cry of Jesus into our hearts so that we actually share in the Son’s love relationship with his Father. And the same Spirit of Christ maintains the loving communion as we continue together as Chris’s own body in fellowship with Father and Son in the Spirit.
This is deep oneness.