Resources

  • Home
  • Resources
  • Articles
  • Thank God for a Worldly Savior
  • Thank God for a Worldly Savior

    Posted in ,
    By
    December 20, 2023

    By Dr. Jeffery Ventrella

    December is “do month!”  If you’re a student, you must do your term papers and do your exams.  Post Thanksgiving, we dothings to get ready for Christmas:  do Christmas cards, doshopping, do meal planning, do parties, do decorating, do the tree, do the family photo, do the end of the year giving, do the Christmas lights, do Christmas – and “Sparkle season”- concerts!  Do, do, DO!!

    Yet, the reason for Christmas – the Christian Faith – stands in some fundamental ways against this “do mentality.”  The Christian faith is not fundamentally a “do religion,” but a “done religion.”[1]  Both Creation and Redemption flow from what the only wise and loving God has DONE.  He created from nothing[2] and He redeemed that creation according to His good pleasure[3].  The Gospel announces what God has done in the coming, person, and work of Christ.

    

    The Christmas season reminds us of HOW He did it:  God became flesh[4].  He entered the world He created to redeem the world He created because He loved it[5].  God became what He would ultimately redeem:  humanity in the fully human nature of the person Jesus, a real baby with real flesh, real emotions[6], real hunger[7], real physical and intellectual growth[8], real friendships[9], real temptation[10] and real betrayal – all done in the real fallen world – yet without sin[11] and remaining fully divine, as the God-Man[12].  He came to seek and save sinners[13] – in the real world.  But, He came IN the created physical world AS a physical human with a fully human nature to do so.  We have a worldly (and a world!) Savior.

    The Incarnation is what God did; it’s done and unrepeatable.  This tells us that the creation, created good, remains good, though fallen, contra Gnostic “taste not, touch not” mantras and rants[14].  The Incarnation scandalizes the mystery religions; a fleshly God defies religious convention.   But real redemption necessitated this scandal, this defiance.  He became what He would redeem.  And, He purposes to redeem not just ethereal souls, but whole persons and indeed, the entire Cosmos ultimately resulting in a new heaven and new earth[15].  

    The Incarnation therefore stands against “other worldly” pietism as well, as if only “spiritual,” “heavenly,” and “eternal” efforts matter, or matter more.  The Incarnation dispels such Gnostic dualism.[16]  Sin corrupted ethics, but not metaphysics, and the Incarnation reiterates this truth. 

    Jesus, while in the flesh, instructs us that with the coming of His Kingdom, our ethics can be reformed as they should be “from the beginning.”[17]  Creational norms regarding sexuality, marriage, labor, and calling again provide our moral compass.  What we do do, because of what God has done, DOES matter.  And, Jesus, the incarnate One calls us to action, that is, works which are evident, effective, and ethical.[18]

    Accordingly, the Incarnation valorizes our cultural efforts during this time of the “the already, and the not yet” – between Cross and Consummation.  We can – and should – with confidence pursue our vocations with vibrancy.  Jesus being a carpenter was not window-dressing for Sunday School flannel board lessons.  He really did work IN the world and it was a good endeavor[19].  Jesus made culture with His actions, even His theological actions.  People marveled, that is, were impacted and remembered, His engagement with them as an incarnated person[20].

    This likewise validates that our twin meta-missions situated in the world – the Cultural Mandate[21] and the Great Commission[22] – make sense IN the world here and now – all because of what the incarnate God has done in the world for the world.  

    TruthxChange exists to equip Christians to recognize and then navigate between Creation and Consummation.  The key for doing this consists in understanding the personal and cultural implications of Romans 1:25 – the pivot point in which the truth – because of sin – is exchanged for the lie.  Praise God, the very reason Jesus came into the world, that is, was incarnated, rectifies this large problem:  “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.”[23]  Christ reverses the exchanged truth in the world and did so starting with His incarnation.  Thank God for a worldly Savior.

    [1] Inspired by a quip by Charles Spurgeon.

    [2] Genesis 1:1

    [3]Ephesians 1:5 – eudokian, literally “good pleasure” which for some reason, the ESV mutes to say “purpose of his will.” 

    [4] John 1:14

    [5] John 3:16

    [6] See, Warfield, The Emotional Life of Our Lord https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/emotionallife.html

    [7] Matt. 21:18

    [8][8] Luke 1:52

    [9] John 19:26

    [10] Heb. 4:15

    [11] Heb. 4:15

    [12] John 1:1, 14

    [13] 1 Tim. 1:15

    [14] Col. 2:21

    [15] Rev. 21:1

    [16] Recall that the most evil creature ever to exist only existed as a spiritual, not incarnated, being:  Satan.  Being  exclusively “spiritual” is both contra creational and contra-redemptive.  Christ in contrast is mediator of both creation and redemption.  (Col. 1:16, 17, and 1 Tim. 2:5, 6)

    [17] Matthew 19:4, 8

    [18] Matt. 5:13-20.  Cf., Eph. 2:9,10

    [19] See, Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor – Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (2014) and David L. Bahnsen, Full Time:  Work and the Meaning of Life, (2024)

    [20] Matt. 7:28, 29

    [21] Genesis 1:26 and 9:1

    [22] Matt. 28:18-20

    [23] John 18:37b