If there is one theme that one can see highlighted in the Bible over and over again, it is the theme of God’s faithfulness to his people in spite of their faithlessness. In the Old Testament the language God uses to describe his relationship to his wayward people is that of a jilted lover. He gives them a vision of himself on the mountain, calls them into covenant and they break it. Often. However he does not abandon them and even in the midst of terrible judgment he still loves them and promises them he will redeem them. Those who complain about the God of the Old Testament being murderous and spiteful are only scratching the surface because his love and mercy is on display all throughout the old covenant. And this culminates with the coming of Christ.
In my last blog I spoke of how St. Athanasius explained how Christ condescended and became human, and why this matters in regards to our salvation. In chapter 9 of On the Incarnation he continues to expand on this idea. He notes that there was no way for the corruption of humanity to be undone except by the Word’s death. Herein lies the problem, the Word of God (Christ) is immortal and incapable of death because he is God. The Word then takes a human body capable of dying, dies for humanity, and through the grace of the resurrection abolishes all death from those who are like him (humanity). He notes that Christ’s death was a substitute in that his death “completes death” and the result of that is those who are in him are clothed with incorruptibility and the promise of the resurrection due to death being abolished. He writes, “Coming himself into our realm, and dwelling in a body like the others, every design of the enemy against human beings has ceased, and the corruption of death has perished.”
He notes in chapter 10 that this was appropriate due to God’s goodness. He draws a comparison to illustrate his point. He notes that a king after building a city will not remain on the sidelines after the city is attacked by bandits due to the carelessness of the citizens. The king will not abandon the city, he will do what he needs to do to save the city and the inhabitants. So too does God the Word not abandon his creation and creatures due their own carelessness, he enters into it and saves them. He cites 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Hebrews 2:9-10, Hebrews 2:14-15, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 1 Timothy 6:15, and Titus 1:3 and draws the following conclusions:
- It was necessary for God to be incarnate to bring us out of corruption
- Christ’s sacrifice put an end to the law lying against us and renewed the source of life
- We no longer die like those still in corruption, instead we wait for the resurrection
The next few chapters address how God made himself known but we will deal with that in the next blog. In the meantime, think about God’s faithfulness to you despite all of your carelessness towards him and be grateful that in his mercy he did not leave you where you were, but took on flesh to make you like him.