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.
Before the world was made God decided that he wanted to be God with us and for us as one of us. He also decided that he wanted us to be one with him in the deepest fellowship. So the Father elected his own Son to be the One in whom God and humanity would be united in the Spirit. And in Jesus that eternal election moved into time. He is God’s chosen man who comes into our world to be God for humanity and humanity for God. We cannot think of election or of God’s eternal purposes for humanity apart from Jesus. Election is centred not around an abstract decree, but concretely election is Jesus Christ.
In Jesus, God’s chosen man, God turns towards humans and wills to be one with us, and in him humans are turned wholly towards God to be one with him. Yes, Jesus is himself the one movement of redeeming love in which God gives himself unreservedly to humans and in which he gathers up humans into his own life. In Jesus, the elect man, God has given himself to be our God once and for all and nothing can undo that decision. So we look at Jesus and know for sure that God is now who he always wanted to be: God with us and for us as one of us. Furthermore, in Jesus, God gives humans to himself once and for all, and nothing can undo that decision. We, therefore, look at Jesus and know for sure that we are now who God always wanted to us to be: humans with God in union and communion.
As we speak about the Triune God we use human words to express who this God is within himself. But we are trying to express the inexpressible. So, in all our attempts to know the Triune God, we must accept that what we most know is that we do not know the one who surpasses our knowledge. Nevertheless, we can know the Triune One because he has revealed himself to us in his Son and Spirit.
We are now called to reflect on his revelation to know something of who he is within himself. But we always make sure that we stay focussed only on Jesus. He is the saving love of the Triune God invading our world in dramatic action. So we always remain focussed on Jesus as the communication of God himself. In him we see the dynamic movement of God’s redeeming love as Father, Son and Spirit move together as One towards their redeeming goal.
We delight in this saving love together as we worship the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit. And all our devotion wells up from the living water of the Spirit in love for Abba in union with the Son. In this spirit of love and devotion, we attempt to shape a Trinitarian understanding of God and we are shaped by the Triune one as we do so. More and more we became a Trinitarian shaped community. And in community we press forward together with a reverent and humble mind as we seek insight into the personal relations of God within himself and towards us.
Jesus is God’s unique Son. He is, therefore, the act of God to and for humans as human. So we must be careful not to separate who Jesus is from what he does for us. For what Jesus does for us is one and the same with who he is as God’s Son. With T. F. Torrance we hold together the person of Christ in his work and the work of Christ in his person.
God acted to create all things, but in that action he created a reality wholly distinct from himself. But in Jesus, God acts in such a way that he is himself in his act. What he acts he is, and what he is he acts.
In his work of revealing he is himself what he does. Only God can truly reveal God. And Jesus is himself God’s self-revelation. Jesus speaks the truth; he does the truth; he enacts the truth ; he is the truth. And the Spirit of truth opens up to us the heart of the true God towards us through Jesus, the truth.
In his work of reconciling he is in himself what he does. He is God reconciling the world to himself as the one who is the reconciliation. Reconciliation isn’t something that Jesus achieves it is someone. He is the one in whom God and humanity are reconciled and the Spirit brings us into union with him so that we share in the reconciliation as dearly loved children.
The Father’s unique Son became fully human. He did so to live in total solidarity with his fellow humans. He is God and yet he identifies totally with us even in our sin. He submitted to a baptism among sinners at the Jordan and finally to a baptism in blood on the cross even becoming sin for us. Between these two points he continually identified with sinful humans. This was no easy thing. It threw in him into an intensity of battle within his own soul reaching its culmination in the agony of Gethsemane. And yet, throughout it all he was tranquil resting trustfully in his Father.
Just as Jesus lived in total oneness with us he lived in total oneness with God his Father. As he said himself, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me…I and the Father are one” This oneness meant he entered more and more intensely into the hostility of humanity against the true God. For he was living out, in the midst of humanity, his own oneness with the God that humanity rejects. And yet he did so in total solidarity with the hostile humans. This too was no easy thing. It threw in him into an intensity of battle within his own soul reaching its culmination in the agony of Gethsemane. And yet, in Gethsemane, he came to rest trustfully in the will of his Father. In union with his Father he wants to be one with humanity in sin and suffering in order to gather men and women into the heart of God.