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.
“God made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:9,10).
When God’s time had fully come, the mystery, which God purposed in Christ came into the world in the man Jesus. Through him all things were created. In him all things are restored to the purpose of the divine will. He is, therefore, the mystery, God’s eternal purpose, moving into time as the beloved one. He is in himself the union between God and man in whom we and all things become one.
Now, by the Spirit, we take part in the mystery for the Spirit brings us into living union with the one who is the mystery. By the Spirit, we are in Christ sharing all he has with his Father in deep union and communion. By the Spirit, Christ is in us living out his own life with the Father through us. This is the mystery that was hidden from the beginning and now an open secret among us in union with Christ. The mystery that moves towards fulfilment and consummation among us as Christ’s body, ‘the fullness of him who fills all in all’ (Ephesians. 1:23). Until that day dawns we enjoy fellowship in the mystery, for it is the mystery of God’s will, which he purposed in Christ and we are part of it all by his Spirit.
Jesus is God as human opening to us the mystery of who God is within himself. He alone unveils to us the One God as Father, Son and Spirit mutually indwelling one another as the community of love. As such, the One God is mystery beyond our knowing.
Jesus is God as human opening to us who God is in relation to us. As the God who is One within himself, the Triune Community created humans for union within his life. And only within this oneness with God would we ever be one with each other. Yes, the only way diverse humans could ever be one is within their relation of union within the Triune Communion.
We humans turned away from God alienating ourselves from the One who wants to live in the deepest union with us. Nevertheless, Jesus came among us as the union of God and man opening to us our participation in the mystery. For Jesus is the mystery of the One God among us in whom humans are gathered back into communion with God and with one another. In union with the God-human and communion (koinonia) in him, humans are restored to the relation of oneness with God.
We are now the body of Christ that lives in union with Jesus and his Father through his Spirit. Jesus said, “On that day (when the Spirit comes) you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you”. In this living union the mystery of union is made actual in the world., For as his body we are the new humanity that enjoys the union that God intended all along. Union with Father and Son in the Spirit and also union with one another. Within this new humanity, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all ONE in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
Who can begin to fathom the mystery of Jesus? There is no one to compare with him. He is one of us and yet unlike us, for he is both God and man in one person. As such, he is himself the eternal purpose of God in election made actual among us. For in eternity God decided to be one with us and for us to be one with him. And the Father’s Son was elected to be the God-human in whom the eternal purpose would be fulfilled.
This mystery of Jesus is nothing less than the coming of God himself into the midst of our estranged humanity. Coming personally to rescue us from all that enslaved us in order to gather us as liberated children into living fellowship with his Father and with one another in the Spirit. For Jesus, the elect man, was eternally purposed by God and sent into the world for us so we might share together in the mystery of union between Father and Son in the Spirit.
Paul writes, “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”. Christ is now in us and we are in him and this too is the mystery. He who ascended to fill all things now lives in union with us. And he will bring his community to its fullness in God’s eternal purpose. For he will return again to consummate God’s eternal purpose in the new creation. All this is the mystery in which we share as those united to Christ by the Spirit.
Jesus alone is the starting point for our thinking on election. Not an abstract decree of election that is unrelated to Jesus, but one that begins only with him and is fulfilled only in him.
God’s eternal decision was to elect his own Son to be God as human fulfilling God’s purpose to be with and for humanity. God also decided that his Son would be the one human in whom the many would be for God. As the elect man, Jesus represents humanity before God so that humanity is for God in him. Jesus, is, therefore, God for humanity and humanity for God. He alone is the starting point for our thinking on election.
Jesus made God’s eternal decision actual in time. He is God as human acting among us to rescue us so that we might share in his communion of love with the Father in the Spirit He is God as human living fully among us as human, but unlike other humans he lives completely in and for God. And he also lives as the human for other humans. He lives completely for God and he also lives completely for humanity, with no other purpose than the salvation of humanity. There is no competition here: it is as Jesus is for humanity that he is for God, and it is as he is for God that he is for humanity.
This is God’s chosen One who is in himself God’s eternal decision of election made actual in time. He alone is the starting point for our thinking on election. The chosen One who is God for humanity and humanity for God.