jc

Incarnation and Covenant

The most distinctive aspect of Jesus’ identity, according to the faith of the historic-orthodox Church, is that Jesus is fully God and fully human—“God Incarnate,” to use the Church’s creedal phraseology. To accurately reflect on the Incarnation, we must avoid the temptation to think abstractly, treating the doctrine of the Incarnation as a mere metaphysical assertion that Christ is God and human. Rather, as T. F. Torrance has in particular stressed, the meaning of the Incarnation is inseparably wrapped up in the biblical narrative of God’s dealing with Israel, and through Israel, with the world. Indeed, he contends that, “the Old Testament is the revelation of the verbum incarnandum” (“word requiring to be incarnate”) while “the New Testament is the revelation of the verbum incarnatum” (“word incarnate”).[1] The doctrine of the Incarnation is thus not merely a claim that God became a human: it’s the claim that the God of Israel became the long-awaited Jewish man who was Israel’s Messiah, and therefore the Messiah for the world.

More specifically, the Incarnation is the fulfillment of both the God-side and human-side of Yahweh’s covenantal relationship with Israel, and therefore with the world. In the words of Torrance,

[Jesus] is himself the God of the covenant which we have broken, but he became man by taking upon himself the humanity of the men and women who broke the covenant, and in himself he is not only the turning of God to humanity, but the turning of humanity to God.[2]

In Christ, Yahweh definitively demonstrates himself to be Israel’s faithful covenant partner precisely by condescending to become a faithful human covenant partner before God on behalf of Israel, and therefore of the world. And it is as Israel’s faithful representative that Jesus not only fulfills the covenant by living a life that was free of covenant breaking; he also fulfills the covenant by appropriating as his own the covenantal curse that is a consequence of all covenant breaking.

Hence, by becoming a human and sacrificing himself on the cross, the God who had bound himself in a covenant relationship with Israel unilaterally fulfilled the promises and obligations of this covenant while unilaterally paying the price for Israel’s failure to live up to this covenant. The one man Jesus Christ becomes the representative suffering servant who thereby fulfills Israel’s roll as suffering servant (Isa. 53). Yahweh’s suffering covenantal faithfulness is thus an essential aspect of the full meaning of the Incarnation and therefore of the Crucifixion and every other aspect of Jesus’ identity and ministry.

[1] Torrance, Incarnation, 45.

[2] Torrance, Atonement, 148.

Photo credit: slack12 via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Category:
Tags: , ,

Related Reading

Love in Unexpected Places

Here’s a letter we received from a reader pointing us to this TED talk: Hi,   My Name is Austin. I’ve been a podrishoner at Woodland Hills Church for the past 3 years and frequently visit reknew2015.wpengine.com.    I stumbled upon this TED talk from September 2012 yesterday entitled Israel & Iran: A Love Story.     Recently, Greg…

God Made Visible

During Advent, we celebrate and bring to the forefront of our imagination the God who was made visible. The Gospel of John sums up the advent of God with one sentence: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full…

A Distinctly Christian Take on the Israel-Palestine Conflict

David Masters via Compfight Here is a great essay, written by a young kingdom revolutionary I’m just getting to know, Jonathan Martin.  Jonathan addresses the hot topic of the Israel-Palestine conflict with biblical insight, theological depth, and a heart that reflects a knowledge and love for the people he’s talking about. My favorite quote: “The…

The Incarnation: Paradox or Contradiction?

We’re in the process of flushing out the theology of the ReKnew Manifesto, and we’ve come to the point where we should address the Incarnation. This is the classical Christian doctrine that Jesus was fully God and fully human. Today I’ll simply argue for the logical coherence of this doctrine, viz. it does not involve…

Topics:

The Cross in the Manger

There has been a strand within the Western theological tradition—one that is especially prevalent in contemporary American Evangelicalism—that construes the significance of the cross in strictly soteriological terms. The cross is central, in this view, but only in the sense that the reason Jesus came to earth was to pay the price for our sin…

Topics:

What Type of Faith Do You Have?

Genesis 32 tells the story of Jacob, wrestling through the night with a nameless man, revealed to be none other than God Himself. We read that when this man “saw that he could not overpower” Jacob, he “touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man”…